Sunday, April 20, 2014

Flash That Isn't There

Photo #1

I can be overly enthusiastic about speedlights. I depend on them to lighten up the shadows, so much so that I've forgotten that I had a life without these handy artificial light sources. Admittedly, my early attempts to apply flash were hit and miss, since I really couldn't predict how the flash would affect the overall exposure. But with the advent of digital photography in my life, the instant feedback allowed me to be more creative, providing I had the time.

Photo #2
This particular assignment was a case in point. Long before I made this Photo #1, I was in front of the stage, trying to include some meaningful background details. The lighting was provided by spotlights mounted in a ceiling track (Photo #2). The shadows on the wall are very telling. You can see that there isn't much detail in them, and that their edges are annoyingly sharp.
I normally wouldn't use flash while somebody is speaking, or getting ready to. In this case, our speaker had just arrived at the podium, so I made several shots using the existing light. The exposure settings were 1/125 of a second at F3.2 with an ISO setting of 3200. The white balance setting was Incandescent.

I wasn't happy with what I was getting, so I decided to wait for the standing ovation that I knew was coming. I credit David Ziser for this pearl of wisdom: Successful people photography is not only about the action, but also about the reaction. Including the audience would bring more depth to the photo and would move the center of interest into the foreground. I then moved to a position where the audience would become an integral part of the composition. I mounted an SB-800 on the camera and installed the tungsten gel. With both light sources (flash and ambient) reasonable matched, I felt I would get some decent fill when bounced from the light colored ceiling. And because of the high ISO setting, it didn't take much flash power to provide the overall fill. 

When the speech was over, the audience came to its feet, allowing me to make six photos in about a minute. I tried to be selective about when I made my exposures, but sometimes you can be concentrating on one thing while overlooking another. I acknowledge the hotspot created by the flash, but that couldn't be helped.

Photo #3
You can see that another photographer, having just realized what I was doing, rushed over take a position next to me (Photo #3). A pretty major photobomb, if you ask me. And from another photographer to boot. If you look closely at Photo #1, you can see him photographing from in front of the stage. Oh well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Photo #4
I kept shooting, ignoring my new best friend, knowing that he could easily be cropped out (Photo #4). Granted, I could have moved a bit to the right to get him closet to  the edge of the image, but was too busy watching what was going on. The people in the prime front tables were packed pretty tightly, so I'm sure that no matter what I did, somebody would be partially cropped out. I also wish the stairs weren't so prominent, but that couldn't be avoided. It apparently bother the editor, since both the lower and upper third of the image were cropped out.

I'm sill a little surprised about how much the additional flash improved the image. It complimented the existing spotlight illumination which provided some separation for the audience while providing a pleasing edge light on our speaker.

And it was all done using iTTL, which makes it even more wonderful.