Tag Archives: Altura Speedlite

Student Circus Celestial Bodies perform charity show at The Eastern in Detroit

10 years ago former circus performer and yoga instructor Micha Adams Buss sought to create a place where people could come to learn circus arts in a friendly, supportive, and inclusive atmosphere. She and her partner opened the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School in Detroit, Michigan and today offers classes ranging from acrobatics to fire dancing, and contortion by highly trained instructors.

Recently the Flyhouse hosted the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The show had two performance sets beginning with a family friendly show at 6 p.m. and an adult-only performance at 8:15 p.m. The show aimed to raise money for the Cascades Humane Society’s Pet Pantry, a program that assists pet owners that are struggling financially to care for their pet. Micha’s husband and head coach at the flyhouse, Matt Buss, said the performances raised $400 of monetary, food, and toy donations for the Pet Pantry.

The Flyhouse hosts four shows per year. The next performance is scheduled for July 10 at The Eastern in Detroit. Check out their Facebook page closer to the performance date for updates.

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Tonya Ross stretches on a yoga mat before her performance on the straight silks at the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Ross has been with the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for six years. “It’s a great community of amazing people,” said Ross. “I only wish I lived closer because I want to be there everyday.” Ross joined the Flyhouse with no experience after going through a divorce. “I wanted to stay busy and try something new,” said Ross. “I really wanted to get back into gymnastics but I couldn’t find any place that offered adult gymnastic classes. I watched a movie that had a trapeze act in it, and wondered if there were any places that offer that. I found the Flyhouse and I’ve been going ever since.”

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Britt Webb performs on the straight silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Webb has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for nearly four years and has been an instructor for the last two. “My full-time day job is as a social worker specializing in substance abuse and mental health,” said Webb. “I have a pretty emotionally demanding job and aerial has helped me find balance in my life. It’s really easy to get burnt out working in the field that I do so I needed something that brought that balance to my life while also being meaningful at the same time.”

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Iris Schuster (left) paints an audience member’s face at the Student Celestial Bodies performance at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.  “I gave one beautiful girl a reminder not to forget that space is not the limit,” said Schuster. Schuster, who is a originally from Germany, does face painting for the Detroit Circus and has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for three years. She takes aerial and acrobatic classes. “You can’t find this kind of school in Germany,” said Schuster. “If there were I would probably would have run away with the circus a long time ago.”

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Willow Bigham chats with audience members before her performance on the aerial silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Bigham has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for almost two years. The freshman in high school lives in Lansing, Michigan, and drives to Detroit for classes (an hour and a half drive one way) up to three times a week. Bigham was inspired to learn after seeing a circus show during a vacation in the Dominican Republic and by her cousin who does aerial acrobatics. Bigham’s dream is to join the Cirque du Soleil. “I love seeing how the audience reacts and the adrenaline that comes with it,” said Bigham. “I was always shy when I was little so when I put my makeup on I feel like a completely different and free person!”

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Courtney Wilcox performs on the straight silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Wilcox has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for four years. Wilcox said she’s always loved dance, gymnastics, and the circus. “My dad used to ride a unicycle and juggle,” said Wilcox. ” He hand-made my sister and me stilts when we were kids that we walked around on like it was no big thing!” Following a Cirque Du Soleil performance during a trip to Disney World, Wilcox’s 10-year-old daughter voiced interest in the activity so they began taking classes at the Flyhouse upon returning home. “We both fell in love,” said Wilcox. “Not only with aerial, but with the community Micha’s built. Besides being ridiculously talented and dedicated to what they do, Micha and every single instructor I’ve met at Flyhouse are the most supportive, patient and genuinely encouraging people I’ve ever met. I continue to do aerial because it’s such a perfect combination of artistry and athleticism. Class is always fun and a guaranteed stress reliever and I’m 43 and it’s the best way for me to stay in shape.”

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Jason Melko high fives his performance partner after their routine in the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Melko’s routine included partner acrobatics, straight silk, aerial hammock, and the aerial hoop (also referred to as the lyra). Melko has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for five years. “I really enjoy it and the people there are the best,” said Melko. “I just love life when I’m able to get a reaction out of the people watching.”

For this assignment, we were to tell a story through a series of images. For the Detroit Flyhouse’s performance I aimed to capture not just the show but the camaraderie and the passion the students have for the performance art.

My biggest challenge for this assignment was lighting. The performance, at The Eastern in Detroit, had beautiful lighting in person but it wasn’t conducive to photography. I tried dropping my shutter speed as low as I could at 1/60th of a second to allow for more light but even paired with a f-stop of 5.6 or lower, the images were still too dark. I compensated that with a speedlite that I was able to bounce off of either the ceiling, which was metallic, or a wall. I was incredibly hesitant to do this because I was nervous of exposing the performers to the danger of them accidentally being blinded by a flash aimed at a ceiling, near where they are, but no one said that it was an issue. Some of the performers routines were quite fast and that shutter speed wasn’t sufficient to capturing sharp images so for the first time I put my ISO up to 12,000 so that I could bump up my shutter speed. There is noise in the images but I feel adamant that it is a suitable compromise for having a moderate flash. Turning my flash up on full power was too risky for the performers. It was a learning curve trying to find that happy medium on my camera settings and the flash power and instead of shooting a ton I waited for moments to conserve my flash battery and minimize the amount of times the flash fired. Something that helped a lot was my telephoto lens. I had my wide angle and that helped with more light in images but it was too distant and I’d have to get in incredibly close to get strong images so in using my long lens I could get stronger images and by keeping it zoomed out still allow for the most amount of light in the photographs.

