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Winter Photography with my Flash

Winter time is often a tough season to take photos outdoors here in Japan. If it doesn’t snow, then all that you have are leafless trees and brown grass. The environment feels lifeless. It snowed a small amount yesterday, but wasn’t enough to have fun with. So, if the weather doesn’t want to provide me some entertainment, I have to rustle up some for myself.

In the past, I’ve used my wife’s Yongnu and even her monolights to do outdoor and indoor photography. I’ve done selfies, my wife’s portrait, and some product photography with her lights.


However, on Amazon’s Cyber Monday event, I procurred my first clip-on flash. I got the Godox TT600 for around $50 (5,000 yen). After getting it, I took it and my camera with me and my wife when we went on our nightly walks. I thought it would be fun to get some nighttime photography practice in.


One main reason why I chose the Godox over other similarly priced flashes was its ability to do high-speed synchro photography. Flash units have to be in synch with the shutter of the camera they are used with. If the shutter speed is too fast, you will have only part of the image exposed to the flash. Below are some examples of what happens when the shutter speed is too high.


That is a typical limitation that photographers have to adapt to, especially for any photography involving fast movement or bright sources of light (typically, the Sun). However, modern flash strobes and monolights have been incorporating high-speed synchro functionality. That allows them to synch with much high camera shutter speeds. Flashes without HSS have a maximum camera shutter speed of about 1/200-250. My new Godox TT600 can synch up to shutter speeds of 1/8000, much much faster.

What that means is that I can now take pictures that are backlit by the Sun and still get excellent pictures. Yesterday, I decided to go out with my wife and test it out for the first time. I took a small stand and some umbrellas with me. I was ready for a small outdoor studio shoot.

I’ve been aware of high-speed synch monolights for a while, but until only a few weeks ago, I had no idea that there were cheap clip-on flashes available with the same feature. I had seen expensive lights do the same thing as the photo above. I thought I would have to wait a while before I could take the pictures I wanted to take outside. However, now I and my Godox can go out and take some fun photos this winter.

Self-portrait or Selfie?

Recently, my beautiful wife took her own profile picture for a local business website. She told me it was challenging to do because she couldn’t get pictures in focus when she used a self-timer, and her camera doesn’t have wifi built in, so the only way to take pictures was to use a remote shutter release cable and check after each photo. Self-portraits aren’t easy to take when you can’t view yourself through some other external screen, so she wasn’t able to really take a great photo like I know she can make. Her Canon 5D Mark III let her down.

However, though she will hate for me to say this, but my micro four-thirds Olympus OMD EM1 is way better than the full-frame Canon 5D Mark III in a variety of ways. The primary reason to own a Canon camera is for accessory support, full-frame bokeh control, better high-iso photo quality, and higher resolution. In other words, if you want to make photos with super blurry backgrounds to use in very large (poster size, billboard size, etc.) then you need the Canon. If you don’t need that, you are far better off with the Olympus.

And in the case of self-portraits, the Olympus was simply way easier and more useful. It has built-in wifi and a smartphone app that lets you control it wirelessly as if you were looking at the camera screen. I could sit six feet away, look at my phone, center myself in the frame, move lighting gear closer or move it out of the frame, etc. without taking test shots and getting up to look at the camera. As a result, I found it simple to take my own self-portrait.

I used one Yongnu flash unit and a reflector for these shots. I really needed at least one more flash to light up the dark part of my face in the photo on the left, but I didn’t have one available. I made due with the one that I did have.

The lighting setup is the most basic one there is, but it’s very effective for simple portraits like these. If my studio were a bit bigger, I would have put more distance between myself and the background. I wanted to make it completely black, but having some gray isn’t so bad.

The pictures are a bit dark since I wanted to light myself but didn’t want to light my background. So, in Lightroom I boosted exposure and did a bit more touching up. It’s nothing special, but it was fun and I got some profile pictures I can use for the next year or so. lol