March 13, 2009 - I had great intentions of doing a video of this post and I even went out and got a new video camera, but actually getting it filmed has turned out to be a whole different story. So it’s been a few weeks and I need to get this post done, and it’s not going to be a video for at least a while yet. I’ve been shooting at 1/1000th of a second and faster, and syncing with flash using the Pocket Wizard Multimax’s. It’s not hard to do, but you do have to experiment a bit with settings. This photo was taken as part of a shoot for Fox Racing, you can see more of the shoot here.

Aaron Chase for Fox at 1/1000th with flash

Aaron Chase for Fox at 1/1000th with flash

The Theory Behind it All

The basic premise of it is this: When you press the release the camera opens the shutter and sends a signal to the flash once it is fully open. The key part here is “once it is fully open” that means that at 1/250 the sync signal isn’t sent the moment the shutter begins to open, but once it is fully open. This is important to us because with a full frame camera that signal is sent part way through the exposure. And if you set your shutter speed to 1/1000 then the flash will fire somewhere near halfway through your shot. So even if you have a long flash duration, you’ll lose a significant part of the frame. What we need to do is to get the flash to fire the moment the shutter begins to open, and keep firing until it closes. The keep firing part is accomplished simply by using a flash (or flashes) with a long duration, longer than your shutter speed. The part about getting the flash to fire before it gets the signal is a little bit trickier. The Pocket Wizard MultiMAX offers a solution with its delay setting. Basically you set up the camera as a remote with one MultiMAX in receiver mode and no delay. You set up your flashes with MultiMAX receivers and set a delay on them so that they fire just before the shutter opens. Now I know some of you are probably thinking, “if you put a delay on the flashes and none on the camera then won’t the flash fire after the camera?” and in a perfect world you’d be right. However after the camera receives the signal it has to open up the mirror and stop down the lens before it trips the shutter, and the flash simply fires. So the camera takes longer than a flash does. And when I say longer, I’m talking in 10,000’s of a second here. Using another Pocket Wizard as a transmitter you trigger the camera and the flashes, pretty simple really.

The new Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 with Hypersync should be able to eliminate having to use a separate Transmitter to fire the camera and the flashes. Just set the delay on the TT5 on the camera hotshoe and press the shutter release. The Transmitter knows when the camera is going to fire before it happens, and it can pretrigger the flashes. Same effect, different execution.

Setting it Up

I’m going to assume at this point that if you’re going to try this you know how to set your camera up as a remote so I won’t tell you how to do this now. You can set the camera MultiMAX to whichever channel and zone you want, as long as it’s above 16. Next you need to set up your flash. Connect the sync cord to the flash from either of the Pocket Wizard ports, I frequently use both of them and put two flashes on the same receiver. Just make sure that when you set the delay you set it for both the ports. You do this by choosing MENU ->A->A->A- That will set up Port 1 and Port 2. If you just want to use Port 2 (the flash port) you enter MENU->A->A->B The menu should now say “SET DELAY” and you should have some numbers at the bottom in the format 0.0000 To start with you want them to say something close to 0.0420SEC You adjust them using the ABCD buttons and the up/down arrows. This number will be different for every camera and flash combination but at least for the Nikon cameras I’ve found that this is a good starting point. Once you’re done there press the menu button again to return to the main screen, which should now say DELAY: 0.0420 above the zone letters. Don’t forget this part. Now all you need to do is set your flashes to full power and your camera to 1/1000 and do some tests.