To Bridge the Gap

One of the by-products of decades of photography is an excess of gear.  I’ve got stuff that I just HAD TO HAVE that I didn’t end up using much.  Yeah, photography isn’t the only hobby where this occurs, but it is one of the major ones.  Gear fetishists know what I’m talking about.  A spate of interest in a kind of shot makes you go out and buy all kinds of weird stuff.  Back in film days I bought a crap load of filters.  Didn’t use 3/4 of them, but I had them.  Ugh.

Then I decided to get into macro photography, but didn’t really research my needs very well and ended up with a ring flash when I really should have gotten a dual macro flash (one flash on either side of the lens, independently controlled and articulated).

Olympus T10 Ring flash and 90mm f2 macro lens

Needless to say, it didn’t get much use because while it provides great light, it doesn’t provide great definition in the form of shadows.  If I’d done a bit more research I’d have realized that to bring up detail in macro shots, hightlights and shadows are key.  The way to do that is to light one side of the object more than another.  Some do this by using a single flash and daylight, or sometimes a reflector and daylight, but another way is to use two flash units powered and angled differently.  Some ring flashes have controls to individually manage the flash bulbs within them and actually turn them up and down independently, but this flash doesn’t allow that.  So what’s a poor photographer to do?

Adapt.  Sure, I’d love to buy a new Olympus macro flash rig designed for the E System, but as I just said, I’m a poor photographer.  I need to find a way to use my old gear with my new gear.  I’d heard that some vintage film flash units can damage new digital SLRs with their high voltage output, so I was a more than leery of trying it.  Luckily the folks at Bifos exist to make the Olympus user’s life a little easier.  There’s even a tutorial on how to properly adapt this old flash to the E series cameras.  Rejoice!  After following the relatively simple directions, I’m taking it into the yard to experiment.

Quince blossoms in the rain

This is probably the best photo I’ve taken recently with the manual gear shown above.  Since the flash, lens and camera don’t communicate I have to assess everything in my head and try for the best settings with regard to shutter speed, aperture, flash output and focus.  I don’t actually mount the ring flash on the lens (although I could), instead I hold it to one side of the subject and aim it manually.  Literally.  It’s in my hand.  It’s a flexible way to work, but not very precise.  Sometimes things come out too dark or too light.  But over time I’m getting a feel for how each variable works with the others.  It’s not perfect, but it’s workable.  Next is a diffuser.  The direct light is too harsh for my liking, but a little DIY time should produce something useful.

So what the hell am I nattering on about?  What’s the point?  Well I guess in this era of reuse/recycle it’s appropriate.  A lot of old gear still has life in it if we’re willing to adapt.  I wouldn’t trade my old OM 90mm macro lens for anything, even a new Olympus macro lens.  And yeah, I’d love to have a new flash, but I’d feel so stupid and guilty for not using the one I have that it would be a hard purchase.  Using my old one gives me satisfaction in a couple of ways; I’m overcoming the difficulty of the process and I’m getting my money’s worth.  Now maybe I can find a legacy twin flash rig that will mount on the power unit…

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