Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

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walk-about
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Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by walk-about » February 28th, 2013, 5:47 am

Was wondering what the thoughts were from some of my brothers in the field...Shooting treefrogs at night with a Canon 100 macro + speedlite and was wanting opinions on light diffusers/softboxes, etc. Any feedback I'd appreciate.

RocK ON!

Dave

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by MattSullivan » February 28th, 2013, 9:39 am

i cant help with the diffusers, but how do you like the canon 100mm macro and speedlite bc im interested in the flash

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by Martti Niskanen » February 28th, 2013, 10:17 am

A completely subjective and not so useful reply:
I use a Lumiquest Softbox III and like it a lot.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by chrish » February 28th, 2013, 10:19 am

I have a variety of diffusers, from big soft boxes, small portable flash softboxes, collapsible disks, to simply white cloth with elastic around the base, but my primary go-to diffuser is the "Stofen Omni-bounce"-type diffuser because they are:
- small (fit in a pocket)
- portable
- indestructible
- waterproof
- cheap enough that you can own 2-3 of them
- easy to put on and they stay on

Here's a stolen photo of what I'm talking about.

Image

There are other brands of the same basic unit that are a little cheaper than Stofen, such as Vello. Those cost about $10.

The downside to these diffusers is that you do need to tilt your flash head up to get the best results. On some camera systems, that my reduce the max sync speed of the flash.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by walk-about » February 28th, 2013, 10:50 am

Heya Matt - I like the Canon macro 100, and I've both Canon 320 and the big 580 speedlites, but to be honest, I just have not used either enough to form an opinion.

Martti and Chris - does the softbox give you softer lighting overall. I understand it is much larger and more cumbersome than say the Stofen that Chris has pictured, but which of those two options would give better overall results for shooting treefrogs at less than two feet away??

Dave

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by justinm » February 28th, 2013, 10:56 am

I'm with Chris I use the Stoffen omnibounce as well.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by Stohlgren » February 28th, 2013, 2:12 pm

I have a couple of the lumiquest III's and love them. They do provide a much softer light (the larger the surface area, the softer the light), but it can be tricky to use them on amphibians because the large reflection they can create on moist skin can obscure pattern/color. They are cheap enough to pick one up with to just play around with and see if you like the results, though. The big downside is they can be a hassle in the field if you don't have patience.

As for the omnibounce. I have them on both my flashes, but in doing some reading in the last year or so I have found that they are generally considered a waste when photographing outdoors (David Hobby's strobist blog is where I first read this). This is because they are designed to provide some fill flash on your subject while your flash is aimed to bounce off a ceiling or wall. When pointed directly at your subject as they would be when used outdoors, the surface area of your flash is the same with or without the omnibounce so the harshness of the light will be the same. The only difference is that the omnibounce will allow some of your light to be lost out the sides. But less light is not the same as softer light. I am not sure how I feel about this because I feel like I can see the difference with and without the omnibounce on my flashes but I haven't messed around with comparisons.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by AsydaBass » February 28th, 2013, 3:10 pm

I also use a variety of different diffusers including various softboxes, omnibouce type guys, and at times I even shoot the flash through translucent acrylic. I have used a collapsible 12x8 inch Fotodiox on a Nikon SB-700 with some regularity and have been very happy with it. It's portable, durable enough, and I like the light distribution it provides. I have also used the omnibounce (didn't think it made enough of a difference) and I recently switched to a larger LumiQuest softbox LTP. I haven't used it enough to really recommend it, but so far, so good. I'll let you know my thoughts in five weeks when I return from this stint in the tropics.

Here's a shot with the inexpensive Fotodiox on a Nikon SB-700 that was on a flash bracket. It was raised ~8" up and to the left from the lens, and positioned at a 45 degree angle. You can see the reflection of the box in the frog's eye. The angle of the flash in relation to your lens is very important for reducing reflections on frog skin, which I assume is the reason for your inquiry. I'll also note that there was a small undiffused R200 flash firing from the right side as well to balance out the lighting a bit. Last thing- You asked about nighttime shots, this photograph was taken during the daytime with my camera and flashes set to simulate darkness.

Undescribed species of Pristimantis (P. cruentus group); central Panama mountains
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Hope this helps.

