The Friedman Archives Newsletter

April 2009



In this issue:



Pocket Wizards and Radio Poppers

Many people write to me and ask how they can utilize Pocket Wizards (the working professional's choice for radio triggering of flashes) with the Sony cameras and flashes. Most of those who ask don't realize that the original Pocket Wizard was designed to trigger studio strobes, and so when you hook them up as described below you lose all the benefits of automatic (TTL) flash exposure - you have to manually tell your flash how much light to output.

To make Pocket Wizards work with the Sony flashes, you need to convert the hot shoe on top of your camera to a "standard" hot shoe. For this you can either use the Sony FA-HS1AM or the "Hot Shoe Adapter III" from Gadget Infinity.  You'll also need a special cable to attach the Pocket Wizard receiver to the off-camera flash, such as this one: .

If you're looking for the reliability of radio triggering but don't want to give up automatic TTL flash exposure, I highly recommend the best of both worlds: They're called Radio Poppers (, and they way they work is just brilliant. The transmitter is actually a very tiny device which you stick onto your controller flash. Every time the flash goes off (even if it's to send the Morse-code-like control signals), an induction coil in the Radio Popper transmitter senses the rush of electrons through the flash's light tube and therefore "knows" exactly what the flash is doing, and sends out the identical signals via radio waves. The receiver, which gets mounted to an off-camera wireless flash, "hears" the radio frequency signals and translates them into corresponding pulses infrared light, feeding them to the flash's IR sensor. Thus, you have the best of both worlds: completely automated TTL flash exposure and the reliability of radio (which requires no line-of-sight and doesn't get washed out in bright daylight). Voila!


Update: When I wrote the above paragraph, it was right before the company introduced their new PX line of equipment.  It was also about the same time that the company started to admit an unexpected technical problem: Their sampling rate wasn't compatible with all brands of wireless flash protocols.  Very quietly they slipped into their documentation that their products were only certified for Canon and Nikon cameras, with certification for others "coming soon".  This limitation seemed strange to me, but I was never able to get in touch with a technical person to understand this limitation better.  Word on the street has it that these work just fine with the Sony system.  I'll let you know what I find when my evaluation units arrive. :-) 

The Importance of Fill-Flash

This is probably old-hat to most of you, but when it comes to situations where the camera sees the subject very differently from your eye, I find that you can never hammer this point home often enough: Fill Flash Matters!

Have a look at these two images of my new favorite test subject : See how dark the baby's face is under the eyes in the left shot?  It sure didn't look that dark to me when I was standing there! That's one of the biggest problems with photography - the film or digital sensor can't see nearly as wide a range of light as the human eye can. That's why in outdoor scenes, it's important to ensure that what's in shadow doesn't render as depressingly dark.  Lighten your shadows by turning your camera's flash ON (as in the right image). When the light is strong, the camera's flash will do its best to lighten the shadows so they look more like the way we remember seeing them - all automatically.



Once you understand how the camera reacts so differently to light, you can never again look at Hollywood images of people wearing hats and not think to yourself, "They must have used a giant mirror outside the frame to fill in those shadows and make the faces visible!" (Which in fact they did all the time when filming "Little House on the Prairie" - have a look at the youtube clip below, and watch how the lighting on Michael Landon's face gets brighter as he pulls into the spot where the fill light is waiting).


Next Seminars - Nashville and New York

Two more Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminars are in the works, one for Nashville and one for New York City. The tentative dates are as follows:

Nashville - Sept. 12-13, 2009

New York - Oct 17-18, 2009


Southern California Seminar Attendees

We're still looking for meeting space that doesn't cost an arm and a leg (or a Zeiss lens), but at least you can put these dates on your calendar so you can attend these events.
The Friedman Archives Seminars have amassed a reputation for being a fun and approachable way to get your creativity going and to learn the basics of photography in an intuitive way. And, based on attendee feedback, the seminars are being improved by incorporating more in-class exercises and feedback sessions to reinforce the learning experience even more.

You can register your interest in attending (before the official signup forms go online) by clicking on the dates above. Want the seminars to come to your city? Send an email expressing interest to .

We've had to put off all plans for international travel until 2010, at which time we definitely plan to schedule seminars for Amsterdam and Copenhagen (possibly the UK as well).


