Pixel Knight TR-331 Review Part III

This is the third and final installment of my Pixel TR-331 Wireless Flash Trigger review. In parts one and two I talked about the features and benefits of these triggers along with a few issues I had with the particular units I initially tested.

http://www.insidetheviewfinder.com/pixel-tr-331-wireless-ttl-flash-trigger-review/

http://www.insidetheviewfinder.com/pixel-tr-331-ttl-wireless-flash-trigger-part-ii/

I recently received a nice email from PIxel telling me that the TR-331 for Nikon had been updated so I decided to take another look at them. I was pleased to find that the new units fired consistently and synced the flash (SB800) and camera (D300) reliably. The user’s manual has also been improved considerably over the original and I think it describes the functions and features of this trigger much better than the first version.

The big question on everyone’s mind when these triggers first appeared was if they would allow you to use Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS) to  control the light output of one or more remote flash units from the camera.

This is cleared up right away in the new product manual on page 2 under “Cautions before use:”

1) Knight TR-331 product will not support the creative CLS system of Nikon wireless flashgun.

That’s as far as most people will care to read but the TR-331 does have other benefits to offer the serious photographer. You can adjust flash output remotely through the flash exposure compensation menu on the camera from +1 to -3. That’s not a huge range but it does come in very handy when your flash is mounted on a boom arm two feet above your head.

The other feature that sets the TR-331 apart from the crowd of flash triggers is the ability to work in High Speed Sync mode (HSS) or Auto FP Flash in Nikon terms. This allows you to shoot flash exposures at shutter speeds well beyond the normal sync speed of the camera, usually around 1/200 or 1/250th of a second. This is a useful tool for shooting in bright ambient light where you want to use large apertures to blur the background of the image behind your main subject and to freeze action. The TR-331 can sync at speeds at or near the maximum shutter speed of your camera. I won’t go into the details other than to say that what you gain in speed you loose in power so you may have to figure out a way to double up on your flashes or use them at fairly close range depending on the working conditions.

The photos below were taken in HSS mode (Nikon FP Flash) at ISO 200, f/2.8 shutter speed 1/1600 & 1/1250. Without flash the foreground was completely dark. The initial auto iTTL exposure is on the left and the +1 compensation (made from the camera) changed the shutter speed to brighten the part of the image illuminated by the SB800 flash unit.

Photos taken at f/2.8 1/1600 and 1/1250 second at ISO 200.

The Pixel TR-331 is supposed to work with the cameras through the lens (TTL) metering system and while this may be true, I and quite a few other photographers feel there is more control and the ability for consistent and repeatable results by using the camera and flash units in manual mode. This is because we are often shooting (and directing) cooperative models in front of a static backdrop where we are able to control a lot of what is going on in front of the lens. Documentary photography, wedding photography, photographing children, pets and racing photography are a different story completely. In those scenes the light changes from moment to moment and with every tilt and pan of the camera. On many assignments using intelligent metering is a essential part of the process. Within certain restrictions the Nikon Creative Lighting System works exceptionally well at this and it’s already built in to the Nikon camera and flash units. That’s the rub, it works great but most often it requires line of sight to do so. The Pixel TR-331 can be a useful addition to your kit for the times when CLS will not work as well as a radio triggering system.

I don’t believe that there is any single solution for all photographers or all types of photography but the TR-331 has earned a place in the camera bag. If the sun ever comes out again I will be using the TR-331 for High Speed Sync work or in those places where I need a way to adjust my flash output from a distance.  Remember that tools are just a means to express yourself and should not get in the way of your personal vision. Consider all options carefully when selection any equipment.

Must Have Photo Gear

A lot is written about photography and photographic equipment. Photographers are after all hopeless gear geeks (including me) and I’m a big fan of the Giottos line of air blowers. I have several Giottos blowers strategically located around the house so I don’t have to go looking when I need one. These powerful tools work equally well for film or digital photography work and have saved me a bunch of time and money since I started using them. They work great for removing dust and lint from film and that saves a ton of editing time after the film is scanned.

The newest addition to the collection is the Giottos Q.ball with an adjustable air nozzle that makes it the perfect choice to take with me in the camera bag. It has all the same features as the larger Rocket Blower in a slightly more compact and portable profile.  It weighs 2.3 ounces so you’re not likely to notice it until you need it. I use mine for cleaning cameras, lenses and film but the Giottos blowers are ideal for just about any sort of equipment, instruments or keyboards making these a perfect gift for just about anyone. Giottos has a lot of other cool gear like mini ball heads and tripods. Be sure to check out the whole line at www.giottos.com


Baking The Day Away

Imagine a cold and cloudy Sunday morning. One where the kitchen floor is cold on your bare feet and you look up at the window to see fine white flakes blowing past a gray city backdrop. It’s a perfect day for staying in and baking something. I usually bake bread around this time of year when the whole family gets together for dinner and holiday parties. Family gatherings are where I first learned the art of making bread from my wife’s father Jack. He was a much more precise and deliberate bread maker than I am,  priding himself on exact measurements and repeatable results. He had bread baking and communication skills that I do not… and his bread was truly great.

I am more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” bread maker. I measure… but not so carefully.  And I have never weighed anything on a scale as Jack always did when splitting the raw dough into two or more loves. He kept one eye on the clock and one on his watch as he waited for the bread to rise. I use a more flexible method based on whim and guesswork. When the rising bread dough rises above the top of the bowl, I figure it’s time to punch it down. The kids always like to punch down the bread dough. It’s almost as much fun as pushing buttons on an elevator.

The point is there are just as many types of bread bakers as there are types of bread. Don’t be shy about baking bread, even the rare failures provide a rich source of entertaining stories and future family traditions.

The bread I am baking today is called Challah, a traditional Jewish bread that looks and tastes great and is guaranteed to impress your family and friends. They won’t always tell you they are impressed but they will ask you to make more bread.

Challah

2 packages active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1-1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

6 tablespoons butter

3 large eggs

5-1/2 to 6 cups all purpose flour

1 egg white mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water

Poppy seeds

Proof the yeast by putting it in a cup or bowl with the warm water, a pinch of flour and a pinch of sugar. I do this first and let it get going while I measure out the reset of the ingredients.

Warm the milk and butter gently in a small pot. I cut the butter into pieces but it does not really have to melt completely. You are just warming everything up to keep your yeast happy. You should be able to put your finger in the milk without burning yourself. If it’s too hot for you it will be to hot for the yeast.

Place 5 cups of flour in a large bowl, add the sugar, salt, eggs and warm milk with the butter in it. Mix thoroughly adding flour as needed to thicken the dough. You want it to be sticky but not soupy. When everything is mixed and sticky, sprinkle about a quarter cup of flour on your clean countertop or cutting board to knead in the rest of the flour. This usually takes between five and ten minutes to do and you are basically stretching the dough until it is smooth and elastic.

If you are lucky enough to have an assistant, they will have cleaned out your mixing bowl and rubbed the inside with butter for you. If not you will have to throw a towel over your dough and do it yourself. Work your dough into a ball and then put it in the bowl top first and roll it around so it gets buttered all over and then turn it right side up, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm draft free spot to rise until it doubles in size, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch down the dough! Roll the dough out on you lightly floured surface and divide it in two. Next divide each half into thirds (six pieces total). Roll the thirds into ropes about the diameter of a closet pole (1/14”). Take three ropes and braid them to form one loaf of bread, then do it again for the second loaf which will turn out better than the first loaf. When you get to the end of the braid you just wrap the last rope around and tuck it under the loaf giving it a good pinch to hold it in place.

If you are lucky enough to still have an assistant, they will have already greased two cookie sheets for you and have them ready and waiting for your bread loaves. If not, grease two cookie sheets with shortening or butter and dust with flour or cornmeal. You might be able to get away with one large cookie sheet but two gives you more flexibility. Cover you loaves gently with a clean towel or parchment paper and let them rest until they almost double in size again. Maybe about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Brush the top of your loaves with the egg white mixture and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped. Cool on racks.

Peripheral Visions

I went looking for the other “Men In The Cities” paintings that once hung in our office building but found only blank walls. I guess part of the collection has been loaned out. At least I still have one of them to look at. I’ve become mildly obsessed with this the past few days. I never really knew anything about Robert Longo, I just formed a mental response to the presence of a few of his works of art that happened to exist in my small midwestern world.

There is a contact link on Robert Longo’s website so I sent an email asking if there were any good interviews about the Men In The Cities series. The archivist emailed me back essentially saying, “Just search the web.”

I’m not sure I expected any response but that seemed like an odd one to me. So I went searching and this is what I found of interest.

So my answer lies somewhere between dancing and dying, the jerky punk moves of the time and the New York uniform of the day. I still find these works inspirational and now years later maybe I have a better chance of explaining why (or not) but it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes I wonder if knowing too much about your inspiration can take some of the power away.

I’m going to end on a happy (couple) note by including one of my photos from last months Strobist St. Louis group shoot.

Forces Of Influence

The office complex where I have worked for the last ten years has an eclectic collection of artwork hanging in the hallways. Of all the various works presented there are two by the artist Robert Longo that have made a lasting impression on me. They are from a series Robert did in 1979 called, “Men In The Cities.”

There are actually men and women in the series and many of the works are simply labeled as “Untitled.”  http://www.robertlongo.com/work/gallery/1118

These are a couple of shots I created that are loosely based on Robert’s influence.

I like working with angles and it’s interesting to see how the models interpret my confusing instructions. It also seems to help work out any apprehension the model and I may have about working with each other. If you can make these contortions work then everything else is easy by comparison. The models feel free to be creative and are not so concerned about looking awkward or silly after this.

We were rocking the white background at this photo shoot so I’m going to throw in a couple of other shots from that session I like.