Mixing a bit of blur with a burst of flash
It’s a time-honoured approach to establish two zones of governance in a photo, one controlled by fast flash duration, and therefore sharp, and the other governed by a constant light source, resulting in
capturing motion. The hard part is experimenting with how one falls off and the other picks up, and with taking care to make sure, for instance, that the flash is localised and doesn’t snuff the motion possibilities that you are trying to create with the steady source.
I’d say hitting that sweet spot is like threading the eye of a needle, but that’s too much drama. It’s never completely perfect, and lots of frames go south in search of one where the motion is just subtle enough, and the sharpness is complete. It’s just experimentation and the willingness to move lights around until you get something that works. In the pictures here, there are actually two steady sources – one warm and the other blue. They’re tucked into the corner, camera left, lighting the veil. This is blown by a fan, as dancer Natalie strikes a pose and faces into two Speedlights.
Kill the spill
The flash source is a Lastolite II 40-inch Octa softbox. You can put two Speedlights into it, and fit it with a grid to control spill, which is essential for this shot. This source is just beautiful on a consistent basis, so is now part of my travel kit. Always goes.
The big image is shot at f/11 and 1/15 sec. The smaller image is the same shutter speed at f/8, which is why there’s a bit more motion in the veil, and a little tinge of blue. At f/11, the blue light kind of got squashed, as I recall. Everything has some sort of modifier on it – the flash source has an egg crate, the hot lights have barn doors. Spill and sloppiness is the enemy. Keep the lights focused, try not to spill light on the floor, and concentrate on image sharpness and the expressiveness of your subject. The veil will do its thing in the breeze, and you just have to hope to catch it in an eloquent, flowing way. Oh, and shoot a lot – many won’t work.
Lots of frames go south in search of one where the motion is just subtle enough, and the sharpness is complete