WORK with flash

Digital Photograper - - Creative Sport & Action -

Learn how to use speed­lights and strobes for high-pow­ered light­ing and dra­matic ac­tion ef­fects

Flash plays a cru­cial role in the tech­nique reper­toire of many pro­fes­sional ac­tion pho­tog­ra­phers. Am­bi­ent light­ing in sports venues can be sig­nif­i­cantly lower than an­tic­i­pated, mak­ing it chal­leng­ing to achieve fast-enough shut­ter speeds to freeze move­ment as de­sired. The short du­ra­tion of flash bursts, es­pe­cially from speed­lights, means we can gen­er­ate ef­fec­tive ex­po­sures that are much shorter than would be pos­si­ble with con­ven­tional tech­niques. Of­ten sports pho­tog­ra­phers will utilise a high-speed sync mode for their flash shots, al­low­ing the use of shut­ter speeds higher than the max­i­mum flash syn­chro­ni­sa­tion speed their cam­era of­fers. There is a trade-off in power, with ef­fec­tive flash dis­tance drop­ping as the shut­ter speed is in­creased, but there is a ‘sweet spot’ where ex­po­sure time and flash cov­er­age is bal­anced.

At the other ex­treme, flash can be com­bined with slower shut­ter speeds for creative ef­fect. By ex­tend­ing the ex­po­sure to around 1/15sec (or slower if the sub­ject is not mov­ing as quickly) then in­tro­duc­ing a fill flash, the sub­ject is frozen but the sur­round­ings are blurred, iso­lat­ing the key part of the im­age – the ath­lete. An­other creative flash tech­nique is the use of stro­bo­scopic light­ing; am­bi­ent light is all but elim­i­nated by us­ing a black back­ground or stop­ping down the aper­ture, then a se­ries of high-fre­quency flashes il­lu­mi­nates the mov­ing sub­ject at mul­ti­ple po­si­tions in the same frame, dur­ing an ex­tended ex­po­sure. This tech­nique is use­ful for a range of ac­tion pho­tog­ra­phy ar­eas, from track and field to mo­tor­sports to dance, and is a artis­tic method of il­lus­trat­ing the pro­gres­sion of high-speed events, where mul­ti­ple stages can’t be oth­er­wise shown in a sin­gle shot. When­ever flash is used, it is im­por­tant that it is done with the con­sent of the sub­ject and where it is per­mit­ted by the venue – in­tense flash light can be dis­tract­ing to ath­letes.

CON­TROL THE LIGHT­ING

Use a black seam­less back­ground or stop down the aper­ture to cut am­bi­ent light and un­der­ex­pose the en­vi­ron­ment

left

CHOOSE NUM­BER OF MOVE­MENTS

The flash count de­ter­mines how many ‘stages’ are cap­tured as your sub­ject moves across the frame AR­RANGE SEP­A­RA­TION

Flash fre­quency (mea­sured in Hertz) de­ter­mines how sep­a­rated each stage is in the com­po­si­tion CAP­TURE PRO­GRES­SIVE AC­TION Stro­bo­scopic flash en­ables us to see how ac­tion oc­curs in stages – im­pos­si­ble to cap­ture in a still im­age by any other method

STROBE LIGHT Canon 580EX II in a 80x60 grid­ded soft­box. Pock­etWizard II Plus SET­TINGS Canon EOS 5D Mk II 135mm/2 6 sec

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ISO 125 FILL LIGHT Con­stant day­light for the mo­tion blur MODEL Megumi Yuzuki KEEP IT STEADY Cam­era is on a tri­pod be­cause of the slow shut­ter speed

6 secs

STROBE LIGHT

Nikon SB-26 in a

90x20 grid­ded soft­box. Pock­etWizard II Plus

Set­ting up your shot

Stro­bo­scopic flash ex­pert IIko Allexan­droff (ilkoallexan­droff.com) shoot­ing on lo­ca­tion. Here he il­lus­trates his com­mon setup for a multi-flash im­age

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