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Andrew L (gryphon1911)

Photo Technique - Dragging The Shutter

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During a recent job, I was hired to get formal portraits of fathers and daughters at a community dance. The also asked if I could get some shots on the dance floor as well in between portraits. As you can imagine, a dance setting has lots of darkness, filled with bright specular lights randomly bouncing off of every surface and person. This event was no exception.

I wanted to keep a good balance of ambient light, but have some decently sharp images, so I used a technique called dragging the shutter.

02-11-2015_EM1_FD_Dance_RPRD__BLP_P2110013.jpg

1/20, f/2.5, ISO 800 - no flash

This first shot was taken without flash, giving you an idea of what the ambient levels of the dance area metered. The EM1, nailed focus the majority of the time. even though it was slower - I was very impressed.

Even at higher ISO, shooting with this metered reading would not give me what I was looking. Eventually I would need to break out a speed light. I do not own an Olympus branded or TTL compatible speed light, but do have plenty of Nikon SB speedlights, so I grabbed an SB-600. While little big for the EM1, you can use your fingers to support the weight when shooting in a portrait orientation. I probably don't need to do this, but it makes hand holding easier - and why stress the gear when you don't have to do so.

Lets start going through a progression of how we get to where we want to be. The SB-600 was set to 1/16 power and pointed directly at the dancers on the floor.

02-11-2015_EM1_FD_Dance_RPRD__BLP_P2110031.jpg

1/200, f/4, ISO 800 - Flash at 1/16th power

Given the settings and the direction of he flash, we are losing the ambient light all together and the light coverage is severely limited to the subjects in front of us. Not what I was looking for.

Attempt 2 - bounced the light off the ceiling, the SB-600 needed to increase power to around 1/4 - the ceilings were roughly 18-20 feet at the apex.

02-11-2015_EM1_FD_Dance_RPRD__BLP_P2110037.jpg

1/200, f/2.8, ISO 1250 - flash at 1/8 power

The quality of light is getting better, but not getting the mix of ambient light and motion stopping power we are looking for. The shutter speed on these images were running around 1/200th, so now we can start working on dialing in the ambient. How do we accomplish this?

What happens if we "drag the shutter"? Dragging the shutter is a term used when you purposefully leave the shutter open for a longer duration and freeze the action of the moving subjects with the flash pulse.

See the below examples, which were shot around 1/15-1/30 of a second shutter speed and we start to get some shots that mix the ambient light along with the flash pulse to give us a feeling and mood of the event that night. This is much more of what we were looking for accomplish here

Here are some examples:

Hoola Hoop competition for dads

02-11-2015_EM1_FD_Dance_RPRD__BLP_P2110077.jpg

1/15, f/2.8, ISO 1250, flash at 1/8 bounced off ceiling

02-11-2015_EM1_FD_Dance_RPRD__BLP_P2110084.jpg

1/15, f/2.8, ISO 1250, flash at 1/8 bounced off ceiling

In conclusion, you need to experiment and find that technique that will give you what you are looking for, that will merge the look you want. Dragging the shutter, gave some interesting looks and a mood that expressed the feeling of the event.


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Nikon D500, D700, Df, 18-140/3.5-5.6 VR, 20/2.8D, 28-105/3.5-4.5D, 50/1.8D, 60/2.8D Macro, 80-200/4.5-5.6, 300/4E PF, 35/2D,  Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC

Manual Focus Lenses:  Nikon 55/3.5 Micro pre-AI, 105/2.5 AI, ZY Mitakon Creator 85/2

Olympus PEN-F, EM5.2, Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye, 17/1.8, 75-300/4.8-6.7 II, Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6, 12-35/2.8, 35-100/2.8, Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art, ZY Mitakon 25/0.95
 

http://www.bestlightphoto.net | http://www.visualohio.com | http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com | Flickr | SCEENEINWINDOWS Project

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Oh yes Dads dancing. sorry not to comment at the technique.

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Mike Gorman

 

Lumix G9 , GX8 - Leica 12, 15, 20, 25, 42.5 - 8-18, 12-60, 35-100, 45-175

 

 

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Oh yes Dads dancing. sorry not to comment at the technique.

Still a relevant comment, none the less!

