Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

Review of Indra 500 TTL Battery Powered Flash

Monday, January 4th, 2016

Using flash outdoors and on location can be challenging. For most photographers the two main challenges are either the size/weight/bulk of the equipment, or the general technicalities of using flash. Balancing ambient light with flash can be daunting. Many find that using only available light is so much easier because you can “see the light” compared to using flash which you can’t see until the picture has been taken. However once you understand camera flash and how to use the light you’ll be able to shoot in any possible lighting condition and come away with amazing photos.

Many photographers start off trying to use speedlights for outdoor shoots, but unfortunately these small flashes do not have anywhere near the strength to overpower the sunlight. If you are using any light modifiers with them, the light output is even further reduced.

Recently I started using and working with the Phottix Indra 500, which is a 500 Watt TTL portable Studio Light featuring High Speed Sync. This flash is able to overpower the sunlight and when using High Speed Sync (HSS) or Hyper-Sync I can control the lighting completely and achieve amazing results I can set my camera’s exposure mode to manual, aperture or shutter speed priority and the flash to either manual or TTL and have complete technical and creative control I cannot believe how much this has changed location lighting for me, opening up a whole new door of creative possibilities.


The features and tech specs for the Phottix Indra 500 TTL flash are:

*500Ws Studio Light with LED Modelling Light
*TTL Auto, Manual and Stroboscopic (1-100Hz) Modes
*High Speed Sync – 1/8000s shutter speeds, Second Curtain Sync
*Hyper-Sync – 1/8000s shutter speeds – higher power output than using HSS
*Manual Power 1/128 to Full Power in 1/3 Stop increments
*4-Channel Wireless Radio Control with Phottix Odin and Mitros+ systems
*Phottix Odin for Canon and Nikon Receivers Built in, Phottix Strato II Receiver Built in
*Large TFT LCD display, 3.5mm Sync Port and USB Port for Firmware Upgrades
*Battery Powered (400 full-power shots using 5Ah Indra Battery Pack, 0.1s to 2s recycle times)
*Weight: 2.1kg, Dimensions: 267mm L x 140mm Dia x 190mm H

These are powerful flashes. They are around nine times stronger than my Canon 580 EXII flash, which is Enough to overpower the harsh mid-day sun. They also come with a built in LED modeling light, not overly bright, but it definitely works. We used this modelling light with an 80cm Octobox for a night time, totally dark, outdoor shoot, and the modeling light gave enough light to see and also focus with.

The Indra 500 can be used in either TTL (which uses Through The Lens metering) or in complete manual mode. It has 8 stops of power adjustments, ranging from full power to 1/128, which gives you the ability to overcome the midday sun or add just a hint of light. You can also shoot wide-open with large apertures and fast shutter speeds up to 1/8000s with HSS and Hyper-Sync. The Odin receivers for Nikon and Canon are built into the flash, however you will need a Phottix Odin TCU (transmitter). Using the Odin I have full control of the flash from the camera position, with the ability to adjust the output and switch from manual to full TTL. The range for the Odin is rated at 100 metres, great for sports and action photographers. While I don’t require such a huge distance from the flash what I do need is the reliability of the trigger/flash. It hasn’t disappointed me.

Setting up the Hyper-Sync is very simple. Everything is done right from the camera using the Odin TCU. Basically all you have to do is take a picture. If a black band appears you just change the timing setting on the TCU. It took me less than one minute to get the settings for each of my cameras to sync up to 8000th sec. Hyper-Sync is different than High Speed Sync (HSS). Hyper-Sync is a calibrated time delay that ensures the camera shutter is open during the moment when the flash pulse fires. This gives you an extra stop or two more than HSS.

