Between January 2000 and June 2008 I posted a large number of technique examples taken from my daily work to show how I used light in an era where digital cameras were pretty poor at ISOs over 800 or even 400 in the case of the venerable Kodak DCS520. These days flash is a creative choice rather than a technical necessity but the techniques still stand up.




I have been a professional photographer since 1986 and had two years as a photography student and five years as an enthusiastic amateur before that. I have been through many camera bags. I have used Domke bags since 1989 and currently favour their J1 model, although I also have the choice between the Lowe Pro Stealth 650AW and a Crumpler Shrinkle rucksack for times when I need to carry camera gear and a laptop in one bag.

In September 2002 I replaced my 1998 DCS520s with a pair of the Canon EOS1D bodies. It was an interesting transition and it took over a year to get over the loss of the Kodak software.

In May 2004 my first EOS1D MkII arrived, to be followed by another in early September. Double the file size, a marginally faster motor drive and a smooth CMOS chip were the main differences on the "plus" side with the loss of the 1/500th flash synch on the "minus". The combination of the ability to shoot 23Mb files and to do so at 8.5 fps was amazing.


After over four years using the 1D MkII bodies, I went freelance and the change of role meant a change of equipment. On the 1st of December 2008 I took delivery of my first Canon EOS5D MkII - WOW! I love this camera. For the work that I do, which is predominently features and editorial portraiture, this camera ticks every box. The LCD screen is amazing, the focusing is accurate and quick and even the video is great.

I also have a Canon EOS50D which has most of the same keys and functions of the Mark 2 and I really like this "baby brother" camera - especially with the 16-35 f2.8L.

To complete the "new kit list" I have bought the 28mm f1.8 and an 85mm f1.8 lenses - again, wow and what amazing value for money.

16-35 f2.8L

I replaced my old 17-35 f2.8L lens with a 16-35 f2.8L in 2002 and, apart from the advantages of a new lens over a well worn one, the best feature of the 16-35 is the reduced close focus distance. It has turned out to be a fine lens, sharp and quick to focus just like the rest of the L series lenses that I've had.

24-70 f2.8L

On a digital SLR with a focal length multiplier of 1.3x it becomes the equivalent of 31-91 on 35mm. The extra 4mm on the wide end of the range compared to the old 28-70 makes this the perfect utility lens on an EOS1D. Suddenly, many of my favourite images are shot with this lens. I'm sure that it will be spending a lot of time on the camera.

70-200 f2.8L IS

The original 70-200 f2.8L was my favourite lens that I had ever owned. Bar none. I loved just about everything about it and, as it arrived in April 1995, it gave me unbelievable service. This lens was one of the reasons that I switched from Nikon to Canon. I now have the IS (image stabilisation) version of the lens and I am equally smitten. I do have one tiny complaint - the switches are too easy to move by accident and therefore my lens has an ugly bit of tape holding them permanently in place.

Speedlite 550ex

There was really only one flash that can be used with the DCS520 - the 550ex so now that I have the EOS1D I can take full advantage of Canon's E-TTL flash system that was developed for the EOS 3, EOS1v and EOS D30. Canon say it is the best system in the world and, although I'm inclined to believe them I still use my Lumedyne units whenever I can. Old dogs and new tricks!!!

I have a lot of other things in my bag:

  • 6 x 8 Gb & 6 x 4 Gb Sandisk CF Cards
  • Swiss Army penknife
  • Various coloured gels
  • Remote camera release
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Canon ST-E2 flash transmitter
  • Canon 1.4x II extender
  • Pens, notebook, Mag-lite torch

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