To Flash… or Not To Flash

IMG_8385 copy … that is the critical question. Fleeting moments, it’s an instant call. You get one try… pick. It doesn’t come very often you get to shoot one with and one without flash. It’s a choice. Here David sat long enough for me to get two shots. The Canon G11 white balances automatically. Great! But it’s still ambient light you deal with. So it’s not quite right. The natural lighting gives less detail in the eyes and no gleam or catch light for the eye. Flash is a little too bright and a bit too artificial for my taste. I would pick the natural light. I’m not a fan of obsessive manipulation in Photoshop, so this is what it is.IMG_8384 copy



Motion Freeze Hi Speed Sync

Technical: Canon EOS, 1/5000 sec, f2.8, focal length 60

I thought that David did a splendid job with the other bee (see August 22). I like this shot better. It it a harder shot to obtain because the focusing is critical. See the wings. The high shutter speed captures the wings in mid beat. Depth of field is narrow. Now for the hard part, get this shot head on with the compound eyes in focus. Hey, I’d be just tickled to have this shot or the other. Either way it was a great technical accomplishment. David got his desired effect in that he wanted the wings to be in focus and stopped by the flash.

Iphone Flash

Amy got a picture of Gus taking the clicker. What male, even a cat, doesn’t want control of the clicker? The iPhone flash twinkle can be seen in Gus’s eyes… not quit the same as love. I’m not a cat person, myself. The flash is not too strong to overwhelm the ambient incandescent lighting. It’s a pleasing color balance. And the cat … is Amy’s favorite (only). Keeping some ambient light makes things a bit more natural. There is a slight yellow cast but from the ambient light. Good… cat.

Flash Underexposure

Technical: Canon EOS 7D, 1/250 sec, f11, focal length 22

Cousin David experimented with another way to use flash. Let the background go dark. It neatly brings the foreground elements in as the main subject. One lesson to remember is that the angle of the camera in your hand tends to be where you shoot. That would be mostly from a standing position. Kneel down, stand higher, put the camera close to the ground. Try a different camera angle. Here, the bright sky is distracting. I would have liked it better if all the grass were in the deep dark background of the field. It would be no good to eliminate the sky entirely. That would just give you a black background with little texture. Close, oh so close. Think about the camera angle the next time.

Ring Flash

Technical: Canon EOS 7D, 1/125 sec, focal length 60mm, f13

It’s labeled ring flash. There are many variations. You can have a real honest to goodness ring flash. That is a round flash that fits over the front of the camera lens and fires a very even light. This is suppose to give the subject and even exposure and minimize shadows. There is plastic add on device now sold that will attach a standard flash. This device accomplishes the same effect without purchase of a separate flash. Either way the goal is to avoid the often distracting and annoying shadow that falls behind your subject and makes the image appear less natural.

Alternatively you could use a dark background and no shadows will appear. Or, stand the subject far enough from the wall that the shadows will be diffused, kind of like a flash bokeh.

In this image cousin David has evenly lit the subject and used a black background. His subject is isolated nicely. In my work, I have always known about and wanted to use a ring flash. It was never quite practical or within my budget. Then came digital. I could use the operating room light, use a fast shutter speed, use auto white balance, and let the ISO go as high as the camera wants. The ring flash is unnecessary.


Technical: No metadata

Maine, grandkids, sunset, and bubbles – what is there that one could possibly criticize? Susan asked whether there is anything that can be done about the lighting? Well, basically you have two light sources. Sunset red and flash blue light will definitely make a different colorcast in the foreground vs the background. It’s not objectionable. It’s not natural. But any other way to use natural light would make the grandkids too dark in the foreground. Personally I like this shot.

Abi Pool Variation

Technical: Nikon D90, 1/60 sec, f5.6, focal length 150

Susan has essentially the same settings but a different angle. Lately, my style has taken me to photograph subject in a more straight on view with less distortion. That said, sometimes I intentionally go for a low distortion shot on cars. Go figure. As I point out, it’s for you to decide.

