Global Shutters and Flash Photography

Finally, the era of global shutters has arrived for full frame professional cameras with the release of the Sony A9 III. I don’t use Sony cameras, but regardless, this is a huge innovation that will slowly take over the industry and push camera technology ahead. I don’t expect global shutters to be in every new camera from now on. I expect that it will take five or more years for this technology to trickle down–and for Sony and other manufacturers to make a variety of global shutter cameras. Since Sony is the largest manufacturer of camera sensors, they will be the company dictating the pace at which global shutters are incorporated into cameras.

One of the downsides of global shutter sensors is that their dynamic range and noise characteristics are not as good as the older regular CMOS sensors. The Sony A9 III is more akin to an APS-C sensor of the same resolution when compared to similar 24 MP cameras. Nonetheless, this is a small issue in light of the advantages–especially for sports and wildlife photographers. Also, with the new AI Denoise feature in Lightroom, noise doesn’t really matter anymore. ISO 12,800 on just about any camera is totally usable with a little AI Denoise applied in post-processing. Certainly, as new global shutter sensors are improved the issues with noise and dynamic range will be addressed and improved upon.

History of High Speed Flash Synchronization

In my photography, as many of my readers will know, I have been pushing the envelop in terms of high shutter speed flash photography for quite some time now. I started out using the Elinchrom Ranger strobes with the PocketWizard Hypersync technology built into their radio transmitters, which allowed me to get up to around 1/1,600th second shutter speeds using strobes. I first used Hypersync as an experiment photographing ice climbing way back in 2012 (as shown below). Hypersync was the first technique I found that allowed me to raise my shutter speed to freeze action and light up a subject that was more than 60 ft (18 meters) away from the strobe.

I then took those Hypersync techniques to Hawaii where I used five 1,100 Ws Elinchrom Ranger strobes to light up a surfer on a wave that was around 500 feet (152 meters) away from the strobe as shown below. There is a behind the scenes video entitled Hypersync Surfing on my website from that experimental project. I wanted to see just how far I could push the flash technology–and I found out. While the Hypersync technology was clunky and hard to figure out, the results are hard to argue with. The surfing image we created wasn’t the best surfing image ever but it did offer insight into the possibilities–and it was as far as I know the farthest anyone had ever pushed strobe technology (outside of military applications).

At the same time that Hypersync was developed by PocketWizard, Profoto was hard at work implementing High Speed Sync into their new B1 500 Ws flashes. High Speed Sync (HSS) has been around for decades in Nikon and Canon speedlights as a way to sync flash at higher shutter speeds than the standard 1/250th second sync speed. It was great to see this brought to more powerful strobes like the B1 and later the B1X, but it was still not anywhere nearly as powerful as the Hypersync technique noted above. The advantage of the HSS strobes was that they could sync at up to 1/8,000th second, whereas the Hypersync option depended greatly on the camera used and really only worked at up to 1/1,600th second on Nikon cameras. To be clear HSS and Hypersync function quite a bit differently. For a full explanation of HSS vs Hypersync (also later known as Hi-Sync) check out the blog post HS vs HSS that I wrote for Elinchrom.

With the release of the Elinchrom ELB400 way back in 2015, Elinchrom took the Hypersync technology and customized it to work much better for the ELB400 and later the ELB1200 strobes. In fact, on a flight home from Switzerland returning from a pre-production distributor meeting at Elinchrom HQ, I came up with fifty or sixty different names for the new technology knowing that Elinchrom wanted to name is HS. “Hi-Sync” is the name they chose off the list. Hence, the new Hi-Sync (HS) technology they created was the ultimate high speed flash photography option on the market–until the release of the Sony A9 III. The HS technology they created allowed for syncing flashes up to 1/8,000th second shutter speeds with both the ELB 400 and the ELB1200 using the HS flash heads–which had a slow flash duration to help sync up the timing. Essentially, the flash fired before the shutter and this allowed the camera to use a slice of the light emitted by the flash. As shown below in an image created for the launch of the Elinchrom ELB1200, this gave us the ultimate in outdoor flash power.

The problem with HS technology was that it was hard to figure out. There was no auto setting and you really have to experiment with it to make it work for you. In contrast the Profoto B1 and later the B1X had TTL but modes just like a speedlight that allowed for full auto flash control. And hence, as you would suspect, many photographers went with the easier, but much more limiting option.

