the journey to flash

For most of my photography life, I photographed what I saw.  As so many of us do.  I played with exposure, depth of field, and composition, but in the end, light, the most important part of the equation, limited me.  I did not control it; I took what I was given by mother nature, used it, extended exposure time to access more of it, but in the end, I lived with it.  The results were fine, sometimes even more than fine.

I was somewhat in control – maybe best described as a partner with the scene, but not an equal partner.  Nothing wrong with a partnership.

But, photography is the art, science and practice of creating pictures by recording photons on a sensitive medium – today a sensor.  Just as in the 1800s when the word was coined, it is the marriage of the Greek words “photos” (light) and “graphe” (drawing)  — light painting in today’s parlance.  Rather than be a junior partner, I wanted to make the “photo” (light) not just accept it, and thereby participate more in the “graphe” (drawing).

So, two years ago, I met Tom Bol (and then David Tejada and Bryan Peterson) and started listening to what they had to say about Speedlights and flash; things then began to change and today, are still changing.  I now add “photos” (light) to my shots whenever I can, and as a result, I am on a journey to try to take control of a scene, and participate in what the photograph can be (graphe) rather just record what my eyes see.  The possibilities are all of a sudden endless.  I do not need to live in the mountains to take an interesting photograph; Armed with a speedlight, some gels, a lightstand or two, some PocketWizards, and a softbox, I can now try to shape the “photos” (light).

Such as in Ft. Collins in an alley:

or under an outdoor staircase:

or of strawberries floating:

or in a hallway in a taxi dispatch in Denver:

or in a parking garage in Topeka:

or a parking garage in Kansas City (I guess I like garages?):

or by lighting sunflowers as the Florida storm approaches:

or when I get one of those looks:

or of cut flowers:


or in a field after dark to create a ghost:

or in the beloved mountains to light the fallen trees:

or of a water droplet:

or at a landing near some Kansas City warehouses:

And, now, with my lights and a PocketWizard or two in tow, I can be in the mountains during the harshest periods of light and negotiate with mother nature as to what the shot should be.

I now have my speedlights on what used to be just a path lit at the whim of mother nature.  The “photos” (lights) add back to the photography experience the art, science and a pinch of magic  – I am now making the mystical photons that we call light.  It is my new journey and there is much to learn and I don’t even know where I am heading, but it is the journey, not the destination, that we humans celebrate, right?

Thanks for visiting my blog.  Mark