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Flash used for wildlife

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vkalia
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Flash used for wildlife

Unread post by vkalia » Fri Oct 07, 2005 4:57 am

Just curious as to how many people use flash for wildlife work.

My flash started misbehaving on my last trip, forcing me to shoot entirely without the blessed thing. Looking back at my photos, I can see quite a few cases where the flash would have helped a lot. Just bought a replacement (a 580EX) and all is right in the world again :)

It reinforced something that I had known but never actively processed before - a flash and a flash extender are really useful tools for wildlife. For African-stye wildlife photography, I'd rate them the second most useful accessory, right behind beanbags.

Whatcha think?

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Unread post by DuQues » Fri Oct 07, 2005 9:16 am

The 580EX is on my shopping list, but somewhat on the bottom.
I use (fill in) flash a lot, and often have people looking at me oddly when I do that with the sun burning down mercilessly.
They just don't understand that with the flash you bring out the detail...
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Unread post by bucky » Mon Nov 28, 2005 9:51 am

A powerfull flash really makes snaps taken in the middle of the
day worthwile , reducing shadows and bringing out detail .

Only thing is you really need to buy something pretty expensive to be worthwile , and in the harsh mid day sun ,
the range is limited .

Beware of using a flash in the early morning , and later evening
where there is still enough light to take an unflashed photo ,as
it may well ruin a otherwise good photo .

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Unread post by papop » Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:29 am

Hello,
It’s my first time on this forum. Difficult with my poor English to understand all photo technical terms!
I have taken thousands wildlife photos and I never used any flash with animals.
Just by respect for them. I know how it is unpleasant for us to be flashed, so I imagine it is the same for these poor animals. Have you never seen a bus full of tourist shooting a poor lion all together with their flash …I hate that. :twisted:
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Unread post by wondercloak » Thu Jan 19, 2006 4:58 pm

Hi papop, welcome & thanks for your views.

This is a sticky issue, but I personally believe that fill-flash during the day produces pictures that, in regular contrasting African conditions, you would not be able to achieve otherwise. Yes, blasting animals at night or in low light with powerful flashes is dangerous for the photographer & subject (not to mention immoral in many people's views) and how many truly great shots (that are publishable & arguably 'worthwhile') do people out there achieve on night drives etc? In my view, very very very few! So, maybe think before you take your next one on a night drive.

The other thing is that yes flash is unpleasant on the eyes, but if you either ensure that you don't take photo's of subjects looking right at your on-camera flash, or, like I have done, buy off-camera equipment so that you can mount your flash away from the camera & it lessens the effect as it is not directly into the eyes (therefore also reducing any red-eye or similar eye-shine effect), then I believe you are getting the best of both worlds!?

Another thought..adding filters to your flash is an interesting technique for those who haven't thought about it. I know that you can buy filters but I just bought some yellow, coloured plastic/celophane & stuck it over the front of the flash & it gives a great warming effect to pictures when used.
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Unread post by Jay » Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:02 pm

papop wrote:Hello,
It’s my first time on this forum. Difficult with my poor English to understand all photo technical terms!
I have taken thousands wildlife photos and I never used any flash with animals.
Just by respect for them. I know how it is unpleasant for us to be flashed, so I imagine it is the same for these poor animals. Have you never seen a bus full of tourist shooting a poor lion all together with their flash …I hate that. :twisted:


hiya Papop,

I use my flash with the power stepped way down at night, this way the spots are actually far brighter.(I often feel the very bright spots are actually not such a great idea :? ) Also you can see if the flash makes the animals uncomfortable, they blink and turn away. I never have this experience, sometimes they blink but they never turn away. In fact on the last trip the opposite was the problem, they became too interested :lol:

On the other hand I will not use fill flash during the day for your mentioned reasons. My pets hate the camera flash, so I can only imagine wild creatures feel the same, DQ and the rest, no offense intended, this is a personal preference :wink:

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Unread post by vkalia » Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:42 pm

I'll echo what others have said re. flash bothering the subjects.

In the daytime, they hardly even notice it (especially if you are using a flash extender) - too short a duration and hardly any impact on the animal.

In the nighttime, you can make a stronger argument that this bothers animals - however, in my experience, this has rarely been so. I've taken night shots of tigers (who are absolutely not reticent about charging people/elephants/jeeps if even slightly irritated), I've taken flash shots of lions while 15m away from them on foot, and of a lot of other animals. In no case has the animal shown any signs of distress whatsoever.

To me, shining a big honking floodlight onto a leopard for 20 minutes at a time is probably more disruptive/harmful than a flash of short duration.