Using the indra as fill flash @ 1/2000 sec

Indra 500 TTL using HSS
Canon 5D MKIII – Sigma 24-105 ART Lens
Lens (mm): 74
ISO: 250
Aperture: 4.5
Shutter: 1/2000

The Odin TCU has four wireless channels and three flash control groups. The Indra can be controlled in TTL ratio modes A:B with EV +/- adjustments of three stops. You can also adjust the flash EV from the camera’s built in flash exposure compensation dial. A fantastic and unique feature of the Odin is the ability to designate groups in different modes TTL/Manual. The individual groups, A, B, C, can also be controlled in TTL mode with EV +/- adjustments that can be adjusted in +/- 3 EV levels. Groups can also be set to Manual mode, adjusting power levels remotely, or turned off. The Phottix Odin system will also trigger compatible non-TTL flashes and studio strobes. The Indra can also be used with any wireless Transmitter and receiver  (Pocket Wizard, Cactus, Yongnuo) however the flash is in complete manual mode.

Indra 500 TTL using HSS Canon 5D MKIII - Sigma 24-105 ART Lens Lens (mm): 62 ISO: 160 Aperture: 6.3 Shutter: 1/400

Indra 500 TTL using HSS
Canon 5D MKIII – Sigma 24-105 ART Lens
Lens (mm): 62
ISO: 160
Aperture: 6.3
Shutter: 1/400

The Indra 500 is quite compact. Part of the reason for that is because it has a separate battery pack. The Profoto B1 which is a similar unit has a built in battery, which some people like. Personally, I prefer a lighter weight head with a separate battery pack, that distributes the weight so it’s not all on top of the light stand. While working outside I have found out, the hard way, light stands that are top-heavy blow over a lot easier. Using a lighter weighted head and the battery to weigh down the bottom of the light stand helps a lot, having sand bags is a good idea as well. The battery pack has 2 outlets for strobes or a flash each which can be connected and powered at the same time. The recycle times for the flash are very quick, I never find that I have to wait for the flash to recycle to take the next picture. It has a LED display to show the remaining power. I haven’t gauged it but the charging time to recharge the battery is fast, my guess would be somewhere around 3 hours when it’s completely drained. The battery is permitted as carry-on baggage for airlines, which is a big plus me as a travel and location photographer.

Indra 500 TTL using HSS Canon 5D MKIII - Sigma 24-105 ART Lens Lens (mm): 57 ISO: 200 Aperture: 5.0 Shutter: 1/1600

Indra 500 TTL using HSS
Fill in Flash in late afternoon.
Canon 5D MKIII – Sigma 24-105 ART Lens
Lens (mm): 57
ISO: 200
Aperture: 5.0
Shutter: 1/1600

Indra 500 TTL using HSS Canon 5D MKIII - Sigma 24-105 ART Lens Lens (mm): 68 ISO: 320 Aperture: 5.6 Shutter: 1/1000

Indra 500 TTL using HSS The flash was set to -1.3 EV for slight fill using a shoot through umbrella
Canon 5D MKIII – Sigma 24-105 ART Lens
Lens (mm): 68
ISO: 320
Aperture: 5.6
Shutter: 1/1000

The flash is well constructed and has a solid feel to it. The size and weight makes it easy to carry and set up. The head uses the Bowens “S” mount quick release. This mount is very easy to attach and remove light modifiers, it is also the most readily available mount for accessories.


As a studio shooter I use manual settings for my camera and flash. I can still do this with the Indra 500 but I also have the option of setting the camera on manual exposure and setting the flash on TTL. I can also use aperture priority and TTL, this would be great for shooting events and weddings where you don’t have a lot of time to set up and take exposure readings. I have to confess since I have been using the Indra 500 I have been using the TTL setting on practically all of my outdoor shoots, it is amazingly accurate. When shooting in harsh sunlight I can use shutter speeds that are higher than the sync speed (usually 1/200 or 1/250 sec) by using HSS or Hyper-Sync, it is so easy. When the Odin is set to HSS the flash seamlessly switches into HSS when needed or uses slower speeds depending on my aperture settings and ambient lighting – I no longer have to think about what shutter speed I’m using. This is pretty amazing for me, because I am one of those photographers whose main objective is the photo, not the technology. When I don’t have to worry or think about any of the technical settings I am free to concentrate on creativity.

