Friday, September 3, 2010

Testing Neil's Bounce Technique (Basic)

(One of my early shots utilizing some of Neil's techniques)

Below are a series of test shots showing Neil van Niekerk's innovative technique of using the "black foamie thing."


When I first started learning about flash in 2007, I lucked upon Neil van Niekerk's Tangents blog and immediately became a fan.  Up until then, I had known only about bouncing from ceilings.  From Neil's flash tutorial, I learned to balance flash and ambient, and control the direction of my bounce.  Little did I know that in my eagerness, I would miss one of Neil's key techniques.

One of Neil's innovations is the use of a sheet of black foam as a flag (a card to block light in one direction).  I truly mean innovative because the foam sheet (in white) was originally popularized by as a larger bounce card.  Neil however used it not so much to bounce light, but to block the light from the flash from hitting the subject, and he used a black foam sheet.

When I first read about Neil's black foamie thing, I didn't think it was an important technique.  My impression was that it was an extravagant waste of flash power, inconvenient, and wouldn't be of much benefit.  So I never tried it, being content merely to bounce with bare flash.  I went so far as to make a black foamie thing, but never ever used it.  Indeed, I even got highly retroreflective paper to augment the bounce efficiency of the bounce card, because I was still thinking of the foam sheet as a bounce card (instead of a flag).

Fast forward to 2009 when Neil published his book, On-Camera Flash.  As I read the chapter about flash modifiers, I began to understand the logic of using the black foamie thing as a flag.  Well, I finally got around to testing the difference that the black foamie thing makes.


The differences between bare, white flagged and black flagged are most apparent when the flash is being aimed to provide a short light.  Note: I shot these test shots at sync speed to 'delete' the ambient (i.e., the light in these shots are virtually 100% flash) and I aimed the flash to a corner at camera left.

Bare flash (wide with diffuser):

Bare flash (zoomed):

White flag:

Black flag

As an experiment, I also tried increasing the efficiency of the black foamie by combining it with the white flag.  The white interior would bounce flash more efficiently while the black exterior would hide direct light from the flag from reaching the subject.

Black and white flag:

The effect seems to be in between the white flag and the black flag, though closer to the white flag's effect. Side by side for comparison:

Neil also described using a headband to allow flexibility in positioning the black foamie thing.  Here I tested the black foamie thing as a flag on the side of the flash.

Black flag on the side, flash at wide:

Black flag on the side, flash at zoom:

Needless to say, going forward, the black flag (or black and white flag) will be a technique that I will be using in my shots when possible.  I have a lot of catching up to do...!