What do bullets, apples and wedding photography have in common?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fotografz, Feb 7, 2006.

  1. A previous thread here has prompted this new one discussing the use of on camera flash, and the selection of slower hand held shutter speeds (AKA, "dragging the shutter). Some people persist in questioning being able to get sharp images of subjects while hand holding at 1/20th (or even less, depending on the level of ambient light), when using a modern flash. This is actually a fascinating subject, with it's own roots in photographic history. The principle of using a short burst of light to freeze the subject started early on, but truly came into it's own when Dr. Harold Edgerton of M.I.T., developed the Xenon flash tube ... which is the basis of today's modern flash that we all use. This short burst of intense light is what allows us to make a photograph in darker ambient conditions using a slower shutter speed than we'd normally be able to hand-hold ... because it is the duration of the flash that does the freezing, not the shutter speed of the camera. It is said that modern flashes for on camera use have durations from about 1/1000th of a second when used at full power/duration, to 1/10,000, depending on how much light is needed. Powerful studio strobes are often a bit less when used at full power (like 1/800th). So, in darker conditions like we face at a reception, you can drag the shutter to pick up more ambient background light, while the short duration of the flash lights the subject at 1/1000th of a second. To exaggerate the idea, enter a pitch dark room, set the camera's shutter speed to 1/10th of a second, pre-focus the camera and have a person jump in the air as you fire a shot. They will be sharp. In a crude way, this is exactly how Edgerton made photos of a bullet piercing an apple ... not with shutter speed, but with flash duration (and the help of sophisticated triggering equipment ; -) Google High Speed Photography for an interesting visit to the world of flash use.
  2. jfr


    I've studied physics for a year. We always used stroboscopes in a darkroom with non reflective walls for experiments where a high-speed camera was involved.

    Could be nice to use a stroboscope for the bouquet toss. The background would be just as it would always be, only you'll have a lot of flowers in the air :)
  3. All flash photos are actually "double exposures". You are simultaneously creating a pair of exposures based collectively on the sum of flash & ambient light levels hitting the film (or sensor). The goal is normally to achieve a balance between these two.

    The closer the flash & ambient levels are to each other, the better the flash picture. When the levels are correctly balanced, the use of flash isn't so obvious either.

    As a matter of routine, I shoot indoor flash at 1/8th or 1/15th second shutter speed. I have found that sometimes the ambient background will blur slightly, and the flash lit subjects remain frozen. This can be used to your advantage as a "special effect", when there are candles or small bulbs that will blurr in the background.

    The first time this happened(years ago accidentally), the couple loved the pictures, so I try a few dancing shots at each wedding with flash & a full second shutter speed.

    Being old school, I always shoot at F8 with flash to let the DOF help me focus. Unfortunately with 400 speed film in a dark church or reception hall, the correct shutter speed is about 1 second at F8. So my 1/8th or 1/15th second drags are still 3-4 stops underexposed.

    The last thing to remember is that the opposite of shutter dragging is also useful. You can crank up your shutter speed to the camera's maximum sync speed, and eliminate distracting backgrounds. Normally this is considered bad photography when flash falls off in a photo, causing that "shot in cave" look. However, when there is enough bad background to ruin your shot, this technique can save the day.
  4. The bullet piercing the apple is spectacular much like the bullet that has passed through the ballon before it bursts and deflates. Ballistic applesauce, yummmm.

    Steve, great post. Two methods well demonstrated as well as explained.
  5. This is something I am still struggling with. I have a hard time with dragging my shutter, because I feel I still get too much blurred stuff. I know that some people like it, but I don't. I don't like it when I can see ghosting, or lights in the background that "move" from camera movement (I know, use a tripod), or people in the background that are blurred. A lot of pros see this as good and creative, or a "special effect" like Steve mentions. I see a lot of photographers bragging up photos with this kind of look, that a particular photo is artistic and one of their best. I just don't like it! I would throw it in the trash can! Why can't I feel like the rest of you? Why do I want everything pin sharp? Am I not creative or artistic enough? Am I too much in my box? Do I need to step outside the box? It seams at most weddings I try dragging the shutter a little, and I end up not using them. Here is one that I did use, and I kind of like, but I almost threw it away. It is still borderline in my book.
  6. This one was well liked.
  7. Another in that series.
  8. Kari

    Do you not like the look of a shutter dragged shot because you are having difficulty with the technique? Practice should get that for you.

