I like to travel light on trips abroad with work, and that includes the camera kit I take with me for my spare-time. The camera I usually travel with is a Fuji x100T, which has a leaf-shutter and in-theory can flash-sync up to 1/4000 second, killing day-light.
I spent some time experimenting with flash combinations to decide upon the best travel-kit combo, with a couple of surprising results.
My preferred travel flash is a tiny Nissin i40, which folds into a neat pouch and, despite its size, carries a guide number of 40. I mainly work on street and travel photography when travelling, so keep my set-up simple and avoid the use and bulk of light-stands and distraction of wireless triggers; opting instead for a flash cable to take the flash off camera.
Putting the Nissin i40 to the test:
- On camera, the flash syncs all the way up to 1/4000 second either in TTL or manual mode, as expected. This allows ambient light / even day-light to be cut drastically, while filling a subject using the flash. But, with the flash on the camera, there is not so much opportunity to play with light and shade; one is left with bouncing the flash where that is possible.
- Connected with the flash cable, the unit unfortunately seems to be incapable of syncing right up to 1/4000 second (though my bulkier Yongnuo unit does so) – the light falls off. Despite some online research, I could not find a solution to this. However, it is capable of syncing to 1/1000 second (still fast) and with the help of the camera’s built-in 3 stop ND, this is still enough to cut bright ambient day-light if needed. It is important to remember this technical limitation to avoid being scuppered mid-shoot!
- Holding the flash in my left hand while shooting with my right, is possible, but a little like juggling. I’ve order a small inexpensive camera flash bracket as a perch for the flash, so it can either stay seated (perhaps not used) or be lifted from its perch when flexibly positioning is needed.
Exercise in light-killing: 1/2000 sec @ f/2 against south facing window, plus OCF hand-held (jpeg SOOC).
A quick look at photographers using flash on the street:
Eric Kim, the prolific street photography blogger, discusses Bruce Gilden and Charlie Kirk. Watching the video clip on Kim’s blog of Gilden working, Gilden works with the attitude that he owns the street, putting himself in people’s way, flash and camera in their faces. He says, ‘I have no ethics’. It appears aggressive, claiming the territory of the street. Kim performed his own experiment of shooting street photos with flash and was surprised that few people took much notice, concluding that people are often: lost in thought, thing you’re shooting something else, or assume you are a tourist.
Amateur Photographer discusses Dougie Wallace’s (Glasweegee) approach to his photographs of and into Indian taxis, using a set up of 3 separate flashes; one on camera and two bracketed either side. Not travelling light!
Petapixel features a video of Mark Cohen at work, using a small camera and flash up close to his subjects, using a similarly invasive approach to Bruce Gilden, but seemingly with few consequences – he engages with his subjects briefly and moves on.
My own practice has not yet included the use of flash in street photography, but I am minded to give it a go having sorted out the simple kit and examined the masters at work.
Amateur Photographer [website]. Street photography using flash: how Dougie Wallace photographs Indian taxis using flash
. Available from: http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/technique/portrait_photography/street-photography-flash-delirium-75762 [accessed 20.8.16]
Eric Kim [blog]. How to shoot street with a flash. Available from: http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2011/05/30/how-to-shoot-street-photography-with-a-flash/ [accessed 20.8.16]
Petapixel [website]. Photographer Mark Cohen and the Birth of Invasive Street Photography. Available from: http://petapixel.com/2013/06/04/photographer-mark-cohen-and-the-birth-of-invasive-street-photography/ [accessed 20.8.16]