Well, I had thought the season was coming to an end, but I've shot another 3 events over the last couple of weeks and had more - but still varied - success with the flash.
The first event was Palmer Park Velo's club track championships. Palmer Park's an outdoor velodrome but the light was very variable - ranging from bright sunshine to really quite thick cloud. I used the flash for most of the event - from varying distances and on various settings - or, at least, various camera settings. Despite saying in my last post that I'd try fixed, guide number based settings, I stuck to the SB-800's AA mode.
There are a few I quite like but, for the most part those taken with flash are (mostly) hopelessly underexposed or (occasionally) hideously overexposed.
What I find frustrating is that I can't seem to find a pattern. The picture to the right was taken with the flash and diffuser and is a good example of what I've been expecting to get from it.
The picture below was taken from slightly further away, but without the diffuser. This one's slightly underexposed, but it's perfectly acceptable, so I know that the diffuser isn't the factor.. I'm still at a loss. I think I'm just hopeless!
The other problem I had been having with the flash was battery life. I'd attempted to address that with some high capacity (2300mAH) rechargeables. They seemed to do the trick, easily lasting the whole session and taking well over 200 pictures, rather than the 150 or so that Nikon estimate. I've ordered a couple of sets of 2500mAH batteries and a quick charger from www.7dayshop.com, so that problem, at least, should be solved.
A week later and I was at Hillingdon for the Central Division Circuit Race Championships where the day started bright and ended in gale force wind and rain. Again, I used the flash to try to counter the horrible flat light for most of the game and I had the most success I've had at any event so far with both straight fill-in flash and some 'effects' with rear curtain synch. Maybe I will master it after all.
I've got a couple of real tests coming up over the next month or so - a couple of Gorrick mountain bike races in the deep shadows of Swinley Forest on the Berkshire/Surrey/Hampshire borders - one of them at night!
More blogs about cycling photography.