    If you simply aren't impressed with blurry shots and guests with stretched out heads in the backround thats cool too. You just don't persue that look in the Kari Douma style.

    Remember most people don't know how to get "effects" therefore they become somewhat impressed with what they can't do. You have knowledge of shutter dragging, know why it looks that way, and may not like it for what it is. Thats okay.

    David Schilling comments about the black and white bride with the Photoshop color bouquet. Forum concensus is that its old hat but when ever I show it to someone it still is good for oooooh's and ahhhhhh's. It's a bit like magic I think.

    If you need to drag the shutter you will find a way.
  9. In answer to Kari, hey, you like what you like -- no explanation needed. That's why they make chocolate and vanilla.

    The attached picture is one of my favorites (for some ungodly reason). I, too, like to include a few shots like this to provide variety and give the illusion of motion to the dancing. This is where digital helps because I have to shoot a lot of them to get 1 or 2 worth keeping. I think with film you'd get discouraged too fast with film cost and lack of immediate feedback limiting your ability to experiment.

    Marc St.Onge
  10. The answer to "filling" the background, is to use a slaved fired 2nd light.
  11. Ok, Marc St. Onge, that is a cool shot. I do like that one. But, do you find your customers like it? Every time I think I have a "cool" image, one I like artistically, the customer doesn't. They tend to stay on the more consertive side. But, I feel I am a more consertive photographer. Maybe that is what drew them to me. (Besides my cheep price!)
  12. Kari,
    I do like that photo, the one you almost threw away. The blurred background really pulls attention to the woman in the foreground, and the slight blurring of her hand emphasizes the vivacity of her personality (OK, I'm reaching here, but her smile MAKES her seem vivacious, and the movement of her hand highlights that). Overall I think it's a good party photo. I think for that kind of shot - person in the foreground and somewhat boring stuff in the background - dragging the shutter works well. For other shots, I definitely prefer tack-sharp too.

    I think your style is what makes you unique, so don't feel bad about it! If your clients seem to like shutter-drag pictures, though, even if YOU don't love them, it might be a good idea to put a few more in the mix and see how they respond to them.

  13. Kari, I don't know if my clients like this type of shot or not -- I very rarely get any feedback from clients and almost never about any individual shots. However, their checks cash so I guess that's a kind of feedback :). But I like the shot and it's the kind of thing I do so I include it and if they don't want it they won't buy it. People hire me for the way I see things and record them (I think we're getting into another topic here -- sorry).

    Marc St.Onge
  14. Marc,

    do you have some of that exotic triggering kit? that stuff is fun. I did play with it once many eons ago with the old water droplet on a piece of glass (film days, ha).
  15. David W - I don't think that those are marc's images. I think that they belonged to the scientist mentioned above...

    I think I read about that shot - I believe that the camera was triggered by the sound of the bullet...
  16. jfr


    I heard in a documentary once that that is the same way you 'shoot' a firing tank. Just press the release button halfway and you'll fire it automatically because of the enormous vibrations the tank produces when he fires..
  17. I just had a play with this the other day. I still used the tripod though. I quite like that you can look closely (at least at a larger size) and see some expressions etc in the BG. The red is from the band's strobe, initially I thought it ruined an otherwise good shot but on second look I quite like it.
  18. Shutter-dragging is also very useful (maybe more-so) in static shots. Think about the altar formals you do. Often-times you're using flash as the main source of illumination, either because ambient levels are too low, or for the extra "pop", or just to have control of the lighting, but you don't want the dark "cave" backgrounds. Dragging the shutter allows the ambient light to take care of the background exposure, but because it's a static posed situation, you don't have the secondary ghosting issue. It's different with a picture with motion (like dancing), if you aren't fond of the look, try upping your ISO to start. This will allow a higher shutter speed while still retaining a decent background exposure. Also, your ambient exposure doesn't have to match your flash exposure. If you keep ambient 2 stops below flash, you should still pick up enough to keep your background from going dark while reducing the ghosting effect on you main subject.