There’s a bit of elongation of Abi’s face and jaw. This could be potentially unflattering. The rail is also more distracting now. Sometimes we do the best under the circumstances. By now Abi has been the subject of thousands of photos Susan has taken. There is only so much patience on Abi’s part no matter how much she loves grandma. Posing for one more picture is often not on the agenda. So like Susan I would take what you can. Once again I am impressed that the pop up flash is so effective. It certainly made a difference here.

Asked to choose either today’s photo or yesterday’s, I would pick yesterday. You save everything, but the ones you show are limited. Technically both are good exposures, but, you have to pick one.

Another example is a sign or a storefront. Try to photograph it from straight on. Or try to photograph it from an angle. You will find that one looks like a snapshot and the other like a photograph. You decide. I would consider the snapshot if I was pressed for time and too tired to position myself and properly address my subject.

Abi Pool

Technical: Nikon D90, 1/60 sec, f5.6, focal length 150

Most pools have fluorescent lighting. It’s the worst kind of light to work with. The color cast is often blue green awful. I mean it’s terrible. Now that incandescent bulbs are being phased out, this will continue to be a challenge.

So Susan used her trusty flash. Flash overpowers the ambient light and the color balance is good. That darn camera gets a good exposure more often than not. Shadows on the water are not distracting. It’s a tricky thing to do a profile. You either like the nose or you don’t. This is problematic in adults and especially women. There are some women I know for whom a profile is forbidden. In case you were not aware, women don’t like to look fat either. Kids… well, there’s hardly a single one that doesn’t have a cute nose and clear skin. Great! I like this shot. There are some who would question whether the Abi is looking out of the frame. In other words, if you put more of the background pool in front of her face, would this be a better shot? Again, this is a conscious editorial decision made by the photographer. If nothing else, try to add more of the pool to the right of Abi and see how this looks. But I do not have a problem with this cropping.


Jeffrey Milkshake

Technical: Nikon D90, 1/60 sec, f4, focal length 26

Give a kid a milkshake and look at the concentration. A little fill flash is seen in the catchlight of the eyes. Notice the shadow behind the straw. This could be distracting. There’s a shadow on the cup. Shadows from flash are generally most distracting when they appear on the wall behind the subject. Here, Jeffrey is far enough from the background that this is not an issue. I bet Susan also didn’t notice Jeffrey’s middle finger. I wouldn’t either. But, it’s just another element to consider when you are looking through the viewfinder. By the way, Susan’s square cropping gets the eyes to the intersection of the ‘rule of thirds.’ Overall I like the exposure and color balance, and the glow of the background fast food joint. And so did Susan.

Flash? Not Here!

Technical: Nikon D200, 1/400 sec, f5, focal length 80

I like this shot. There were layers – foreground and background giving depth to the image. At about this spot I was standing next to a woman who had her camera mounted on a tripod with her on camera flash up. I know that many people do not appreciate advice. It has happened to me more than once. So I did not say anything and just looked over her setup. She must have read about this somewhere. You can’t make this stuff up.

My criticism follows. A tripod is too hard to set up on uneven ground and to move around as the battle moves fluidly from left to right. The skirmish continued over about ¾ mile along Battle Road. The on camera flash will add some fill light to make the shadows less harsh and to throw some catch lights into the eyes.

Pardon me! But that ain’t happening here! You can’t see the whites of their eyes let alone the iris of the eye. Duh!? And then the intensity of light falls off as the square of the distance. For example the light from the flash will be ¼ strength at 2 feet away and 1/16 at 4 feet and so forth. Honestly, you would need a lot more light than the puny flash on your camera in order to make any difference on a battlefield. I hate to be harsh but a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

My friend Susan uses on camera fill flash for her grand kids at close range and it’s good. But there is such a thing as too much. Or in this case ‘not enough flash to light a battle.’ It was a ‘running and gunning’ battle. The British and colonial actors were moving constantly along Battle Road. You have to go with the flow. I had considered a mono-pod but decided that the higher shutter speed with compensate for motion blur with the telephoto lens.