Make light work

My editor and I are fighting a quiet battle. Every time I go out to the Lloyd Exhibition Grounds — a setting with notoriously bad light — he’ll toss out the comment, “Maybe take the (off-camera) flash with you.” Or if I go some place where he thinks I might have bad light, he suggests the same thing, citing times he’s been in that location and had problems getting decent lighting.

For the record, I’ve taken it once, to humour him. I even thought I might use it, but I didn’t.

I don’t like using flash. Part of it has to simply do with technical capabilities — I feel like we didn’t get enough time in school to play with the flashes, figuring out things like what the best angle was to bounce light at, though the headaches we all had after class from so many flashes going off repeatedly may beg to differ. Other technical annoyances include shooting fast motion, and that the flash doesn’t recycle fast enough for me to be able to shoot continuous mode.

In terms of the not-comfortable factor, you could argue that maybe if I used it more, my technical skills would improve. It’s a fair argument, but overall, I just find it plain annoying. The flash going off draws attention to, well, me, and I don’t like that.

My solution is to shoot at high ISO, low aperture and a moderate shutter speed, sometimes swapping the aperture and shutter speed values. For the most part, it works out OK. Not ideal, but OK.

My favourite time of day to shoot at is what’s known as the golden hour. It’s that time of day when the sun is just deciding to set, and there’s a really warm glow to everything. Of course, it only lasts for a short amount of time, so it’s unrealistic that I’d be able to shoot all my (outdoor) photos in that light, but it’s nice when it works out. Actually, usually when it works out is unintentional — I shot some preview pictures for a play at Edmonton Fringe Festival 2009, and the place they were practicing was in this really dark church. After the rehearsal, I asked them to come outside where there was better light, and I got this awesome shot on the left.

St. Joan and Me

Unfortunately, I was dumb during my internship and have no original files from the work I did, just the pdfs of my stories. There are some photo files, like this one, that I really wish I had.

Scott Cannata, highway 16

Scott Cannata ran into Lloydminster late Friday afternoon as part of his Run to Live, in strong winds and cold conditions.

It even earned me a compliment from the editor, who, while he didn’t complain about my internship work (I can think of really only one time he did, and it was more than warranted), he didn’t hand out a lot of compliments either.

The other interesting time of day is the blue hour. I find it a lot harder to shoot in, possibly because I find it difficult to see clearly for myself at that time of day.

But when I made a phone call Friday afternoon, to see when a cross-country runner was making his way into town, I chatted with the girl who answered the phone about either going out then – a little after 4 p.m. – or the following morning, when there would be more light. My office faces west, and I look north out the window, so I was missing the great sunset when I was talking to her, instead only seeing dark sky and thinking “crappy lighting conditions.”

Luckily, after we decided I would meet them Saturday morning, I got up, looked south out the window, and called her back to let her know I would meet them on the highway right then.

I got the shot on the right. Shooting in the blue hour is still difficult and it doesn’t work all the time, but maybe I’ve underestimated it a little bit.

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