Using Strobes with Leaf Shutters

After using the Hypersync and Hi-Sync technology for five or six years, I dove into the medium format world and purchased a Hasselblad H5D 50c, which used leaf shutters in the lenses instead of a focal plane shutter in the camera. That camera system cost more than my car, so it was a huge investment. The leaf shutter in Hasselblad cameras allows for syncing strobes at all shutter speeds available on the camera. The H5D 50c only went up to 1/800th second, but their newer cameras had shutter speeds up to 1/2,000th second. The leaf shutter was the original “global shutter” and essentially acted the same way. The full sensor (or piece of film back in the day) was full exposed to the light with no restrictions at all shutter speeds just like the newer global shutter in the Sony A9 III.

As shown below, I used the Hasselblad for both portraits and action images. The autofocus on the H5D was pretty pathetic but with some workarounds I could make it work for some sports, especially if I was using lighting. I found the leaf shutter to be extremely powerful compared to other flash techniques but in reality I found using the HS (Hi-Sync) technology with my Nikon cameras and the Elinchrom ELB1200 was still more powerful for lighting up a subject from a far distance.

Sadly, Elinchrom has given up on the HS technology as none of their strobes have that built in anymore. They have gone for the easier to use HSS option with TTL and auto modes, which totally makes sense as most people purchasing a flash want to create portraits and the flash is relatively close in those scenarios. The number of photographers using the Hi-Sync techniques to light up distant subjects was understandably a very small number so it didn’t make much sense to keep producing strobes with that technology. The only manufacturer that still has HS technology (not HSS) incorporated into their strobes is Broncolor. They have HS built into the Move 1200L, and the Siros 400 L and 800 L strobes. But with those options Broncolor did not optimize the flash tubes to work specifically for HS and hence, they only work in HS mode at the highest power settings where the flash duration is slow enough to make it work. I still consider the Elinchrom ELB1200, which went out of production in 2020 to be the most technically advanced strobe ever created by any company. Sadly, they are very hard to find now. I will keep mine in good condition as long as I can until something better comes along.

The trick with using leaf shutters with your strobes was pretty simple. Your flash duration (i.e. how long the burst of light emitted from the flash) needed to be faster than your shutter speed for everything to work as expected. If the flash duration was shorter than the shutter speed then you would end up clipping the flash and the exposure would not match what your light meter read. This is partly why Hasselblad shutter speeds only went up to 1/800th second and later to 1/2,000th second. Most strobes, even the high-end Profoto and Broncolor studio strobes, had relatively slow flash durations at the full power settings. Even the incredible Bronocolor Scoro packs, which cost over $15,000 just for the pack itself, have a t0.1 flash duration of only 1/132 second. That is incredibly slow. They get much faster as you lower the power on the pack–as with all strobes. The Profoto Pro-11, which costs an eye bleeding $17,499 and that is just for the power pack, goes up to a wicked fast t0.1 flash duration of 1/17,500th second at the lowest power setting but at full power the t0.1 flash duration is a pedestrian 1/600th second. [Note that the t0.1 flash duration notation is the most accurate available and commonly used notation for evaluating the actual flash duration. Most companies use the less accurate t0.5 notation as the numbers look more impressive.]

Using Global Shutters with Strobes

Global shutters are sensors that read out all pixels at the same time. Older digital sensors scan the pixels on the sensor line by line. Some cameras, like the Nikon Z9 and the Sony A1 could do this incredibly fast as shown below, but they were not reading all of the pixels at the same time. Hence, a global digital sensor is essentially the same as a leaf shutter used in medium format cameras. The only real world difference is that they can achieve much higher shutter speeds than any leaf shutter ever could. For example, the Sony A9 III can go up to 1/80,000th second shutter speed.

As discussed in the previous section on using leaf shutters with strobes, the flash duration needs to ideally be shorter than the shutter speed when using global shutter (or you will have to compensate the exposure slightly since you are only getting a slice of the light in the actual image). This was the same scenario with leaf-shutter cameras from Hasselblad and Phase One. Another common issue when using leaf shutters is that the radio transmitter had to be more powerful and able to transmit the information to the flash faster than normal to trigger the strobe right when the shutter button is depressed. Otherwise you will end up clipping the light from the flash because of the delay in the radio trigger sending the signal to the flash/strobe. With my Elinchrom strobes I had to switch them over to a different “speed” mode to trigger the strobes faster with my Hasselblad.

