Using Auto FP Mode for Better Daylight and Sunset Photographs


This summer in the Pacific Northwest, and in particular, Bellingham, Wash., has been spectacular. Dry with little rain or even clouds, the spring and summer have been fantastic. As this had been the norm for months here in the Pacific Northwest, I put out a call for willing “guinea pigs” as I wanted to practice my location lighting: matching strobes with the setting Sun.

Never rest on your laurels. Always practice your strengths.

 

It was a beautiful evening in Bellingham a few weeks ago. One of my guinea pigs was local artist Julia “Joules” Martin. We’ve known each other for 3 years or so after meeting in Total Body Fitness class. She’s a local artist with a fantastic eye.

Beginning of Session –

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography - Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

Joules was fantastic to work with. She was patient and willing to try to climb atop rocks and boulders for the shot. When I was setting up and testing the lights, she calmly waited. What a trooper!!!

When we first arrived, The sky was hazy due to smoke from fires we are experience in the area. I set my lights up to take a few test shots. Using the ol’ Sunny 16 Rule (more info at this Link: Sunny 16), I calculated my exposures at f/4 at 1/2000. I made sure my flash and camera were set to Auto FP mode.

Just Chillin’ –

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography - Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

Essentially, in Auto FP mode or High Speed Synch (HSS), the flash fires in rapid pulses so as the shutter slit exposes the film/sensor, the flash exposes the entire frame. It allows for flash syncing up to the camera’s limit. For my D300s, it synchs to 1/8000. It allows me to use the flash in bright daylight.

Example: Take three sheets of paper. Use one as the sensor, use the others as your shutter curtains. Start at the top of one the “sensors” with the two “shutters” slightly over each other. At normal flash synch speed or slower, one of the curtains will drop down to the other side of the sensor. The other is still at the top so the full sensor is exposed. The flash then fires exposing the entire sensor at one time.

The Thinker –

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography - Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

During fast shutter speeds, one of the curtains begins to drop and after it get partway down the sensor, the other curtain travels behind it essentially forming a slit. Without HSS, if the flash fired normally, only a small part of the sensor will be exposed.

However, in HSS, the flash strobes as the curtains cross the sensor to expose the entire frame. To the eye, it looks like a regular flash, but in reality, it’s strobing quite rapidly as it exposes the sensor.

For a better explanation of how it works, this blog post explains it well: Understanding Nikon’s Auto FP Mode.

Nikon’s explanation on their official website: Using Auto FP High Speed Synch.

Relaxing on the Rock –

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography - Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

Auto FP mode expands your creativity by giving you tools to use during full daylight hours. Don’t limit yourself to just using flash when it’s dark, or by stopping down to f/16 or smaller, use this mode to open up your lens and take advantage of your whole aperture range.

Great Smile –

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography - Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – Joules at Boulevard Park helping me test my lights in Bellingham, Wash., on Sunday afternoon August 6, 2015.

Now go grab some friends and practice with this great tool you’ve just added to your toolbox.

 

Equipment List –

  • Nikon D300s
  • Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8
  • Nikon Speedlight SB-910
  • Phottix Odin remote triggers
  • Photoflex stands

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Shutter speed varied between 1/1000 and 1/4000 with f/stop set to f/2.8 or f/4. I kept tabs on the sunset to vary those settings.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

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Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally and internationally published freelance editorial photographer living in Bellingham north of Seattle, WA, in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, AirBnB, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.

His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings.

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