I’m working on our online travel photography class right now, pulling and editing 500 new images from travels around the globe. It has been really interesting looking through a database of a million images and reliving some of my favorite travels and most memorable shoots. How could I forget traveling to Northern Ireland on a shoot for the tourism bureau when tensions (with England) were easing, and being welcomed by some of the friendliest people I had ever met (I’ve never drank so much Guinness!). Or sharing Chai with Tibetan refugees while trekking for months in remote Nepal scouting a future mountaineering expedition. I’ve been very fortunate to travel as my part of my career, and I know we are all excited to be traveling again soon.
One photographic challenge I noticed in a lot of my images was high contrast. As much as dynamic range can help solve this dilemma, you just can’t capture all the detail you need in a single frame. HDR is great…except when your subject (clouds, people, water, trees…etc) are moving. Newer cameras are improving dynamic range, but they have limitations. Don’t forget the more you open up shadows your image quality will start to suffer. You know what I mean…those suspicious milky shadows start to show up…the first sign of pushing the Shadow slider to far to the right. Take the picture with your shadows brighter, and you lose the blown out highlights.
One solution is using a speedlight. Many photographers cringe when you say flash, but speedlights couldn’t be easier and more effective than they are today. Speedlights offer new creative opportunities, and solve technical challenges like high contrast. Currently I am using a SB5000, Nikon’s latest, and this flash packs a punch. TTL, High Speed Sync, blazing fast recycle times and radio wireless control make this flash a modern marvel. And it is invaluable for my travel photography.
A few years back I was on a trip to Bali, a magical island that lives up to the title of tropical paradise. Warm friendly people, jungles, beaches and monkeys are just a few of the highlights. We were exploring a temple, and I was interested in photographing the various statues and buildings of the area. But on the horizon was an incredible storm with beams of light breaking through the sky. I found an interesting statue, but the correct exposure (above) completely washed out the sky. If only there was a way to capture both statue and light beams in the same shot.
The answer was using a speedlight for a quick burst of TTL flash. I attached my transmitter, and held my flash off camera for a more interesting angle of light. Using manual exposure mode, I underexposed the ambient light to really bring out the stormy beams of light. I took the image using TTL flash, and the first shot came out great (image at top of post). The whole process took about a minute to use my flash. Speedlights can seem intimidating, but once you know how to use them, they do all the work for exposure. In this situation not only did the flash solve the contrast problem, but it allowed me to create more drama using hard edged light off camera and really underexposing the background for a dramatic, moody photograph. Adding an independent light source in addition to the sun opens up endless creative possibilities.
If you are a Nikon mirrorless camera owner, many stores just received the WR-R11b, which plugs into the side port on the Z cameras to fire the SB5000 (not older Nikon flashes). These have been out of stock for months, so if you need one, put your order in today!