Indra 500 TTL  and a Phottix Mitro+ behind model on camera left Canon 5D MKIII - Sigma 24-105 ART Lens

Indra 500 TTL and a Phottix Mitro+ behind model on camera left
Canon 5D MKIII – Sigma 24-105 ART Lens

At nearly half the price and with more features and almost double the battery capacity of the Profoto B1, the Indra500 is an exceptional value. It makes using flash simple, it has lots of power, it’s reliable, well built, very portable and easy to set-up on location shoots. This light is just amazing!!! It definitely is a great choice and tops my list of recommendations for flash lighting gear.


Indra 500 TTL   Canon 5D MKIII - Sigma 24-105 ART Lens

Indra 500 TTL
Canon 5D MKIII – Sigma 24-105 ART Lens


* Exceptional value – half the price of the competition with more features and almost double the battery capacity
* Opens up a whole new door of possibilities to be creative on location
* 500w/s = 9 times more powerful than my most powerful speedlight, allows me to do full length body shots while overpowering the sun
* Seamlessly switches into HSS when needed – I no longer have to think about my settings or limit my creativity
* Full control of the flash from the camera position using the Odin, from manual to full TTL
* Hyper Sync gives me more light to freeze the action at super-fast shutter speeds
* Can fully trust the TTL system to give me exactly what I need
* Consistent light output even at high shutter speeds
* Very portable and easy to set up
* Very well made, solid construction, not a cheap “plastic” feel
* Uses the Bowens “S” mount – the most universal mount available
* Very fast recycle times and battery charging time
* I found that it was more than fast enough in the studio, it never slowed me down
* Can be used with existing Phottix flashes and receivers


* I only have one, I’m going to have to purchase a second.


Available at the following dealers:

L.L. Lozeau
Don’s Photo
The Camera Store
Lord Photo



BTS – Fresh Coat of Paint

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Earlier this week I removed a large bookcase and some panel storage board along one of the walls in the studio in order to try and get a little more shooting space. I plastered over some holes that were in the drywall and then gave the entire wall a new coat of white coat.  For those of you who wanted to see more of the studio and some the equipment that I use, here’s a look inside the studio and the freshly painted wall.

Garry Black's Photo Studio

Garry Black’s Photo Studio

#1 Freshly painted white wall

#2 Hardwood floor

#3 White tile board

#4 Black tile floor (this is the actual floor in the studio)

#5 Dynalite 1000 W Power Packs

#6 Dynalite Flash Head

#7 Einstein E640 Flash

#8 Pocket Wizard Plus X – Wireless transmitter and receiver

#9 Manfrotto #052 Light Stands (discontinued) – Replacement 1004BAC Light Stand

#10 Manfrotto 032 Autopoles + 044 Background Paper clamps/Hooks + 046MC Metal Chain Expan Set

#11 Manfrotto 170 Mini-pole

#12 Manfrotto Light Stands – Various Sizes

#13 Plume Wafer 100 Softbox

#14 V-Flat (Lightform) held by a Manfrotto 170 Mini-pole

#15 Lastolite Collapsible Urban Background

#16 Painted Backgrounds and 9ft rolls of seamless paper

BTS – Fitness Photo Shoot Workshop

Monday, March 16th, 2015

This past weekend I was teaching a Fitness Model/Lighting Photo Shoot Workshop in my studio in Ottawa. This a final photo from one of the lighting setups with Audrey who was one of the models.


Below is the Behind The Scenes photo of this shot and some of the equipment that was used in creating it. Let me know if you have any questions!