 

My daughter was not much into the dancing when she was that age...but we bond over sports.  It's always interesting to see other family dynamics at play.


Nikon D500, D700, Df, 18-140/3.5-5.6 VR, 20/2.8D, 28-105/3.5-4.5D, 50/1.8D, 60/2.8D Macro, 80-200/4.5-5.6, 300/4E PF, 35/2D,  Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC

Manual Focus Lenses:  Nikon 55/3.5 Micro pre-AI, 105/2.5 AI, ZY Mitakon Creator 85/2

Olympus PEN-F, EM5.2, Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye, 17/1.8, 75-300/4.8-6.7 II, Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6, 12-35/2.8, 35-100/2.8, Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art, ZY Mitakon 25/0.95
 

http://www.bestlightphoto.net | http://www.visualohio.com | http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com | Flickr | SCEENEINWINDOWS Project

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Andrew, thanks for the illustrative tips for the shooting in challenging lighting conditions in such a fun way.

 

Off topic: I realized that Hoola Hoop is for the dads who can go into it.  :D

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"The eye is blind if the mind is absent." - Confucius

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Thanks, an interesting post.

 

Thanks also for not posting more Dad Dancing!

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Thanks, an interesting post.

 

Thanks also for not posting more Dad Dancing!

 

Yes, definitely keep that to a minimum....I can appreciate it from a dad perspective a well.  lol


Nikon D500, D700, Df, 18-140/3.5-5.6 VR, 20/2.8D, 28-105/3.5-4.5D, 50/1.8D, 60/2.8D Macro, 80-200/4.5-5.6, 300/4E PF, 35/2D,  Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC

Manual Focus Lenses:  Nikon 55/3.5 Micro pre-AI, 105/2.5 AI, ZY Mitakon Creator 85/2

Olympus PEN-F, EM5.2, Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye, 17/1.8, 75-300/4.8-6.7 II, Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6, 12-35/2.8, 35-100/2.8, Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art, ZY Mitakon 25/0.95
 

http://www.bestlightphoto.net | http://www.visualohio.com | http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com | Flickr | SCEENEINWINDOWS Project

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You definitely get a sense of the motion going on versus a straight frozen moment.


Nikon D500, D700, Df, 18-140/3.5-5.6 VR, 20/2.8D, 28-105/3.5-4.5D, 50/1.8D, 60/2.8D Macro, 80-200/4.5-5.6, 300/4E PF, 35/2D,  Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC

Manual Focus Lenses:  Nikon 55/3.5 Micro pre-AI, 105/2.5 AI, ZY Mitakon Creator 85/2

Olympus PEN-F, EM5.2, Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye, 17/1.8, 75-300/4.8-6.7 II, Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6, 12-35/2.8, 35-100/2.8, Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art, ZY Mitakon 25/0.95
 

http://www.bestlightphoto.net | http://www.visualohio.com | http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com | Flickr | SCEENEINWINDOWS Project

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Taran's activity looks like more fun. Oh yes, I've been to the father/daughter dances, too (participant). Fortunately, those were undocumented.

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There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept. - Ansel Adams

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I left that life long behind me.  I've got all the wild woman I can handle at home!  :D


Nikon D500, D700, Df, 18-140/3.5-5.6 VR, 20/2.8D, 28-105/3.5-4.5D, 50/1.8D, 60/2.8D Macro, 80-200/4.5-5.6, 300/4E PF, 35/2D,  Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC

Manual Focus Lenses:  Nikon 55/3.5 Micro pre-AI, 105/2.5 AI, ZY Mitakon Creator 85/2

Olympus PEN-F, EM5.2, Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye, 17/1.8, 75-300/4.8-6.7 II, Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6, 12-35/2.8, 35-100/2.8, Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art, ZY Mitakon 25/0.95
 

http://www.bestlightphoto.net | http://www.visualohio.com | http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com | Flickr | SCEENEINWINDOWS Project

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Guest nfoto

Isn't this re-inventing the principle of rear curtain flash all over again? Nikons have had this feature available nearly 30 years if memory serves.

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Guest afoton

For the examples in this thread, there is no difference if the flash is syncronised with the front or the rear curtain.

