Photography Travelogues – Freeze the action with Peter Eastway
October 6, 2011 4 Comments
Low tide in front of the Reef View hotel on Hamilton Island, Australia is the perfect location for a run and jump. This photo was taken as part of a workshop just for fun, but it shows how useful the new leaf shutter lenses from Schneider Kreuznach can be when shooting action with flash.
Flash synchronisation shutter speeds in a darkened studio isn’t a problem because if you can’t freeze the action with the shutter speed (usually between 1/60 and 1/250 second), you can use a very short flash duration instead. The low levels of ambient light in the studio don’t significantly affect the exposure and so the flash is the only illumination exposing the moving subject.
Not so outdoors (or in a fully lit studio) because the brighter ambient light at a slow flash synchronisation speed will also illuminate the moving subject and thus the image will be blurred. The solution is a faster flash synchronisation shutter speed.
This isn’t possible with a focal plane shutter. A focal plane shutter has two blinds. The first blind opens, and then the second blind follows closing the shutter opening. At fast shutter speeds, the second blind is closing before the first blind is completely open, so at no time is the shutter completely open. If the flash fires, part of the exposure is blocked by the shutter.
Leaf shutters are different. Much smaller and sitting within the lens (as opposed to in the camera), they can open and close fully more quickly than a focal plane shutter. The new Schneider Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses for the Phase One 645DF offer flash synchronisation speeds up to 1/1600 second and so you can use flash in outdoor locations and freeze the action. It’s perfect for fashion and sport.
The way it works is that when the camera shutter is fired, the focal plane shutter in the camera opens first at a slower shutter speed. When the focal plane shutter is completely open, the leaf shutter in the lens opens, the flash is fired, and then the leaf shutter closes. Finally, the focal plane shutter closes. Fortunately, all this happens without the photographer having to be at all concerned – simply attach the Schneider Kreuznach lens and it works automatically!
For this photograph, the flash synchronisation speed was 1/1600 second using a Profoto Pro-B3 AirS battery-powered flash and the IQ180 on a Phase One 645DF.
In the set-up shot, you can see that the flash is pointed too far down, lighting the foreground as well as the subjects. Sometimes this can work as an effect, but if you want to keep the light just on your subjects, point the flash upwards so the spill doesn’t reach the ground. You can also use a local adjustment in Capture One to darken down the foreground – and sometimes a combination of techniques is required.
In Capture One, the raw file was processed to maintain detail in the highlights and produce skin tones with a natural rendition. However, most of the work was done at the time of exposure, which underexposed the background by a stop or so, giving the appearance that the photograph was taken much later in the afternoon than it was. This is achieved by setting the aperture and shutter speed so the background is underexposed, and then setting the power on the flash to correctly expose the subject. You can use a flash meter to help, but with the histogram on your camera, it won’t take you long to work out the settings with a few test frames.
If you’re interested in the photography workshops I present on Hamilton Island with David Oliver and Bruce Pottinger, or you just want an excuse to visit Australia’s tropical north, please visit http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/photography-course/ for more details, or visit my site at http://www.betterphotography.com/. It’s a great excuse for a week on Hamilton Island!