#1 DIY Sandbag

#2 Manfrotto 052 Light Stand (discontinued) – Replacement 1004BAC Light Stand

#3 Plume Wafer 100 Softbox – Main light

#4 V-Flats (Lightform)

#5 Manfrotto 170 Mini-poles – using 4 of these – two are holding the V-flats and two for the background lights

#6 White seamless paper 9ft. – 2.71m

#7 Manfrotto 032 Autopoles + 044 Background Paper clamps/Hooks + 046MC Metal Chain Expan Set

#8 White Tile Board (Home Depot)

#9 Lastolite Collapsible Urban Background (not being used) and Holly who was one of the other models (taking a break)

#10 Floor mat – Audrey was fighting off a cold so we tried to keep her feet off the cold floor.

Behind The Scenes – Studio Photo Shoot

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

The participants on my studio lighting workshops have the opportunity to see all of the equipment that is in my studio. Or if we are on a location  model photo shoot the equipment that I bring to those workshops.  Equipment is always being talked about and used in each setup for every scene, and while it is only a tool in helping to create a picture. It is pretty essential.

I receive quite a few e-mails and messages from photographers asking me about equipment. What do I use and what do I recommend. In order to help as many people as possible I have decided to start posting photos and descriptions showing the Behind The Scenes (BTS) of some of my shoots. If there is something that you would like to know or learn more about, please either add a comment here or send me an email


I have previously posted about these backgrounds and I can’t even begin to tell you how great they are. At first glace they look kind of strange. Models, designers and even photographers who are seeing them for the first time will look at them and either say or secretly think “he’s going to use this?” Okay, I admit they do look funny and definitely out of place, but every time right after I’ve taken the first picture and they see what it looks like the reaction is always – WOW!!!

Lastolite Urban Background

BTS – Lastolite Urban Background

The backgrounds are reversible and have a different background on each side. This one pictured is the Steel Shutter and on the other side is the Wooden Distressed Door. They are also collapsible, exactly the same way as a reflector folds up, so that makes them extremely portable and quick to set up anywhere. When it is fully opened it is 1.5×2.1m (5′ x 7′)

Lastolite Steel Shutter Background

Lastolite Steel Shutter Background

I have a couple of these backgrounds, the other one is the Red Brick/Grey Stone. I want to get more of them. For more information and descriptions of the other backgrounds here is the Lastolite Web Page for the Urban Backgrounds


Studio Lighting and Model Photo Shoot Workshop – Saturday Jan 17th

Friday, December 26th, 2014

This workshop is designed to help you learn the technical and creative aspects of producing effective portraits using flash in a studio. It will include demonstrations and intensive hands-on training on studio lighting. On this day long model photo shoot you will learn lighting techniques, posing and model interaction helping you to understand the relationship between lighting and posing.

You will learn how to use hard light, soft light, main key light, fill light, side-lighting, kickers, back-lights and reflectors.

You will be photographing the models in a variety of different studio lighting setups and clothing changes. With only 3 other photographers on this workshop you will have plenty of time to shoot each model in the different lighting setups and clothing/outfits.

Registration Details:
Cost for the day long workshop is $125. + HST to reserve your spot a deposit of $50. is required. The balance is due on the day of the workshop, payable in cash.

Limited to 4 photographers
You can either book through the Meetup page or contact me directly

Karine and Chloe will be the two models for this workshop.







Lastolite Urban Backgrounds – Part 2

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Recently I was shooting photos for a model who wanted several different looks for her portfolio. The quickest way to get so many different location looks was to actually shoot in the studio. Rather than driving all over the city all I had to do was pop open a few of my Lastolite Urban Collapsible Backgrounds. This isn’t a review of these backgrounds, it’s just to show you some additional photos of actually using them and the results you can get. The backgrounds that I have used here are: Derelict Wall, Wooden Fence, Shutter Door, Tarnished Metal.

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

lastolite collapsible urban background

Lastolite Urban Backgrounds

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Years ago, many years ago, I used canvas and muslin backgrounds in my studio and also when shooting on location in offices and homes. A huge advantage with them is their portability, their main drawback are the folds and wrinkles in the material that is nearly impossible to get rid of.  Well, physically it is impossible to get of them, the only way to do it, is by shooting with an shallow depth of field like f2.8 – 4 and throwing it out of focus. However, my biggest complaint with them though, is that they scream out dated studio photography. I would much rather use white or thunder grey seamless paper or preferably shoot at an outdoor location.