The only difference is that with syncronising on the front curtain, the freezed picture is what you see in the finder when pressing the button. And with syncronising on the rear curtain, the freezed picture is what you see finder after the picture was taken. It is much easier to time the picture with the flash syncronised with the front curtain.

Edited by afoton

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Guest nfoto

In some sense, yes. However, you have little or no control of the "translucency" of the (main) subjects, so these might well appear pretty much ghost-like in the end. Thus,  I much prefer the combination of a slow shutter speed and rear curtain flash, but each to his or her own.

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For the examples in this thread, there is no difference if the flash is syncronised with the front or the rear curtain.

The only difference is that with syncronising on the front curtain, the freezed picture is what you see in the finder when pressing the button. And with syncronising on the rear curtain, the freezed picture is what you see finder after the picture was taken. It is much easier to time the picture with the flash syncronised with the front curtain.

 

 

In dark conditions, it makes a huge difference with rear sync because then you get can two or more images of the subject, vs one and a blur.  In this example you can see the subject is actually flashed a few times, with a "frieze" of her action in each one, both from my flash and other shooters.  I might add, in some cases, you can be rewarded by both a horizontal, and vertical image of your subject, for added confusion and dissonance, if you don't mind swinging the camera about like a fool.

 

6346709700_a75de924ac_b.jpglux 4.9.110677 by artistwithlight, on Flickr

Edited by yunfat
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I'm firmly on the side of Taran with this one, why settle for one flash and the more blur the better. :D

 

A few from a recent series using l - o - n - g exposures and either single or multiple flashes.

 

EG_20150114_213833s.JPG

 

Sh%20and%20Si_20150215_221728.jpg

 

La%20and%20La_20150204_213414.jpg

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Isn't this re-inventing the principle of rear curtain flash all over again? Nikons have had this feature available nearly 30 years if memory serves.

 

I don't think anyone is re-inventing anything.  Just sharing a technique that some may not be aware of or know when a good application of it might be useful.


Nikon D500, D700, Df, 18-140/3.5-5.6 VR, 20/2.8D, 28-105/3.5-4.5D, 50/1.8D, 60/2.8D Macro, 80-200/4.5-5.6, 300/4E PF, 35/2D,  Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC

Manual Focus Lenses:  Nikon 55/3.5 Micro pre-AI, 105/2.5 AI, ZY Mitakon Creator 85/2

Olympus PEN-F, EM5.2, Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye, 17/1.8, 75-300/4.8-6.7 II, Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6, 12-35/2.8, 35-100/2.8, Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art, ZY Mitakon 25/0.95
 

http://www.bestlightphoto.net | http://www.visualohio.com | http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com | Flickr | SCEENEINWINDOWS Project

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Guest nfoto

I reacted mainly to the - in my opinion - unnecessary invention of a new name for a technique that has been used for decades already.

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I reacted mainly to the - in my opinion - unnecessary invention of a new name for a technique that has been used for decades already.

New name?

Sorry, but dragging the shutter is an old name that you find in all literature about even photography.

cheers

afx

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"Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious" - Oscar Wilde

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Guest nfoto

I obviously stand corrected then. No problem. Beloved methods apparently carry several names.

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"When I use a word", said Humpty Dumpty, "it means exactly what I want it to mean - neither more nor less."

(Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

I have to confess I have heard the term "dragging the shutter" before but haven't seen it associated with flash photography particularly - just a slow shutter speed for the purpose of capturing motion. Drummers talk about dragging the beat, by which they mean a delayed strike. Mothers talk about their children "dragging their heels".

 

To be clear, this doesn't mean I'm unfamiliar with either front- or rear-curtain synchronised flash with long shutter speeds as a technique, it means I haven't associated this pattern of words with it. It seems I share this with Bjørn.

As Alice teaches us, it pays not to be too hung up on patterns of words. The existence of languages other than our own is prima facie proof that our words are not The One True Definition, but merely something to which we are habituated. As such it is rarely worth debating them, but it can be inclusive to note them: "Some people refer to this technique as <insert expression here>, while others use <insert other expression here>". Only the foolish would be so bold a to declare "most people call it <The One True Definition>" - simply because most of the earth's population speak a different language to any given individual.

