On Assignment: Cookie Ride

Having lit a full-sun outdoor group shot with a Fuji X100s and a couple speedlights, I had been itching to see what a couple Einstein e640 monoblocs would do.

Way too much, as it turns out. The leaf shutter of the X100s and the insane t.1 times of the Einsteins are a match made in heaven. We had to dial them down quite a bit for this shot of a local food truck scooter operator...

More specifically, we had to dial our Einsteins down three and almost five stops respectively to replace the sun at a typical loose portrait working distance. Which means instantaneous recycle and more shots than John Wayne has in a western. You could literally shoot all day — thousands of shots — in the sun with an e640 and a VML.

But before that, please consider this very important message:

Yeah, local cookie-preneur Casey Dyson might be cool and all, selling her wares from a retro-looking red scooter named Stella. But the cookies are the star of the show. Which is to say, they're awesome.

Dyson has been wrecking the daily calorie counts of kids and adults alike in Columbia, MD for the last year. I wanted to photograph her on Stella (her scooter) for a piece on HoCo360, and I thought it would be a good excuse to play with the X100s and a couple big lights.

So we found a location with a good patch of sky in the background and a very conveniently parked panel truck. As it happens, panel trucks make excellent sun-killers when photographing women on scooters. It's a gobo on wheels. So now we had our shade.

The Mike Test

Next order of business: would the e640s overpower the sun? Let's give it a real torture test. Put the 640 in a 60" Photek Softlighter, dial the power down to midrange and set the camera to way underexpose the daylight. As in, far past what I'd probably do here today.

Yeah, that oughtta work. That's Mike Stog, my VAL for the shoot and a local photographer in his own right. He's probably putting aloe gel on his face today.

But I mean, holy crap. This is way more of an exposure stress test than I will be typically be using, and the Einstein is not even breaking a sweat. Think of the possibilities.

For our shot at top, we are still over an hour before sunset, so while the sunlight is at a low angle, the sky is plenty bright. We have Casey and Stella behind the truck, and at this sky exposure they are in pure silhouette. So the first Einstein will be for fill and legibility, especially in the underside of the scooter.

The second light is the key light. And I have grown to think about the key light as the second light as the fill lays a much-needed foundation upon which to build the key. But that's another e640 in a smaller Photek Softlighter, all being VAL'd by Mike. That light has a spill kill to make it easy to gel with a Rosco 08 straw warming gel.

It's really hard to see how much we are owning the environment until you get a little off axis from the lighting and view it from the side:

For the original image, I am tucked in just to the right of the fill light. Since the key is coming from my upper right, I'll get full coverage on Casey and the scooter. And both of these lights — even though bounced, diffused and gelled (key light) — are dialed way down. The fill is at one-eighth power and the key light is at just above 1/32 power.

So you could definitely key her with a speedlight. The fill would be a little tougher because we are using a little more power than a speedlight offers. But more important, a speedlight's t.1 time at full power is going to be about 1/200th of a sec — not enough to hit that high sync speed. But you could gang a couple speedlights and shoot through a sheet (more efficient than bounce-then-diffuse) and that'd do it.

(By comparison, in action mode and at 80ws, an Einstein has a t.1 time of ~1/6000th of a second.)

Speaking of a sheet, I wish I'd used that for fill and a rectangular soft box for the key. That would have given me much better specular highlights in the scooter. They're pretty easy to remove, but still. Live and learn.

About Those Cookies

The difference in visual scale between Casey, Stella and the cookies was such that I decided to split them into a hen-chick, which was what we always called a portrait-and-detail shot at the first paper where I worked. Otherwise, you are forcing the scale and everything looks graphically compromised. Shoot the cookie separately and let the designer play.

Something I learned quickly: make friends with, and be nice to, the lady who lays out your photos in the paper. Shoot the cookie on white and she can do damn-near anything with it, graphically speaking. So I would always keep printer paper with me and shoot my detail shots thusly.

In this case, I used an Orbis Ring as my fill light and a bare LP180 speedlight propped up on my camera bag as the key. The key light gives the texture; the Orbis gives detail — insane detail, actually.

Not surprisingly, chocolate chip is the runaway favorite from among Casey's many offerings. And if you think they look good, they taste even better.


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Blogger Joost van der Borg said...

"Speaking of a sheet, I wish I'd used that for fill and a rectangular soft box for the key." I see a lovely white truck right next to you, any thoughts on whether you could've used that as a (bounce) fill-light?

