Sunday, August 09, 2009

Home-grown produce and flashguns

click photo to enlarge
I own three flashguns but I've never liked using flash. Every now and then I used a T20 with my Olympus OM1n, usually for family snaps, but occasionally for church interiors. I have an old Nissin 360TW that has both a small fixed flash and a large moveable head. I used that on the OM1n too, and on a couple of other film and digital cameras that I've owned, for portraits, architecture and more creative images. And finally, a few years ago I was given an Olympus FL-36. I suppose for some that might seem an embarrassment of riches as far as flashguns go, and you might be wondering why I have that number despite my protestation that I don't like flash.

The truth is, I think I should be able to take advantage of the possibilities that flash offers. The fact is I don't, in fact can't; and for two reasons. Firstly I'm not very keen on, in fact I'm hypersensitive to, noticeable flash effects. The shadows that a flashgun can produce spoil many images for me, as do the unnatural highlights. Bird photography is particularly susceptible to the latter, and can make a shot look very artificial. It's something you see less of with the better high ISO performance of cameras, but it's still around. The second reason I don't like them follows on from the first: because I'm not keen on the effects I don't use them often enough to improve my technique. I recognise that some photographs aren't possible without flash, and I used them for that reason in the past. And, if you trawl the photographs on thos blog, you'll find examples - often still life images - where I've worked at improving my handling of flash. But, by and large, I prefer natural light.

The other evening I turned on the lights in my kitchen and a beam shone into the adjoining utility room and illuminated some vegetables and fruit that we'd picked from the garden. A photograph suggested itself so I got a reading lamp and a flashgun. I took several shots with both, and found I preferred those lit by the reading lamp. It was more directional, with deep shadows and contrasting highlights, more Caravaggioesque, and so I prepared a shot for posting on the blog. The following day I looked more closely at the flash shots I'd taken, all of which had the light bounced off a piece of white corruflute. Closer inspection showed them to be more subtly lit, with more detail, better colour accuracy, and more attractive. Most importantly, they didn't look like they'd been lit by flash. I processed one of them, increasing the contrast a touch, and I have to say I'm very pleased with it. It is, of course, no longer Caravaggioesque, but is more of the Dutch school; perhaps van Beijerenesque. Which is quite appropriate really since I now live in the area of Lincolnshire known as Holland!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro, (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On
Flash: Olympus FL-36