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Slow Shutter

Our shoot in Malibu the other week occurred late evening. Shooting with strobe as I normally do, the trick is to keep that flash/ambient balance as the light fades. Quickly.

The raison d’etre for using strobe out of doors is to maintain independent exposure control of my subject and the background. In general, from camera perspective, it is aperture which controls the flash exposure and shutter speed the ambient. There are certainly exceptions to this, but in general this is how it works.

Simple enough.

But there are, as the man says, consequences.

As the light dropped I had to continue making adjustments. As my flash bottomed out (at minimum power) I had to start lowering my shutter speed (called dragging) to let more of that ambient light in.

This shot of Clarence was taken with what should be a “safe” shutter speed of 1/60 of a second.

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

My camera uses a stabilization system which accounts for slight movement during slow shutter exposures. What I can’t account for is the subject moving. Which his lower body was doing.

Interesting effects happen with that independent exposure control. The flash freezes everything for its duration is extremely quick. However, his movement exists longer than the brief flash of light; the balance is picked up by the much slower shutter.

In studio, this generally does not happen. Flash can account for all subject movement and freeze it (the ambient contribution to exposure is negligible; shutter speed is irrelevant). However, out of doors, the ambient contribution is still significant. It will expose (so shutter speed does contribute here). That “ghosting” or the dark line around parts of his hands and lower body is actually an underexposed portion of the image due to the ambient contribution.

Usually this is a problem.

When I first saw it in these images I considered editing it out in post production. But in this case I feel it adds to the image, playing nicely with the coolness (blue-ness) of the image.

This is even more strongly displayed in this closeup image:

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

 These are very strongly (if that’s the appropriate word) presented images. The processing is bold and contrasty. I feel that consequence from my shutter drag – those lines – add to this feeling.

The happy accident is a term used often in photography to describe another side effect – that capture in the moment when time and space coincide to produce something unexpected. This particular side effect I did not plan on. I didn’t see it until I had pulled the images into my computer and they stared back at me from my monitor. They were bold, in-your-face. So I kept it. A happy accident from that slow shutter.

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