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Coffee Bean Still Life

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For this week’s assignment I decided to photograph some inanimate objects and do a still life. My boyfriend’s love for me is comparable to his love of coffee. A large portion of his coffee consumption he actually roasts at home. So we had these beautiful Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans hanging around that had this amber brown shade coffee3to them and some still had the sheen of oil from being roasted only two days prior.

I really wanted to play around with using light to shoot from underneath which I did in the image to the right. I actually took the glass from my coffee table and and lined the underside with a white sheet to use as a consistent base but doubles as a diffuser and set my speedlite to aim straight up. I also had a second speedlite set up to light up the beans from the top. I really liked the detail it brought out with really defining the shape of the individual beans while also keeping a lot of the shadows on that center cut of the bean.

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I decided to use a mirror as a base for a couple of the other images. I really liked the reflection of the coffee beans in the images and the extra bit of depth it added.

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Boudoir, brackets, and a bearded dragon

Last week I did a boudoir shoot and I was really excited to give my new stands for my speedlites a try during an assignment.But while setting up for the shoot I had issues with the hot shoe attachments for the stands. More on that below. 🙂

Regardless of the stand malfunction, the photoshoot was a blast.

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She was doing the shoot as a surprise for her boyfriend’s birthday in April and for this shot she wanted to feature a Fossil watch her boyfriend had given her as a gift.

Once I found out that she had a bearded dragon as a pet, I thought it would be neat to get some shots of her with Bane, whom she had named after the DC Comics supervillain.

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The thing I love most about doing these shoots is that they are different every time. Boudoir is unique to each person and each person has varying levels of comfort with how they express their sexuality. It’s an immensely fulfilling experience to do a boudoir shoot with a woman who may not be fully comfortable with their body-image, but who do it anyway.

To see that person blossom throughout the shoot and become more confident and aware of how beautiful they are, and for my photos to play a role in that is truly an honor.

The equipment

I’d purchased the Neewer kit which included two stands with brackets for mounting the speedlight hot shoe, two translucent white umbrellas, two black/silver umbrellas, and a nice carrying case for the set. All for less than $50- totally within my student budget.

Upon receiving the product I set up both stands with my Altura speedlites and it worked perfectly. The stands and screws are mostly made of plastic and seemed like they’d be flimsy, so I made a mental note to just be careful. I disassembled everything and packed up my case for the assignment.

I did the shoot at my client’s apartment and I was excited to finally have a lighting setup that was efficient while also quick to put up and break down.

I was in the middle of attaching my speedlite to one of the stands when the screw that tightens the clamp which holds the speedlite popped off. That’s no big deal, you just screw it back in…unless it continuously just keeps popping out at you.

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Hot shoe attachment clamp for speedlite. The screw on the left is turned to tighten or loosen the clamp to fit hot shoe attachment for the speedlite. 

Upon investigation after the shoot I found the screw was in perfect condition but the insert for where the screw goes, wasn’t even threaded it was just a circular, plastic hole.

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Side view of speedlite hot shoe attachment with screw clamp off. The hole in the middle is where the screw goes in to either tighten or loosen the attachment that holds the speedlite. 

I probably spent almost 10 minutes messing around which this attachment, which dropped my speedlite THREE TIMES, before I gave up and just used the speedlite without the stand. I didn’t drop a huge amount of money on my speedlites, but if they hadn’t fallen onto carpet my speedlites likely would have broken.

Catching up

New semester started and it’s just as busy as the last! Since I last posted I have been working on starting a few project for video that I’ll be posting intermittently over the next few months.

I’ve also been shooting boudoir shoots lately which I’ve really come to enjoy. Most recently I photographed my friend Kendra who wanted to do photos for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day and it gave me an opportunity to try out some new equipment. Out of respect for Kendra’s privacy I’ll only post some PG shots.

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For school we were working with Canon Speedlites, really nice but easily $400+ a piece for the newer versions, or around $150 used if you’re lucky. I really wanted to invest in some of my own so I could shoot whenever I wanted and not worry about getting the equipment back to the school on time, but financially I couldn’t justify $150 for each speedlite at the time.

A while back I ordered an Altura Photo Speedlight for about $35. It kind of just sat in my spare bedroom that doubles as a make shift studio. I had a hard time getting it to fire not hooked up to my camera and I didn’t want to rely on it out in the field.

A little over a month ago I stumbled upon an Ebay posting for a set of five Pocket Wizards (the Plus ii) that was going for $130 at the time which is a total steal. I started price comparing and I ended up finding the Pocket Wizard PlusX for $55-60 used via Amazon, so I bought five. B&H sells a set of 2 for $145 brand new. I’m really happy with the PlusX, they have 10 different channels compared to the four channels on the Pocket Wizard ii and it also is compatible with other Pocket Wizards if you need to mix and match. What I also love and appreciate about the Pocket Wizard PlusX is that there is a battery life indicator. It has green, yellow, and red lights. It’ll flash green until the battery is below 50% then it’ll flash yellow until the battery life is below 25%, then it will flash red. I really appreciate this because then I don’t have to trouble shoot and spend time figuring out what isn’t working, I can just change the batteries and continue. Really love that addition.

The boudoir shoot with Kendra was the first opportunity I had to test the Altura Speedlite in the field and I was so happy with the product that I ended up buying a second unit for the next time I shoot. Compared to the Canon Speedlite series it doesn’t have the light up display that easily lets you see the screen in the dark and it also doesn’t adjust for distance with the flash, but it does allow to adjust flash output power and for $35 I will physically move the speedlite to save myself the money.

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Loving dog mom Kendra, poses with Charlie after the boudoir shoot. One of the things Kendra and I have been chatting about was getting some photos with Charlie so this was a great opportunity. Charlie was so curious and wanted to know what was going on, but he behaved very well and just lay down beside the bed, only jumping up while Kendra was changing outfits. Boudoir photos aside, this was one of my favorite photos from our session, with these two together.