Salamanders the right way

Posted by on May 28, 2015 in Articles | 2 Comments

Red Eft with fill flash

So I went back up into the woods and tried again to get some nice pics of salamanders and efts. It has been so dry that it has been very hard to find the little squirmy devils. Needing moist skin, amphibians will go underground when things are dry on the forest floor leaving prying photographers little to photograph. But efts are tough little scoundrels so there were a few around coming home from a late night out.

This time instead of relying on natural light I blasted the little rascals with flash. That’s right- I used flash and it worked! Even more importantly, it was easy. I dialed the auto compensation on the camera body down to -.7 (in other words I told the camera to underexpose the picture by ⅔ of a stop). When this is done the camera communicates with the flash and stops its output when the shadows are ⅔ of a stop less than the average exposure. This is called balanced fill flash. This is the default flash mode on most flashes so it is really just plug and play.


no flash


with flash

The first picture is the best I could do with natural light. The second is with balanced fill flash. Which one to you prefer? I think the photo with the flash is the best. Hand held, flashed, aperture priority, manual flash, biff, boom, bah!



  1. brenda
    June 8, 2015

    Why not TTL, with the flash at -1 to the camera exposure like we used to do? How does BFF compare to TTL when you want to set the camera exposure separately from the flash exposure?

    I just bought a new flash, cause I figure, heck if DAVID can use a flash, well….and then there is Jeff just back from Costa Rica with the nicely fill flashed frogs….. David, and flash – kinda blows the mind. What’s next, social media?????

    Anyway, very very nice little critter! Very cute. Love your eft. Hey, what’s your eft stop? Get it? eFt stop? ha ha ha. Pretty funny. Time to lay off the cold meds?

    And, the flashed image looks warmer than i would expect, so did you warm the final image in LR?

    Now, go find the 3 witches on the heath…”.boil, boil, toil and trouble….”


    • David
      June 8, 2015

      Flashes these days are set to be in fill flash mode- it is their default mode. Balanced fill flash is done by through the lens metering- the camera communicates with the flash and tells it when to shut off to get the proper result. This is how it has been for 20 years. Today all the new flashes have technology that is called iTTL or intelligent TTL or intelligent through the lens metering.This just means that there is wireless technology built in to the flash and camera. On the most expensive flashes you can dial in all kinds of numbers and control all kinds of other flashes wirelessly but in the end they all work the same as the least expensive flashes (which is what I have). So BFF uses TTL metering. You no longer have to set the camera exposure separately from the flash exposure. The camera reads the scene (the shadows actually) and pops the flash to lighten them up according to what you set on the auto compensation.

      On my Nikon SB500 flash there is no place to dial in anything- Nikon knows the camera controls the flash, I know it, you know it, what’s the point to pretend? So dial in -.7 on your auto compensation on your camera (by doing so am saying that I want the shadows to be ⅔ of a stop darker than the lit areas) and blast away. And by the way, you don’t need a diffuser on the flash because it is so close to the subject you get very diffused light. And no I didn’t do anything in LR. I’m that good 😉