It’s no secret that I abhor the use of a hotshoe. Even when using a single Speedlite, I typically move it off-camera on a long E-TTL cord (details here). I’ll admit, though, that there are situations where the hotshoe is a perfectly fine place for a Speedlite. My third location shoot with cartographer David Yun on the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo for San Louie magazine was one of them.
Sometimes you don’t have the time or room to light like you should. Between the traffic, the pedestrians, and an unusually hot day, this had to be a run-and-gun shoot. I did not have the time or the space to set up an off-camera Speedlite on a stand. The goal was to make a few quick portraits of David with his ultra-modern GPS system standing on top of a cluster of century-old solar tubes that illuminate a part of subterranean SLO. We had just a few minutes and then had to move on to our last location.
Your Camera Does Not See The World The Way You See It
The challenge with this shoot was that my camera (and your camera and every other camera out there) cannot record the entire range of light that the our human eyes can see. Take a look at the photo below to see what I mean.
This is how my camera (a 5D Mark II) recorded the excessive range of brights and darks in the scene. In order to preserve the details in the brightest parts of the photo, shadow details were compressed. To be concise, there is way too much contrast here.
The Super Duo: On-Axis Fill & High-Speed Sync
The difference between the two photos above is a Speedlite and two seconds of button-pushing. For the left shot, I turned on my Speedlite, pushed the HSS button on the back (the lightning bolt-H button) and fired away in Aperture Priority (Av) mode. I wanted to shoot wide open to take the edge off the background elements. So, f/2.8 at ISO 100 under noon sun meant that my shutter needed to be 1/4000″. I did not figure all that out. The camera did the heavy math — I just shot in Av mode. HSS gave me the ability to shoot at virtually any shutter speed. E-TTL figured out how much fill flash was needed. (Click on the photo to see the details of the hi-res version.)
Comparing HSS Fill to the Fill Light Slider in Lightroom
There are photographers who say they can light on a laptop. Some of them are good friends of mine. But why would you want to light in post? I’ll say it again — I’m a photographer, not a retoucher. Yet, just to see what would happen, I took the straight daylight shot and moved the Fill Light Slider in Lightroom to 30. Sure, it’s a bit better than the unadjusted shot. (Click on the photo to see the details in the high-res version.) Still, making a slider move in Lightroom is no substitute for lighting on location — esepcially when then entire lighting set-up involved:
> putting the Speedlite in the hotshoe
> turning it on
> pushing the High-Speed Sync button on the Speedlite
> firing away in Av mode.
Spend a week with me in October going as deep into Speedliting as anyone can go. Details on the workshop here.
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