Tag Archives: photography

Going Commando

Convincing a Nikon SB-700 speedlight to work off-camera with a Nikon D80.

 Yes, it’s possible. Just not if you’re me.

Those who nurture a love of photography and all its required paraphernalia know how all-consuming it can be. The quest to own the best gear while trying not to blow the budget and anger the spouse is a long, lonely one entailing endless hours of internet research,  and multiple coffees pondering the conundrum of which piece of kit to buy next. Online shopping sites, classifieds, blogs and forums are the order of the day; especially when you think you have it all sussed out, only to discover a newer lens with more advanced features (that apparently will make your photos awe-inspiring and in league with the pros), or a cheaper brand of flash (after you have spent days and a month’s worth of calls tracking down the one you thought you wanted at the very best price). There are so many pieces of equipment that are absolutely necessary. The list literally never ends.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to add to my gear. The possibilities were endless and the research to decide what to buy was almost as fun as going out to make the purchase. I decided on a Nikon SB-700 flash to complement my Nikon D80. After trawling blog and forum posts of those a lot less ignorant than myself, Nikon’s SB-700 was deemed the best choice as it boasts Nikon’s CLS (creative lighting system) enabling off-camera triggering using only my D80 as the D80 has a lovely feature called Commander Mode. (Sounds rather Star trekish – what were you thinking Nikon?) Another awesome product of the pairing of these two pieces of equipment is the ability to use TTL mode off camera. (This is auto-mode for the flash where the flash and camera are tasked with all decision making.) Many of the cheaper brands have TTL modes, but these are voided when you move off-camera. I’m definitely not ready for a flash in manual mode.  Also if I want to add more flashes at a later stage (which I do, many of them), I can add cheaper brands and use them all as slaves. And, if they have a TTL mode I can still retain this feature off-camera because the key is controlling it all with a Nikon flash as the master using a camera with Commander mode (so the forums say). Thank you CLS. This TTL-Commander-flash discovery was central in my decision-making and saved me from making a rather expensive faux pas. Many unlucky buggers make all kinds of expensive mistakes and are kind enough to post in the forums about it. The forums are a wealth of ‘don’t do what I just did’ type of information and I am eternally grateful.

Moving swiftly along. To the mall I went in a whirlwind of anticipation as my flash had arrived after being couriered from another branch. I got it home and unboxed it. It was a near-religious experience. I was in raptures. Really. Cue rampant excitement and delight. Euphoric.

Until I tried to get it to work.

On camera was not too much of a problem. An afternoon of fiddling and diligent reading of manuals and I was flashing away with glee. All by myself. I, master photographer, was thrilled. Getting the flash to work off camera was another matter entirely. I read manuals, I downloaded and read alternative guides, I searched blogs and forums and unabashedly abused Google. Over and over again. I saved a document detailing a step by step guide to using the D80’s menus and settings. I could not find the said menus on the bloody camera, but research enough and it should work? Right? No. Wrong.

One evening earlier this week, my husband came home to a frustrated wife, ready to put an end to the D80, whose happy existence hung perilously close to existence no more. I had had enough and had no desire to waste more time trying to get the flash to function like I had read it could. I hopped in the shower and came back to much smug flashing. Himself had figured it out and thought he was the bees knees. In a matter of minutes I truly believed he was going to spend the next few evenings losing hours like I had. Although I should have known better, himself is rather excellent at getting things to work. I was utterly delighted and bloody annoyed at the same time. After all this is my hobby and himself knows nothing about cameras and all the related kit. Feeling rather obstinate, and a little envious I went in search of a coffee instead of sticking around to be educated in all things off-camera. I wasn’t in the mood for smug. I learnt something significant to preserving my sanity that evening: next time I need a piece of new gear deciphered, I’m going to hand it over and make a coffee. I’m good at that.

For all those wanting to learn the quick approach to off-camera flash happiness: it will be a separate blog post written by himself. Quite soon he tells me.


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