Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Embrace the Flash

Made in Roanoke, 2012
(Click on images to see larger)

I have never been a big user of photographic flash units. I’m never happy with the ones that come built into cameras, and the Speedlight I bought to attach to the top of the camera upsets the balance of carrying the camera.
Having said that, I have been fully aware and respectful of the value of using flash units, especially for providing infill light for low-light settings and backlit portraits.
I’ve just always preferred natural light.
But after taking the workshop this past summer, I was reminded of how much I miss by not having a flash unit handy when I’m out taking pictures. I was also reminded of just how untrained I am at using a flash unit.
This past weekend I pledged to start 1) carrying the flash with me and 2) using it. This is harder than it sounds. Having a flash unit attached to the top of the camera really does change the weight distribution, and if you’ve been carrying a camera for one way for forty years you don’t embrace that kind of change rapidly.
But I put the flash unit onto the camera and stepped out of the car to photograph people at Roanoke’s downtown farmer’s market.
I should mention here that I didn’t stay at the farmer’s market very long. The place was teeming with photographers. Every third guy, it seemed, had a camera in his hand. Three or four stopped me to say, “Nice camera.” What do you say in such situations? I didn’t make the camera. I was just fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy it. 
The light at the farmer’s market was just right for using a flash for infill. That is, the foregrounds were dark and the backgrounds were extremely bright. You could expose for one or the other, but not both successfully without some kind of supplemental light.

Nation and World, 2012

I hesitate to show these feeble efforts of mine. But as you can see, using a flash unit for fill light isn’t as easy as just clipping the flash onto the camera and firing away. The poor guy in the photo above looks not only stunned, but also like a one-dimensional cutout. (And let's not mention the bright vegetables.) The lady with the red glasses was a little better, but still too light in the foreground. 
Just something more to learn.



  1. I admit, I like natural light, but these look good to me! I do realize that for some photos, a flash just makes a much better photo. And in capable hands such as yours, it's a very positive thing.

  2. "Three or four stopped me to say, “Nice camera.” What do you say in such situations? I didn’t make the camera. I was just fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy it. "
    I loved this aside comment of yours, to us !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I suppose they are congratulating YOU for what you OWN because ( they think) what you OWN says WHO YOU ARE. That is the entire concept behind product marketing today ( always?), especially "high end"-appeal Things. ( I am speaking in general, NOT to Cameras here....) The Perception part of the equation. Is it really The Thing that is the point, or the aura The Thing brings to you, supposedly? I don't begrudge anyone making a living off of this Concept, if people are foolish enough to believe it. Ex: I have a friend who owns a high-end 'Women's Shop". Retail markup for clothing, and maybe other things, EVERYwhere, is 400%. Or maybe more. I have been with her to Merchandising fairs, I know what she pays for some of this stuff.... If the wealthy women who drop a ton of money in her store, saw the EXACT same item in a ..."lesser" store, they wouldn't even look at it twice. But because they bought it in "****s", that means it is automatically "worth" more, and says something about them, the buyer. They think.
    Sorry for the aside rambling, but I find this topic fascinating, and so transparent!

    The photographers who admire your gear are just doing that, admiring the gear, wishing they had it, etc. Just chatting about common interests...