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Frozen Forms

April 2, 2011

This ballet on ice was actually shot by my father. I say that because he is the one holding the flash and the one who fired it, albeit on my command.

Driving around one winter evening in 1976, I came upon the lake in the subdivision that was a favorite for ice skating in the winter. This evening the skaters were mostly without skates; just running and sliding arms flailing  in the air. It had all the grace of a poorly choreographed ballet with jerky movements.

Skaters on a frozen pond are “frozen” with a handheld flash. (Copyright John S. Stewart)

I thought in stop action it might have a more aesthetically appealing look and make a stand alone weather shot for one of the wire services.

Enlisting the help of dad, I instructed him to stand on the bank of the lake with one of my Honeywell strobes  keeping it pointed at me while I slid out among the skaters.  I set the camera on a tripod, stopped down to about f8 or f11 and opened the shutter with the long gone “B” or “bulb” setting.

I then waited for “the moment” to flash a small penlight flashlight sending my father his cue to fire the flash.  After several times of repeating this anticipating the delay between the cue and the flash and replaying the frozen image in my mind, I was confident I had something useful on film.

Getting this shot today would be a little easier using a digital camera with the ability to check each shot and a strobe  fired using a radio frequency remote. But then, I would have missed out on some quality time with Dad.

John S. Stewart

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