I've been using strobe more and more. Outdoors in daylight especially.

Looking at Briank Finke's website (thanks Jörg) reminds me that with enough strobe anything can look fantastical. The same saturated color can be seen from Martin Parr, for example.

Not just in color, either -- strobe is clear in Diane Arbus, Bruce Gilden, and Jeff Mermelstein.... strobe is like no other light. You can make it look "natural," sure. Should you?

A collision of "what I saw" and "what I made" is at the heart of its charm, no doubt.

Comments on "Headlights"

June 25, 2004 01:38 AM

What's next, ring flash?

June 25, 2004 10:07 AM

Well that *is* the Martin Parr method. Bad enough the 550EX adds another 500g to my kit -- the doggoned thing is weighing about the same as a Speed Graphic. I don't think I could handle any more and stay comfortable (to say nothing of the belt-clipped batteries). Besides, ring flash and wide-angle don't get along well.

Actually, I've taken to putting the strobe on a cord and waving it around with my left hand while shooting with the right hand. The wireless unit is good but iffy and usually requires a helper outdoors. I like the direct off-camera look (very different from ring flash) -- the pinpoint highlights near the center, the extra rim of hard shadow. A kind of light you almost never ever see except in a photograph (or with the flashlight in an FPS game, heh)

June 27, 2004 06:04 PM

Oh. It's worse than I expected then. Reason for my snappy comment was the obvious similarity to 90s fashion stuff (I remember a talk by D&C's Rankin where he said "this is a recent US fashion shoot... don't laugh, this is what's hot in the US right now", maybe it was Ralph Lauren or Hilfiger. The joke was that it was a tame version of what was done 2-3 years earlier in London). They did it exactly like that, and then the ring flash mania started. I cannot see a reason to go retro ever, even less just 10 years after the original style.

I am with you on the corded strobe though, had the same idea about 6 months back and got a 430 flash and cord. I wanted to use with a super-wide 20mm and explore that. I abandoned the Canon for now though, but I still think it is a worthwhile idea. But as you say, difficult to operate on your own.

R.J. Fox
June 29, 2004 01:00 PM

Good points made here. Personally I find the use of artifical light through strobes or continuous lighting to be really powerful and for me was like being set "free" from the "natural light" look.

Granted, the "in your face" blasts of artificial light can be overdone and cliche, but on the other hand, the use of artificial light is absolutely essential for many types of photography. I love location portraiture, and really love having a totally wireless and fairly easy to handle 600w/s in my Lumedyne set.

June 29, 2004 08:29 PM

Hope you don't mind that I hijacked some of your points for some thoughts I had on my blog, regarding the effectiveness of ostentatious lighting using strobes, as employed by some commercial and art photographers.

For my personal work, I was pretty much a "natural light nazi" for a long time (only fill flash and reflectors when necessary, god forbid the flash should *cough* overpower the subject). But since taking a course on flash and overcoming some of my personal hangups, it's been great using a Q-Flash on a light stand with wireless remotes on site for environmental portraits. For large format work, though, the battery powered stuff I have doesn't quite have the juice.


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