I have a confession to make: I’m a woeful flash photographer. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t like how flashed photos look, plus I don’t like fiddling with my external Nikon SB-600, trying to avoid the washed-out look that too much flash often yields. So usually I evade potential flash-photography situations.
But then last Friday night, Jessica, one-half of one of our favorite disc golf couples, decided to throw a surprise birthday party for her fiancé Eric. And it involved night disc golf. As in very little light. As in have to use a flash. As in not a happy camper photographer.
Now Jessica didn’t ask me to take photos. But Eric just happens to be a mentor to the #2 son. Not only is he a fine disc golf player who we happened to meet at the first tournament that #2 played in a year and a half ago, but he’s a wonderful role model. Our whole family (yes, even the #1 son) likes Eric a lot. So how could I not shoot some pix at his party? And the clincher? I figured it would make for great blog material!
I decided the best photographic path would be to try to mix up nonflash and flash photos. I put my Nikon 17-55mm lens on my Nikon D300 at the start to take group photos, as well as to document the sky.
As it got darker , I switched to my Nikon 50mm lens. With its maximum aperture of f/1.4, it would allow in the most light when I wasn’t using flash.
Every disc golf basket had a small light attached to it so the players could see it. Most of the players used discs that had small glow sticks taped on them.
Some of the discs glowed in the dark, but they had to be recharged with a light source. The #2 son had brought a flashlight for that very purpose.
#2 just had to be a bit different . . . some of his discs actually lit up!
It’s impossible to handhold a heavy camera like the D300 for 1/20th of a second without some blurring, as you can see.
The flash did a better job of making everything look crisp, but I think it looks kinda fake. And definitely not as fun.
I experimented with using the flash to stop the action and sometimes was successful. I increased the ISO to throw the flash further.
Sidebar: Disc golf players do not like when the flash goes off near their face. I did not make that mistake twice!
Here I didn’t up the ISO enough to allow the flash to illuminate the basket. I did lighten the disc a bit in Photoshop to make it easier to see.
After awhile I became intrigued with how the photos looked with handheld, longer shutter speeds. Above, are those ghosts in the park playing disc golf? I really like how the glowing discs paint the night.
At the end of the evening, which was around 10:30 p.m., I opened the shutter for long periods of time. Above was the result after 13 seconds, which included moving the camera around. Who knew I could be such an artist?!?
You can barely make out the ghostlike #2 son in the middle of this photo. Wearing a blue glow necklace, he was twirling two blue glow necklaces in his hands as I moved the camera. Now this is just wild—it’s disc golf at its prettiest! I ended up having a great time taking photos.
It definitely was fun to paint the night with nonflashed disc golf!!