-Don
http://www.RainforestDon.com

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by chrish » February 28th, 2013, 8:54 pm

Stohlgren wrote:When pointed directly at your subject as they would be when used outdoors, the surface area of your flash is the same with or without the omnibounce so the harshness of the light will be the same.
Not at all. I shoot with my omnibounce at angle whether indoors or out. To get the best diffusion, you want the light coming through the side of the diffuser.
Here's a photo of me holding the flash with the Stofen. I hold it so the light is coming through the side. (Yes, this was indoors, but I do the same thing outdoors).
In this shot, Tim happened to catch the moment the pop-up flash (with its diffuser) fired to trigger the wireless flash in my hand, but he captured it in the fraction of a second before the handheld flash actually fired.

Image

Here's a typical Stofen shot with the light coming through the side. This was shot outdoors.

Image

Getting the flash off the camera helps a lot in reducing reflections.
And larger diffusers are technically better and give more natural lighting, but they are not "field friendly" and they can cause huge white reflections if not positioned carefully.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by Antonsrkn » February 28th, 2013, 10:03 pm

I use something like the omnibounce, it came with the flash, I was thinking about getting something else but after playing around with it I liked the results...btw I usually have it pointed straight at the subject... so the flash is making an upside down "L" shape, 90 degrees and so on. I might have some problems with reflections once in a while but I usually am happy with the results and if i'm not I would say its not the flash/diffuser fault.

A recent shot with the above mentioned set-up
Image

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by Stohlgren » March 1st, 2013, 6:32 am

Cool shot and set Chris. So it does seem that myself and everyone else I have seen use omnibounce diffusers for herp shots are using them wrong in pointing the flash directly at the subject.

My question, do you have to really up the flash output to get the correct exposure since most of the light is being lost out the other sides of the diffuser, or does the TTL take care of that?

Second, when using the omnibounce the way you are, with nothing to bounce the light off of (such as a wall or ceiling), is the light really any softer? The surface of the side of the diffuser that is pointed at the subject is rather small. The way I understand the point of the omnibounce is to aim the flash off a ceiling or wall to get a very large, soft light on the subject and the light coming out the side of the omnibounce just provides a hint of fill and a catch light, but that light is not necessarily any softer.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by chrish » March 1st, 2013, 3:58 pm

Stohlgren wrote:Cool shot and set Chris. So it does seem that myself and everyone else I have seen use omnibounce diffusers for herp shots are using them wrong in pointing the flash directly at the subject.
Yeah, its a top secret thing you have to know about the Omni-bounce.....I read it in the instructions. :lol:
My question, do you have to really up the flash output to get the correct exposure since most of the light is being lost out the other sides of the diffuser, or does the TTL take care of that?
TTL fixes that.
I do have to remember to remove it when shooting stuff more than 6 feet away or so (bird shots), but otherwise it is on my flash all the time at that angle.
Second, when using the omnibounce the way you are, with nothing to bounce the light off of (such as a wall or ceiling), is the light really any softer?
Yes, you can really see the difference. In fact, the loss of light from having it at an angle is probably not much more than is lost when you have it pointed straight at the subject.
Also, the color is nicer with it turned to the side. I find that when I point the Omni-bounce straight at the subject, the color temperature is a little warmer than I like.
The surface of the side of the diffuser that is pointed at the subject is rather small. The way I understand the point of the omnibounce is to aim the flash off a ceiling or wall to get a very large, soft light on the subject and the light coming out the side of the omnibounce just provides a hint of fill and a catch light, but that light is not necessarily any softer.
The exposed amount of the side of the diffuser is just about the same surface area as the front of the diffuser.

I've tried taking shots indoors and outdoors with the diffuser on and off the camera and in the straight on and side angles. I like the light I get from the side angle the best.

I will agree that a larger diffuser gives a better result, but they don't fit in my pocket and don't take well to be dropped in the water.

I also have some of these cheap diffusers that I bought on ebay for about $5 each. They work, they are easy to carry, but they are harder to install and don't produce the effect I want as well as the Stofen.

Image

I have actually thought about putting some foil on the top, sides, and back of my omnibounce to see if I can get more light out the front. Although this would just be an exercise because for herp shots, my flash is plenty powerful enough even with light going all directions.

Here's a shot taken a few seconds later than the previous where Tim caught the flash w/diffuser firing -

Image

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by chrish » March 1st, 2013, 4:10 pm

Getting off the topic a bit, but just for comparison, here's a couple of shots comparing the results of using my $10 Stofen Omnibounce with 2 professional monolights reflected of diffusing umbrellas (probably $1000 worth of lighting gear).

You can see the umbrella/monolight combo behind me in the photo above. There was another one on the other side and I positioned them on either side of meat at 45° angles to the snake. I had to tweak the WB to get them to match (roughly). Same camera, same photographer, same photo session. The only thing that changed was the light source.