July 12, 2013 12:57 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Yeah, if we wanted lovely reverse real estate guy lettering all over the scooter. Plus, the sun woulda been at the wrong angle. :)

July 12, 2013 1:18 PM  
Blogger Kevin Blackburn said...

I really like the scooter shot cant point to one reason there is just something about it

July 12, 2013 1:31 PM  
Blogger dave moser said...

for the lame among us, a quick explanation about the T1 times... what does that even mean? and how it affects how we use our x100s cams to overcome daylight... and... you were hardwired, right?

i tried some daylight flash with my x100s, and noticed in the metadata that the actual shutter speed did not appear to be what i set on the camera.

this should be simple but i'm just not getting it...

i'll give you a cooke if you answer :-O

July 12, 2013 1:45 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


I generally reference more detailed previously published info on many subjects I might gloss over to avoid being repetitious. Did you click through to the referenced articles on t.1 times and using the X100s with speedlights in the sun and read them?

July 12, 2013 3:28 PM  
Blogger dave moser said...

David -- No, I didn't click through, didn't even notice the links DOH!!! -- thanks

i'll pay more attention next time

July 12, 2013 5:21 PM  
Blogger Chris S said...

Can you imagine if Fuji would make a leaf shutter lenses for the x-pro... *drool*

July 13, 2013 12:21 AM  
Blogger RexGRP said...

Great shot.
When I see pictures with a fill-light set up like this, I always wonder how it will work with subjects wearing glasses. I imagine problems with reflections.

July 13, 2013 12:33 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Dude. I made 'em PURPLE and everything. :)

July 13, 2013 12:50 AM  
Blogger Thomas Pickard said...


Please, please, please add a search box to the Strobist site. Search is the easiest and fastest way to find something on the web. It is a frustrating user experience endlessly clicking through Strobist when I'm trying to find some specific lighting modifier information.

Your readers' will love you for it! Thanks. Thomas.

July 13, 2013 6:07 AM  
Blogger Rob Freeman said...

Did you use the Vagabond to power the Einsteins?

July 13, 2013 8:40 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


I am publishing your comment anyway, as it is the only way to let you know that the search box is in the toolbar at upper left.

Conversely, you can always do a more comprehensive, site-specific search via Google by googling:

site:strobist.blogspot.com [your search term(s)]

using no brackets or parentheses, of course.

July 13, 2013 12:16 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@ Rob-

Yes. (VML = Vagabond Mini Lithium)

July 13, 2013 12:18 PM  
Blogger Connor Katz said...

Just out of curiosity, with the leaf shutter of the Fuji, and the power, speed and portability of the Einsteins, would you say you regret buying into the Phase and Profoto systems?

July 13, 2013 4:19 PM  
Blogger Paul S said...

Brilliant post, perfectly timed.
I am in discussions with a client about our next shoot and I will be using a very similar technique.

Thanks David, informative as usual..

July 13, 2013 4:41 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Actually, the Fuji has made me value the Phase more, because I can keep my high(er) sync and go for extreme quality.

As for the Profotos, I have been using them much less in comparison to the Einsteins, which have become my go-to lights, TBH. T.1 times are a factor, as is the elegance of their battery system.

That said, I love the Magnum reflector and the zoom standard reflectors. So I am a little torn. I will most likely pare down my Profoto kit and lean a little more into e640s.

But I'd want to keep access to a couple Profoto packs and heads for use with the above mentioned mods.

July 13, 2013 9:39 PM  
Blogger Eric the Red said...

Hi David.
Got my X100S three weeks ago, awesome once you learn it. Sharper than some of my Nikon lenses! Just a quick question, do you run both Einsteins from the same Vagabond? I am considering purchasing a pair and am curious about that.
Thanks for Strobist! (Stobism?)

July 14, 2013 12:45 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Congrats! The more you learn it, the more you'll like it.

I used two VMLs for two flashes, but only because we had no idea how low the 640s would end up being set to. Woulda worked fine w/one VML. If you run two 640s nearer to full power, the recycle times will stretch out if you use just one VML tho.

July 14, 2013 2:16 AM  
Blogger Simon Fairclough said...

I'm liking this but is it not looking a bit "lit", I understand you are demo'ing how the X100s can kill the ambient, but the trees look so dark and the sky looks a bit lifeless. The speculars on the scooter are not helping the lighting just disappear.
Just IMHO and I like what you have done re fill and key, so if its just to demo the technique please ignore this..

July 14, 2013 1:24 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


The lighting is not meant to disappear, nor is that always my goal.

