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DAFOS Photo World


To catalogue my thoughts and experiences on things photographic and related topics, aiming to promote open-minded creativity and respect that hopefully contribute in some way to general peace and well-living.

Trigger happy

General Posted on Sat, May 30, 2020 23:43:34

Some time ago I bought a multi-purpose camera/flash trigger (at the last Photo Days, actually) but had not yet used it “in anger”. Recently, a squirrel came to say hello while I was eating lunch outside. Cute guy, but rather shy. These two events sparked the idea that I should take a foray into the wilds of our tiny patch of Brussels, to see if I could grab some shots of frolicking fauna – of course setting up a camera, a trigger and some bait to lure my unwitting victims…

The trigger unit I have is the “Captur Module – Pro” by Hähnel, which comes with a source of infra-red (i.e. invisible) light to use with one of its triggering modes (if an object or animal breaks the beam, it triggers the camera). It can trigger a camera directly, like a cable release (using a cable to connect to the camera), or it can fire a wireless camera/flash trigger of the same brand, which has the added advantages of distance (gets the camera further away from the trigger than the length of the cable would otherwise allow) and – yes – it can trigger a flash/speedlight, too.

My “frolicking fauna” set-up had the trigger and the IR light source sat atop a wall, in the shade of some plant boxes, where I could also put some tasty morsels to lure whatever animate being that may fancy to trip the light (fantastic) and so take a selfie… Camera on tripod, manual focus (pre-focussed on the bait), Aperture Priority (Av) mode at f8 and leave it for a few hours…

The Captur unit can trigger the shutter or a flash using an interval timer (pictures at regular time delays), on ‘hearing’ a sound (burst balloons, anyone?), when a light flashes (slave to another flash, for example), or when the beam from a laser-pointer (not included) or the included IR light-source gets interrupted. Once triggered, it can be set up for various delays, repeats and maximum number of shots in a session. Very flexible and limited seemingly only by one’s imagination. The Captur module Pro is independent of the camera manufacturer/model, but you need to get the remote flash trigger specific for your camera brand (Canon in my case). See the Hähnel website (, in English) for the various options.

The complete “Captur” kit I have

Working as a remote camera trigger is just that: set up the camera as you would if physically pressing the button and off you go. Using manual focus is probably best, and possibly manual exposure if the available light is fairly stable over the time you expect to take pictures. In my animal shoot case, the sun would occasionally go behind a cloud or my “trap” might get into the shadow of a tree as the sun moved around, so I opted to use Av exposure mode. Triggering a flash to capture some fast-moving event requires a dark environment with the camera set to “Bulb” (shutter constantly open), so that the flash itself sets the exposure time. Not so useful for my animal shoot, even at night – it’s never really dark in a city: that’ll be for another day.

The “trap” end of things
The camera end
The complete “shooting range”

And the result of this? Apart from some nice pictures of my own hand or other body parts, taken while I was testing the set-up, absolutely nothing. Zilch. “Rien de knots*”. It stood there all alone for 5 hours – no humans present to scare anything off – and not a single bird, let alone the squirrel, deigned to partake of the juicy treats I had so carefully selected to delight them. The only thing that triggered the camera was the interference of direct sunlight, as the sun moved around and shone into the Captur’s IR receiver … and filled the memory card (note to self – remember that for next time).

(* dialect from parts of Flemish Brabant, meaning nothing at all – literally).

The following day, while seated quietly on the same terrace (with the same camera to hand, luckily) enjoying the evening air and actually writing this article, the unbelievable happened. Friend Squirrel came back for another visit, so I managed to get a photo of him anyway! Hand-held, no high-tech traps. Just plain-ol’ focus, frame and push the button…

Hello !
Sciurus vulgaris

I’ll keep trying though. More pictures will follow, I promise.

Naturally flashed …

Pictures Posted on Wed, April 24, 2019 21:16:55

A recent post in the Viewfinders Facebook group brought up the subject of flash vs natural light. This is indeed an “emotional” topic, with proponents and denigrators on both sides.

Personally, I take the view that light is light (I’m a physicist by degree), and – as a photographer – you need to be able to work with the light where it is and it’s perfectly acceptable to augment it, if you have to, by artificial means. After all, photography is itself an “artificial” process, but that does not mean to say we cannot turn nature to advantage… 

As a response to the discussion I posted a very brief description of a photo shoot I had done that very day. “Portraits, outside. Using flash.” Yep… Here is the set-up.

A bright sunny day, so the model needs to be in the shade somehow. A garden shed provided shade and, actually, quite a nice and rustic setting for the shot. A hedge in the background gave a contrasting plane behind the model, who was peeping out from behind the shed.

Knowing that, without intervention, this arrangement would look a little dull, I got a trusty assistant to hold a gold (for warmth) reflector to illuminate the subject. This gives some directionality to the light, so a nice level of contrast to the general picture.

To be sure that there are nice catch-lights in the oh-so-important eyes (used as the target for manually selected, centre-point auto-focus), I use a flash. Not pointing at the subject – that would be too much here: we don’t want to interfere with the natural illumination – but at 90 degrees, using the little pop-up catch-light card in the flash itself. This creates just enough of a bright source to give a specular reflection on the eye, without actually changing the illumination much (if at all).

Another problem in settings like this is colour temperature. Portraits in the shade on bright sunny days have quite a cold, bluish cast (the light source is in effect the beautiful blue sky). Selecting a “Shade” pre-set colour balance can help, but given the context I wanted quite a strong, warm glow on the subject: hence the choice of a gold reflector.

However, the “shadow” side of the face is illuminated by the diffuse light from above and behind. So, it was darker (no issue really), but also rather blue. The light source illuminating from behind was of course the sky, which makes for a quite dowdy-looking shadow-side of the face. Given time (and a very patient model), I could have gone back and set up (for example) a remote triggered flash with suitable gel to fill in from behind, and adjusted it to cancel the blue shadow light and lift the level of the “dark side of the face” some (phew!), but that would have really been trying the patience of the model. This kind of tweak is faster and easier to do “in post”.

So, into Capture One Pro. Basic adjustments done (very few – just limit a slight blown-out highlight on the sliver jacket, really), a mask applied to the “too dark” areas of the face to lighten it a little and, using the same mask, the colour-temperature shifted towards the red to provide just enough compensation to do the job.

Customer happy.

And me.

Because I like taking portraits.

Especially of little angels…

Other adjustments: A small scar on the face removed using the “spot removal” tool, which is great for quick fixing such things (it seems that little angels can fall off bicycles sometimes, too), plus some bird poo on the shed removed by cloning a piece of the shed over itself, and some “clarity” tweaking to taste. Out of 50 shots in this short shoot, 8 were selected by the client. Total selecting/processing time a little over 30 minutes together with the client, who took away the JPEGS exported from Capture One Pro in two resolutions on a USB stick. Job done.