Perhaps we should have a "photospeak" thread where jargon expressions are collected and equivalenced?

Damian

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"The changing of bodies into light, and light into bodies, is very conformable to the course of Nature, which seems delighted with transmutations." - Sir Isaac Newton

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"When I use a word", said Humpty Dumpty, "it means exactly what I want it to mean - neither more nor less."

(Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

I have to confess I have heard the term "dragging the shutter" before but haven't seen it associated with flash photography particularly - just a slow shutter speed for the purpose of capturing motion. Drummers talk about dragging the beat, by which they mean a delayed strike. Mothers talk about their children "dragging their heels".

 

To be clear, this doesn't mean I'm unfamiliar with either front- or rear-curtain synchronised flash with long shutter speeds as a technique, it means I haven't associated this pattern of words with it. It seems I share this with Bjørn.

As Alice teaches us, it pays not to be too hung up on patterns of words. The existence of languages other than our own is prima facie proof that our words are not The One True Definition, but merely something to which we are habituated. As such it is rarely worth debating them, but it can be inclusive to note them: "Some people refer to this technique as <insert expression here>, while others use <insert other expression here>". Only the foolish would be so bold a to declare "most people call it <The One True Definition>" - simply because most of the earth's population speak a different language to any given individual.

Perhaps we should have a "photospeak" thread where jargon expressions are collected and equivalenced?

Damian

 

A photo lexicon, if you will!  :D


Nikon D500, D700, Df, 18-140/3.5-5.6 VR, 20/2.8D, 28-105/3.5-4.5D, 50/1.8D, 60/2.8D Macro, 80-200/4.5-5.6, 300/4E PF, 35/2D,  Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC

Manual Focus Lenses:  Nikon 55/3.5 Micro pre-AI, 105/2.5 AI, ZY Mitakon Creator 85/2

Olympus PEN-F, EM5.2, Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye, 17/1.8, 75-300/4.8-6.7 II, Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6, 12-35/2.8, 35-100/2.8, Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art, ZY Mitakon 25/0.95
 

http://www.bestlightphoto.net | http://www.visualohio.com | http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com | Flickr | SCEENEINWINDOWS Project

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Isn't this re-inventing the principle of rear curtain flash all over again? Nikons have had this feature available nearly 30 years if memory serves.

 

Perhaps it is and the techniques are "the same".  When I hear rear curtain sync - my thoughts go immediately to just when the flash fires during the exposure.

 

Dragging the shutter is a concept of keeping the shutter open long enough to capture a good part of the ambient for the background while incorporating flash to properly illuminate the intended subject.


Nikon D500, D700, Df, 18-140/3.5-5.6 VR, 20/2.8D, 28-105/3.5-4.5D, 50/1.8D, 60/2.8D Macro, 80-200/4.5-5.6, 300/4E PF, 35/2D,  Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC

Manual Focus Lenses:  Nikon 55/3.5 Micro pre-AI, 105/2.5 AI, ZY Mitakon Creator 85/2

Olympus PEN-F, EM5.2, Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye, 17/1.8, 75-300/4.8-6.7 II, Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6, 12-35/2.8, 35-100/2.8, Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art, ZY Mitakon 25/0.95
 

http://www.bestlightphoto.net | http://www.visualohio.com | http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com | Flickr | SCEENEINWINDOWS Project

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Guest nfoto

That's the situation for which rear curtain flash has been used intensively for as long as the feature was supported by my Nikons. Meaning, back into the '80s or so. Before this I used long exposures and fired the flash manually, which of course is doable given long enough exposures. Rear curtain sync made this a breeze even for shorter exposures. All my current cameras are set up for rear synch.

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I like having fun balancing the ambient light with flash

 

I have also done multiple exposures on a single shot by triggering the flash manually

 

Some real interesting results shared by Taran,  the first betsy image, with the cheeky guy shooting upskirt (in that kind of light with a cell phone ?!?! to each his own ... ) and the lady on his side with a surprised expression , amazing moment :)

 

I have also seen this technique called "slow sync flash"


Regards,

Armando

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Guest Bjørn J

I have used flash with long exposure (rear curtain sync) for as long as I remember, but I have never heard it called "dragging the shutter"....

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