  19. I think with a lot of the shots the photographer would call iffy are actually ok a majority of the time. Remember that customers don't edit photos daily, and see everything through their own "filters" of knowing the persons personality, quirks and affects and can quickly recognize the REAL person they see in the photo, even if you don't because all that added information is not stored on your brain already.

    They also can look at an entire roll of theirs from a birthday and say "that's no so bad" a lot!

    As pros and artists, I think there is a real tendency to always want more, and have the highest expectations for your own work, but its easy to forget that an average picture for you may be something awesome or even unattainable to someone else.
  20. Kari,
    It is a matter of taste and style for a photograher as well as for cleints,I know sometimes we get feed and sometimes not, my question here for everyone who drag the shutter, Do you keep photos in your book and show it to your clients oir this something that you shoot and include with you final proof. Thanks
  21. I actually really like dragging the shutter, if I'm shooting digital and can play around a bit (aka not playing around when I only have one chance to get a shot of the kiss during the first dance). I took this shot at a fundraiser last April and purposefully moved the camera while shooting to add to the blurred effect...
  22. All depends on how bright the ambient light is as to whether you fall flat on your face with dragging the shutter, check with your light meter first!
  23. This is getting me to think a little outside the Box. I want to play around with this a little more for the reason of challange. I want to challange myself to be able to create the look for a customer, even if it is not a style I particularally like. Although I don't have a wedding for a LONG WHILE. (not til June :-() So maybe I'll have to make my kids dance around in the livning room while my husband waves around flashlights!
  24. 2 words Ben: stop down.
  25. As I said, check your light meter, though I prefer to knock the ISO down than stop down. This effect works well in a dark room but darkening a light hall to achieve the effect without camera shake issues would look a bit strange in that the B&G might not remember their hall having been pitch black! It has to be done right to look natural, changing the entire ambience for the effect would be a no go in my book.
  26. How about crank it up (ISO) and stop it down. Just go nuts.
  27. Oooh and Jena...........WOW!! I'm loving it!
  28. my question here for everyone who drag the shutter, Do you keep photos in your book and show it to your clients or this something that you shoot and include with you final proof or just having fun try to capture cool shoot. Thanks
  29. Ben, I presume you meant increase the ISO as opposed to "knocking it down", or am I confused? Whether your client like that shot or not, it's pretty cool. Were you on a monopod/tripod, because I can't figure out how you did that? Khalil, all of this is strictly a matter of personal opinion and taste. Every single album we've done has some shots where the shutter was set lower than the focal length being used. Some lower than others. Usually of the dancing because it is more expressive of the moment than static shots. It's all very experimental at first (which digital promotes IMO). There are a lot of variables when using flash and dragging the shutter. Whether you are using a wide lens or a long one and how close you are ... whether you use second shutter or not ... how fast the subject is moving, and whether you pan with the subject or against their movement ... how much ambient light there is in the background, and whether you want a lot of it to show up or less to show up (Increase ISO and stop down, decrease ISO and open up, etc.) ... and then there is pure luck ; -) Here's 2 very different shots where the shutter was lower than the focal length ... The first one was with a 85/1.2L @ f/1.2 with the shutter @ 1/60th and the ISO @ 320. I set the ISO so I could get to 1/60th, and at f/1.2 the flash contributed less than it normally would so the subject would blur some ... but not too much.
  30. Here's the second one which was accomplished in a completely different manner. It was with the 24-105L IS @ 24/4. I set the ISO to 800 and shutter @ 1/15th because the ambient light was relatively low and the lens @ f/4. 24 mm at f/4 provides more depth of field for the background subjects and ISO 800 picked up the background light, the difussed ETTL flash was hand held up above my head to light the subject and spill onto the background subjects (evident by the slight drop shadow on the main subject's lower dress), which helped "freeze" them.
  31. I meant instead of stopping down which can give too much DOF, knock the iso down to 100 which will give the same effect but with similar DOF.
    I did that shot by mistake, I have a nasty habit of knocking the control wheel on the grip with the heel of my hand when shooting, I use the vertical shutter release but have taped over the wheel to stop this kind of thing happening. It does show your point though, in low light you can handhold a 1/20 easily with flash, the grooms face is 'I can see every pore' pin sharp.
  32. I gotta ask--and mods, feel free to delete this--Anyone know if you can drag the sutter effectively with the age-old Nikon F3 / SB16 combination? I suspect I can only accomplish it by going full manual on flash and camera, but maybe I"m wrong.
  33. Erik--automated flash mode, manual camera mode should work fine.

