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Old 10-11-05, 02:28 PM   #1
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need photography tips, re: group ride at night

I need some tips on creative photography of cyclists riding at night.

I wanna use:
- manual film camera (Canon EOS)
- hotshoe flash with diffuser

I want to do something a little 'creative' or 'artistic', so I was thinking of maybe setting up a tripod, and operating my flash 'in hand' - to get a little blur, but still have some of the group in focus. I also don't want to blind any of the riders with my flash unit.

I could just as easily take my digital camera, set it on auto, and turn on the flash,
but I know exactly what those shots are gonna look like: 'deer in the headlights' -
... which is what I want to avoid.
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Old 10-11-05, 02:37 PM   #2
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Does your camera offer rear curtain sync? That might yield some interesting results. How about your flash - will it do multiple pops (the strobe effect)?

Sounds like you've got a good plan already and I think with a diffuser on your flash, it will be a lot easier on the eyes of the cyclists.

Good luck and post some images when you get your film back; I'd love to see your creative solution
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Old 10-11-05, 02:48 PM   #3
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Try to get a remote flash. If the flash is too close to the camera, the reflective materials on everyone's bike and clothes will be so bright they cook all the shots. If you can get the flash a long ways away from the camera (sidelighting) it can look pretty wild. I recently saw a skatepark-riding shoot done this way, it looked great.
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Old 10-11-05, 03:29 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghettocruiser
Try to get a remote flash. If the flash is too close to the camera, the reflective materials on everyone's bike and clothes will be so bright they cook all the shots. If you can get the flash a long ways away from the camera (sidelighting) it can look pretty wild. I recently saw a skatepark-riding shoot done this way, it looked great.

I learned this the hard way. Lots of wasted film.lol
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Old 10-11-05, 03:30 PM   #5
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Rear curtain sync fires the flash as the shutter closes, so you get the blur following the subject.
Front curtain sync is the opposite.
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Old 10-12-05, 05:13 AM   #6
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You might also get the similar affect as the X curtain sync by slowing down the shutter speed a bit.
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Old 10-12-05, 05:37 AM   #7
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All that does is get you a blur, it's the timing of the flash that determines where the actual image goes.
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Old 10-12-05, 06:48 AM   #8
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Mixed lighting with ambient and flash is tricky but it helps if you understand the fundamentals. Auto flash is really convenient and usually works but you dont get the same control.
If you are using one flash, off-camera, then the shadows will be illuminated by ambient light. If you have a flash on-camera, then that will "fill-in" the shadows and lighten them. You can use a seconary light to provide some modelling from the side.
Most flash units have a guide to manual exposure. You set the shutter speed to a sync speed (revealing all the film simultaneously) and pick the aperture based on flash-subject distance. A longer shutter speed/wider aperture will increase the proportion of ambient light from the moon or streetlights.
I would suggest that you experiment in a systematic manner, recording your exposure and flash settings, using a static subject to start with. Once you know how to balance the light you can adjust it to get the desired blur.

You can get creative about including the moon, which normally looks better if you use a longer focal length. Bike lightng can also add to the mix. Digital is great for this kind of experimentation since the results are instant.
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Old 10-12-05, 10:52 PM   #9
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The diffuser won't make much difference at night and at more than a few feet, so leave that at home. Take the extra 1/2 stop exposure you'll gain from not using it. Rear curtain sync will help your exposures. Dragging the shutter (long exposures) while you pan will give you good results as well. How fast is your lens? I have the wireless unit for my EOS bodies with 2 550EX strobes. If you can cough up the $$, it's a great system. But even a cheap peanut slave will help you get some creative results, if you have a flash meter handy.
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Old 10-13-05, 10:01 AM   #10
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If you want something different or artistic, why not skip the flash? Shoot wide open (biggest aperture your lens has) and get fast film. ISO400 would be ok, 800 or 1600 would be great. (If you can only find 400 but have a pro lab in your area, you can shoot the film at 800 and ask the lab to "push it" one stop). Place yourself so that street lighting illuminates the cyclists.

If using a tripod: you will get a sharp backgrounds with blurry cyclists going by. Try a variety of shutter speeds. Don't worry about exposure too much, you can get away with 1 or 2 stops underexposure or 2-3 stops overexposure on colour negative film.

If not using a tripod, try panning: follow the bike(s) along with your camera as you take a long exposure. The bike will be sharp (sorta), the background blurry. This is tricky, and works best if you keep your left eye open to track the bike.

It's night - don't worry too much about sharpness and focus. You may want to manually focus and just leave the lens there if your camera won't AF quickly in the dark. GO for colours, bright lights, funky blurs, etc. I probably have some samples around if you want to email me.

If you do opt for flash, set the flash exposure one or two stops BELOW correct exposure (FEC -2) so that the flash doesn't overwhelm the scene.
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Old 10-13-05, 10:38 AM   #11
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And maybe warn the cyclists before you fire the flash...
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