By Joe Farace
Whether in the studio or on location I prefer wireless flash unit tripping for many reasons, like having one less cord to fall over. Untethered shooting has lots of additional advantages for photographers who may be less clumsy than me. The connections are positive and you’re free to move around to get the perfect angle, unrestricted by synch cord length or all-too-frequent cord failure. Poof! It just stops working—usually when you’re in the middle of an important session, too. On a more practical level, using a wireless electronic synch kit such as Booth Photographic’s Flash Waves isolates your digital SLR from the studio flash, eliminating the chance of voltage feedback into the camera. Bang!
I’ve found the Flash Waves kit to be an important accessory, especially for on-location shooting. What sets Flash Waves apart from similar units is that it’s tiny, relatively inexpensive at $249.95, and quite versatile. Booth Photographic doesn't provide a pouch for it, but the whole magilla fits inside Lightware’s sturdy and attractive $23.97 GS400 case. It has a belt loop, too.
Flash Waves synchronizes at shutter speeds up to 1/250 second, which should easily match up with your favorite digital SLR or MF camera. It has a 165-foot operating range, but my guess is that it’s a typically conservative rating and you could probably push it more, especially when you use it to trip electronic flash units placed outdoors to highlight a building for low-light or nighttime architectural photography. Wedding and press photographers will appreciate the fact that the system offers five coded channels to eliminate misfires by locking out other strobes.
You can connect a receiver to your flash in many ways, and Flash Waves provides plenty of options. A two-way mini plug adapter plugs into the bottom of the receiver, making it ideal for connecting to power packs. That arrangement may be too precarious for monolight users (it could accidentally fall out), making the short synch cord that lets you connect the receiver to a monolight’s synch socket preferable. If your monolight or power pack uses a phone jack connection, there’s a mini-to-phone plug adapter included in the kit, saving you a trip to Radio Shack. Because the receiver also has a built-in PC connection, you can use the short PC cord that has a mini plug on the other end.
Image ©Joe Farace
In addition to being able to connect with monolights and power pack/head-based lighting systems, the receiver has a built-in hot shoe that allows you to place a shoe-mounted flash in a strategic location and trip it wirelessly. A clever wedding photographer could remotely mount a flash to produce dramatic (backlighting anyone?) lighting for ceremony and reception shots. If you're using it with a shoe-mounted flash there’s a tripod socket on the back of the Receiver so you can mount it to a lightstand or tripod. Additional Receivers offer options for multiple lighting set-ups. At $174.95 each that shouldn’t bust your credit card limit.
Out here in the real world there are obstacles that can challenge wireless connectivity, such as proximity to steel girders, network cabling and large concrete surfaces. While working in a hotel that was chock full of all of these things my flashes never failed to fire.
The only problem you might encounter with Flash Waves is weak batteries. The Receiver uses two AAA batteries that are not always as easy to find as their AA cousins, so make sure you have spares. The Transmitter uses what appears to be a garage door remote control battery, and although one is included, I’d keep a spare handy too.
Caption: This young mother-to-be wanted something different, something more urban than the typical maternity portrait and this photograph was the result. I lit the scene using Westcott umbrellas, and an Adorama DigiPopper 200 and DigiPopper 300. Lighting was dictated more by where I could place the two lights in the crowded hotel room. One was placed at camera right with an umbrella in shoot-through mode and the other monolight used an umbrella in the traditional position. I slipped the tiny FlashWaves transmitter onto my Canon EOS 5D flash shoe, allowing me to move around the room to get the shots I wanted, sometimes as in this exposure, shooting from across the queen-size bed. ©2007 Joe Farace
I tested the Flash Waves wireless synch kit under all kids of conditions, from working in large rental studios to shooting in tiny hotel rooms and even outdoors, and its reliable performance has made it an indispensable part of my location lighting gear.
Flash Waves Kit
Kit includes transmitter (23A 12v battery included), Receiver (2 AAA batteries required), two sync cords, mounting strap, and receiver holder. Price: $249.95, additional Receivers are $174.95.