Use Flash to Light the Landscape

Story and photos by John Gerlach

Devil’s Garden near Escalante © John Gerlach

Landscape photographers are exhilarated when a prominent portion of the landscape becomes illuminated with golden sunshine, especially when the sky directly behind it is a stormy dark gray. Unfortunately, these incredible displays of spectacular light are unpredictable and usually fleeting.   Fifteen years ago I decided to use my Canon Speedlite to provide the blast of light I needed to light a rock ten meters across a raging river. My first flash attempts were futile since the Speedlite didn’t add any additional light to the rock. I pondered the situation for a while and finally realized I had “murdered” my Speedlite. Using ISO 100, a polarizer, stopping down the lens to f/22, and allowing the camera to set the zoom on the Speedlite’s flash head to 24mm to match the lens being used all conspired to make it impossible to light an object only ten yards away. Continue reading

Multi-flash Hummingbird Photography by Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

Images and Text by Nate Chappell

Photographing hummingbirds in flight in countries like Ecuador and Costa Rica with natural light or with just one flash can be very difficult. The reason – most of these birds live in the cloud forest where there isn’t much light due to both shade from trees and cloud cover. One solution for this, which creates beautiful flight shots, is a multi-flash hummingbird setup. By setting up several slave flashes set to 1/32 or 1/16 power around a hummingbird feeder or flower you can produce stunning images of hummingbirds in flight. The reason is that the flashes are actually synching at speeds of 1/8000 to 1/12,000 of a second changing the effective shutter speed from what is on your camera – let’s say 1/200 sec to the lightning fast speed of the flashes synching. The key to this is having the flashes produce all of the light, otherwise you will be mixing ambient light and flash lighting. In that case the 1/200 sec shutter speed will affect the image by causing blurring in parts of it. So you need to have your camera’s exposure set to at least -3 or -4 stops below the ambient lighting.Another helpful component is to have an artificial background – often a large printed photograph held a few yards behind the mutli-flash setup. Continue reading