Fast forward to this week, when I received three of the new Lastolite Urban Backgrounds.  They are the next best thing to shooting at an outdoor location but they also offer the versatility of shooting in the studio and being able to rapidly change the backgrounds. Seeing these in person is one thing and then seeing them in photos is quite the other – they are amazing!  So far, I have used them for 2 photos and in both the models and MUA have been totally amazed and impressed how the pictures looked. “They look so realistic and three dimensional.”  The backgrounds are reversible, there is a different design on each side, they are easy to set up and wrinkles are non existent. When I first started to use them I hung them up from a Manfrotto U-Hook, but I quickly realized that wasn’t necessary as they can stand alone leaning up against the wall.  They are fold and open up just like the reflectors and come with their own circular carrying case. They take up very little storage space are easy to carry around. I have to say that I am really impressed with these backgrounds!!!!





Lastolite Urban Background

Sigma F1.4 Lenses

Monday, February 24th, 2014

In the current issue – Feb/Mar of Photo Life magazine this ad for Sigma F1.4 lenses is running. It’s my photo that is in the ad, and as a result of that I’m now receiving messages and emails from people wanting to know which one of the three lenses I would recommend. They are all great lenses and depending on your shooting style that would probably influence the lens that I would recommend for you. I took this photo with the Sigma 85mm F1.4 which is probably my favourite of the 1.4 lenses, my next preference would be the 50mm and then the 35mm. But these choices are for my personal style of shooting, if you like the way I shoot then go for the lenses in that order. If your shooting style is different then maybe the 35mm or 50mm might be best for you.

As a result of the ad, I am also getting lots requests from people asking who the model is – her name is Gina. And this was one of the photos from an outdoor location photo shoot workshop in Ottawa last September.

 Sigma F1 4 Lens Ad_Photo Life_FebMar2014

Review of the Sigma 24-105mm F4 ART Lens

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

This is the third of the new Sigma “Global Vision” lenses that I have used and tested in the past year. The other two were the 35mm F1.4 DG ART (review here) and the 120-300 F2.8 DG SPORTS lens which I took on my trip to Namibia, Africa in September. To say that these lenses are unbelievably good, would be a huge understatement. And now after testing the 24-105mm, I truly impressed with the quality of the >Sigma Global Vision Lenses.

In testing the Sigma 24-105mm lens, I used it on both a full-frame Canon 5D MKIII and Canon 7D APS-C sensor cameras. The 7D with the APS-C sensor which has crop factor of 1.6x effectively makes this lens the equivalent of a FF 38.4mm to 168mm.

I do own the Canon 24-105mm F4L lens, the zoom range makes it a very versatile and useful all purpose or walk around lens. However I was disappointed with it’s performance from the start. It is not as sharp as other Canon L-series lenses, the distortion at 24mm is huge, the AF sometimes “searches”, it doesn’t lock in right away – this could be a result of the lens being an F4 and I am use to shooting with fast lenses with apertures of F2.8 and faster. Aperture really does make a big difference in the speed and accuracy of focusing as does the auto-focus motor and the camera itself.

The criteria that I use in evaluating any lens is based on the following factors. Yours might be similar, but maybe in a different order.

  1. Sharpness.
  2. Distortion, Chromatic Aberration and Vignetting, if these can be easily corrected in post-processing it’s not really an issue.
  3. Construction, Lens Design and Ergonomics.
  4. Price.

In testing the Sigma 24-105mm I was fortunate enough to be able to use it for several weeks, before having to return it to Sigma Canada.  That gave me the opportunity to use it on many of my photo shoots. In fact, after reviewing the results from the first test shoot with it, I was confident enough in the image quality to use it on all of my commercial shoots.

