Monday, August 23, 2010

high speed sync - insanity of joe mcnally

Okay, so many shooters may not get many chances to have a pro shoot on a desert in the Middle East but this video shows that with some imagination, that you can push your gear to limits that you may have thought were impossible. After your days as a beginner you mastered shooting in full manual mode. Next you started experimenting with new light techniques. And when you opened the box to your shiny new speedlight, you thought to yourself, "Why the hell are there so many controls on this thing and what do they do?!." Well maybe you didn't but I sure did. Back to the classroom I had to go. Just when I thought I could throw around terms like 'dragging the shutter' or 'stop that all the way down.' Yes, I thought I was cool until entering the world of creative light. In the video here it is high speed sync that is tested and proven to be an awesome feature for outdoor shooting, no matter where you may be, the sahara shooting beautiful models or a family picnic shooting cousin Tony double-dipping a chip.

High Speed Sync

As we will eventually discuss every feature that your speedlight has, today we discuss high speed sync and what how it is used. Your SLR or DSLR out of the box has a specific sync speed. Sync speed is the fastest shutter speed you can use with flash and this speed can range from anywhere between 1/60th of a second to 1/250th depending on which model camera you are shooting. Few have even reached as high as 1/500th of a second. And so you understand, the faster the sync speed is, generally you are shooting with a more advanced piece of equipment. Shooting at faster speeds than the required sync speed may result in black banding at the top or bottom of the exposure. You may be able to shoot slightly faster and not find any negative results but that may be rare. Now when shooting indoors or in studio this speed may be just fine but what about outdoors at high noon?

You are outside and having to shoot a model on the beach midday. Yes you knew it would have been better to shoot at Golden Hour but you had a late night the night before. So you oversleep and have to get the shoot done somehow. But you find that when you arrive on scene that the proper exposure, only using ambient, is somewhere around 1/2500 at f/11 and ISO 100. You think, disaster! With that type of exposure you may have the shot looking like a tourist shot with their point and shoot that was neatly tucked in their fannie pack!
Here's where high speed sync saves the day. Obviously you cannot shoot at 1/200th or it the shot would be totally blown out (overexposed). Also, as mentioned before you can shoot with ambient but you wanted to create your own personalized styled lighting. Switch that speedlight into high speed sync mode. This is usually identified on the back of the strobe by a lightning bolt accompanied by the letter H. Now you will be able to shoot at just about any desired speed. Get that ambient underexposed and fire away.

I'm sure you may be confused now asking why can I shoot at faster speeds just by activating this feature? Why doesn't it always fire this way? Here is the easy to understand answer on that. First, in your "normal" synced mode, during an exposure the flash fires a very brief pulse of light at ultra fast speeds that are much shorter than the shutter speeds. Shooting at faster than desired sync speeds may cause the flash to miss its window of opportunity, so to say. Now, going into that high speed sync mode, the flash fires off multiple pulses (not visible to human eye) to fire throughout the duration of the exposure.

As some photographers like to keep their strobes in this mode, however, I do not recommend since battery power may be eaten up more rapidly. Along with that it is possible that flash recycle time may be slower.

The Video

This video shows how to turn the midday sun into your enemies enemy (your friend). On scene on a desert near Dubai, master photographer Joe McNally shows us how to make this bad light situation work in his favor. Be sure to watch the end where the final shots are able to be viewed. I also want to give credit to another amazing photographer, David Hobby a.k.a. Strobist. David filmed this shoot. Love your work Dave but I think you are much better off doing stills!!!

Enjoy the movie.

Until we meet again...