Monday, January 11, 2010

Instructor's Tip: Dusk + Dawn Flash

Photo by Russ Burden

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.


The word photography comes from the Latin combining photo and graphy. Photo means light and graphy means to write. Hence photography means to write with light. How appropriate it is that in order to make a picture, a photographer needs light with which to etch an image onto a digital sensor. But what do photographers do when the sun level drops and they’re outdoors? For me, it’s flash to the rescue.

There’s a magic quality to the light right before the sun crests the horizon at sunrise and just after it sinks below at sunset. If the subject is front or sidelit by this gorgeous glow of color, detail can be recorded. But if you want to record the subject against this gorgeous backdrop, it falls into silhouette. If you need to reveal detail, it’s necessary to add artificial light. In that flash units of today are so portable and powerful, it’s become the light of choice. To make the image successful, it’s necessary to balance the amount of light emitted from the flash with the amount of ambient light in the sky. In order to do this, the flash has to be able to be dialed up or down from the ambient light meter reading. The amount depends on the effect you desire and the chosen f stop at which the image is made. The smaller the f stop, the more you’ll tax the capability of the flash to be able to emit enough light. On this week's photo, I used flash as a source of fill so detail could be revealed in the foreground dunes and yucca stalk. Come with me on a tour and I'll show you how to improve your images using flash.

Take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

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