Get The Most Out Of Your Flash, Part 3

Using flash for landscape and macro photography

Be sure to review Part 1 and Part 2 to establish a foundation and obtain more information on how to use the tool. This week, we’ll look at other uses for your flash. 

There are times I use flash when I make landscapes. When I compose a landscape, I like to include a foreground element to add depth and interest to the image. Depending on the composition or light, the element may be in shadow. If I expose for the sky, the foreground goes dark and becomes muddy in tone. To remedy the situation, I hit it with a flash to brighten it up. I usually shoot landscapes with a wide angle, so I “tunnel” the flash head to a wide setting to make the light look natural.

I love doing macro work. Ninety percent of my close-up images are made with flash. I have a special bracket onto which I mount two flashes. One is off to the left and above the lens. The other is to the direct right of the camera. The higher one is the main light, which wirelessly connects to the camera. The other is a manual unit that provides 1 to 2 stops less illumination and is used as fill. This flash is triggered by a photo slave and synchronizes with the main light. I often stop down to ƒ/16 or ƒ/22 to obtain more depth of field.

Some flashes provide a stroboscopic setting. Every time a pulse is emitted from the flash, if the subject moves, different parts of the subject are illuminated. The technique works well in a dark environment with shutter speeds of one to five seconds. If there’s too much overlap of the subject, those areas become overexposed. The sections that don’t overlap receive proper exposure.

Another effect is rear curtain slow synch. It’s most effective when used with slow shutter speeds to imply movement of the subject. When the shutter is pressed, a blur is recorded during the exposure. At the end, the flash fires to freeze its movement with a streak trailing behind it. This effect gives the illusion of speed or motion. When incorporated with panning, the results can be intriguing.

Flash Frustration

Flash is a wonderful tool that needs to be treated properly and understood to be an ally. First and foremost, always use fresh batteries. Too many missed shots will be the result of trying to stretch battery power a bit too far. Recycle times become too long. Inevitably, the best expression or moment passes while the flash is recharging. Change the batteries often and use the old ones on something not as demanding. If the flash isn’t going to be used for extended periods of time, remove the batteries.

The current technology integrated into flash and camera systems is nothing short of phenomenal, but unless the flash is in full contact with the hot-shoe or accessory cord,  exposures may be far from perfect. Clean all contacts with a pencil eraser. When the flash is attached to the hot-shoe, be sure to tighten it with the lock-down wheel or lever to make sure it’s firmly attached. Not only does this ensure proper contact, but it also prevents the flash from falling off.

Cameras are set to synchronize with flash at certain shutter speeds. There’s no problem using slower speeds to create blur and motion effects, but when you exceed the synch speed, even with high-speed synch, the power is severely compromised.

Even with a top-of-the-line flash and camera body, don’t expect miracles. A given flash can cover a specific angle of light. Don’t expect it to evenly illuminate images shot with a 15mm or wider lens. Additionally, a given flash can only project light a given distance. Don’t go to your favorite stadium and expect the strobe to light up the quarterback driving for the final touchdown. Flash produces harsh light. Don’t expect fantastically lit images unless the light is modified in some way. Flash can be your comrade, but like any good friend, the more you treat it with respect and compensate for its shortcomings, the better it will treat you in return. 

To learn more about this subject, join me on a photo safari to Tanzania. Visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.

Photography is what motivates me to move through life in a positive way. Photography is ͞All About The Light͟ and it’s the first thing I seek out before I press the shutter. Optimally, I pursue great subjects in great light, but if there’s an ordinary subject in great light, I still press the shutter. I love to share the photographic knowledge I’ve accumulated and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious so I can motivate others to feel the same way I do about my photography.