Photography News issue 28

Photography News Issue 28 absolutephoto.com

Technique 28

Lighting academy Slow-sync portrait effects If you missed last month’s Lighting Academy (for shame!) and you’re wondering what slow- sync flash is all about, here’s a quick refresher. Slow-sync combines a burst of flash with a long exposure. Typically it’s used in low-light to balance dim ambient light sources, like a sunset or nightscape, with flash used on the subject. The long exposure records the ambient light, while the flash power is lowered Slow-sync refresher

to match, creating a balance. In contrast, a regular flash exposure uses a much faster shutter speed, which is too quick to pick up ambient light, so while the subject might look well lit, backgrounds are too dark. A by-product of this slower-than-normal shutter speed is that any movement in the subject, background or camera position is also recorded.

Combine flash with streaks of light for fabulous portrait backgrounds

Above Firing the flash at the camera’s regular sync speed (for instance 1/160sec) means Amber is well lit but the backdrop is too dark.

Above When using a long exposure (5secs here) and lighting Amber with a lamp, even small movements will be picked up as blur.

the long exposure and results won’t be as sharp as desired. But if it’s the flash alone lighting the subject they’ll be crisp and clear. Therefore, we waited until after dark and found a spot well away from any street lighting or other sources. Even a bright moon will be troublesome if it’s striking the subject, so avoid that, too. Aswewere planning to use awirewool spinning technique that throws out sparks, it was also vital to shoot somewhere well away from flammable undergrowth or anything else that might be ignited. The concrete and brick confines of the railway arch we found were fine for this. If you’re spinning the wool, rather than a helper, protect yourself, too, with gardening gloves, non-flammable clothing, a hat and safety goggles or glasses. Shooting from a tripod is also vital if you want to keep any background elements and the light trails from the burning wire wool or any other source sharp and clear; keeping the camera still also helps to prevent any ‘bleed’ of the subject’s outline, which we’ll come onto in due course. Exposure settings for the background lights As described, a long exposure is vital here, allowing enough time to create the background lighting effects. But how long exactly? That

Words and pictures byKingsley Singleton

will vary from one effect to another, but 10-15 seconds is a reasonable length of time for the wire wool spinning we used. In manual mode, I dialled in 10secs for shutter speed and set a middling aperture around f/11 and a lowish ISO, something like 200 or 400. A couple of test shots confirmed that the framewas dark, but the sparks from the wire wool were clear, so these settings would be fine for that part of the set-up; the next thing was to set the flash power to suit the exposure settings used. Flash power for the subject Positioned on a stand around 10ft from Amber, to the camera’s right, and directed slightly downward, I used an Elinchrom ELB 400 One Head Pro To Go kit for this set-up (see panel). It was also vital to shoot somewhere well away from flammable undergrowth

Though principally used to balance flash exposure with low-level ambient light, slow- sync flash effects can be used to showmovement in the subject or in the background (or both). In this month’s Lighting Academy, it’s background movement we’re focusing on, combining a slow- sync flash exposure with a moving light source to make an exciting portrait. In the main image we used spinning wire wool, but also employed a laser pen for an alternate look later in the technique. In both cases the aim was to freeze our subject, Amber, with the flash while using a long enough exposure to record the movement of the lighting behind. In principle, the same technique works with any moving light source in the background. Setting up and positioning Unlike most slow-sync effects we’re not actually interested in the ambient light here; in fact it’s easier for this technique if the only sources picked up are the flash and the light we’ll be adding to the background. The reason is that if the ambient light and flash mix on the subject there’ll be some movement picked up during

Above But if you combine a long exposure with a burst of flash (slow-sync), you get the best of both worlds.

Above For safe wire wool spinning, wear gloves, glasses or safety goggles, a hat and a thick coat.

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