    Anyone have any useful info about a situation where you are using some powerful monolights, for instance, to bounce off the ceiling, in conjunction with on-camera flash where the flash duration from the monolights is much longer than the flash duration from the on-camera flash--resulting in ghosting, or double image? Some of the flash durations on powerful flashes are about 1/200th or so.
  34. Nadine - Interesting question. In my reading of this, I seem to remember that even very powerful flashes are still pretty quick - ie. a very very powerful flash might be 1/300th or a second. I'll give it a try at my next wedding, but I think that the real ghosting problem is just from ambient light creeping into a frame, which you can stop by upping hte shutter speed to the max sync. I shoot w/ my 20D at 1/250th with alien bee lights pretty routinely when I want to kill the ambient, and it works well.
  35. Nadine,

    Actually, powerful studio strobes have quite an "afterburn," sometimes in the 1/10th second range. The reason is that the big capacitors in the power pack take a finite time to discharge through the arc resistance -- In other words, a simple RC circuit.

    The way a strobe works is that a voltage is put on the (anode & cathode) electrodes, which is (in an arm-waving sense) "backed up" by the capacitor bank for the "punch." Typically this about 330 volts for a strobe powered from 120 VAC wallplug current; but in any case it's below the flashover voltage.

    If you look at the flash tube closely, you'll also see a very thin wire wrapped around the tube: This is the trigger wire. What happens is that a high voltage but low current is passed through this coil, which barely ionizes the xenon gas inside the tube... Just enough to allow flashover from the main electrodes. At this point, the resistance is now that of the plasma arc itself, and it lights up.

    The question is now "How long does the arc stay lit?" The answer is when the voltage drops below that needed to maintain the arc that was struck: This is the product of the arc resistance times the size of the capacitor bank, i.e. the larger the capacitors, i.e. the higher the power rating of the strobe power pack, the longer the arc duration.

    In typical on-camera flashes powered by four AA batteries (such as my SB-28DX or 54MZ-3) the capacitors are relatively small -- On the order of a few dozen watt-seconds, which means an arc duration in the hundreds of microseconds duration... That is, if the TTL circuit doesn't call for the flash to be shut off first!

    On the other hand, big strobe power packs have stored energy ratings in the thousands of watt-seconds (=joules), needed to overcome stopped-down lenses (like f/32 or even f/45) for razor-sharp images (for, say, product photography onto LF chromes). Because the stored energy in the capacitor bank is two orders of magnitude more than that lowly SB-28, that (essentially) means the arc duration will be two orders of magnitude longer... Into the 1/10th second ballpark.

    Cheers! Dan

    PS: I'm an electrical engineer...
  36. Interesting. But I have to admit to being confused.

    I cannot find a single mono strobe with a duration longer than 1/600th, and that's for the
    inexpensive Calumet 750 w/s unit. Calumet 375 w/s is 1/900th. The Photogenic 1000 w/s
    mono is 1/770th, and their 500 w/s unit is 1/1300th.

    Move into more expensive units like Elinchrom 750 w/s @ 1/2350th & even their older
    design 500 w/s at full output is 1/2600th.
  37. I know this tread is very dead but I ran across while searching if anyone knew of a manufacturer of flash triggering devices for high speed photography and I felt like clarifying some things, anyway to get to the point...

    Edgerton used a microphone and a home-built device to trigger a strobe (sometimes he used a photoelectric cell and a light beam) based on the report of the weapon, he left the shutter open in a pitch black room. Gun fires, mic picks up the crack of the shot, flash fires room goes back to black. The hardest part is actually positioning the mic since most rounds are super-sonic the bullet hits the target before the actual report makes it to the target, luckily calculating ballistics is easy, well at least nowadays.

    Off-topic but nonetheless interesting.

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