Last Sunday saw me making the scenic two-hour drive north to join the Bridge Lake Photography Group. I have been following that creative and talented group of photographers, (www.bridgelakephotogroup.com) since a long time friend, Derek Chambers, got in touch with me about a year ago. On Sunday I led a full day workshop for them about using off-camera speedlights indoors and out-of-doors.
There is so much that I want to tell photographers when they first attempt to use flash as a tool to create better photos instead of the flash being an uncontrollable device photographers perch on the top of the camera when it’s too dark in a room to take a photo.
In my opening presentation I had to hold myself back as I sometimes realize I am talking too fast. But I get excited and I really want to move from lecturing in front of students, and go to the studio setup where the learners, not me, are center stage. That’s where my fun, and, assuredly, the participants’ fun begin.
I always enjoy the enlivened interaction that occurs when a student of flash photography takes that first shot with one of the flash set ups. Usually, no one ever wants to be first. Everything is strange. The flash that usually is attached to their camera is now attached to a softbox or an umbrella. I always have to prod and coax the students to begin, but I can hardly wait for the first “oohs and aahs” that happen when they see the results of their first photos.
My job is to present information on the subject, and keep things going. I don’t like to be a demonstrator on stage and rarely pick up a camera during the workshops I lead. That is left to the participants, and watching them learn is the fun part for me. After everyone crowds around that first volunteer’s camera and sees the picture it is all I can do to hold them back.
Our ever-patient model was overwhelmed as she tried to pose for everyone at the same time. She pleaded, “Where do I look?” I laughed and loudly said to that excited scrum of photographers, “If you want her to look at you yell, ’Me! Me! Me!’”
We spent the morning shooting in the inside studio. For that session I had the flashes set to manual mode so their output would always have the same power. That is the easiest way. If more light is wanted on the subject move the flash forward. Less? Move the flash away.
After lunch we moved outside and I set up one flash with a shoot-through umbrella, however, this time the flash was set to TTL mode. When using flash in an indoor studio one synchronizes the camera’s shutterspeed to the studio flash, and uses the aperture to determine the exposure of the light reflecting off a subject. Progressing, however, to an out-of-doors situation with TTL a photographer must balance the natural, ambient light with the off-camera flash; and using flash effectively is more about creating and controlling shadows than about filling them.
We walked out into the bright day and our model had barely reached a location in the meadow before 15 excited photographers got down to business. By then they weren’t at all shy about getting shoulder to shoulder in the process of experimenting, exploring, and learning about outdoor lighting.
I just received an email from Chambers saying, “You’ve definitely added a whole new dimension to our photographic adventures. Thanks a lot.” Gosh, a whole new dimension to their photographic adventures. That is one of the best “thank you’s” I have ever received.