Location lighting by Paul Ellis

Last Saturday I ran this year’s first Location Lighting Workshop and the sun came out, which was an unexpected surprise. I enjoy running this workshop when the sun shines, as I always get a kick out of teaching people how easy it is to blend flash with daylight (to either fill in or over power the ambient light).

I normally use either a Profoto or Broncolor battery pack but for this workshop I decided to use an Elinchrom Quadra battery pack. For those of you who don’t know, this pack is tiny and weighs a fraction of the other packs (thanks to a light weight lithium battery) and the heads are also miniscule. Now the problem with trying to over power daylight on a sunny day (it was a Sunny 16 day on Saturday – 100 iso, 1/125, F16), in order to under-expose the background to get a strongly saturated blue sky, is that you need lots of flash power (or your flash close to your subject). The Elinchrom pack has a maximum power of 400 W/S, whereas the Broncolor/Profoto packs have 1200 W/S, that’s 1.5 stops difference, that doesn’t sound a lot and it isn’t when the ambient light isn’t strong but on a sunny day it’s a problem.

The alternative method to under-expose the sky would be to use a fast shutter speed but the problem with this is that Focal Plane shutters in DSLR cameras cannot syncronise with flash faster than 1/200 (Phase One Leaf shutter lenses can sync as fast as 1/1600). So I decided to hire a Pocket Wizard Mini TT1/Flex TT5 combination and try their Hyper-Sync* with the Elinchrom Quadra. Hyper-Sync is very clever and is transforming location lighting with flash. Hyper-Sync allows the use of very fast, short, shutter speeds with flash speeds down to around 1/4000. This is now opening up completely new territory for the location photographer to explore. It is also making the need for expensive Leaf shutter lenses redundant. So I connected the tiny Elinchrom Quadra S head* to a 2 metre Elinchrom Octalite and managed to sync at 1/4000 and this allowed me to use a wide open aperture of F2.8 in very bright sunshine.


* Elinchrom make two Quadra heads, S and A. To use Hyper-Sync you must use the S (Standard) head and not the A (Action) head. This is because Hyper-Sync works by clever timing with flash duration and the duration of the Action heads is too short for Hyper-Sync to work.

* Don’t confuse Hyper-Sync with HSS – High Speed Sync. HSS on a Canon flashgun (FP on a Nikon flashgun) allow the flash to be used at any shutter speed, down to 1/8000, but it isn’t true flash. It pulses the light to simulate a continuous light source and because of this, it isn’t very powerful (although you can daisy chain several flashguns together to get more useable power).

Location Lighting Location Lighting Location Lighting Location Lighting Location Lighting

Location lighting course information