Let flash help

Rear-cur­tain flash re­sults in a blend of sharp­ness and mo­tion blur when you’re shoot­ing in low light

NPhoto - - Nikopedia -

Mod­ern cam­era sen­sors can now have their sen­si­tiv­ity am­pli­fied to al­most

ob­scene lev­els. A D4s, for ex­am­ple, can shoot at a max­i­mum ISO of al­most half a mil­lion, ad­mit­tedly at se­ri­ous cost to im­age qual­ity. Yet with fast ac­tion in low light, this isn’t quite the so­lu­tion it may be for slower, or com­pletely, static sub­jects. The rea­son is that when the ac­tion it­self be­comes the sub­ject, we want more than ever to be able to see th­ese de­tails cleanly and crisply.

This is where flash comes in, even for die-hard flash-phobes like me. Rear-cur­tain flash (where the flash fires at the end of an ex­po­sure rather than at the be­gin­ning) is of­ten the way to go if you’re shoot­ing mov­ing sub­jects in low light, be­cause it works on two lev­els: by set­ting a slow shut­ter speed (to en­able a cor­rect ex­po­sure in the low, am­bi­ent light), you can blur any mo­tion for the du­ra­tion of the ex­po­sure, and then freeze it with a (very fast) burst of flash at the end.

Or­di­nar­ily, the flow­ing move­ment in the shot be­low would jus­tify shoot­ing in Con­tin­u­ous mode at its fastest set­ting. With a good D-SLR you’d get 20-plus frames out of this three-sec­ond burst of ac­tion. How­ever, an hour af­ter sun­set, a shut­ter speed of 1/30 sec was re­quired for a half-de­cent ex­po­sure at my cho­sen aper­ture of f/7, which – with­out a pop of flash at the end – would have ren­dered the fish­er­man as an in­dis­tinct blur.

The bal­ance of am­bi­ent to flash is key in a shot like this. Here the set­tings were 1/30 sec and f/7 at ISO400

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