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Using A Flash… Light

Many cameras come with a built-in flash. My Nikon D-70 has a pop-up flash that works fairly well and is always available and doesn’t require me to carry an extra piece of equipment. But it’s not always a flash that you want.

I went to Utah earlier this month and spent a day in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park. On the way in I stopped at Newspaper Rock, a very famous petroglyph that is right on the road into the park. I didn’t like the light so I decided to come back later. I didn’t realize that “later” meant after sunset until I had already spent all day in the park.

Flash Painting

But I still decided to stop on the way by, just to try an experiment. I had a fully charged flashlight with me and decided that it was time to try some flash painting. What is that? First, here is the result:

Newspaper Rock

How was this done? It’s a fairly easy technique, but one I had never tried before. I set up my camera on a tripod because I was going to use a 30 second exposure. During that 30 second exposure I used my flashlight to “paint” the wall of rock and illuminate the petroglyphs. I spent more time painting the interior of the image than the outside, and that’s what makes the shadows more pronounced along the edges.

I did a number of trials since I had no idea what was going to work. I guess that is one of the advantages of having a digital camera with a nice, bright LCD panel to review your work. Since I had no idea what was working (and what wasn’t) I just took a lot of different pictures. :) For the record, this was the last one. Based on my memory this one involved me starting with the flashlight already on and moving and leaving the flashlight on for the entire thirty second exposure. The others had less light, and came out much too dark.

This image was shot on Velvia 50 slide film and scanned with a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED. No image alterations (contrast, brightness, and so on) were made to this image during the scan process.

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