For me the most important factor to consider is the lens’ performance, is the picture quality high enough to meet the demands of the publishing industry. What I found with the Sigma 24-105mm is that it is an extremely sharp lens and definitely far surpasses the high standards for publishing. On the Canon 5D MKIII  the sharpness is excellent in center, and while corner sharpness was not quite as sharp, it was still very good.  When comparing it against the Canon 24-105mm f4L, the Sigma outperforms it in every aspect. Overall it is sharper at every focal length and aperture setting,  including corner sharpness and wide open at F4.

On both the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 7D, I found that the focusing was very quick, accurate and is unbelievably quiet.  And although I didn’t use it very often,  you can also use manual focus at any time to over ride the auto focus.  The lens also has a very effective four-stop image stabilization, as opposed to three-stops in the older technology of Canon’s.

A design feature that I think is a very good idea was placing the zoom ring, which is very large at the front of the lens as opposed to the Canon 24-105mm which is quite small and located closer to the camera body and it’s focusing ring is towards the front of the lens. I definitely prefer using Sigma’s configuration, it is better balanced making it easier to hold the camera/lens and also easier to operate.  It has an 82mm front filter compared to 77mm on the Canon, although after using for a day I didn’t notice any difference physically between the two.  Adjusting the focus and zoom does not change the length of the lens, as well the front element does not move or rotate, so using a filter holder or polarizing filter isn’t any problem. The minimum focusing distance is 45 cm (17.7″) I had to look that up, Canon and Nikon’s 24-120mm is similar.

The combination of rugged construction and the high quality of materials give the overall build of the lens is a  and high precision.  The lens mount is made from brass and when it is attached it to the camera goes on smoothly and fits tightly. The lens does not have a rubber weatherstripping seal, so don’t stand in the poring rain with your camera and this lens. If fact most people use a raincoat for their cameras/lenses since most cameras are not weather resistant either. A new accessory for the Global Vision Lenses is the Sigma USB dock which allows you to calibrate the lens and update the lens’ firmware.

There are many technical reviews, charts and scores about this lens on the internet, however I find that reading them is like reading an an instruction manual. I don’t read instructional manuals from cover to cover very often.  What I’ve heard about these other reviews, is that basically they have come up with the same results that I have discovered by using this lens in my day to day work. And that is, Sigma has once again designed and manufactured another lens which is producing outstanding results. A lot of thought has gone into designing this new series of Sigma lenses. I have been using the EX series of lenses for the past 2 -1/2 years and my opinion of them is that they very good, now with the new series of Global Vision  lenses,  all I can say about them is they are incredible and an excellent value.

I had almost completely given up using the Canon 24-105mm and had forgotten how useful that zoom range was. Now given the superior image quality from the Sigma 24-105mm I am hooked on that zoom range again. After using the Sigma 24-105mm F4 I will buying one and will be selling my Canon lens, although I’m probably shooting myself in the foot by writing this review.



24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

Sigma 24-105h

24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

Sigma 24-105g

24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

Sigma 24-105f

24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

Sigma 24-105e

24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

Sigma 24-105d

24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

Sigma 24-105c

24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

Sigma 24-105b

24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM

Manfrotto Pro Photographer

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Today, Manfrotto Canada officially launched the Manfrotto Pro Photographers and Videographers Program. I am pleased to be one of the top professional photographers in Canada who have been chosen to be part of this program. It was over 30 years when I bought my first “real” tripod, a Manfrotto #055, before that I had a flimsy poor excuse for a tripod.  Over the years I bought other Manfrotto tripods, the #190 and the HUGE/HEAVY #075 that I used for a Pentax 6×7 medium format camera.  Today the tripod that I use is Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 Carbon Fibre Tripod which is so much lighter!!! And if you have seen any of the behind-the-scene photos taken in my studio, you know that it is jam-packed full of Manfrotto light stands, poles, clamps, arms and brackets. I’m looking forward to testing and reviewing more Manfrotto equipment in the future, I’ll keep you updated.


Manfrotto Pro Promo Sheet_Eng