Going wireless took some time



My adventure with speedlights–the Nikon variety, was always a mixed bag of hurt. At my newspaper, whenever we received a new updated digital camera model, we would always get a new strobe as part of the package. I had them all: the Nikon SB-24, 26, 28 and 800. The early model SB-24 and SB-26 used with the Nikon D1 and D1h models were inconsistent at best. But we needed them because the low light capability the Nikon’s first mainstream digital pro camera, the D1,  was barely useable over ISO 400.

I would slide my strobe onto the camera hotshoe and leave it there for indoor assignments. I would almost alway try and bounce the light off a ceiling( I hated the look of direct strobe) and call it good.  My on-camera flash photos kind of sucked during this time period. It wasn’t until I received the Nikon SB-800 and with an off-camera TTL cable, that I enjoyed lighting my assignments again.

It was all very basic in that the curly cable was only about 5-feet stretched out. I bought a simple LumaQuest four-inch softbox that was held in place by velcro. It worked like a charm for quick environmental portraits. But being truthful here, I was not too inspired by what I shot. One light off to the side was about what I could do.  After a time, it all started to look the same. I really wasn’t using any fundamentals of lighting. I just let the TTL (through the lens)  metering do the work for me. Still, when I got something good, I’d rejoice that I was at least trying to break out of my natural lighting rut.

Late last year, I was helping put together our yearly photo department captial request. Nikon had just come out with their new SB-5000 strobes that had built-in wireless receivers. A separate transitter would plug into th camera to control the off camera strobes. That intrigued me, I saw the expanded capibility of using more than one speedlight during a shoot. Then I saw the cost and I nearly threw up in my mouth. 600 bucks for the strobe and another $200.00 for the wireless transmitter! Two strobes would set the newspaper back $1600.00. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.

I started to do some reseach and read lots of raves for a Chinese knock-off speedlight from a company called Godox.  The Nikon SB-5000 equivalant was the Godox Ving 860 II. It had all the Nikon features–TTL, high-speed sync and wireless capability, but it cost  only $200.00. The Godox had one notch up on the SB-5000 in that it came with a lithium rechargable battery. The battery makes the flash recycle faster and allows it to shoot for more frames than ordinary alkaline batteries.

I decided to buy a set of Godox 860 II’s with my own money and test them out. Hang with me for my next post and I will delve into what is great and not so great about these speedlights.


Here we go…

If you got here by some miracle of Google search or just stumbled upon this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Colin Mulvany.  I am a 30-year veteran staff photographer for The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash. It is a job I love and hope to keep until I retire. But I also see the reality facing me as newspaper jobs vanish like Houdini each year. After twelve rounds of buyouts and layoffs in the last 10-years, I know I should be prepared for a Plan B.

One of the great things about working for a newspaper is that there is lots of room for creativity. Each day I go to work, I have a new palette with which to create. Whether it be with documentary still photojournalism, video storytelling or lighting a portrait of a athlete or politician, I draw on a number of tools from my storytelling toolbox. Each day is a learning experience–if I let it be.

Lately, I have been investing my creative energy and money in learning to light with off-camera wireless strobes. I started in March of 2017 with buying  a set of Godox 860 II wireless speedlights and have just now acquired a set of  Profoto B1 strobes with a mix of softboxes, beauty dishes and umbrellas. I love shooting with both, though they work best in different situations.  I will go into more detail into in future posts.

I have been lighting people and places for over thirty-years. I started my career by investing in set of Norman studio strobes and now shoot mostly with my small wireless speedlights. In between, it was a lot of on-camera flash, and at times off-camera with a Nikon strobe connected to the camera with a cable.

Why start this blog? Mostly it is to connect to a community of photographers who are learning lighting, experimenting  with the technology and having some fun along the way. I want this blog to be a conversation, so if you have questions please fire away. I figure if I share what I know, maybe you will too.

My early plans for this blog are to take photos that I have made and break down how I lit them. I will be hard on myself in my self critiques because that is how I learn. I am not claiming to be some expert here. I just want share my experiences, and hope for some of your input along the way.