On of the funnest* things you can do with off-camera flash is to modify the light. This might mean squirting it through a “snoot” (some kind of tube or cone which focuses the light into a tight beam), reflecting it from a colored, uh, reflector, or firing it through a giant soft-box.
Or you can use a grid spot, an excellent tool for pointing your light at one single spot, far away, with a sharp fall-off into shadows at the edges. Sound expensive? It can be, unless you steal some drinking straws from your local fast food emporium and follow along with this how-to.
A grid spot works because light travels in straight lines. The straws only let through the light that is firing straight forward, at around 90˚ from the face of the flash. This means that the stray light is removed before it even leaves the grid, and the whole lump of luminance is delivered in one tight spot, often a subject’s face, or other picture element you wish to highlight.
But you need to use black straws. Why? Because otherwise the light will rattle and bounce around inside the tubes and exit at an angle, spoiling the almost-sharp edges of the grid spot’s light. If you think light can’t get very far bouncing around inside a tube, then take a look at fiber-optic cables, which do exactly that.
You could just take a box of straws and saw out a section, but this version, by photographer and nerd [Jeff Vier][flickr], is far more professional and permanent. The casing is a $5 gutter adapter from Home Depot, the straws were paid for (50 cents) and the whole lot is held together with superglue.
Jeff’s version fits his Canon Speedlight 580 EX II perfectly without any straps or gaffer tape, so it’s probably a good idea to take your flash to the hardware store for a fitting. Otherwise, this looks dead simple, and as you can see, the results are great.
*Hey, if it’s good enough for [Apple][youtube]…