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To Flash or Not to Flash…

April 11th, 2009

Here is where I rant on for awhile about something that has been bugging me lately, but will make me seem whiny. It’s not an issue of great import, it won’t solve world hunger or put an end to war.  I don’t care.

Robin under the cherry blossoms

Robin under the cherry blossoms

What is up with all of the inappropriate flash photography going on lately? I get that with a camera in every cell phone and a cell phone for every person, there are more opportunities than ever for people to snap away. Heck, I took lots of pics during my recent DC vaca.

But, there are reasons that you are not supposed to take flash photos during concerts, or plays, or at art museums. And it’s not just “The Man” who is trying to keep you down. In a darkened theatre, a flash is annoying to everyone sitting around you and can startle the performers. It’s bad enough if they are only thrown off their game, but what if they are momentarily blinded and fall off the stage (it could happen - I know of two instances at the local folk joint when singers took headers into the audience)?

In museums, every flash causes the pigment in that art work to fade just a little bit. That’s why the Mona Lisa is under loads of protective glass - but most paintings are completely exposed. Do you really want to contribute to a Georgia O’Keefe masterpiece fading away? Even tiny changes alter the work and distort the artist’s vision. When I was visiting the Smithsonian, cameras were clicking everywhere. Most places did not have signs in each gallery saying no flash photography, meaning I could be wrong about its detrimental effects, but I didn’t like it.

This is Robin at the Japanese restaurant we ate at in Alexandria

This is Robin at the Japanese restaurant we ate at in Alexandria

And, maybe most importantly, if you aren’t within 6-8 feet of the subject, your flash is going to dissipate and be useless. So you annoyed and blinded the people behind you for nothing. On the flip side, using a flash less than a foot away when taking your own picture will wash you out - not light you. I realize that we all now feel a responsibility to photo-journal our lives, but just because we own cameras and understand how to snap a picture, does not mean we know how to take photos that will be worth looking at 6 mos down the road.

My first car - in the Smithsonian

My first car - in the Smithsonian

First off, that painting is not moving. Pick a long shutter speed and turn off the flash. Second, unless you are taking hi-res pics with your camera (and if you’re only going to use them online, why bother?), you shouldn’t need a flash. My tiny camera doesn’t even have flash capability - and my pics of DC were fine for what they were (I wouldn’t use it for a wedding or a birth, but to document the 1977 Honda Civic in the Smithsonian’s transportation exhibit, it was great).

Sorry - but I had to get that off my chest. We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

averwiebe Uncategorized

  1. April 12th, 2009 at 06:29 | #1

    hey! cool blog or whatever the heck you call them.

  2. Carol Ver Wiebe
    April 12th, 2009 at 11:37 | #2

    I heartily agree. Last night, in the midst of a darkened, dramatic scene in “The Drowsy Chaperone” two different flashes went off. What they were trying to capture, I’ll never know.

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