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Necessity is the Mother

Part of any rehabilitation is admitting that you have a problem.

Nearly every photographer has the gear problem, me included. Even though I really haven’t bought anything substantial in a while, I still lust. And I doubt there is any endeavor where gear lust is more prevalent than photography. Bodies, lenses, lights, printers, storage. The list is endless. There is always the new and shiny. It beckons.

My most recent lust is for a new set of lights, lights that are quicker (allowing me to stop motion more effectively) with all of the new digital do-dads that get the blood pumping.

I’ve always had the philosophy to not buy anything new until what I have no longer cuts the mustard. If it holds me back, it’s time to spend the dough. Otherwise, make do. Let Necessity be the Mother of Invention.

One of the interesting features of said new-and-shiny gear is stroboscopic and delay modes. Could I, using what I have and dexterous use of a flash trigger,  replicate some of these features? (sans of course the motion stopping ability, which is an absolute function of the unit’s design).

There’s only one way to find out!

I conspired with Natalie to test my diabolical (well, photographic illumination-ally speaking) plan. Using my flash trigger and manually pressing the “test” button on it, I tried to replicate said features by using a long shutter speed and the modeling lights on my flash. I have to say that I was pleased with the results as Natalie tried out several moves in the studio.

For example, trying to replicate “delay” mode resulted in this image:

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

Basically what happens is that as she moves around during a long (8 second) exposure, the modeling lights provide some exposure, giving that “ghosting” effect. When I fire the flash manually near the end of the exposure, it freezes her.

Pretty cool, huh?

The other situation we tried was multiple exposures, using the same shutter speed and firing the flash multiple times (all manually by pressing the “test” button on the remote). An example is this:

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

I was less happy with these results as there was no precision in the flash sequence.

Ironically, though I was generally happy with results, I was convinced that I needed to make an upgrade. The ability to freeze a dancer at varying light levels would allow me the control I need when freezing their movements (you really notice motion blur in the hands and feet). Further capabilities in the equipment are a bonus, and would allow me to extend my offerings and provide unique insights into both the art of the dancer as well as the photographer.

I was glad we tested as the experiment proved current limitations while showing the promise of what lay ahead.

It’s not always about the equipment. In fact, gear is merely tools. But the right tools, at the right time,  in the right hands, with the right knowledge, makes the art of creation easier, more enjoyable, more predictable, and allows that envelope to be pushed ever so slightly outwards. Where the thin air lies.

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