Maintaining consistency with manual flash
The only real solution to this problem would be to either:
a) Keep the guys coming through at the same distance from the flash – which is impossible and therefore not an option
b) Find a TTL method of off camera flash. (Both options B and C above would work)
Instead of relying on auto-focus to do the job, in most situations I now make use of Focus-lock.
Planning is important here, so your talent knows what line to maintain, or what position of the ramp to pop up on.
Mark the spot, and get him to stand still there.
Compose the shot, get the focus and engage focus lock.
I find this works quite well, as it negates the need to be watching their approach; just maintain your composition, look through the eyepiece and fire when they’re in position.
This has resulted in a much higher rate of keepers when editing.
The only way to solve this problem is to shoot on a day when the park is deserted. Playing prima-donna and chasing people away from your field of vision would be abhorrent and unfair.
I solved this issue by approaching Carl Mason (Check the title shot) and arranging a pro-bono shoot during a weekday, when everyone else was at school.
Aside from the weather, which forced 2 cancellations, this option worked fine.
So essentially, the problems basically fit into 2 categories: Those solved by experience, and those solved by improved equipment.
After looking at the issues I needed to resolve, it became increasingly clear that the biggest improvement would be made by acquiring the gear needed to work at faster shutter speeds.
(As odd as it sounds, it does feel good to spend money on gear which you know you’ll need and will make a difference, than biting the bullet and buying something expensive on a whim.)
I thought long and hard about it, and eventually opted for the Pocketwizards.
I am a big believer in buying quality, and buying once if I can afford to.
Though it did take a few months of saving, I now have the gear to do what I need without any problems.
I also invested in a second flash, partly because I have to have a backup in emergencies, and partly because high speed sync causes a lot of power loss from the flash: having 2 would be a huge advantage.
The setup I now use consists of 2 Canon 580 EXII flashes, connected to pocketwizard Flex receivers secured to a flash bracket which attaches easily to an umbrella tilting bracket.
I also invested in 2 battery packs for the flashes and enough rechargeable Nimh batteries to provide power to the flashes, battery packs and provide spares.
I love the setup!