Skip to Content

Using flash at night

Discuss and share your wildlife photography, filming and equipment

Moderator: lion queen

User avatar
simonb6
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 249
Joined: Thu Feb 24, 2005 12:25 am
Location: Probably not coming back to Africa soon :-)

Using flash at night

Unread postby simonb6 » Wed Apr 06, 2005 8:27 am

I'm still thinking about my forthcoming night at the Sable Dam bird hide.

There has been some discussion elswhere on the forum about pointing spot-lights at animals on night drives.

What do you folk thing about the use of flash? I have a fairly powerful flash gun which (with the camera ISO set to 800) gives a pretty impressive range without too much noise on the image.

What I do not want to do is upset the animals (or even endanger them by blinding them temporarlily) - but it would be nice to be able to get some night shots!

Thoughts????
Cheers, Simon
My photograph album

User avatar
DuQues
Honorary Virtual Ranger
Honorary Virtual Ranger
Posts: 17941
Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:42 pm
Location: Red sand, why do I keep thinking of red sand?

Unread postby DuQues » Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:03 am

Madach just came home with photo's made with a spotlight with a blue filter in front of it. Seems to work great.
Maybe he can fill you in. (In a flash :D )
Arriving currently: The photos from our trip! Overhere! :yaya:

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

User avatar
madach
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 769
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2005 9:55 pm

Unread postby madach » Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:17 am

DuQues wrote:Madach just came home with photo's made with a spotlight with a blue filter in front of it. Seems to work great.
Maybe he can fill you in. (In a flash :D )


What DuQues is referring to is pictures I took of leopards in Sabi Sand last week. I used a spotlight with a blue filter. The filter is for color correction of the spotlight and it's less intrusive for the animals as the light is diffused by the filter. I use my 20D on 800ISO and just use the light provided by the spotlight, so no flash. This method only works if the spotlight is held steady, so using this method in the KNP is not feasible (tourists handling spotlights :cry: ). In the KNP I usually set my camera to 800ISO, and use my flash at -1 compensation.

User avatar
Meg
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 749
Joined: Tue Dec 07, 2004 12:12 pm
Location: Lowvelder in Brisbane

Unread postby Meg » Wed Apr 06, 2005 10:00 am

Did you make the filter yourself Madach, or purchase it? I'd be interested to know what materials one could use for such a thing.
Mothers hold their children's hands for a while and their hearts forever

User avatar
madach
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 769
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2005 9:55 pm

Unread postby madach » Wed Apr 06, 2005 10:05 am

It was a homemade filter made of thin blue plastic. it looked a bit like the filters which are sometimes used on spotlights at for instance pop concerts. It was an 'invention' of the ranger who drove us around at Elephant Plains.

User avatar
simonb6
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 249
Joined: Thu Feb 24, 2005 12:25 am
Location: Probably not coming back to Africa soon :-)

Unread postby simonb6 » Wed Apr 06, 2005 1:41 pm

madach wrote:In the KNP I usually set my camera to 800ISO, and use my flash at -1 compensation.

Thanks Madach - that's good enough for me :)
Cheers, Simon
My photograph album

User avatar
Meg
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 749
Joined: Tue Dec 07, 2004 12:12 pm
Location: Lowvelder in Brisbane

Unread postby Meg » Wed Apr 06, 2005 5:12 pm

Thanks Madach, reckon I'll give that a bash :D
Mothers hold their children's hands for a while and their hearts forever

User avatar
DuQues
Honorary Virtual Ranger
Honorary Virtual Ranger
Posts: 17941
Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:42 pm
Location: Red sand, why do I keep thinking of red sand?

Unread postby DuQues » Thu Jul 28, 2005 11:05 am

Same sort of discussion is on another forum, lifted this off it:

http://www.outdoorphoto.co.za wrote:I used to work as a field guide and was asked this question a lot by my guests.

This is a very sensitive subject and the only correct answer unfortunately for us photographers is...

Don't take any photo's. (which were not about to do... )

All nocturnal animals are sensitive to bright lights. You can half blind a leapord for a time, which could influence their ability to hunt, although there is all kinds of arguments for and agianst. Diurnal (daytime) animals are even more sensitive to bright lights at night and a sudden flash could blind it at a crucial time and survival could become slightly more difficult for a while.

With this in mind I always preached the following ettiquette...

1. Look at the animal. An elephant can be very dangerous if startled at night. If the animal is dangerous, don't take the shot unless the guide says it's safe.
2. If the animal can be seen during the day then wait for daylight, you'll get a better photo then anyway.
3. A lot of people took photo's of animals 50m away from the vehicle with small point and shoots. If the camera can't handle the shot, rather not take it, as the animal will still be disturbed.
4. Don't take photo's of an animal, which looks directly into the flash. It does hurt their eyes, just think how you would feel if someone did it to you when you didn't expect it. (I actually witnessed a charge from a lion being percipitated because of this)
5. Take the photo in silence. There is nothing worse than a person getting verbally and loudly excited in there attempts to control the lights and people around them.
6. Make sure the guide knows you're serious about photography and station yourself close to him for easy communication and make sure the guide knows what your preffered angles are. In my experience most field guides are photographers themselves and will understand.
7. This is the most important one... Do not, under any circumstances, influence the course of nature with your photography. I had a client who started taking photo's during a lion hunt, dispite my explicit instructions not to. The lion got a fright and aborted the hunt. This might not sound serious, but that lion might have needed that hunt to succeed desperately. Nature exist on a fine balance and I had to restrain myself from dropping him in front of the lion to make up for the interrupeted hunt. He also spoilt the most sought after event for all the guests on the drive. They wanted to throw him to the lions as well.


