Monday, January 18, 2010

Smashing ice or Freezing action

I felt the urge to destroy something beautiful and taking it out on a model is always a bad idea so I had an assistant smash up some ice formations with a hammer while I took photos. Haha, no seriously I’m quite ok, the smashing of ice is all a planned activity. Warmer winds arrived so I had to do it now (actually yesterday) rather than later, even though the actual shoot where I was planning to use the ice have seen some complications and might not happen.

Anyway I thought this could be a good opportunity to actually make a technical post where I could explain some necessary theory for freezing action using strobe lights. Full post after the jump, click the link below.

First a few words about synch speed. If you have a standard DSLR it wan’t help if your fastest synch speed is 1/250 rather than 1/160 it will not give any difference as long as your shooting location leaks very strong continuous light, for example sun light. Why fancy HSS (High Speed Sync ) features won’t help is explained here .

What’s important when it comes to freezing action is the flash duration. My big studio lights are much slower than my small battery strobes so I put the big guns away this time. I dare say that all small battery strobes are built on the same principle and hence follow the same rule that flash duration is directly proportional to output power. The lower the power the faster the flash duration.

As I wanted a big depth of field to get as crisp and sharp picture as possible I set the aperture to 13 and cranked up the ISO to 3200. By upping the ISO I could still set the power of the flashes to the absolute minimum and thereby minimize the motion blur. I can easily use ISO3200 when color is not very important, and as ice is pretty much just white it was ok (I figured I could always ad some nice blue shades in Photoshop afterwards).

After everything was set up, I asked my lovely assistant to smash the ice pieces in different ways, all I had to focus on was to make sure I hit the button at the exactly right moment. Here are some more examples, and I have a post under construction where I will explain some of my thoughts behind how I set the lighting for this gig and how to light transparent stuff.

Please don’t take any settings I use as hard rules for what you are supposed to dial in on your camera. This post is an attempt to explain some technical theory necessary to achieve a certain look, it’s not an attempt to say that this particular look is to prefer. Play around!

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