Get a piece of the action
Tom Welsh lights up the course with off-camera flash to freeze mountain bikers in action
Take your flash off camera and get down low for effective action shots
Freeing your flash from your camera will open up your options for far more interesting lighting. We’ve looked at using off-camera flash for static portraits on page 42, but it’s also really useful for action photographs. Fast-paced sports such as mountain biking can be difficult to shoot without using flash to freeze motion.
Flashguns are an invaluable bit of kit. When mounted on your camera’s hotshoe they can tilt and turn in all directions, allowing for significantly better light than a pop-up flash can provide. However, they can also be fired-off camera, and can be angled to give your images more depth than a straight-on flash is capable of.
There are multiple ways of triggering flashguns. Most will have a Slave mode, which means they are triggered by the light from another flash. A more reliable method is to use remote triggers. These attach to your camera’s hotshoe and the flashgun, and trigger the flash when you press the shutter button. These are the solution if your camera is one of Nikon’s more advanced models, which don’t feature built-in flash, or your flash lacks a Slave mode.
When photographing mountain bikers in action, flash is almost essential. In areas shrouded by trees, such as the track where we were shooting, using a high ISO would create far too much grain, plus any shadows would be very deep. A flashgun, however, can fire from any direction to lift unwanted shadows and increase the depth of others. Flash also makes faster shutter speeds possible. Without it the shutter speed cannot dip much below 1/500 sec before movement blur occurs in shots, whereas with flash we can shoot as slow as 1/125 sec comfortably, as the brief, bright flash effectively freezes the movement.
In areas surrounded by trees, using a high ISO would create far too much grain, plus any shadows would be very deep. A flashgun can fire from any direction to lift unwanted shadows