With global shutters and fast shutter speeds the reality is if we want to use flashes and/or larger more powerful strobes with these new sensors we need to invest in better strobes that have fast flash durations at all power settings. What that means is the cheaper, slower HSS TTL strobes with very slow flash durations at the higher power settings are going to be tough to use with global shutters, especially outdoors where you want more power. Even though they are quite expensive, the strobes shown above like the Broncolor Move 1200L (left), Profoto Pro-11 (center) and the Elinchrom FIVE (right) at lower power settings are going to work much better than a lot to the cheaper strobe options like Godox and Westcott. I’m not saying you can’t work with those less expensive options but just as with leaf shutters the best results will always be gained with the higher end strobes.

Both Broncolor and Elinchrom do have strobes that have much faster flash durations at the full power setting — somewhere in the order of 1/2,400th second (t0.5) at full power. Sports photographers have been using these type fast flash duration strobes (from Elinchrom, Dynalite and others) for years because they needed fast flash durations at full power to freeze motion with the lights up in the rafters of stadiums (think Basketball and Hockey). This is where a lot of the TTL HSS (like the Profoto B1X, Godox, etc.) strobes are going to have a lot of issues with the new global shutter cameras because their full power flash durations are incredibly slow. Looking at the specs, the Broncolor Move 1200L would be one of the best strobes on the market for use with global shutters since it has a t0.1 flash duration of 1/2,300th second at 80% power–and it only gets faster the lower the power setting. The Profoto D2 1,000 Ws moonlight is another excellent option. My old Elinchrom ELB1200 is in that same ballpark (as the Broncolor Move pack) when used with the Action flash heads–but sadly it is no longer made.

As global shutter becomes the norm in future cameras, I foresee a slew of professional photographers ditching their cheaper strobes and upgrading to higher end professional strobes like those made by Broncolor, Profoto and Elinchrom that have faster flash durations. Profoto certainly has a phenomenal strobe in the Pro-11, but the weight and cost of that strobe are prohibitive. The Profoto D2, as noted above is a great option for much less money–but it is still quite expensive. Broncolor has the venerable Siros L options with fast flash durations but their strobes are the most expensive options across the board until you get up to the Profoto Pro-11 level. If you still have an Elinchrom ELB1200 and the action flash heads, hold onto those as they will be excellent strobes for the forthcoming global shutter future. Hopefully the strobe manufacturers are aware of this change and will start developing new products with faster flash durations in anticipation of the forthcoming technology. At some point there will be no need for HSS or HS technology at all. The new global shutters will open up a new era of creativity in the photography world–and I for one am very excited to see what we can do with the new technology.

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Winter 2024 Newsletter

The Winter 2024 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue of the Newsletter includes an editorial entitled Ready. Set. Go, a behind the scenes recap of a recent Fujifilm Factory Tour, an article detailing my personal project Sky Diving the Annular Eclipse, an editorial entitled The Year Ai Goes Big, and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 8,000 photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Winter 2024 issue on my website at:

If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available on my website here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at

If you are a subscriber and you have not already received the Newsletter, which was email out earlier today please send me an email with your current email address and/or check your spam folder.

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

2023: Year in Review

2023 has been the busiest year yet since the pandemic began in 2020. With that said there were still some blank spaces on the assignment calendar but the first half of this year was very close to normal in terms of travel and assignments. Regardless, I was still able to create some wild images. I can’t say that it was an epic year of creativity but it certainly had its moments–and some of those moments really got me excited to push harder in the future.

This year also brought with it some amazing experiences like working with the Red Bull Air Force again as well as shooting for the launch of the FUJIFILM GFX100 II medium format camera. As you will see below, this year was all over the map in terms of photographic genres and clients. This was also the first year I have traveled internationally since the pandemic began, which was very exciting. Though I have to say that the airlines have managed to make international flying even less fun that it was pre-pandemic. Without further ado, here are what I consider the best images I have created this year.

Winter 2023 Snowpocalype
Wolf Creek Ski Resort, Colorado — USA

In January 2023, a friend of mine, Charlie Pinder from the UK, came over and we set out on a winter adventure to do some skiing and ice climbing in southern Colorado. Charlie used to be the Director of Photography for Red Bull in Austria. Hence, I have known him and worked with him a fair number of times and we became friends through our work together. We had done one prior trip together when he came to visit and stay with me several years before this 2023 adventure. It was a blast to see him again post-Covid. Little did we know that we were in for one epic trip.

