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sometimes this stuff works right
Old 02-10-2005, 08:57 PM   #1 (permalink)
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i shoot a lot on location-- production stills on video shoots. so i have to be fairly mobile with my gear and i have to be able to set it up fast. usually, for the glam shots, i set up two lights and a reflector for some fill.

Sometimes I have access to A/C but not always. So, i usually pack and rely on my Canon speedlites as sources. I use a 500EX with a small umbrella for the backlight and a 540Ex with a big umbrella for the main. my canon st-e2 IR transmitter triggers the 550 which fires the 540. i shoot manual and meter. the 550 has an "M" mode and allows me to adjust its power output and zoom in and out with its "throw." the 540 has no "M" mode, no ability to change its output (when not communicating with the camera via the st-e2 in ETTL mode), but it will fire--full output--triggered by the 550. By the way, for this to work I have to put a little piece of tape over 4 of the 5 contacts on my 10D's hotshoe to "dumb" everything down, i.e., so it acts like a completely manual IR transmitter.

my problem has always been the IR sensor on the 550: i have to make sure there's line-of-sight for it to fire. for this reason, i've always put it on a c-stand with a grip arm extended out at a right angle and the strobe mounted on it with a small umbrella, the sensor facing me, as well as the 540's sensor.

i don't like using the umbrella because i can't control the spill very well.

well, forget about that crap from now on. i was doing a little experimenting today with my small photoflex softbox and discovered the IR beam WILL penetrate the silk in the front of the softbox. wow! i thought it wouldn't work cuz i figured the IR sensor on the 550 would be hidden from the st-e2's IR beam when the softbox was blocking the strobe from the camera.

I'm a happy camper now. it's gonna let me be WAY LESS concerned about line-of-sight between the xmitter and the sensor. and now i can use the small softbox for a backlight (which is what i've wanted to do all along) and have less spill and more control on where that light's going.

"I'm free!" (c) The Who (from the album, "Tommy")

P.S. I'm sharing this little story in case anyone else has had a similar problem and you've been as dumb as me.
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OK Mr. 550ex-pert
Old 02-10-2005, 09:56 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Have you been able to get the 550ex to work off the camera in pure manual mode without the st-e2? I had someone tell me I could use a simple optical slave and fire it with the onboard flash. Well at the camera store they said they had tried and failed so they hooked it up to a wein peanut slave and tried it and no go. So is there a secret or have you always used the IR transmitter to fire it off camera?

Did that make any sense?

gary
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Re: OK Mr. 550ex-pert
Old 02-10-2005, 10:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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no, i haven't. that's not to say i've put in much quality time trying to do so as i have an st-e2. so, no, i haven't had any luck getting the 550 to fire simply from it sensing a flash from some another source or by using a little optical trigger like a wein peanut. and it took a bit of research to get the thing to fire manually with the st-e2-- i'm talking about the trick of putting tape over 4 of the 5 contacts so it simply fires without getting or looking for info from the camera's ETTL processor. i also have a couple of older strobes... one of them's a vivitar i use to use on my canon ae-1. it has an optical sensor on it and it fires just fine sensing a flash from another source. on the other hand, i have a canon 550EZ and it will NOT fire optically (it has no sensor built-in), altho i i'll admit i haven't tried fiddling with it for a while and maybe i could get it to work with a little peanut slave.... i don't know. might be worth re-investigating.
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Re: sometimes this stuff works right
Old 02-10-2005, 11:28 PM   #4 (permalink)
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No wonder you get such great images; you go to a lot of trouble.

If you want to dispense with the ST-E2, you can get a cord from Paramount that will let you use your 550EX with a PocketWizard.

Paul
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Re: sometimes this stuff works right
Old 02-10-2005, 11:40 PM   #5 (permalink)
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yeah, i know. i've been threatening to buy a 'pocket wizard' kit or calumet's 'lite-link' radio system for a long time. i just keep finding it more important to buy other stuff that's higher on my "Stuff To Buy" list. It forces me to fiddle with the stuff i already have and make it work the way i want the freakin' stuff to work!
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Re: sometimes this stuff works right
Old 02-10-2005, 11:45 PM   #6 (permalink)
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It sounds like you're having better luck with your ST-E2 than I was. It wasn't working very well for me outdoors. Ended up getting rid of it.

Paul
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Re: sometimes this stuff works right
Old 02-11-2005, 12:53 AM   #7 (permalink)
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yeah, i know. it's pretty twitchy in sunlight. a few times i managed to overcome the ambient/IR problem with a well-placed piece of black, gaffer's tape or foil shading the sides of the sensor. but yeah, outside in bright sunlight it pretty much sucks.
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