Flash Stick It is a bit strange to hold a pole in one hand with a flash attached to the end of it while holding one’s camera in the other hand and taking shots. Gotta admit. Sitting last week on my rear on the ground with the stick only partially extended, it wasn't so strange or difficult. However, when I extended it just a few feet, it was a different story. Not unwieldy, mind you, but different. My first reactions were that I kept looking to make sure that the flash head was, in fact, pointed at my subject, since it takes practice to hold the stick in one hand while dialing in your settings on your camera in the other.

Since the other thing one has to get used to is the flash equipment one's using, let’s talk about choices. If you have used an off-camera flash before that "talks" TTL to your camera and you're now using an inexpensive flash unit where you have to make the power setting changes on the flash itself, that will take some getting used to. What this experience quickly drives home, though, is how much easier it is to simply find a power setting for your flash, e.g., 1/2, 1/8, etc., stick with that, and control how the light from your flash is affecting your images using aperture, ISO, or the distance from the flash to the subject. Remember, when using flash, shutter speed changes don't affect the light from the flash, only the surrounding ambient light. Making these setting changes on your camera with one hand can be a bit tricky at first, but can become second nature with some practice.

Neewer TT560 Speedlite

Speaking of the flash unit itself, you can use any flash you have and connect it with your camera in several different ways. So, if you own an SB-900 or a 580EX II and want to use it with your Nikon or Canon camera, respectively, that's fine and will work. And if your camera is one that can control the external flash wirelessly, that will work too. However, if you're using the flash stick system outdoors in bright sun, the infrared connection may have some difficulty. That is why I recommend you either go with a wired connection or a radio trigger setup. I prefer the radio trigger solution because a wire connecting your camera in one hand to your flash at the end of the stick in the other can be a bit cumbersome. If it is important to you that you use your system compatible flash in its respective TTL mode, you can get a relatively inexpensive set of radio triggers made by Pixel-King (http://ctrlq.org/ios/?bitly#) or some other third party manufacturers. I got a transmitter and receiver for $120 which is much less expensive than the popular Pocket Wizard brand alernative.

CowboyStudio Triggers

Especially when using the Flash Stick approach, I really recommend, though, that you experiment with using your flash in Manual flash mode. Now, if you have a flash and triggers that allow for access to the camera controls of your flash (like the Pixel-King ones), you can still control the flash remotely from your camera. However, if you are going to shoot in Manual anyway and especially if you are just experimenting with using flash in the first place, you can make a very small investment and have a flash that you can fire using an inexpensive set of radio triggers. I bought a Yongnuo YN-560 II Speedlight that will work with Canon or Nikon for only $78.60 (http://amzn.to/YfrKSx) and I just received a Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite that cost only $34 + shipping!

Pixel-King Triggers

This unit is recommended by Rod and Robin Deutschmann of IFLC San Diego (http://iflcsandiego.com/ - click on the “Shop” tab and then on “Flashes”), so I am sure I can’t go wrong. Both of these last two flash units are manual only, no TTL. You do all of the settings on the flash and need only send a “Fire!” signal from your camera to the flash. So, that means you can get by with a very inexpensive set of radio triggers, such as the CowboyStudio NPT-04 wireless hot shoe trigger/receiver set that the Deutschmanns show for $22.45, though I paid closer to $30 for mine (http://amzn.to/16N7EhK). That means that for less than $60 you can have a flash and radio triggers to start experimenting with the wonders that flash brings to your photography! Add another $20-25 and you have a repurposed light stand ready to take into the field! A small investment for a whole new photographic experience!

This summer I am offering a new class specifically on making and using the Flash Stick.  "Mobile Flash: Using the Flash Stick” will be offered in late July in both Lynchburg and Charlottesville, Virginia,  but my other new class, "Mastering Manual," will be in June. Check out the descriptions and register online at http://www.infotor.com/photoclasses/plannedclasses.php. I am also available to do one-on-one tutoring or small group lessons designed to meet YOUR needs and what you want to learn in the area of photography, using flashes, or the use of Apple products and software. Give yourself the gift of learning: http://www.infotor.com/photoclasses! Check out my new special tutoring bundle: http://www.infotor.com/photoclasses/tutoringbundle.php!