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A clever way to use flash

Posted by on August 18, 2016
Horse and Rider, taken with a Canon 60D DSLR, 1/10 second, f2.8, using a Canon 24-70mm lens set at 24mm, flash was set it -1.3 EV

Horse and Rider, taken with a Canon 60D DSLR, 1/10 second, f2.8, using a Canon 24-70mm lens set at 24mm, flash was set it -1.3 EV. The camera was hand-held.

I deeply admire the foreign travel photographer Nevada Wier.  Her photography is beautiful, elegant and innovative.  I’ve traveled with her five times and have taken two photography seminars from her.

The most recent seminar, among other techniques, she taught me how to use flash in a very clever way.  She stresses that a camera flash shouldn’t be used simply when there isn’t much light but as a way to stop action when there is barely enough light to form an image.

The seminar was five days of lecture, field assignments, editing photographs and critique by her.  The most fun and challenging assignment was to attend the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo and photograph the action in the low-light of the dusk sky and use flash.  It proved to be a fun, good-natured evening as cowboys, cowgirls and many horses were dressed in Hawaiian-themed outfits.  The non-Western colors greatly enhanced the photography.

After arriving late in the day I walked around making photos from various locations and eventually settled in on the corral where horses and riders warmed up before being let into the area to compete in barrel racing or calf roping.  Around 30 minutes after sunset, when there was just barely enough light to photograph, I was near the young riders and horses as they circled and circled and circled.  After many attempts at using the available light and getting lucky with just the right combination of horse, rider and movement I finally got the image I was looking for.  Due to the slow shutter speed, there is streaking of the figures in motion but due to the speed of the flash (1/800 second), the subjects were frozen as if the shutter was set at 1/800 second.  The blue skylight in the distance which makes part of the backdrop is what I light to call “Nevada Wier Light” because she is the only photographer I know who seeks and exploits this time of day to create beautiful imagery.

Using flash in low-light to freeze action is just one of the tricks Nevada Wier knows and I’m fortunate to be her student.  I think my photography has improved dramatically thanks to her instruction.

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