Love My VALS
Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 by Reed Hoffmann
One of my favorite accessories when doing flash photography is a VALS - Voice Activated Light Stand. In other words, a person you can direct to put a light where you need it. Recently my wife Sharon played this role for me, and is just one of the many reasons I love her :)
A friend of ours was getting married and I had volunteered to do the photos for them. The pre-ceremony photos of everyone getting ready were done with available light (love the quality I get at high ISOs from today’s cameras), and for the group shots I set up two lights and a large softbox. The reception, while in a beautiful space, didn’t have much light to work with. That meant flash, but on-camera flash would be too flat, and the area was too large to light. That’s where my VALS came in.
Sharon accessorized her dress and heels with a lightweight Slik carbon-fiber monopod and Nikon SB-900 Speedlight, mounted on top of it. Shooting a Nikon D3S, I had an SB-900 on it, in Commander mode, to trigger the flash Sharon was carrying as well as adding its light to the scene. The combination worked great. With Sharon staying 90 to 130-degrees off from me, her light pumped in a nice strong side/backlight, which helped separate the subjects from the background and add some depth to the scene.
The combination worked great, and gave me photos not possible with just on-camera flash or available light. The only trick was keeping the remote flash in a position where it could“see” the signal from the Commander unit. If it got too far off to the side, or behind me, it wouldn’t fire. There are ways around that with some radio triggers that still let you use Commander mode, and those are on my wish list. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to write a blog post about them in the near future.