Friday, January 22, 2016

Cactus RF60 and V6 radio trigger mini review

For about the last year I've been using all Cactus gear for my speedlighting needs after using Yongnuo speedlites for several years before that. Was there something wrong with the Yongnuo's that made me want to switch? No but I was given a whole bunch of Cactus gear from a Japanese supplier to use and test so why not. I've since taken the Cactus gear along with me on hundreds of shoots both here on Okinawa and overseas and have been mostly very happy with them. 

In the video I go over the basics of how I use the flash and V6 trigger off camera to light my subjects. I really love the dial on the back of the V6 triggers. They make it fast and easy to quickly change the power of the flash so I don't have to physically go out to each flash to make the changes saving lots of time and frustration. The signal between the V6 and the RF60 is also very good. I've had them fire every time even over long shooting distances. The only negative points I can think of are sometimes the battery door on the flash unit opens a little too easy, sometimes even after a slight bump sending batteries out onto the ground. 
Also sometimes it takes a few seconds before the flash units start to react when Im changing the power from the V6 trigger which can be a little frustrating until it kicks in then it works fine. 

As for battery consumption I can shoot pretty much all day on a single set of Eneloop rechargeables. Towards the end of the day though flash recycle times do start to take longer of course. 
Lately I've been enjoying firing dual flashes at once via a tri flash mount when Im out shooting in bright conditions. By doubling the flash power Im able to stop down to f16 and get a nice star burst effect from the sun while illuminating my subjects in the foreground. 

For diffusion I usually use the Cactus CB60 softbox as its light and portable, can fold up really small and the mount system for it is better than the much more expensive Lastolite EZbox. I used to use the Lastolite boxes a lot in the past and they are good but in my experience can fall of the mounts a bit too easy in windy conditions. I've had a few blow into the ocean then the sea water rusts the metal frame inside them and eventually they break. Haven't had that problem once with the Cactus softbox falling off its mount. So all in all Im very happy with the Cactus speedlights and will continue to use them. I still have a few much more expensive Canon speedlites sitting around in my gear draws that hardly get used anymore. Just occasionally if Im shooting an event and I want to run and gun with TTL flash. I just don't see the benefit of spending $500-600 for a Canon or Nikon flash when I can do just fine with a flash that costs anywhere from $70-200. Having said that I do own one $2500 flash system for my location shooting and thats the Profoto B1 with air ttl radio trigger. Expensive combo and it has the extra power when I need it. But to be honest I prefer the Cactus trigger as the Profoto has its own problems as I talk about in the video above. I leave you with a few sample photos with the Cactus RF60 flashes in use. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How to stitch panoramas in Lightroom CC

Got up at 4:30 packed up the camera gear and DJI Inspire 1 drone to set out on a little road trip with a couple of my best friends down to the very south of the island to shoot this pretty waterfall that flows into the ocean with hopes of catching it with some nice morning golden light as the afternoon sunset would have the falls in shadow. 
We were lucky enough to have just about 10 minutes of nice light before the sun went behind the clouds for the rest of the day followed by lots of rain and wind.
The photo I had imagined was to have the falls on the right of the shot but also showing the ocean on the left but I wasn't able to capture both in the one shot even with my wide angle 16-35mm f4L IS lens so I made a panorama of 5 vertical shots so that I could stitch them back together later in post with Lightroom. 

The other problem with making panoramas from multiple images is that unless your using a proper tripod head designed for making panoramas then theres a possibility that you have one or more shots where the horizon is not perfectly straight and matching the other images. The result is once Lighroom has stitched the image together the horizon is sometimes wonky and not straight. In the video below I show how to stitch the images in Lightroom and then straighten out a wonky horizon line in Photoshop CC then finish off the the panorama with some final editing in Lightroom. 

The addition of panorama and HDR merging in Lightroom CC may be one of my favorite new features because of its ease of use and how well it works. Check out my tutorial video below. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

The bridge to Kouri island video

An aerial panorama shot with the DJI Inspire 1 and about 10 images

A couple of days ago I put together a few drone video clips and photos that myself and one of my best mates Keith Smith shot out over the famous bridge that joins Yagaji island to Kouri island up north Okinawa. I didn't expect the video to gain that much attention but in the 2 days since uploading to my fotoShisa Facebook page it got shared over 150 times and has close to 10,000 views and all totally organic, meaning I didn't pay for any Facebook advertising like I sometimes do to boost a post for advertising my wedding photography etc..  

I'm really no pro at video editing as I'm sure any one with some video skills could tell by watching my videos but I do enjoy the process of putting together my own videos. And like anything it just takes some practice and time to get better. I put the video together in about 30 minutes using Final Cut Pro X. I hope to one day be able to use my videos to help promote tourism in Okinawa. 

Check out my short little video below shot with the DJI Inspire 1 drone with the supplied ND filter attached to the X3 Zenmuse camera mounted to the drone. 

From the Yagaji island side of the bridge we launched the drone and flew it all the way across to Kouri island which according to the distance displayed on our iPhone flight apps was about 1.3km away. The drone was sending back a nice live feed to the iPhones mounted on our controllers without a hitch when we had no obstructions between the drone and controllers. If we flew down behind the smaller island then the video feed would cut out for a second sometimes. 

For some reason when I uploaded to Facebook they immediately sent me a take down notice! Stating that I may be infringing on the video or music owners copyright. The only thing I can think is someone the music triggered an automatic notice, but the song I used is just a generic song included with Final cut pro X for the purpose of being used in videos. So I disputed the claim and they reinstated the video without any further response. Oh well whatever. 

Lastly here are a few photos shot with the drone in RAW and editing in Adobe Lightroom CC.