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Subject: Flash Photography [Print This Page]

Author: wilsondring    Time: 18/02/2013 16:26     Subject: Flash Photography

Dear all,

Over the last weekend, i was at TPK and photograghed some tristram's bunting near the top of the hill near the entrance of one of the residential houses.

With me was my wife and one other birder at the time.  I had consulted the birder and without any objection, i use a flash angled up into the trees at 60 degrees plus (away from the birds) and took about 30-35 shots before leaving.

Firstly, the birds were the priority and i am sure they were not slightest bit disturbed as they gave no reaction what-so-ever when to my inital shot and i took the procuation of directing the flash away from the birds.

Secondly, i had consulted the follow birder and only with his consent did i proceed.

I posted the photos on facebook and had some questions and comments regarding the use of flash.

Since, i have searched the interent for guidelines for members of HKBWS as well as other organizations on the use of flash photography.  The official line is i found was;
"Use flash sparingly."
Some other organizations say talk about not using flash on nesting birds etc ...

By no means am i suggesting that the use of flash should be encouraged but would like to;
1/ find out the stance on the use of flash by the HKBWS
2/ the effect of the use of flash on birds in general

Please understand that on this occassion the birds were ok but iam not suggesting thatthiswill always be the case and wouldmlike to find out more hence this post...

Please discuss ...
Author: handrew    Time: 18/02/2013 21:04

There are people who believe that using flash is wrong under any circumstances and there are responsible photographers who think and assess the situation and come to a (hopefully) sensible decision. You seem to be in the latter category. But be prepared for the flame-throwers.
Author: hmartin    Time: 18/02/2013 21:16

Wilson

The use of flash in Hong Kong is a rather emotive subject and is generally frowned upon, in that it is felt by some/many to cause unnecessary disturbance. As someone who has used flash sparingly for a long time, my experience is that tolerance to flash depends entirely on the individual being photographed, and that most birds are highly tolerant of its use. If the individual concerned is disturbed by its use, then obviously you stop, and there are obviously situations where you don't want to use it. There are also many situations where the use of natural light gives a better photograph. Basically, the use of flash is not (yet) against the law so if you want to use it, then use it.

Whilst we are on the subject of disturbance, I think I've seen as many birds disturbed by shutter noise as I have by flash, and if you want to see serious disturbance in action go to Long Valley over a weekend when there is a Hong Kong rarity there. 50 or so photographers covering every available bund, constantly in motion and largely preventing the target species from settling or feeding is my definition of disturbance. The use of flash pales to insignificance compared to that.

I suggest that you respond to any detractors on Facebook by telling them to take up knitting. They are obviously more emotionally suited to that.
Author: handrew    Time: 18/02/2013 21:23

Quote:
Original posted by hmartin at 18/02/2013 21:16
Wilson

The use of flash in Hong Kong is a rather emotive subject and is generally frowned upon, in that it is felt by some/many to cause unnecessary disturbance. As someone who has used flash sparing ...
If there were a Like button for the forum I'd use it. Knitting is very therapeutic, I'm told. The Arthur Morris Better Beamer Knitting Machine comes highly recommended.
Author: hmartin    Time: 18/02/2013 21:29

Knitting best done indoors though. Otherwise the movement of the needles might frighten the birds.
Author: wilsondring    Time: 19/02/2013 12:53

For the crested bunting a few weeks back .. OMG!!!  Chasing the bird down to within 4-5m ... The most i would go is 6m coz my minimal focal distance on my 800mm is 6m LOL

On a serous note, yes, that sort of disturbance is an outrage, many of those chasing the birds down that day are regulars here on this forum too
Author: wilsondring    Time: 19/02/2013 14:06

Quote:
Original posted by handrew at 18/02/2013 21:04
There are people who believe that using flash is wrong under any circumstances and there are responsible photographers who think and assess the situation and come to a (hopefully) sensible decision. Y ...
i am fully expecting to be flamed but i do hope to put out the flame with common sense ..
Author: wilsondring    Time: 19/02/2013 17:36

More on owls than birds in general but an interesting read ...
http://photo.net/learn/nature/owlflash

And .. Another ariticle but not exactly hard evidence ..
http://www.dmcphoto.com/Articles/Flash/index.html

[ Last edited by wilsondring at 19/02/2013 17:43 ]
Author: wilsondring    Time: 1/03/2013 15:01

considering how much reaction one gets while in the field, i am somewhat surprised by the lack of interest or opinions on this thread ...

