I hardly ever use my SB800 flash since I bought wide aperture lenses as I find I can achieve desired images without it even indoors. In the gloom of winter things get harder with good light at a premium.
As some will have seen in my Waxwing images I used for the first time a flash on my D7000 with a 300mm f4 lens. I was impressed, as gone were the inevitable silhouetted images when taken towards a white or bright sky background. I left the flash on TTL BL in auto and at about 30ft the light was adequate. I also want to use it with my D800 for birding as well.
I would like to take this technique further, especially in our local reserve, as there are many dark corners where birds feed and sun and light don't reach. I would be grateful for advice please relating to the limitations, techniques and settings appropriate to using a flash on long lenses for the birds, both static and in flight please.
Many photographers who specialize in shooting birds with long lenses use a flash extender like the Better Beamer. I use one myself. It extends the range of the flash tremendously. Shorter lenses probably do not need an extender - I'm not sure where the cut-off would be. I think with a 300 mm lens you may still get away without the extender, but I would say anything longer probably requires an extender.
In terms of settings, I use the settings recommended by another Nikonian in these forums. I set my camera's flash program to high speed sync, the flash itself to TTL with -1,7 EV dialled in. The flash head is set to 50mm. These settings ensure that the flash only adds to the natural light without becoming the main light source. It helps chase shadows away for more even lighting and helps add highlights in the bird's eye.
If you're not going to use an extender I would experiment with setting the flash on TTL-BL to ensure it only augments the natural light without drowning it out and making the lighting look artificial. And then I would still dial in anything between -1.3 to -1.7 EV.
Thanks for all the constructive comments. I have searched the web and the Better Beamer, or any other make, do not seem to available in the UK. However, your information regarding settings is most useful.
Brilliant, thank you. I searched everywhere and found the same model, but it didn't do the SB800. I shall order your suggestion. I thought I may have to order from the US and was reluctant to do that. I ordered a Michael Tapes LensAlign a few weeks ago and I had to pay taxes and customs charges which were ridiculous!
Sun 09-Dec-12 10:59 PM | edited Sun 09-Dec-12 11:00 PM by treadwl
Sorry to hear about your issue with the Better Beamer and getting one from the US. I got one last year and love it. I use it with my SB800 and have had great success by just setting the flash at minus 2 on the power setting. That way the flash just acts as a fill. Bythe way, I've used it with my 200-400mm lens.