Can you tell which is which?

Image

Image

You can see the difference, but is it worth the money? And good luck dragging those monolights, their power source, the sync cords and the umbrellas and stands into the field. :lol:

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by Stohlgren » March 1st, 2013, 5:06 pm

chrish wrote:The exposed amount of the side of the diffuser is just about the same surface area as the front of the diffuser.
That is actually my point. The side of the diffuser is about the same as the front of the diffuser, which is about the same as the head of the flash. If the softness of the light is based on the size of the light source, shouldn't they all be about the same? (This is the meat of the argument that I have seen against using the omnibounce outdoors)
chrish wrote:Can you tell which is which?
I prefer the second shot, which I think the one with the umbrellas.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by chrish » March 1st, 2013, 9:42 pm

Stohlgren wrote:That is actually my point. The side of the diffuser is about the same as the front of the diffuser, which is about the same as the head of the flash. If the softness of the light is based on the size of the light source, shouldn't they all be about the same? (This is the meat of the argument that I have seen against using the omnibounce outdoors)
Correct, except the sides of the Stofen are thicker plastic and they have ridges on them to further diffuse the light. So they aren't the same as the front panel, which is intended to be bounced off the ceiling.
I prefer the second shot, which I think the one with the umbrellas.
You are correct, and I prefer it too, but I think the other shot is OK considering the diffuser was a $10 piece of plastic.

I will be in the field next week hopefully looking to photograph some Anurans. I will bring the different diffuser options and see if I can do some comparisons.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by SnakeStick » March 2nd, 2013, 9:32 am

I recently made a diffuser out of some materials I had laying around the house. Basically, it's just a dome from a lamp covered with a piece of acrilic lighting cover (commonly used in commercial buildings). I used tape to secure the plastic and to cover the holes at the back of the dome. Using tin snips, I cut a slot in the side of the dome to insert the flash head into. I used tape, once again, to line this slot for a better fit and to prevent the metal from scratching the flash unit.

Here's some pics of the finished product...

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image by Ian Deery, on Flickr

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image by Ian Deery, on Flickr

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image by Ian Deery, on Flickr

These are the first few shots I've taken with it...

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H. squirella - Squirrel Treefrog by Ian Deery, on Flickr

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H. cinerea - Green Treefrog by Ian Deery, on Flickr

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H. cinerea - Green Treefrog by Ian Deery, on Flickr

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by chrish » March 3rd, 2013, 5:32 am

Snakestick,

That's outstanding. You need to submit that to this guy's DIY Lighting Hacks blog - http://digital-photography-school.com/d ... tographers

What is the carabiner for? Does it clip it to something?

The only down side I can see (other than being large) is the texture of the highlights in the eyes. I might search for a plastic without so much "pattern". Semi-translucent plastic cutting board material might be better? It also looks like there is a "dead spot" in the middle of the diffused light where they flash is positioned.

Excellent design though.

Chris

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by SnakeStick » March 3rd, 2013, 9:04 am

Thanks, Chrish. The carabiner is for clipping it to my camera bag since it doesn't quite fit on the inside. I totally agree that a translucent cutting board would be a better option. I wanted to use that, but the stores I looked in only carried colored ones. The material I used is rather brittle and therefore very hard to cut. I just decided to work with what I had, but I'll probably order the flexible cutting boards soon... I think if I adjusted the angle of the flash head and covered the back part of the inside of the dome with a more reflective material (it's the adhesive side of duct tape as of now), the highlight would be smoother. I'll probably tinker with it later today...

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by chrish » March 4th, 2013, 5:18 am

SnakeStick wrote:I think if I adjusted the angle of the flash head and covered the back part of the inside of the dome with a more reflective material (it's the adhesive side of duct tape as of now), the highlight would be smoother.
Some aluminum foil and some spray glue would probably get the job done quickly and easily.
You can also buy shiny aluminum foil tape at hardware/home improvement stores.

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by walk-about » March 4th, 2013, 6:00 pm

Chris, Stohlgren, Matt, Martti, SnakeStick, Anton, Don and Justin - Thank you all so much for the great responses and advice as well as thoughts and opinions. You guys are great. And I think this forum is really special because of others with experience willing to help and inform those with questions. Again, thanks so much.

Dave Frymire

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Re: Best diffuser for (treefrog) photography at night.

Post by RCampbell » March 4th, 2013, 8:16 pm

My first diffuser I made from a one gallon plastic milk jug...useful recycling! The frog shots were taken on a night with a new moon ....

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