Our first stop was to head up to Wolf Creek, a small ski area in the southern Colorado that gets epic amounts of snow. As we were driving up from Santa Fe, New Mexico it was becoming apparent that the snow might actually be insanely deep during our two days in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The ski area was actually shut down the day we arrived because there was too much snow and getting to the ski area was pretty dicey. Luckily, the roads were plowed and open the following day and we ended up with two amazing days of deep powder. In fact, for me, who is only an intermediate skier, the powder was so deep that I had to relearn how to ski in deep powder to some degree. At one point, at the top of the mountain in near white out conditions we stopped and snapped some photos in the otherworldly landscape as shown in the image of Charlie below.

After our epic two days of skiing, we headed to Ouray, Colorado for some ice climbing. At this point in the trip it had already snowed four feet while we were in Pagosa, and it was still snowing so it was dubious if we could even get to Ouray. To get to Ouray, we had to drive over Red Mountain Pass–which is the most dangerous road in North America. I have driven over the pass at least sixty or seventy times in my twenty five years of ice climbing in Ouray. Hence, I knew what we were in for.

The weather forecast was snow all day. When we got closer to the start of the big mountain passes, just north of Durango, I asked some of the locals if they had heard anything about the conditions on the road going north to Silverton and then to Ouray. They said bluntly, “I wouldn’t drive up there in these conditions.” But, the road was still open. We were stopped by a cop on the way up to Molas Pass and asked about the road again and he said that the road was open. So on we went.

Getting to Silverton wasn’t that tough, the road was well plowed. Between Silverton and Ouray, on the actual Red Mountain Pass, we ran into a huge truck jack-knifed on the road but luckily were just able to squeeze by and get around the truck. We ran into a few other cars and trucks having difficulty but there was nothing we could do for them. On we went at 25 mph going slowly so as not to get in trouble. We made it into Ouray and found out the road was closed only twenty minutes after we had gotten into town. Ouray was of course buried with nearly seven feet of new snow in the last four or five days. Even getting around town was pretty slippery. Charlie commented several times how impressed he was with my Subaru Outback (equipped with winter tires). We saw a lot of other larger trucks, including several Toyota Tundras, having some serious issues with traction and they had chains on as well. When we saw other vehicles with traction issues we would just pull out or cruise right on by with no issues. Rock on Subaru! Check out Charlie’s timelapse video below that he posted on Instagram to see the drive from Durango to Ouray. What you might not be able to make out in Charlie’s timelapse are the giant cliffs just next to the road that make this drive pretty exciting.

The ice climbing wasn’t that epic because with the huge amounts of snow you basically had to clean your route off before you could even get on the ice climb. It continued to snow the entire two days we were in Ouray and in the end I think it was over to two meters or more of snow — seven feet at least that fell over the course of our six day trip. The driving was at least as exciting as the skiing and ice climbing. It wasn’t the worst driving conditions I have ever seen on Red Mountain Pass but it was close. All in all, it was a great way to start off 2023.

On a separate note, my twelve year old, tortured 2011 Subaru Outback developed some serious issues a few months after this trip and I purchased my third Subaru Outback largely based on just how well it had done on this epic winter trip. There is not much a Subaru with winter tires can’t handle and that became quite evident on this adventure.

Red Bull Air Force 2023 Training Camp
Eloy, Arizona — USA

In February, I was once again invited to photograph the Red Bull Air Force training camp in Eloy, Arizona. Over the last fifteen or more years working with Red Bull it has been an honor to work with the Red Bull Air Force and their incredible skydivers, BASE jumpers, wingsuit team and the legendary pilots they have as well. I have photographed every training camp the team has had here in the USA since 2010. This one was a little different than the normal training camps in that it was an International version with Red Bull skydivers, paragliders and pilots from all over the world flying in to participate in the training camp.

On one evening the crew set up an array of pyrotechnics for the team to swoop through on an evening skydive. The image below of Sean MacCormac busting through a wall of pyrotechnics was one of the surprising images that came from that evening. We both paid for this image because of my poor choice in positioning myself right in the firing line. For the full story on this image read my blog post entitled The Wall of Pyro. This was an incredibly difficult image to capture and it is a small miracle that my camera could autofocus this fast in such low light at f/1.2.

During the few days I was documenting the aerial training camp I also had the opportunity to go up in a hot air balloon and photograph skydivers, paragliders and some wingsuit skydivers blasting past our balloon. In the image below, Miles Daisher flew his wingsuit past our hot air balloon at 120 mph (193 kph) and you can see the plane he jumped from above him in the background. Again, I am blown away that the camera could track him so accurately, especially on a cloudy overcast day. This is a very unusual image in that it is very rare to see a wingsuit pilot flying in the air from this vantage point.

In another cool setup, the team set up some huge smoke bombs and the then they skydived through the smoke. In the image below Mike Swanson is swooping over the pond and through the smoke just before landing right next to me. There were a lot of really cool images that came from this setup including a few where the skydiver was so low that they could hardly be seen because of all the smoke–and then they popped out and landed blind.

Overall, the 2023 Red Bull International Aerial Camp offered up a wild array of image opportunities that were quite different than those I have created of the team in the past. It was great to be part of the crew and to be able to work with the incredible athletes at this training camp. It was also great to meet all of the international athletes that attended as well. Fingers crossed I can photograph future International Aerial Camps for Red Bull.

New Mexico Tourism
Taos Gorge, Taos, New Mexico — USA

During the course of my year, I have a few local assignments sprinkled in with my other more normal action and adventure gigs. The client I work with locally most often is New Mexico Tourism and every once in a while these assignments result in amazing images. On one such gig, I was driving back from Taos and saw this stormy sunset over the Taos Gorge and had to stop to photograph it. I had my 102 megapixel FUJIFILM GFX100S with me and that gave me a lot of resolution to play with. I think I like the panoramic version of this image better than this one, but I thought I would share the full resolution (uncropped image here).

Lower Mesa Falls, Idaho — USA

It has been a huge honor to work with Fujifilm the last five years, since my first assignment with them creating images for the launch of the original GFX100 in 2019. Once again this last summer I was on an assignment to create images for the launch of the GFX100 II. This time around we chose the sport of whitewater kayaking and after a few delays decided to go to Lower Mesa Falls in Idaho. The kayakers were James Shimizu, JT Hartman and Darby McAdams. Over the course of three days we created a variety of images but there were a few that stood out. Below are some of my favorites from that assignment. For the full story, check out Fall 2023 Newsletter. There is also a gallery of the best images on my website here, which includes a behind the scenes video as well.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mclark_idlm_0724_1323.jpg

As you might expect, the GFX100 II is a stellar camera. In my mind it is the best camera Fujifilm has ever created in the history of the company. I wrote up a full preview of the camera here. My thanks to Fujifilm for bringing me back once again to help launch one of their exceptional GFX cameras.

Fujifilm GFX100 II Announcement
Stockholm — Sweden

In September 2023, as part of the launch of the new FUJIFILM GFX100 II, Fujifilm flew me out to Sweden for the actual launch event in Stockholm. As usual with these Fujikina launch events, there are a lot of press attending, some fancy diners and in-depth seminars for folks to find out more of the technical details of the new products. There was also some hands on time for people to try out the new gear as well. Since I created images for the launch I already knew the camera decently well but it was a great time to celebrate with the Fujifilm crew and meet the larger photography community that came to the event.

While I was in Stockholm for six days, I had time to explore the city and run around photographing a variety of city scenes. The image below is of Sergels Torg in central Stockholm. This location was literally a few hundred yards from my Hotel. I met up with Elia Locardi, who had been to Sweden before, at the launch and we went out together to photograph this location after the festivities. Even though it was just September, the wind it was quite chilly standing out on a bridge to get this image as the sun set. It was a blast to see Elia again, talk shop and catch up.

I also spent a considerable amount of time riding and exploring the amazing subway system in Stockholm. The metro there is one of the easiest to use I have seen anywhere. And almost all of the major subway stations have these elaborate cave corridors painted with wild colors and epic scenes as can be seen below. For a photographer, it felt like being a kid in a candy store running all over town to check out the various subway stations.

Skydiving the Annular Eclipse
Santa Fe, New Mexico — USA

A few months before the annular eclipse Jeff Provenzano contacted me. Jeff is a member of the Red Bull Air Force, who I have worked with on numerous assignments over the last 15 years. He is also one of the world’s elite sky divers. Jeff wanted to do a personal project skydiving with the eclipse. When he first called I was dubious as to how we would pull this off. Red Bull has over the years contacted me several times to photograph some of their athletes during an eclipse–and each time the logistics of getting the shot were pretty much impossible. This time around I thought through the options and told Jeff the only way to pull off any images would be a double exposure–either in camera or in photoshop after the fact.

Jeff lined up a helicopter for the sky dive, but he could not get a permit in any of the three locations he could get a helicopter. In the end, I told him not to worry, I already had thousands of photos of him skydiving and I could photograph the eclipse in my own backyard since Santa Fe was in line with the eclipse. On October 14, 2023, I spent an hour photographing the eclipse, then came back into the office and got to work. Combining the photos in photoshop resulted in the images you see below. It worked out phenomenally well. As can be seen in the last image, I even managed to capture a solar flare during the eclipse.

My sincere thanks to Jeff Provenzano for coming up with the idea for these images. This was by far the most exciting set of images I created in 2023. When I saw the first composite image come together on my computer I just about fell out of my chair I was so blown away. I wrote a full blog post about this personal project which you can find here. And there is also a web gallery of the best resulting images on my main website as well.

Fall Colors in Japan
Shinshu and Hida Prefectures — Japan

This past fall, I led a photography tour entitled “The Fall Colors of Shinshu and Hida” with George Nobechi and Nobechi Creative in Japan. This photo trek set out to explore the central mountains of Japan and follow the fall colors as the trees changed colors all along the mountain chain. First off, I didn’t know that central Japan had such incredible mountains–rising to over 12,000 feet in elevation. One of the highlights for me personally was Kamikochi National Park, which lies due west of Tokyo. As shown in the first few images below these mountains are not unlike the Alps in Europe and they are the steepest, most impressive mountains (at least for climbing) in all of Japan from what I have seen.

Through out the ten day trip, we visited a variety of different villages and towns as well as set up a few impromptu photo opportunities for the participants. On one such stop we photographed Murozaki Tadahiko, who is a tenth level iaido master (swordsman). George took us to a local waterfall and we used my Elinchrom strobes to light Murozaki up as he practiced his craft. I photographed him with the strobes first to dial in the lighting and find a decent composition for the participants. In that brief time I was able to create a few memorable images, but the best images I got that day was without the lights. The image below is just of him standing in front of the waterfall at the end of our session.

Earlier on the trip we also visited the Jigokudani Monkey Park, which is one of the most famous tourist sites in Japan (outside of the cities). It was fantastic fun photographing the monkeys and watching them interact with all of the tourists but for me the really stunning part of that adventure was the incredible Cryptomeria Forrest we walked through to get to the Monkey park. I spent a considerable amount of time photographing the forrest on the hike in and then found a perfect spot on the way out to try some motion blur images (as I have done with Aspens in the past). Working with my brand new FUJIFILM GFX100 II, I shot a few hundred motion blur images of the forrest and there were a few gems as shown below.

Fujifilm Factory Visit
Taiwa — Japan

On my fall trip to Japan, I was also able to go visit the Fujifilm Taiwa factory in the Miyagi Prefecture north of Sendai, Japan. This factory is where the GFX cameras and lenses, as well as the X100 and X-Pro line of cameras and lenses, are manufactured. Years ago, when I went to Japan for the launch of the original GFX100 I was told that Fujifilm would set up a private tour on my next visit. Then of course, Covid happened and well, I didn’t make it back to Japan until this fall (nearly five years later). Hence, I am grateful that Fujifilm set up this factory visit. It was incredible to see what goes into making the cameras and lenses I rely on for my work. I wrote an entire blog post about the factory visit. Hence you can read all about it there in that post. But, once of the major highlights was walking in and seeing my image from the GFX100 assignment in 2019 hanging in the main lobby of the factory as shown below. My thanks to everyone at Fujifilm for the exceptionally warm welcome and the great hospitality during my trip to Japan.

U2 at the Sphere
Las Vegas, Nevada — USA

On September 30th, I was one of the lucky ones to go see U2 on their opening night at The Sphere in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am not sure how I got tickets for this concert as it was a lottery system but it was pretty epic to see an entirely new type of concert experience with such a huge screen. Since it was opening night, none of us knew what to expect. There had been no YouTube videos showing the experience so we all had no idea what was about to happen. As can be seen in my Instagram post below, by the third song we were already blown away. The entire concert was sensory overload, and it took a few days to really take in what we saw and experienced. They only have a dozen or shows left in their residency at the Sphere but if you can go see the show I would highly recommend it. I have been a massive U2 fan since I first saw their videos on MTV way back in 1981 and I have seen them several times over the years but this concert stands out from all of the others–and also set the bar incredibly high for all other concerts going forward. This is going to be very difficult to top!

So long 2023. My thanks to Red Bull, Fujifilm, National Geographic, New Mexico Tourism, Teton Ridge, Nobechi Creative and all of my other clients with whom I worked this year. Thank you for taking the time to check out some of this years highlights. Feel free to comment on any of these images and tell me which one you think is the best of the best from this year. Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you all. Here’s hoping your 2024 is filled with even more adventurous travels and amazing experiences!

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

2023 Fine Art print Sale

To get the ball rolling for the fall holiday season, I am happy to announce a 15% off sale on all of my fine art prints until December 31st, 2023. How this works is very simple, just take 15% off my standard fine art print pricing, which can be found here, and contact me to order the print. This sale includes both paper prints and metal prints. Also, note that my print pricing includes free shipping (in the continental USA) as well as free print mounting on DiBond (for paper prints). All metal prints come ready to hand on the wall.

All of my images are available as Fine Art Prints. You can see which of my images are in the Limited Edition category on my website. Any images that are not shown on the Limited Edition page are considered Open Edition prints. Available print sizes are listed on the pricing page. I will work with you to make sure the final print is the best it can possibly be and will look great mounted on your wall. All paper prints are made on the finest baryta photographic papers.

Below are a few sample prints to give you an idea of just how stunning these turn out when framed up.

Also, the metal prints I am offering, printed by Blazing Editions, are absolutely stunning as well and are also on sale. Just as with the paper prints, all of my metal prints come mounted (as they are printed directly on the metal) and additionally they come with a backing or frame so that they be hung on the wall straight out of the box. Below are a few examples of the metal prints on offer and the second image below shows a close up of one possible mounting option–a metal print with a black wood float frame.

Please contact me with any questions or if you would like to look at a wider range of images than are featured on my website.

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

The Annular Eclipse of 2023

In early September this year, Jeff Provenzano contacted me about doing a project in tandem with the annular eclipse, which was taking place on October 14, 2023. Jeff is one of the world’s most elite sky divers and also a member of the Red Bull Air Force–a team of elite sky divers, BASE jumpers, and wingsuit pilots. This wasn’t a Red Bull assignment, but having worked with Jeff on dozens of assignments over the last fifteen years, I knew it would be a good opportunity to create some incredible images. In our discussions, Jeff had lined up helicopters in various places along the path of the eclipse but we couldn’t get permits. We also discussed how we could actually pull it off. I told him I would give it some thought but in the ensuing days I never figured out a way to do it all in camera in one shot. In reality, getting this type of image with a moving subject in the sky against an eclipse is really an impossible shot. With a 16-stop solar filter on the lens, which is a filter that totally blacks out the frame, I would not be able to see where he was or even attempt to focus on him. Hence, the only solution was a double exposure—either in camera or after the fact in Photoshop. Both options yield essentially the same result.

All of the sky diving images you see here in this blog post are Double Exposure images created using images captured of the Annular Eclipse on October 14th and images of Jeff Provenzano that were captured earlier this year while shooting an assignment for Red Bull. Because we couldn’t get any permits for locations in line with the eclipse, I decided I would just photograph the eclipse from my home here in Santa Fe, New Mexico–which was in line with the eclipse. Afterwards I would see if this double exposure idea could work.

I photographed the eclipse with the intention of creating something atmospheric for the double exposure images. Having photographed a few eclipses, I knew the standard shot with pitch black sky and the crescent sun-moon was not really going to work. I intentionally overexposed the images, which created purple and blue halos around the fuzzy eclipse. The eclipse looks fuzzy and out of focus but that is just the intense light scattering through the 800mm lens that I was using to photograph the event. I was able to adjust and recompose the halos by moving the lens. The halos are essentially reflections bouncing around inside the giant telephoto lens I used to photograph the eclipse. Here in Santa Fe, New Mexico we did not get the total eclipse perfectly centered, but that didn’t really matter since I felt the crescent shape might actually lend itself better for the final double exposure image. Interestingly in one of these images if you look closely you can see a fairly large solar flare flying off the sun’s surface on the edge of the eclipse. See the last image below for a close up of that solar flare.