There is not much to add to this....
Arriving currently: The photos from our trip! Overhere! :yaya:

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

User avatar
Loams
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 864
Joined: Fri May 20, 2005 8:48 am
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Unread postby Loams » Thu Jul 28, 2005 11:29 am

The same goes for spotlights
Operation "Duke" Member

Being African is not determined by race, but by what's in your heart

User avatar
clever dog
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 68
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:21 pm
Location: In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Unread postby clever dog » Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:03 am

Great article DQ!

During my spell in Kruger recently the rangers did not seem to bother at all about people using their flash during night shots whether the animals were close by, far away, were stairing directly at us or not. They did tell us not to blind the animals with the spotlight though.

As mentioned I think key is to judge the situation you are in, i.e. do not use the flash directly into the eyes of the animals, in the middle of a hunt or similar. If you have a lion half asleep by the roadside looking in the other direction using flash will be ok.

Regards,
CD
One of the greatest victories you can gain over someone is to beat him at politeness.

"Inhabitant of Krugasia"

User avatar
UKbadger
Posts: 241
Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 5:06 pm
Location: London UK

Subject movement blur with flash

Unread postby UKbadger » Tue Oct 14, 2008 6:29 am

I recently got a Canon 430EX flash partly to take nocturnal animal shots but some of my early efforts are showing subject movement blur.
:big_eyes:
All are set up on a tripod in daylight and are taken later in total darkness. The backgrounds are tack sharp so focus is not the problem.
:?
This has come as a bit of a shock as with my old low power flashes from 20+ years ago this was never noticeable even with animals running around. I’m pretty sure it has to be a slow flash duration problem but despite searching the canon web site and the hand book I can’t find any info on what the flash durations are!!!

Am I missing something here? :hmz:

User avatar
DuQues
Honorary Virtual Ranger
Honorary Virtual Ranger
Posts: 17941
Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:42 pm
Location: Red sand, why do I keep thinking of red sand?

Re: Subject movement blur with flash

Unread postby DuQues » Tue Oct 14, 2008 9:47 am

The 430EX has a guide number of 43 (m/ISO 100 at 105mm), maybe the old flash was more powerful then you thought?

Have a read here for an explanation on guide numbers, and calculating what aperture you would need to get a properly exposed photo.
Arriving currently: The photos from our trip! Overhere! :yaya:

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

User avatar
richardharris
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 541
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 3:04 pm
Location: Nottinghamshire UK

Re: Subject movement blur with flash

Unread postby richardharris » Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:18 pm

This may not be helpful - its difficult to know whats going on without more info.

But the Canon flash units can be set to give a long flash. Oddly, this is designed to be used with fast shutter speeds!

Normally you can use a flash with a shutter speed up to the fastest speed which exposes the whole sensor at the same time (usually around 200th). The flash gives a very bright flash during the brief time that the shutter is fully open.

Faster shutter speeds require the second curtain to be closing before the first is fully open - its like a slit being dragged across the sensor. The smaller the slit the 'faster' the shutter speed.

Some Canon cameras can synch flash at any speed - but to do this the flash emits a burst of light which lasts the duration of the shutters travelling across the sensor. This must be at least a 200th second and is probably even longer (never seen a tech reference to this). Though still quite fast, this may not be fast enough to freeze all movement.

Richard

User avatar
UKbadger
Posts: 241
Joined: Wed May 23, 2007 5:06 pm
Location: London UK

Re: Subject movement blur with flash

Unread postby UKbadger » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:22 pm

Thanks Richard

I haven’t looked into this high shutter speed sink. till you mentioned it, as I haven’t had the flash very long. Darn clever stuff, if a bit mind bending at first. It was a very good guess but couldn’t be the answer as shutter was well within the normal sink. range.


Yes I was missing something!

After lots of searching I finally found in the 430EX handbook, in the very smallest of print, the only bit info on actual flash duration that seems to be in the public domain!!

The flash duration = 1.4 milliseconds or faster.

Well I know that a millisecond is a 1/1000 of a second, but to my SHAME the more I thought about it the less sure I became about how 1.4 ms. translates into practical photo lingo.:wall:


Would it be 1/400 or 1/600 or ??????? oh dear!!!!!!! :?

Sometime later,

One of my 12 year old pupils, I hasten to add I’m not his math teacher, has just solved it for me. :hmz:

Rather than post the answer, I thought it would be fun to see what solutions the forum comes up with.

:twisted:

Good luck!

User avatar
bucky
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 1539
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:41 pm
Location: Gauties .

Re: Subject movement blur with flash

Unread postby bucky » Tue Nov 18, 2008 9:18 pm

Pop your camera onto "p" mode for easy flash photography at night.
Then you can still set iso and other settings like file type etc, while the camera sorts out the flash exposure.
What it does is that it fires the flash twice at super high speed, the first is a test flash which it uses to set the shutter and aperture to suit the exposure required.
When it takes the photo a split second later, you will only see 1 flash its so quick between the two, but it will be sharp and properly exposed.

If you are in Av or tv modes you will end up with a long shutter speed that blurs the photo, I am sure this is what you are battling with.

I only use the high speed sync functions on the flash in conjunction with av mode during the day for fill in flash.


Return to “Wildlife Photography Enthusiasts”