Friday, 1 January 2010

Light Painting (exteriors with flash)

For those of you that love shooting after dark, here's another thing you can do when it seemingly becomes way too dark to even see by. Add your own light!
I know this might rankle with the 'principled' landscape shooter (who might prefer to use only 'what is', and never consider altering a scene in any way. But I don't care).
My philosophy is "If there ain't enough light, add some...". Best way to do that is to use the flash head on the camera. Even better, take the speedlight out of your camera bag, set the camera on a tripod, open the aperture to the max, set the shutter speed to expose for a long time and run around like a madman flashing the bits in the scene where there's not already enough light.
Sounds like fun? Is is but like all techniques, there are a few ground rules.
For example, you can only do this is in a relatively dark place, with a lens that is fully open. It's easier also to set your speedlight to Manual power output so you have more control over how much light to thump into the scene.
If you use a very small aperture you'd need a flashgun the size of a truck to make any difference. So, open the aperture and if that still does not work, increase the ISO rating from 100 to ISO 400 to help the exposure along.

In this example I put the camera on a tripod, the Canon EOS MkII to BULB (i.e. the shutter speed is set for as long as the shutter release cable is pressed), opened the aperture to f4, set the ISO to 400 and ran round the tree flashing upwards into the blanches. In a shot like this it's important to work fast and efficiently.
Also, to work to a plan, and in one direction, so you don't go over the same parts twice and create ugly hot spots.

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