To flash or not to flash

To flash or not to flash … or Sometimes you feel like a flash, sometimes you don’t

When confronted with nighttime photography that can be captured without supplemental lighting (a flash perhaps), the question of which type of lighting moves to the forefront of thought.

Both methods work … both methods create a different feel … both methods are right … it’s a matter of taste, preference, and the message that a photographer¬†intends to convey to the audience.

Case in point: California wildfire, pitch dark night except for the massive flames and the glow against the smoke.

silhouette of firemen with hose lie
The silhouette is dramatic and low on details … but that’s the nature of this type of shot. Larry Shapiro photo

Provided that there’s enough ambient light to outline the subjects in total, the silhouette dramatizes the fire’s glow.

firemen fighting a wild land fire in California
Adding fill flash brings in the personal element giving life to the firefighters. Larry Shapiro photo

The added light not only brings in the firemen, but any additional elements in the scene that were previously hidden in the shadows. Sometimes this means unwanted items that detract from the photographer’s focus or just become distracting to the viewer.

silhouette of wild land firefighters
Given the right amount of backlighting and an appropriate perspective between the photographer and subject … the silhouette can’t be beat. Larry Shapiro photo

In my view, there’s really nothing of compelling interest in the foreground of this image that I want the viewer to see. Additionally, there is sufficient negative space in the image to create a full silhouette without distractions.