The wireless challenge

By Martin Joergensen | September 15, 2008 4:11 PM | Permalink | Comments ( 2)

group.jpgAs much as I love Nikon's CLS (Creative Lighting System) flash sync when it works, I truly hate it when it doesn't do what I want it to. This past weekend I was fishing with a group of International fly anglers with whom I fish every year in September. A recurring event is Saturday's group photo, which takes place outdoors by the water and typically involves about 30 people including myself.

Since we have had great weather all years - sun and blue sky - I have wanted to use a fill flash for this picture all years. As you might very well know, sunshine and outdoors portraits is a bad combination, and a couple of flashes can do wonders when it comes to softening the harsh sunlight.

Since I have access to four SB800's and since they can work using CLS together with my D200, it seems an obvious solution to just put a couple of flashes on light stands, chuck a speedlight in the hot shoe of the D200 and let the system work its magic. But no chance! It has been close to impossible to get the off camera flashes to fire all years, due to the bright sun I guess, and I have had to rely on just one single on-camera flash, which of course is way too little to light up 30 people. This past weekend there was no way I could get the off camera flashes to work. 

off-camera-flash.jpgSo I feebly tried to get it to work, cursed and swore quite a lot, gave up and shot with what I could get from one flash. In a lucky moment the sun disappeared behind a cloud, and I could get an evenly lit picture. A little postwork has rescued the images all years, but I'm far from happy with the results.

After this year's shoot I put one of the light stands right in front of the SB800 mounted on-camera, double checked all menus and settings and fired several times. No go! The off-camera flash just wouldn't fire in the bright sunshine.

I do need a proper wireless sync system for my flashes. Radiopoppers, Skyports or Pocket Wizards seems the way to go, but the price of these nice gadgets has kept me from investing. And the Radiopoppers are still only released in the US and Canada due to restrictions on radio operated gear around the world.
My own socalled eBay triggers are miserable and fail so often that they are close to being useless.
I may just have to empty the wallet and go for the real stuff.



Hi Martin, I just have a quick question for you - have you tried setting the flashes in SU-4 slave mode and using them in manual mode? If the CLS does not work in bright sun, I wonder if the flash will still work as a slave. Of course you would have to fuddle with the power settings for all of them and the shot would probably take a lot longer than most folks would appreciate, but it might work... just a thought. Thanks for the blog!

PS - I thought I recognized your name, I have downloaded many of your flyfishing images from the GFF website! Nice work!


I tried the SU-4 mode too, but to no avail on the distance. I didn't try it close up. I have used it before, when I want a quick a dirty shot with manual control.

I don't mind the manual settings. On the contrary, actually, especially in bright sun where I sometimes want to underpower the ambient light and overpower the flash a bit. CLS usually does a fine job, but oftentimes manual control can be the only way to get exactly what you want every time.

And yes, my "other life" is as a fly fisher and partner on The Global FlyFisher.