sorry to be shit stirring, i am really trying to get some sense out of this ..
Author: Ronaldo    Time: 1/03/2013 22:15

Some reaction Wilson, here we go
Would you use a flash on your baby child? Probably in some circumstances, but you would take care of not using a high intensity one, and you would probably use bounced light and other methods to diffuse the strength and take care of the composition. Now, would you/others use the same care for a bird? May be a lot of photographers would not, when they don't have a long time to take a shot at a skittish bird. I would rather use a high ISO and have a blurry/grainy record shot than causing potential damage, as a rule of caution. Direct flashes can cause serious injuries to eyes, of birds as well as humans or other animals.
Now, what to do in cases where high ISO photography is impossible? I would prefer a (not too strong) torch light. Initially disturbing, the bird eyes can progressively adjust and don't suffer from sudden and unexpected strong flashes of light. However, it is not easy to know what disturbs a bird, so better in any case to minimize the number of pictures taken and too bad if the picture is not an award-winning one. It seems to me that 30 pictures with flash is a lot but if the birds were not disturbed and you were careful on the way the flash was used and directed, then I am not opposed to it.
In regards to the behavior of people, rushing for a bird in Long Valley or Po Toi, it's a bit easy to condemn them, but disturbed birds usually quickly leave the place. If they stay, it may be because they are sick or used to human presence (or human feeding). Hong Kong is mainly a place of migrants/vagrant birds. I don't think that the relatively low number of breeding or resident species in Hong Kong is due to photographers but land planning decisions (anti-conservation and pro-property developers). I doubt photography clicks would harm or disturb birds, and I have not seen a bird leave because of the clicks themselves, but I have seen a lot getting disturbed by the loud discussions of photographers/birders.
Author: hmartin    Time: 1/03/2013 23:52

"Would you use flash on your baby child" - yes, lots of times. They are now 16 and 20 years of age respectively with perfect vision. No, not bounced, but straight, normal flash. Blurry, grainy shots of my kids were of no use to me. Lots of people are photographed with direct flash every day. If it were a health hazard it would have been banned a long time ago.

"Direct flashes can cause serious injuries to eyes" - we aren't talking high powered lasers here, we are talking normal flash. You seriously think that the power of a normal flash is any greater than that of a fairly close lightening burst? You can cite any scientific paper in which the flash of a normal sized flash gun, used to achieve a normal photographic exposure, is recorded as causing serious injuries to eyes?

"Disturbed birds usually quickly leave the place" - unless they are exhausted and "the place" has the only food source known to them.

"I doubt photography clicks would harm or disturb birds" - there's no doubt in my mind, I've seen it often enough. Single shutter activation, no, high speed motordrive on a close bird, quite possible.
Author: Ronaldo    Time: 2/03/2013 07:26

Here we go, with the polemics...

"Would you use flash on your baby child" - yes, lots of times. They are now 16 and 20 years of age respectively with perfect vision. No, not bounced, but straight, normal flash. Blurry, grainy shots of my kids were of no use to me. Lots of people are photographed with direct flash every day. If it were a health hazard it would have been banned a long time ago.
=> your children are very lucky. Do you want me to experience on your eyes? And you can ask my doctor about that. I had to do an eye operation recently and he asked me about that. So, yes, you should perhaps inform yourself first

"Direct flashes can cause serious injuries to eyes" - we aren't talking high powered lasers here, we are talking normal flash. You seriously think that the power of a normal flash is any greater than that of a fairly close lightening burst? You can cite any scientific paper in which the flash of a normal sized flash gun, used to achieve a normal photographic exposure, is recorded as causing serious injuries to eyes?
=> what about all the stroboscopic warning provided at the BBC and other serious TVs when there is excessive flash photography. And here we don't talk about the person directly being flashed, but about people watching it indirectly on TV.

"Disturbed birds usually quickly leave the place" - unless they are exhausted and "the place" has the only food source known to them.
=> give me examples, if you are that sure about that.

"I doubt photography clicks would harm or disturb birds" - there's no doubt in my mind, I've seen it often enough. Single shutter activation, no, high speed motordrive on a close bird, quite possible.
=> close presence by the birder is probably as disturbing as the shutter activation. Have you thought about that? And why do yu use a car to get close to the bird, if not because that car provides a hide against human presence. I don't think you car changes the sound of your camera.
Author: Ronaldo    Time: 2/03/2013 07:37

now obviously, if we talk about one person using a flash once on a bird or a person, I don't think it can cause any issues. I doubt however that it is the case when you have twenty photographers taking photos of a single subject with flash.

And I don't think you experienced that with your children, either.
Author: handrew    Time: 2/03/2013 09:43

Quote:
Original posted by Ronaldo at 2/03/2013 07:37
now obviously, if we talk about one person using a flash once on a bird or a person, I don't think it can cause any issues. I doubt however that it is the case when you have twenty photographers takin ...
I'm struggling to see in the thread above where anybody suggested 20 people simultaneously blitzing a bird with flash so why do you exaggerate in this way? And in my experience birds habituated themselves to modest noise relatively quickly but are much more easily spooked by sudden movement. One pro I know uses a clicker counter to simulate the sound of a camera shutter. As the bird approaches but is still out of photographic range he starts to click so the bird just hears it as ambient noise. When the bird is closer the sound of the shutter replaces the clicker and the bird is not disturbed. Comparing sensible use of flash to hordes of rampaging birders ( see, I can exaggerate too) is nonsensical.
Author: hmartin    Time: 2/03/2013 10:44

"your children were very lucky" - yes, about as lucky as the rest of the human population photographed with flash who never suffered any eye damage, i.e. everyone.

"you should inform yourself first" - well you can help me here. Your doctor has access to medical research that proves that the light from a flash gun can damage the retina? Presumably so or he wouldn't have asked? What's the reference/s?

"what about the stroboscopic warning provided by the BBC and other serious TVs" - the news media doesn't necessarily report fact, it reports anything potentially sensational (and after the Saville affair you still take the BBC seriously?). This might be an issue for epileptics, but that isn't the majority of the human population, and can any other species suffer epilepsy? Think of fashion models on a cat walk subject to multiple sustained flash bursts. Have any of them ever suffered eye damage or epileptic fits? It seems unlikely to me but if you have evidence to the contrary then once again let's have the reference.

"give me examples" - I would have thought my statement was pretty logical and obvious. No I can't cite examples in the literature to support this statement but neither can you to refute it.

"have I thought about that" - I'm talking about a situation in which I've approached a bird, it has been completely at ease with my presence, but has then been startled by the sound of a motordrive. It wasn't my presence that disturbed it, it was the motordrive. This is why some photographers will change to low speed drive or single frames on a close bird.

"and why do you use a car" - yes of course to minimise disturbance. Your argument becomes illogical and incoherent here. And actually shooting from a car can increase the magnitude of the shutter sound, one of the few drawbacks to using a vehicle as a mobile hide.

"and I don't think your children experienced that either" - I refer you to the fashion models on a catwalk comment above.

My this is fun...

[ Last edited by hmartin at 2/03/2013 10:52 ]
Author: wilsondring    Time: 2/03/2013 13:00

thank you every much for all the input .. however, when someone say that "flash is harmful to the human eye ... " can we give some evidence to back this up, maybe a link to where you found this information etc would be useful.  thanks
Author: Ronaldo    Time: 2/03/2013 15:14

Martin, Let's stop the talk and go to something more serious:

You take pictures of me with high shutter speed at your will, while I take pictures of your face with a telephoto and a flash. Let's see who will feel more discomfort first.
As I mentioned, a single flash is just a bit disturbing and I doubt you would submit any of your children to 30 flash shots using a high guide number flash in a row in the same conditions as you say you would for a bird.

If you want to arrange a meeting, just pm me and I am happy to accommodate.

Thanks
Author: ddavid    Time: 2/03/2013 15:16

Pistols at dawn...?
Author: hmartin    Time: 2/03/2013 18:11

No, flashguns at dawn.

Let's skip the bullshit and fight to the death.

[ Last edited by hmartin at 2/03/2013 19:18 ]
Author: Ronaldo    Time: 2/03/2013 19:00

yeah! Fight to blindness and deafness!

more seriously http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_blindness
and found 3,180,000 results for "flash photography retina"

and no results on wikipedia but still 2,680,000 results for "high shutter speed deafness"
Author: kmike    Time: 2/03/2013 19:29

Sponsored by Wilson Parking, tickets for this once only event now available at Urbtix
Author: hmartin    Time: 2/03/2013 19:33

So there you have it Wilson, Wikipedia says flash causes temporary blindness so it must be true. Note the many scientific references relating to flash guns at the bottom of the page.

Scroll down a search for flash blindness and you get to the effect of nuclear weapons. Now that's what I call a guide number. The air blast and radiation are probably quite disturbing too.

Let's use the magic roundabout and have Wilson Parking control the crowds. However if I can't park beyond the barrier I'm not playing.

[ Last edited by hmartin at 2/03/2013 19:35 ]
Author: Ronaldo    Time: 2/03/2013 20:33

You have to stand up out of your car! You can use your headlights to distract me!
Author: wilsondring    Time: 4/03/2013 00:27

i think the last few posts has just about killed this thread .. haha ..
Author: fkm    Time: 4/03/2013 22:08

Dear Wilson,

I do use flash on birds when necessary and possible (both!). Be warned that those against it in Hong Kong and China can act quite impolite or even violently, so be careful.

IMHO, any belief that flash is harmful in any way is pure imagination of some, who probably do not understand flash at all. Someone started a piece of mis-information and others just pick it up because, like any other urban legend, sounds convincing to those not suspicious. (Once I learnt to use it, I nearly never do any photograph indoor without flash.) And a filling flash just adds all the colors and contrast otherwise not available without it.

However, I do use it with care as I found nearly 50% of birds (especially birds in the bushes) will just fly away on the first firing! So, we better not start to use it until all birders get their satisfactory shots! It is also very difficult to use and the flash, while being able to enhance your picture at times, can ruin it completely!

As Martin put it, flash is perfectly legal so I am not going to debate with anyone on the issue.

Have fun,
Kenneth

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Author: Ronaldo    Time: 4/03/2013 22:54

Talking about using fill-in flash clearly doesn't bring anything to this thread.
Fill-in flash clearly has minimal consequences, aside from the small disturbance which results, as you put it yourself, in "50% of the birds flying away after the first firing". I guess you must have good reasons to continue to use a flash after that.

Scientific evidence is very clear and again, just experience it on yourself: flash photography of birds or other animals/humans in low light conditions make them blind for at least some time. This purely physical disturbance is enough for me to try to restrain as much as possible from the usage of flash, in particular with a subject who clearly doesn't care about any of us taking a picture of him. If you put more interest in the quality of your photos than in the welfare of that involuntary subject, then it's a problem between you and your conscience.

Sharkfin soup is perfectly legal in Hong Kong, so eat it at will.
Author: hmartin    Time: 4/03/2013 23:08

Very nice shots Kenneth, as always! I agree with all your points.
Author: Ronaldo    Time: 4/03/2013 23:47

Obviously I have to incline myself in defeat in front of such a strong argument as a photography taken with a flash, similarly as i would about the subject of bird nest disturbance by photographers, in front of the photo of a cute little chick.

Martin, seems that you were much more reasonable in 2007. Is it age or experience?

Anyway, Wilson, in case you want to read further, my half-penny worth of an old discussion

http://www.hkbws.org.hk/BBS/view ... ghlight=photography
Author: hmartin    Time: 5/03/2013 08:55

Ronaldo, you and I don't disagree as much as you think we do. If you go back to my original post in this thread I think I'm being perfectly reasonable, and I don't believe that my position has changed from what I wrote back in 2007. As this thread has developed it becomes apparent that you don't really have any objection to fill flash or single flash shots, but object primarily to multiple flash shots or, essentially, dark adapted birds being exposed to flash, be it at night or in dark forrest interiors, on the grounds that flash potentially damages the bird's eyes. Does that accurately summarize your position?

I personally don't believe that flash used to achieve a normal photographic exposure damages eyes, or in many circumstances is unduly stressful. After all "flash" in terms of lightening bursts occurs in nature, and I'm not aware of mass deaths of owls or forrest birds after the average thunderstorm, therefore even dark adapted eyes must be able to cope with LIMITED "flash events". As I've said repeatedly there are situations where I wouldn't use flash. Believe it or not I do endeavor to minimize the disturbance that I cause, whilst accepting that some disturbance is inevitable. How unreasonable is that?

By the way, one of the reasons for the 2007 post was that at the time we were suffering from a spate of deliberate flushing of waders at Mai Po, from the scrape and from in front of the boardwalk hides, for flight photography. This is something I particularly object to. Disturbance comes in many potential forms, and I feel that the use of flash is currently not the most pressing or important of them.

[ Last edited by hmartin at 5/03/2013 09:10 ]




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