Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Oli-Bounce, Putting The Bounce In Bounce Flash

Prior to shooting Saturday's Florida State baseball game against the Clemson Tigers, one of the things I had to do was photograph the Seniors with their families in the Tradition Room, your typical, dimly lit indoor setting. This kind of "grip & grin" shot has always been a nightmare for me because absent a couple of off camera lights, I hate the shadows that usually result from using a strobe.

As a sports photographer, carrying a bunch of lighting equipment around with me is just not in the cards.  When I'm packing up to shoot a game, I need to find room in a rolling case for 3 camera bodies, 4-5 lenses, and all the other peripheral stuff I may need. As if that wasn't enough stuff, there's also the monopod and either my 200-400mm f4 or my 400mm f2.8 lens which are carried separately. It's all I can do to stash one strobe somewhere in the case for the occasional pre-game or post-game shot. The luxury of taking anything else along for lighting is just not there.

No matter what I've tried in the past with the minimalistic lighting options at my disposal, nothing seemed to do the job to my liking. It didn't matter how I angled the flash to bounce the light with the pop-out, white bounce card that lives in the recesses of my strobe (shown above), whether I used the strobe on-camera or on a flash bracket, or whether I used the pop-on diffuser that also comes as an accessory to the strobe. The end result was always the same - some kind of annoying shadow. Until now, kids. Say hello to my leetle friend, a 5-minute, do-it-yourself, cheaper than dirt gift from the Gods that has solved the problem.

Take a look at the first image I posted. That's about as good as it gets with a one-strobe setup, lighting up a group of people in a somewhat dimly lit room. Notice that there's no red eye in anyone's eyes and no glare in either the glasses worn by one of the subjects or on the huge, framed jersey. Normally, a 24"X36" piece of glass is a nightmare to have in an image when shooting with a strobe. It's just sitting there, daring you to fire a strobe at it, waiting to erupt with glare and/or contain a nice big blown out reflection of the strobe. I can now scoff at such obstacles.

Here's the secret. The Oli-Bounce (soon to be Trademarked), an 8"X12" piece of foam core cut with a tab on the bottom end attached to the top of the strobe with a couple of rubber bands. Even the most do-it-yourself impaired among us can manage to make this in a few minutes. The final dimensions do not need to be exactly 8"X12". just something in that ballpark. I sized mine to fit inside the outer, zippered pocket of my rolling case and an 8"X12" piece of foam core fit nicely. The larger the better in terms of light reflection capability but at some point you have to factor in practicality.

Attaching the card to the strobe is far from rocket science. You can choose to go with velcro or devise some other cutting edge method. I chose to go with the K.I.S.S. method - a couple of rubber bands. Since rubber bands will break when you least expect them to, I stashed a few extras in the case.  This method works just fine.

 To shoot the lead image, I simply angled the flash at approximately 45 degrees, mounted it on top of my camera, and let the magic ensue. Easy Peezie, Lemon Squeezie. One nicely lit group image in a dimly lit room without red eye, glare, reflections or obnoxious shadows.

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