I was shooting her in a way similar to the style Annie Leibovitz used in her AmEx campaign in the 1980s. I wanted it a little over-lit and theatrical.

July 14, 2013 1:56 PM  
OpenID brunopiresphoto said...

Hi David! Kind of off topic, but.. How do you handle subject's requests for "giving" them the photos you make? I get asked that all the time from soccer players to business people and I frankly don't know how to explain to them that our work has a price and every picture I give away is a job I don't get..

Thanks and congratulations on your excellent attitude and contribution for photography.

Bruno Pires - Portugal

July 14, 2013 3:50 PM  
Blogger Simon Fairclough said...

Fair enough, and job done.. The post is packed with info and the shot demo's it well. :)

July 14, 2013 5:10 PM  
Blogger Dave Tease said...


What are you using as wireless flash triggers for the fuji X100s?

July 14, 2013 6:14 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


No wireless - I want to preserve as much of that high-sync as possible, and radio introduces latency. So I am using a Universal Translator nub and a mini-to-mini sync cord.

July 14, 2013 7:19 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


I view a portrait as a collaborative process, between subject and photographer. I take photos, but they also give me photos. As such I would never turn down a request from a subject for a photo.

July 14, 2013 7:20 PM  
Blogger Eric the Red said...

Hi David,
Just a quick note on the wired trigger for the x100s, the Canon sync cord works fine for triggering manual off camera flash. I bought a Promaster for Canon cord, it's 10 meters long and works great with all my speedlights and strobes.

July 14, 2013 9:46 PM  
Blogger Randy E. Nicholson said...

Two subjects I'm greatly fond of are lighting and cookies. Nice post!

July 15, 2013 8:00 AM  
Blogger lv pg said...

Love the technique. Thanks for sharing. I was wondering what the final camera settings ended up to be? Using my Quantum Radio Slave, I can sync at 1/1000. Using a dedicated TTL cable-1/4000 sync. Not certain if using a PC connection still provides the 1/4000 or somewhere in-between the two. Though working through the various shutter speeds/sync ability takes a little getting used-to, it really is like shooting with my old Rollei 6008. Tons of fun.

July 15, 2013 11:12 AM  
Blogger junyo said...

"Can you imagine if Fuji would make a leaf shutter lenses for the x-pro..."

Yeah, that would be a 'shut up and take my money!' item. I keep seeing all the cool Strobery and I have to fight to not bid on a used X100 on eBay. But I waited for an interchangeable lens version for a reason...

In any case, I really can't see why Fuji couldn't make a leaf shutter lens. The mount is all electronic I believe, so it would just be a firmware issue to recognize the LS lens, disable the body shutter for exposures below the value that the leaf shutter is capable of.

July 15, 2013 11:48 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Hi David,

As always, thanks for the post and info!

Floating around in my skull is a brain cell that remembers you going to Profoto (in part) because your AB's were giving inconsistent color casts that were difficult to handle in post.

Now I'm hearing Einstein love in action mode where color temp isn't guaranteed, I think.

So I wonder... are the Einsteins more consistent? Is the utility of the total package outweighing any shifting color balance? It it something else? Or is that brain cell letting me down? (If the latter, I'll have some rum tonight and kill it off!)


July 15, 2013 2:53 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Einsteins are better in Action Mode than ABs are in their only mode. In this case, t.1 time trumped color temps, since I was going for max sync speed.

But I LOVE the ability to choose my priority. Einsteins are much better flashes than ABs. It's a shame they look so similar, as they are completely different beasts and I think some people are confused by this.

July 15, 2013 7:56 PM  
Blogger David Morrison said...

Clicking on the "insane detail" link was a terrible mistake. I want cookie.

July 16, 2013 1:19 PM  
Blogger wonderlens said...

I have a slightly OT question about your composition:
one of the first composition "rules" I remember learning was that (potentially) moving objects like to have more space in front of them than behind them (and it always seemed kind of logic to me)
In your photo it's the other way round and I am curious what your thought process was in terms of the composition.

July 17, 2013 1:18 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


You lost me at "composition rules."


July 17, 2013 2:13 PM  
Blogger wonderlens said...

I should have known you would stop reading at the word "rules". Still curious about your thought process compositionwise. #justasking

July 17, 2013 7:22 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


My thought process is literally that I have not cared about compositional "rules" in at least the last 25 years. No offense, but I really could care less about them.

I think they are good guidelines while you are first learning the basics (like focusing, and f/stops and shutter speeds) but you should very quickly throw them out the window. I'd say learn them, then learn how you want to break them.

July 18, 2013 2:42 AM  

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