I’m just getting around to processing some of my images from our trip to Japan with iStockphoto.com. As a ‘social member’ we were really there to hang out in the evenings drinking sake and waking up as late as 4:00 pm. But we did some shooting. I thought I would share this shot, along with some technical details.

Two young Japanese women drinking coffee and hanging out at night in Tokyo.

It’s certainly not a groundbreaking image, but the lighting was a bit of a challenge. The camera was metered for the background to get a nice bright exposure. We’re talkin’ f:2, 1/60 sec, ISO 1600. Pretty nasty as far as some photographers are concerned. I must say that I love the slop. I was shooting with my workhorse Canon 50mm f:1.4, and triggering a Canon Speedlight wirelessly. The strobe was shot through a translucent umbrella that I picked up from a 100¥ store (worth about a US dollar). I wish I could consistently find light modifiers that cheap. The handle on the umbrella was broken off with ease, and we wrapped a band-aid around the broken shaft it so no one would lose an eye if the umbrella were to act as a sail once the wind picked up.

What makes this image different? I placed an orange, tungsten balanced gel over the strobe, and set the white balance to… yes, tungsten. So the camera ‘sees’ the strobe light, and the background lights as neutral, but allows the buildings in the far background appear blue. It’s pretty fun to experiment with this stuff.

I’ve been using small Canon Speedlights with wireless transmitters for a while now, and have used them to get studio quality lighting in incredibly remote areas, like Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. It is my preferred travel lighting gear. I urge every photographer to try it out, and once you get used to them, and their limitations, you can get awesome results. Just to be clear, this is ideal for lightwieght travel lighting.

Photographers on a lower budget that already own a Speedlight, or any other type of battery operated off-camera flash can also get great results when shooting outdoors, or bouncing the light off a white ceiling. Because of the size and weight of these things and the minimal cords needed, they are extremely versatile.

Apart from Speedlight strobes and wireless transmitters, these umbrella light stand adapters are very useful for adjusting the angle of your strobe and holding umbrellas. Or if you want more power from your strobes, use something like this sick looking triple flash bracket. Lastly, you’ll probably need at least one light stand, so grab the smallest, lightest one that fits in your baggage and also reaches eight feet tall when unfolded. Your tripod can do the same thing, but most tripods only reach six feet in maximum height.