Pro technique: Rear curtain flash sync

Pro technique: Rear curtain flash sync

“Talk about a challenge! Inventor of the Platypod ecosystem, Dr. T asked me to push the envelope once again knowing I like a challenge. Nice background. Continuous LED panel light for blurred movement. Rear curtain sync flash lighting the subject over the blur. I tapped local saxophone player Chris Counelis and we hit the red rocks at sunset.

Note: I am a Platypod Pro and was given gear and paid to create this image. That said, I do not recommend gear that I don’t use and appreciate.

The capture

These types of photos can be difficult. It needs to be dark enough for the LED light to allow the subject to blur. That usually means that the background will not have enough light. Stars need a higher ISO and more time to register in the photo. What to do? I employed a technique used in Astro landscape photography, called a Blend. When capturing a Blend the camera is locked into position and multiple photos are made each for its respective area over a time period.

Waited for the ambient light to fall low enough for the LED to light the movement of the saxophone player. 3.2 second exposure with the subject in the low position for two seconds before moving. Flash fires at the end of the exposure to freeze subject on top of the movement.

The motion image of the saxophone player was the most challenging. Chris was a trooper in performing the moves to show motion. We tried various timing exposures starting at two seconds and going longer. Ultimately, a 3.2 second exposure yielded the winner. The sequence was to open the shutter and have Counelis stay in the lower position with the sax by his feet for two seconds before bring the instrument to the sky and freeze while the flash fired and froze him at the end with the rear curtain sync. In addition, we tried different colors dialed in the LumeCube LED pro panel. All in all Chris performed the movement almost 30 times. I choose the best of these to blend into the final photo.

sedona red rocks photo SOOC
This image was processed several times for stars, and middle ground.

The final background and middle ground image was made after darkness fell and captured the stars.

final saxophone blurred in the red rocks
Final image after additional color adjustment, dodging/burning and cropping.

Processing with Adobe Photoshop

I have learned to think of my images in pieces and then put them all together for the final. Here’s the Layers Palette to give you an idea of the blending that was used to create the final photo. I made multiple captures of the scene at different times with different lighting as the sky marched through sunset to full darkness. Turns out I selected one image and then processed it in two different ways to highlight the stars in one and middle ground in another.

final saxophone blurred in the red rocks
Master Photoshop file before crop and additional final adjustments.
adobe photoshop layers palette
Photoshop layers palette.

Adobe Photoshop Layers, Masks, Adjustment Layers and Soft Light Blend Mode were engaged. Once all the pieces were in place a final crop, additional color work and dodging and burning were employed to add the finishing touches.

Camera and ancillary gear

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark III with a 12-100mm f/4.0 lens at 17mm was used to make the images which were blended into this final photo. Godox AD 200 Flash with Remote trigger.

platypod gear godox flash
This set-up allowed me to get some height with my AD 200 flash without having to haul an additional tripod. Platypod eXtreme, strap, spigot and adjustable elbow.
platypod gear supporting an led light
LED light supported by eXtreme, Handle and goosenecks.

Needed to employ lots of tools to make this image come together. I didn’t want to carry more than one tripod as there was a hike to the location. My new Platypod Multi Accessory Kit came in handy for this shoot. 36” strap, rubber pad, elbow and spigot adapter made it easy to mount my strobe onto a pole with no slippage. The Platypod Arca-compatible Discs were used to mount my camera onto a Platyball and also to adapt the Platypod handle to my goosenecks for the Lumecube Panel Pro light used for lighting the blurred portion of my subject.

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Yours in Creative Photography, Bob