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These are the occasional musings of TGS snapper and founder Gavin Ellis, bringing you the very latest happenings at TGS and other photo-tastic news! Stay fully informed by subscribing to Gav's Blog by e-mail.

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TGSPhoto's founder, Gavin Ellis, is a member of the Sports Journalists' Association and the BPPA. Gavin also holds a UK Press Card, AIPS Card, Premier League ID Card and an enhanced CRB check via the Football Association.

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Monday, 18 January 2010 » Hoops and Flashes »


I made a very welcome return to an old stomping ground last Friday evening: the Brentwood Centre, home to the London Leopards basketball team. It was a chance to catch up with some old friends and to shoot a frame or two.

The Brentwood Centre does not have the best of lighting so, rather than shoot at very high ISO, I took along the roughest-and-readiest of artificial lighting set-ups!

Using two small, relatively low-powered flashes was never going to illuminate the whole arena - even less so given that the main hall is painted a fetching muddy brown on most surfaces! It was a case of clamping a couple of guns either side of the hoop, using Pocket Wizard remote triggers to activate them and making the most of what was possible.

Here's a view of one of the two remote flashguns. You can see that the positioning is far from ideal, i.e. too far behind the baseline and much lower down than I would have liked. However, I simply used the existing infrastructure - in this case a temporary stand - as a clamping point...



The second flash was set up in a similar position on the other side of the hoop.

The flash rigs can be seen in the image below. Each incorporates a flash (in this case a Canon 580EX II), Manfrotto Super Clamp, Pocket Wizard Receiver unit, Paramount Cords flash shoe with mini-jack and a few other special widgets to keep it all together.

It was straighforward to connect an external battery pack to each rig and it was all secured with a safety cable in case it came loose from the clamping area...



Parts of the rig can be easily transplanted to a lighting stand if required.

At this point, it'd be wise to show a couple of example images...





So, as I see it, the plus points of this technique are as follows:

(a) The lighting has a more 'three-dimensional' feel than using a single flash.
(b) It was possible to shoot at a satisfying ISO500 f/5.6, rather than ISO3200 f/2.8 (or wider).
(c) The flash duration provided a much better action-stopping 'shutter speed' than the ambient light ever could.
(d) Much improved colour saturation as the use of flash eliminated any nasty white balance issues.
(e) Extremely fast set-up and tear-down time.
(f) Easily repeated.
(g) Pretty safe as the flash rigs themselves are compact with no trailing cables, etc.
(h) The rigs fit in a small case so not too much to transport.

On the downside:

(a) The light is quite directional and casts fairly harsh shadows. The images look 'flashed'.
(b) The small guns don't have a hope of filling the venue with light and, as a result, it's only practical to shoot in and around the key.
(c) Ditto, without bouncing larger studio-style strobes, the drop-off is significant resulting in dark backgrounds.
(d) The guns don't really have enough power to overcome the ambient light at brighter venues (let's face it, the Brentwood Centre is really gloomy!).

If this was a regular gig for me, I'd certainly break out the studio heads and some nice tall stands. However, for quick and easy deployment, I think I'd use this technique again.

Up the Leopards! Full gallery from this event can be seen HERE. I'm back at the same venue on Friday for Frank Maloney's boxing show. The TV ring lighting will be a bonus.

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TGS Blog articles are copyright Gavin Ellis. All the images seen on this site are copyright TGSPhoto. No images may be reproduced without prior permission. All rights reserved. Contact us for image licensing details.

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