Back in April of 2011 my cell phone rings, “Hey… can you come down to Martin Tn and shoot this Soles for Souls event I’m putting on?” I accepted the request and gathered the preliminary information I needed to prepare for the shoot. I need to point out that during this time I was mainly setup and focused on individual portrait type work- in other words a 50mm lens, off camera flashes on a still target in a controlled environment. This job required catching moments out of my control while moving around crowds in different light conditions. I accepted this offered as a learning experience and I knew it would push me to find ways to get the job done.
My main concern was how I was going to incorporate off camera flash in a crowded venue. I knew I could raise my iso and get some decent band shots from the lights around them, but I wanted to achieve something more. I spent some time researching night club photography and I came across a technique that I have not read before. In basic terms the technique is to lower the shutter speed below the safe zone for hand held sharp images (for me that is anything below 1/60) and use a flash as the sharpening tool. What is happening is the slower shutter speed is allowing for more ambient light to be processed and at the same time because of the slower shutter speed movements are blurred. The interesting part of this is when you add an off camera flash to the equation. Whatever the flash hits will keep it in decent focus as if the shot was like 1/1000+ shutter speed.
After I read this, I came up with a plan to have my wife hold one of my flashes with a grid on it to concentrate the light on the face of a band member. She stood off to the side in the crowd as I worked my way around to the other side and this is the effect I was able to achieve at 1/10 shutter speed-
Now for the same angle at 1/80 shutter speed-
Below is the diagram of the setup-