Flash For The Win

So I went for a Sony Flash Workshop, with thanks to George of Sony, Ted Adnan, one heck of a cool photographer, the two models Joell and Joshua, and thanks to Muzium Telekomunikasi Negara. We learnt how to use the Sony HVL-F56AM strobe flashgun, with techniques to balance ambient light, bounce light, and wireless flash.

I did not have a HVL-F56AM myself, but I’ve borrowed it from smashpOp before for test runs (whose results I have yet to publish, but rest assured I like it very much) and gigs.

Anyway, one bonus was that at the end of the day, each participant would submit two of their best pictures, and the top 3 would win a prize!

They showed the pictures on screen, without identifying who did what, and gave some comments.

Their critique on pictures opened up my eyes quite a bit. Sure, I knew a lot of photographic effects. However, did I apply the effects to the subjects accordingly? I might’ve shot some nice shots, but did I understand why, so I could replicate them?

Anyway, I had a tough time picking between these four shots (only resized, nothing else done in Photoshop):


18mm F3.5 1/60 ISO400 with one HVL-F56AM held with my left hand above and slightly to my right (1 O’ clock position) at 17mm with wide diffuser, and one HVL-F56AM pointing at the wall behind, held by smashpOp. Thanks smashpOp!


18mm F14 1/60 Zone-matching Low-key ISO80 with one HVL-F56AM bounced into an umbrella. Vignetting and light falloff due to Pro Tama 0.7x wide angle converter (giving effectively 18mm without the APS-C crop factor.)


Same exposure data but at F3.5 1/40s instead. Also used the wide-angle converter and the umbrella. I was hesitant to pick this because other than her hand propping up the circle Warner Brothers style, this shot didn’t pop.


90mm F4 1/125 Zone-matching Low-key ISO80 with the umbrella. The only lens I have that does 90mm at F4 is the wonderful Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan lens. Okay, so it was more of a bokeh appreciation shot than anything else. I was twiddling about with white balance here so it’s a sickly green; the beercan otherwise gives great color.

I used Zone-matching Low-key ISO80 because it makes the Sony A100 use ISO80 for least noise, and Low-key mode retains the shadows so I can see more shadow details on my nVidia-driver-calibrated CRT monitor.

Hi200, or Zone-matching Hi-key ISO200, does the opposite, and prevents highlights from blowing out when the camera processes the curves. Studio shots with a lot of white will benefit from this.

I picked the first and second shot.

The second shot won! Frames within frames, Ted said. If the flare was positioned anywhere else it probably wouldn’t be picked.

I almost picked the beercan ad shot over that one. There’s something off about my shot but I haven’t figured it out… maybe it’s the guy’s face being lit from underneath by a stray HVL-F56AM (we were all using the same channel and were told to turn it off so not to interfere with the umbrella-ed flash.) I’d prefer to make natural-looking flash shots anyway.

And so, I won myself a Sony HDPS-M10 HDD Photo Storage device!

It’s a 40 Gigabyte portable hard disk for photographers taking long trips or vacations, but don’t want to carry a huge laptop to transfer pictures to each time they fill up their memory cards.

What’s good about it?

  • Accepts Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, CompactFlash Type I and II, and Microdrive media
  • A single click of a button copies images to the hard disk and archives them
  • It has 60 minutes of extended transfer times without an AC adapter. You could do 15 transfers from a 1GB card
  • Shock-proof with reinforced corners
  • Small LCD shows transfer progress
  • Comes with Photo Diary Software to organize photos in calendar format

It works with Linux, too!

Imagine being on a week-long vacation, or being a rock band roadie doing a tour. Feel no guilt shooting in RAW format!

Once home, plug it in to your USB2.0 port and transfer away!

Sadly, I realized, I don’t ever go on week-long vacations or do roadie jobs. I go home every day and transfer my pictures to the computer!

And so, I’m selling this. I need the cash to buy a Sony HVL-F56AM, heh.

The list price online is USD257, or RM900, but to be realistic in accordance to market forces, and what you can get around town nowadays, I’ll sell it for RM500.


I had to open the package to show the contents. There’s an unfilled warranty form.


The Sony HDPS-M10 in comparison to a CD. Its dimensions are 135x92x30mm, weighing 300 grams.

Note that this does not have a big color LCD screen and is not meant to be your pocket picture gallery. You’d pay a lot, lot more for something like that.

Of course, there are Taiwanese brands out there, but you have experienced a Taiwanese brand product, haven’t you? Some of them are great, but some are really wonky. Plus the manuals are in bad English and so are the programs. You’d also only get them fixed by the shop who sold it to you, instead of walking into any Sony shop.

I’ve found Sony service to be quick in turnaround compared to the rest of say, Low Yat Plaza shops. I bought a Taiwanese brand MP3 player a long time ago, and had to come back often for them to fix.

You can get any cheapo brand MP3 player, but a hard disk is something you don’t want screwing up! Especially those external hard disk enclosures that give occasional errors.

So yes, please help me with my aspiration for a Sony HVL-F56AM, and buy my Sony hard disk! (Or at least help me sell it.) While I have always championed taking pictures without flash, I have also championed alternative techniques and effects, including those with flash.

Zap me an email. a-l-b-n-o-k-at-h-o-t-m-a-i-l-dot-c-o-m. Take away them dashes!

The geek in me can’t wait.

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