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Unread post by papop » Sat Jan 21, 2006 10:16 pm

Here is my point of view, even if, yes many shots are better using the flash.
Imagine - We are in the evening. It's dark, Suddenly you see a lion trying to catch an impala, and you are so excited by this spot that you begin to shot, and shot using your flash.
We have 3 possible ends:
1/ The flash blinds the lion and he looses his prey. You took lion chance for feeding.
2/ The flash blinds the impala and the lion catches him. You took the impala chance for escaping.
3/ You think you don't make any trouble with your flash.

You have 1 chance on 3 for not disturbing them, according that on No° 3 you don't disturb, but in that case you'll never know.

Many people are shooting like that without respecting animals.

Sorry if I'm a little too excessive.
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Unread post by vkalia » Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:17 am

I understand your point of view. As I said, it even appears to make logical sense. Note: "appears." That can be deceiving.

What you are hearing here - from people with a lot of experience with wildlife and shooting wildlife - is that in reality, animals are *NOT* so bothered by the flash. I am not a field biologist, but I do know a wee bit about animal behavior, and can tell when an animal is stressed or bothered. And every time I've used a flash at night, it has had ZERO impact on the animal's behavior.

To use an analogy - a lot of people who havent been to Africa might imagine that getting a large vehicle close to animals would spook them. As virtually everyone here can attest, that is not so (provided you exercise some basic care and approach the animal slowly).

A lot of other people seem to believe that animals in zoos pine for freedom. Again, research has shown that animals kept in properly designed zoos do have a longer, healthier life than in the wild - and certainly more than might be expected of a stressed animal.

To think that a flash at 15-20m would have any impact on an animal makes no sense - especially when you consider that shining a big bleeding spotlight on a cat for 20 min probably has a bigger impact, and yet, informed agencies like SAN Parks allow it.

Just because something appears to make sense doesnt always make it true. Beyond that, please feel free to believe whatever you will - but it might behoove you to make your belief an informed one.

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The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread post by DinkyBird » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:07 am

What are the opinions on this :D

Does flash leave an 'imprint' - although the light moves on, or dissipates, is there an 'effect' on the subject; does it disturb the animal in any way, blind them and so on.

Is using flash in daylight ok? Night time?

Should one rather use alternate lighting, and if so, what?

Before I head out and buy a flash, mainly for bird photography, I would love to hear your opinions.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread post by Goggo EJ » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:09 pm

I do not believe that an ordinary flash is a danger. Animals have to cope with lightning which is similar and can also be 'blinding'. A flash is not the same as a spotlight which is used for a length of time and certainly affects eye-sight. Some of the super powerful flashes are not good though.

The only light that really does not affect eye-sight is the red-filter.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread post by JeanniR » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:50 pm

I found this article about nocturnal birds... :cam:

"The latest research suggests that by using flash can severely impair the dark adaptation of birds such as Owls and Nightjars for as much as one hour, making it difficult (if not impossible) for the birds to hunt successfully during that period of time.

Such impairment, albeit temporary, can be catastrophic for birds with nestlings to feed - particularly at this time of year when the hours of darkness are at their minimum - and if the same bird is targeted repeatedly may prejudice the success of an entire brood".
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread post by DinkyBird » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:46 pm

On a guided morning walk in Kruger a few years back, the guide would not let us use flash (this now in daylight) because it 'left an imprint'.

So, what about using fill flash during the day?

This whole topic makes me think too, of how much 'set up' is acceptable for a 'true wildlife' pic. I remember reading once of a very well known photographer, who had published a stunning pic of a gogo (insect) in the desert. Lots of praise for the pic ... until someone asked how the gogo got to where it was in the sand with no footprints ... and the photographer had to admit he has picked the gogo up and placed it on that spot.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread post by Goggo EJ » Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:02 pm

The reason you cannot use flash on a walk is that you do not want the animal to know you are there. A flash will attract attention. The ideal on a walk is to approach an animal and then leave again without it ever knowing you were anywhere close.
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Re: The 'ethics' of using flash for wildlife

Unread post by DuQues » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:18 am

During daytime I will often recommend using flash on birds, or even on mammals hidden a bit in the bush.
No need to set it to full power, see the manual, just a brush of extra light.
That will remove some of the shadows, show more detail, and put the sparkle in the eyes. So your photo will look a lot better.
I have an example of the young goshawk floating around here somewhere, two photos side by side, one without flash, one with.

On nightdrives flash without an extender is mostly useless, you are way better off woth one or two torches shining near (not on!) the animal.
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