Sports fill-flash technique


Link Posted 15/07/2004 - 17:32
Hi there!

Hope you can help with some fill-flash advice?

Have been trying to take some daylight cycling photos using my Z-1P and AF330 flash combo, but have been disappointed with the results.

The pictures always seem to show some degree of blurring, even though the cyclists were moving quite slowly up a hill. Usually I pan with the cyclists as they pass by. The only pictures that seem to appear sharp are the ones where I don't pan and take the picture front-on.

I have set the camera on Hyper Program and selected the High Speed mode to keep the shutter speeds as high as possible (max 1/250 flash sync speed). I have set the flash compensation somewhere in the region of -1.0 to -2.0 to balance the flash light with the daylight.

My impression was that the flash would freeze the motion of the cyclist. What am I doing wrong here?

Thanks for your advice.



Link Posted 16/07/2004 - 09:51
Hi Treve

You need a reasonably fast shutter speed to truly isolate the riders, otherwise you will end up with a dark trail behind them as you pan and then a single bright image as the flash kicks in. If you haven't set the camera/flash to second curtain sync then you'll get the initial sharp, bright image of the cyclist followed by a dark trail, making it look like the cyclist is going backwards!

If you want to get sharp images, I suggest you're quite correct in choosing the fastest flash-synced shutter speed you can (1/250 on th PZ-1p). However, you might benefit from getting in really close and relying on just the flash to illuminate the cyclist and scene (in other words, remove flash compensation) - you will probably end up with images where the cyclist is very clearly defined but the background completely underexposed. You run the risk of running out of flash power, but if you're close enough you should be ok. If you're still getting blurred images, check to make sure you're definitely firing at 1/250 sec, as in hyper program any movement of the aperture wheel causes the shutter speed to be recalculated. I'd suggest actually selecting the shutter speed and letting the camera body sort out aperture - in other words choose the Tv (Time value or shutter priority) setting.

The technique of panning is also very difficult, I have previously taken advantage of the PZ-1ps top panel display to hold the camera against my chest, pre-focus and just keep watching the the bike whilst moving the camera with my body - it is the sudden loss of vision as the mirror goes that meses up my panning, hence by doing this I can keep looking at the bike continuously and not worry about losing line of sight. This is a bit of a quick fix, if you can master panning that would be a lot better.

I've used the PZ-1p (same as Z1-p but US/UK naming differences) and have never come acros the high-speed mode, what does it involve?



Saso E.

Link Posted 16/07/2004 - 12:44

I was looking and searching the net too for the flash photography and pop up on this page which I thing can be useful...

I hope I'd help...

Regards - Saso


Link Posted 16/07/2004 - 14:02
... for the replies guys!

I was wondering if I'd be better off turning off the flash compensation - sounds like if I do this, the extra flash power will help to freeze the subject better (with the negative/downside of making the background a bit dark in daylight conditions). I suppose it's the subject that's the most important thing in any shot?!

Regarding High Speed Mode, the (P)Z-1P has a number of program lines that you can use when the camera is set in Hyper Program mode:

1) Blank (standard program mode)
2) H (High - favours high shutter speeds)
3) D (Depth - favours smaller apertures to increase depth-of-field)
4) M (think it's called this? uses data from the lens to select the appropriate aperture to achieve the sharpest image, i.e. stops the lens down a few notches from full aperture).

These can be accessed by setting the camera to Hyper Program mode, turning the mode dial (top-left of camera, looking from behind) to "Mode", pressing the button in the middle of the mode dial and turning either the Av or Tv wheel (can't remember which). The selected value is displayed in the LCD display as either blank, H, D or M.

When I take sports shots, I have the mode set to "H" to force the camera to select the highest possible shutter speed that the lens/aperture will allow (1/250 when using the flash).

I did notice that the camera will only allow a max speed of 1/125 when using trailing shutter sync with the flash. I was told elsewhere that trailing sync only comes into play at slower shutter speeds, so I generally switch this off.

Time for a bit more trial and error I think!

Happy snapping.


Link Posted 16/07/2004 - 14:47
Hi Treve

Thanks for pointing out the high speed mode, I'll give it a try when I get home. I've tried going through the manual, but it's such a complex camera I'm not surprised I missed something!

There may be issues with 2nd curtain sync being slower, my MZ-3 (my main camera) certainly syncs slower when my flash (a 400FTZ) is set to 2nd curtain - it goes from 1/125 to 1/60 from memory.

As for trial and error, I'm still definitely in the error stage but the images are getting better. I tried to just use the flash as fill, but it went horribly wrong - the MZ-3 doesn't allow seperate exposure and flash compensation (they share the same dial, and flash comp takes over when the flash is active) so it gets pretty difficult when trying to balance flash and ambient light. I haven't tried with the PZ-1p as yet, I might have to give it a go though!


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