Living on a Flare: David Bergman on touring with Bon Jovi and working magic with next-gen Speedlites


posted Tuesday, November 8, 2016 at 9:00 AM EST


David Bergman recently teamed up with Canon to make a video about Canon's new 600EX II-RT Speedlite, which has 2.4GHz wireless radio transmission. The flash has a wireless range up to 98.4 feet (30 meters) which allows photographers like Bergman, a Canon Explorer of Light, to change the way they work with lights on location.

Additional features of the Speedlite 600EX II-RT include up to two times faster performance than its predecessor, (when used with the optional Compact Battery Pack CP-E4N, otherwise performance is 1.1 to 1.5x faster than its predecessor). It also includes a new Quick Flash setting which allows for faster use of the flash, even when it isn't fully recharged. It has an improved button layout and refined dust and water resistance as well. Flash coverage ranges from 20 to 200mm and the 600EX II-RT has a guide number of 197 feet (60 meters) at ISO 100. It includes an extendable wide panel that provides coverage up to 14mm focal lengths.

You can watch David's video below and see how he uses the new Speedlites in his personal workflow for a variety of location photoshoots.

We had the opportunity to ask David some questions about how the new Canon 600EX II-RT speedlites changed his workflow and how the new wireless transmission features allowed him to work more effectively in the field. 

Imaging Resource: This shoot was a fun mix of sports/action and fashion. From your site, you list Music, Celebrity and Sports in that order. Does that reflect how much you do of each?

David Bergman: The majority of my work over the last six years has been in the music world. I love being on tour and, for example, worked 102 shows on six continents with Bon Jovi in 2013 alone. I do the occasional portrait shoot and have covered a lot of sporting events throughout my career. 


IR: Our readers are always curious about how pros got their starts: What did that look like for you? How'd you get started, were there any big breaks along the way? What do you wish you could tell your younger self about going pro?

DB: I was a musician before I got into photography and attended the Berklee College of Music to study music production. After I transferred to the University of Miami for various reasons, I stumbled into the school newspaper with my Canon AE-1 Program camera and started shooting just for fun. The next semester, I sold my drums and bought lenses. I was hooked.

No doubt, having a music background has helped me to work with musicians and document their lives on stage and off. We have similar interests, I speak their language, and I can anticipate what's going to happen. I think it's important to document something that you're passionate about.

If I could go back, I would tell my young self to take more business classes. I'm always learning and growing as a photographer. But having a solid business foundation is a major factor that separates the hobbyist photographer from the professional.

IR: These shots were obviously set up to show off the capabilities of the 600EX. How much of your photography typically involves flash, and how much do you use speedlites in your work? The shot of Pat McGee used the same trick of using flash to darken the sky, but do you generally end up doing available light more?

DB: I like to use available light -- meaning any light that is "available" in my bag. Strobes are just a tool that I can use to make the image I see in my imagination. Sometimes it can be accomplished with ambient light only, but knowing how to light my subject opens up an entirely new world of possibilities. 

IR: The new flashes pack a ton of power and features. What were you using before, what's your favorite new feature of the 600EX-II-RT and how does it allow you to capture better images?

DB: Before we had modern Speedlites, I would bring studio lights on location. This was time consuming and expensive. Sometimes that amount of power is still needed and I'll do it when the budget allows for multiple assistants and rental gear. But more often than not, I can travel by myself with one rolling camera bag and a few stands, and make high-end commercial images. 

As for the new 600EX-II-RT, I love what they've done with heat dispersion. I tend to push my strobes to the limit, and when shooting a burst at full power, I need equipment that will keep up with me and won't overheat. 

IR: Relatedly, what about the new speedlite specifically helped you during the three shoots we see in the behind-the-scenes video?

DB: Having access to small, portable lights has changed the way I shoot. For this shoot, I showed up with a single bag full of flashes and knew that I could handle any situation that might have come up during the day, and I could get as creative as I wanted to. In the end, I never used more than three of them, because I was getting plenty of power and specifically wanted to show what could be done with a relatively inexpensive setup. Also, having radios built into the Speedlites meant that I never had to worry about having any extra devices and cables attached, or trying to get line-of-sight optical transmission, which is inconsistent in daylight. It was an elegant setup that worked flawlessly. 


We would like to extend a big thank you to David Bergman for taking the time to answer our questions and sharing his video with us. Please visit David's website to view more of his work and follow him on Instagram

If you'd like to purchase the new Canon 600EX II-RT speedlite and help support our site, you can purchase it via the affiliate link below. 

Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT