Lighting Tip for Action Shots: A Flash Of Inspiration Makes a Startling Image Possible


Tech Talk: Michael Clark made this image with a Nikon D810 and an AF Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D lens. The camera settings were 1/6400 second, f/5.6, ISO 200, manual exposure, and Matrix metering.
© Michael Clark

BMX rider Daniel Coriz comes in at speed from the right side, launches himself up 10 feet, touches both tires, pulls the handlebars to pop a wheelie off the wall, then turns the bike for a clean exit. He lands a foot in front of adventure sports photographer Michael Clark, who’s been hand-holding his camera, tracking and firing to capture every turn and twist of the trick.

Taken at the Dirt Jumps in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the image was shot for Elinchrom, makers of the ELB 400 portable strobe, Skyport Plus HS transmitter, and Quadra HS flash head that made the picture possible.

“It’s new technology they call Hi-Sync,” Clark says, “and it allowed me to sync the strobe up to 1/8000 second.” With the flash set to its 400 watt-seconds maximum, Clark was able to overpower the sun at 1/6400 second and f/5.6.

“Until now a shot like this was not possible with that low a power setting. The shutter speed fully stops the action so there’s no motion blur at all, and of course without flash all you’d have is a silhouette.”

Clark made the photo at the end of an hour-and-a-half shoot of four BMX riders “doing backflips and all kinds of crazy tricks” to test his and the gear’s ability to capture unique and sometimes even off-the-wall images.

Visit to view a selection of outdoor, adventure sport, portrait, and lifestyle images. It’s expected that a video of the Dirt Jumps shoot will be featured at Elinchrom’s website.