Northern California Seminar Attendees


(These group shots, by the way, were taken using multiple wireless flashes.  Everyone who owned a wireless flash was invited to set it up on a table and point it toward the group.  Keep in mind that in situations like this where you have multiple flashes all acting as one group, they will all fire with the same level of output -- the camera bases its flash exposure calculation on the one flash which produced the brightest reflection from the subject.  Hence the apparent splotchiness of lighting, plus the multiple shadows in the background.  In the future I'll try to have everyone place their flashes the same distance from the subject they're trying to illuminate.  Earlier I had tried to have everyone pointing their flashes to the ceiling for a humongous bounce flash effect, but the harsh shadows on the faces under the eyes make it look like we were outdoors on a bright, sunny day at noon.)


A900 book is finally out!

Well, it took six months, but my largest book to date, on the 24-megapixel Sony Alpha 900, is finally out and available in both electronic and printed versions here. This book was particularly challenging because I knew a large percentage of those buying the book would be repeat customers who probably didn't need a primer on the basics of photography, and so I completely reorganized the book to be a reference book that skipped the basic stuff and concentrated, in greater detail than usual, on every feature and setting, giving as much insights as possible. In short, I wanted it to be the opposite of the manual that came with the camera.

My! I do not mean to rag on Sony for producing a 'poor' manual. In my experience, ALL manufacturers of consumer electronics devices have learned over the years that people simply don't have the time to read large instruction manuals, and so they go out of their way to convey the operation of the device using as few words as possible. (Believe me, that's much harder than taking the time to explain everything, including the history behind a setting and circumstances in which it would be beneficial.) Then these minimalist works get translated into other languages, and that's where any clarity issues start to take form. So I understand why the manuals end up the way they do. And I certainly don't mind, since it creates a market niche which I enjoy fulfilling very much!

Chasing the Fine Nines


The holy grail in terms of computer server availability (and communications infrastructure in general) is the coveted "Five Nines" - that is, 99.999% uptime.  This translates to about 5 minutes of downtime per year as being acceptable. 


Last month was not a good month for the Friedman Archives website in terms of the five nines.  First, the site was infected with some malware which tried to do evil things to computers that visited the site.  Soon after that was resolved, the entire site was down for almost 24 hours because my domain name (which had automatic renewal enabled) mysteriously expired without any notification or explanation.  (I found out only by accident!)  After working frantically to get things restored (involving other technical problems I don't care to get into), the site was restored but with a different kind of malware affecting it.  A day later that, too, was resolved.  Then my webhost experienced a network outage lasting about 8 hours.  In all, I blew the 5 nines goal for the year by a factor of 600 in less than a week!


Here's the interesting part: The expired domain occurred on my redirect server.  This is a server I had set up so I could redirect all web traffic to a backup server on a moment's notice should my primary server, well, experience a network outage lasting about 8 hours or so. :-)  So in my efforts to create some redundancy in my infrastructure to avoid disaster, I inadvertently introduced a new source of failure.  As the systems engineers say, "It's always something!"



Try an A900 on for size...

Many of you who are perfectly happy with the digital camera you already have may have been fantasizing about investing in an Alpha 900 camera, just because - well, just because. Let me tell you now that, unless you're doing commercial work which must be blown up to giant proportions, this camera may very well be overkill for you.  The file sizes are huge, your computer will appear to work slower doing your normal post-processing, and you'll eventually need to upgrade all of your hard drives to accommodate all the extra space.

But if you're still thinking about it, you can build your own paper model of an A900 and hold it in your hands. :-)

By the way, in my quest to find a lightweight traveling lens for my A900, I dug through my Minolta collection and found an original Maxxum 35-70 f/4 zoom lens, one of a trio of legendarily cheap and sharp lenses which Minolta had originally designed for Leica. It has its disadvantages - minimum focusing distance is about 1 meter (although there is a macro mode), and it's not quite as wide nor does it let in as much light - but if you need a superbly-performing walk-around lens that doesn't weigh you down like the expensive Zeiss 24-70 f/2.8, put this short lens on your short list.



Until next time...


Yours Truly,

Gary Friedman





Subscribe to this Newsletter                       Next Newsletter - May, 2009


Previous Newsletter - January, 2009                 Newsletters Main Page



Back to the Friedman Archives Home page  . .

There are many, many more images in this site than can be browsed. 

To quickly find an image, enter your keywords here: