Flash duration’s are a bit like shutter speeds, the faster the duration the more your going to successfully freeze action. When used in studio these fast duration flash systems work very well and can provide amazing results for anything from freezing liquid to stopping that athlete midst jump.
However, if you want to take your idea on location and outside things become a little more difficult when dealing with the sun. Before we get into the complications of overpowering the sun, whether it be by brute force or finesse, we need to take a look at our camera limitations.
The biggest limitation is the flash sync speed within the camera. All DSLR (Nikon, Canon, Sony) camera’s have had a limit at where the camera shutter can sync, usually this is around 1/250th of a second. Anything faster and the flash your using will start catching the shutter in mid movement and either give you a black line or a hard gradation across your image. This is largely due to the shutter moving too fast to sync correctly with the timing of the flash.
When we bring and outdoor shoot into the equation, especially if it’s sunny, we often end up shooting at least 1/500th of a second to achieve a proper exposure and staying within the typical optimal aperture range of our lenses(f8 – f11). The issue now arises that our shutter speed is too fast for our flash sync and is further compounded if we want to darken the ambient (sun) by underexposing it, further increasing our shutter speeds.
Traditionally, to solve these problems you had two options. The first was finding a flash system powerful enough to over power the sun while giving you a decent enough duration to freeze your moving subject. While these systems usually gave decent results they were both extremely heavy, costly and needed more power than a battery could provide. Another option was to shoot medium format systems as they inherently have a sync speed up to 1/2000 of a second, this option often is the most viable however the auto focus of medium format, while razor edge precise, is not fast nor does it track well. Impossible to shoot moving subjects? No. Count on lots of missed shots and increased shooting time? Absolutely.
In the last couple years companies have finally taken note and started dedicating their product development too this problem. The solution has been labeled Hi-Sync, High Speed Sync (HSS) or something of comparable marketing terminology. While the concept has been around for quite sometime, its just now that it’s become reliable and usable in a commercial setting.
Elinchrom has taken this technology, turned it upside down, so much so that you truly need to understand how it works in order to achieve successful results. Regardless its the cleanest, most reliable and fine tun-able system I’ve tested.
What they’ve done is made the actual flash duration so long that the light is on for the entire time the shutter is moving. No more gradations or shutter shadows no matter what your shutter speed is.
While the long flash duration might be counter intuitive to achieve a sharp frozen image, its now allowing us to use shutter speeds so fast that never before have we been able to freeze a movement and control light in such a matter.
The ability to freeze motion is certainly a bonus, the really useful tool in our opinion is now we can sync at 1/1000, 1/2000 or even 1/8000 of a second and in doing so allowing us to easily over power the sun helping us create a dynamic look well suited for athletic and portraiture alike.
As you can see we’ve been testing this technology for quite some time and are excited to bring it on location!!