01 January 2021

Using High-Speed Sync Flash in the Afternoon Sun

Using High-Speed Sync Flash at High Shutter Speed-  with Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT with Diffuser
 Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT with Diffuser
Overpowering the sun and wind with High-Speed Sync (HSS) Flash

Outside close-up and macro photography is generally done on an early windless morning with crisp light / or with some cloud cover for reducing harsh light and glare.

But, what do you do if you only have 14:00 in full afternoon sun and the wind is blowing? Suddenly a high shutter speed and using flash is more than a suitable solution.

I went out at 14:00 in the sun for deliberately capturing a yellow (and very bright) flower against (my own) close-up and macro photography principles.

In using a Speedlite (external flash unit) fitted in the camera flash hot shoe and applying the Speedlite's High-Sync Speed (HSS) setting I was able to overcome the maximum sync speed (highest shutter speed of a particular camera when using flash) of the camera I was using - 1/250s on the Canon EOS 70D - by setting the shutter speed to whatever I wanted higher than the 1/250s limitation.

Most entry-level DSLR's are capable of 1/4000s Shutter Speed and enthusiast / professional cameras up to 1/8000s.

Overpowering the sun / wind with High-Speed Sync Flash
Overpowering the sun / wind with High-Speed Sync Flash @ 1/8000s Shutter Speed with Speedlite flash

For this image I experimented (handheld) and went up to the maximum (almost unthinkable) shutter speed of 1/8000s of said camera - maybe a stop or two too high of what was actually required, but nevertheless, together with the flash, overpowered the sun and stopped the plucky wind from blurring the flower.

One of the applications of HSS is to be able to use wide apertures with faster shutter speeds for limiting the available ambient light (i.e. sunlight in this case). The faster the shutter speed the more the ambient light limitation. HSS is only available to use with either the camera's pop-up flash or with an external Speedlite flash.

In early morning close-up and macro photography (outside) I will use Aperture Priority Mode at whatever aperture is required (by me) and hardly be bothered with the shutter speed - and most often without flash.

Settings for this experimental image: Manual Mode @ ISO 400 / f/5.6 / 1/8000s with Canon EOS 70D / Speedlite 430EX III-RT with stofen-type plastic diffuser (flash head +- 35% tilted upwards from default position).

Lens used: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens

Speedlite Mode: E-TTL (with no exposure compensation)

Image is uncropped and slightly processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 9.

Using flash is therefore not only for adding light to low ambient light conditions, but also for limiting / overpowering strong sun light.

Butterfly in the afternoon at 1/180s Sync Speed

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