Blog posts


flashing Hillary

Readers asked about my use of flashes at campaign events so I thought I'd answer questions here. To start, here is a side-by-side comparison of the difference a remote flash can make:

Top: with flash, 50 feet to the right and 20 feet up. Bottom: no flash. Senator Hillary Clinton greets fans before speaking to several thousand supporters in Madison, Wisconsin, the day before the primary election.
Basically you asked: Why?
I hope the examples above answer why. You can see the difference most on Hillary's hair and the face of the girl in the middle. The light helps Hillary stand out from the crowd, which she badly needs to do right now!

These events are often held in giant bat caves (gyms, convention halls) Even though the podium and parts of the room may be well-lit, I don't have control over it. I get cleaner light when I add my own. I prefer unobtrusive lighting, so I blend my flash with the million different light sources present (spotlights, overhead fluorescents, TV newslights, 2,000 point-and-shoot flashes.) My goal is usually to get some nice side light or rim light to separate the subjects and background.

It's true, more can go wrong when you add lighting. Batteries die. People get in the way. But to be honest, in a scrum like this, a lot of shots will fail no matter what. I hope to get a few great shots. Sometimes I succeed.

And how?
I use Pocket Wizards, which send a radio signal from my camera to my flash. I set up a small flash ahead of time, taping it to some railing or wall out of the way. Secret Service hasn't bothered me. And there is usually time to kill between security clearance and the start of the event to do it. I don't file photos as fast as people shooting for the dailies, so I have freedom to play. (Thank god.)

And tell us the geeky technical details.
The two photos above were taken less than a second apart. Too fast for my flash to recharge. Both were shot at 1600 ASA, 1/125 at F4. Canon 20D. Nikon SB26 about 50 feet away at 1/4 power. Orange gel on flash (1/2 CTS I think) to match mostly tungsten spotlights with camera set to 3700K.

Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now. You can learn much much more about using off-camera flash at


Give 'em Hill, 'ary

Senator Hillary Clinton and Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton get a warm welcome from a crowd of several thousand supporters in Madison, Wis.
Tonight I shot the Hillary Clinton rally at Monona Terrace, on the eve of primary elections here. Again, Isthmus posted a lovely slideshow of my photos.

Once again, I was the only photographer at the event to shoot with an off-camera flash. I put a Nikon SB28 on a mini-tripod, climbed a ladder and wedged the light onto a ledge about 20 feet above the floor. Prayed it didn't fall and bonk someone on the head. (It didn't).

The candidates have been criss-crossing the state, followed by a horde of photographers, but now they'll move on and leave us to our blizzards in peace.



Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks to a crowd of 18,400 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Tonight I shot the Barack Obama rally in Madison for Isthmus. They put together a nice slideshow of my shots from the event.

A facility manager told me they had 18,400 people in the Kohl Center arena—the most they've ever had for an event (and over capacity!) Plus another 2,000 watching on screens next door.

It's always a treat to watch other photographers work. Reminds me of the hamsters we had in fourth grade. Stick a bunch of creative minds in a cage and see what we do. We run the treadmill and watch each other out of the corners of our eyes to see who has a better angle. I noted three photographers using Leica Rangefinders (Ozier Muhammad for the NYT, Steve Apps for the WSJ and an MATC student.)

Unfortunately, talking to a Per Mar Security guy as I was leaving, I learned that he earned more than I did for the day. I need to find some clients who can pay real money. However, I remind myself, I'm not doing this because I need to eat but because I love it.

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