While photographing the eclipse, I kept moving the camera to move the halos around the frame–and also so I would have a lot of options when I came back into the office and started putting the images together. I chose the images of the eclipse that I thought might work well and then pulled the skydiving images and overlayed them in Photoshop using a simple blend mode, which is pretty much the same as doing the double exposure in camera. I just about fell out of my office chair when the first image came together. I was blown away at how good it looked and well it worked. I was so inspired by that first image that I started putting together a bunch of different images to see how they worked out. A few hours later I had over 30 composite images worked up and began looking at them as a whole to figure out which ones work the best.

In my excitement I zipped off a few low res jpegs to Jeff, who was at the time sky diving in southern Arizona at a jump zone. In between sky dives, he responded and was just as blown away as I was. I posted a few to Instagram and my feed blew up with comments. Jeff did the same and he got even more comments and likes–especially since he is quite famous in the sky diving world. Some of Jeff’s friends were wondering how he jumped in front of the eclipse when they didn’t see it in southern Arizona, hence the long explanation of these images here and on my social media posts.

I have been asked to do this sort of shot several times by a few different clients. One of those times the client knew the odds of capturing the actual image was so difficult they wrote into the contract that I would still get paid even if I came back with zero images–luckily that assignment fell through as they couldn’t get permits for what we wanted to try. My response has always been that for subjects in motion the only real way to do it is a double exposure. Now I can say that it works. I have a lot more playing around to do with various images combined with the eclipse but below are a few of my favorites that I have put together so far.

I have since put up a gallery on my website with the best images from this project. Check those out here. I am quite excited for the next big eclipse to try out this technique and to do everything in camera–stay tuned for that.

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Fujifilm Factory Visit 2023

On October 19th this year, I was able to tour the Fujifilm Taiwa Factory in the Miyagi Prefecture north of Sendai, Japan. This factory is where the GFX cameras and lenses, as well as the X100 and X-Pro line of cameras and lenses, are manufactured. Having worked closely with Fujifilm since 2019, it was a huge honor to go see the factory where the incredible GFX line of medium format cameras are manufactured. In talking with the camera designers, they impressed upon me years ago just how challenging it is to mass produce a camera like the GFX100, 100S and now the 100 II. With my physics background, I had some idea of the challenges but touring the factory those challenges were shown quite clearly.

Of course, we were limited in what they wanted to show us and even more so in what we were allowed to photograph, which is completely understandable. Hence, all of the images you will see here in the blog post are images that we were allowed to take–and I made sure to ask before taking any images where it wasn’t clear so that I didn’t show anything they didn’t want out there in the World.

The Taiwa factory is about three hours north of Tokyo, and 45 minutes north of Sendai. It took a two-plus hour bullet train ride and a 45 minute drive to get to the factory so visiting is not an off the cuff endeavor. I went to the factory along with three other Fujifilm employees (one from the USA and two from Australia) and also with Toshiya, Taiji, and Tomo from the Fujifilm design team.

Upon our arrival, the top managers and engineers at the factory greeted us at the front door in true Japanese style bowing as we entered and greeting us warmly. In the lobby, the first thing I saw was one of my images printed fairly large hanging in a glass case next to display cases with various Fujifilm cameras and lenses (shown below). The image was one of the ones I created for the launch of the GFX100 back in 2019. Apparently this has been hanging there since 2019 when the print was first shown in Tokyo at the 2019 Fujikina event. Needless to say, this was a pretty amazing way to start of the tour and a true honor to see one of my images hanging there in the entrance lobby.

We had a quick introduction and lunch just after our arrival. At some point during lunch I asked Toshiya if he could thank the managers and engineers for having my image out in the lobby. They immediately looked at me and were shocked that the photographer of that image was here with them as they had not known I was connected to that image. They seemed truly amazed that I would come visit the factory and later on (as shown at the end of this blog post) we took photos together in front of the print. They even asked for an autograph to put up with the print. I don’t say this to brag, I am just trying to convey how amazing it was to see my own image in print and how amazing it is to have a great working relationship with Fujifilm.

After lunch we went into the factory alongside the engineers and they showed us both the facility that produces lenses and camera bodies. First up we walked by the machine that etches the serial number on lenses and cameras (shown above). After that we went to the clean room and suited up in Tyvek suits and masks to enter the clean room. Shown below you can see myself and some of the other Fujifilm folks in our white clean room suits. Having worked in a clean room environment in physics this was a blast from the past.

In the first clean room we looked at the production of the new Tilt-Shift lenses for the GFX system. They were building the new 30mm f/5.6 TS lenses and we got to see how that process worked. This is a new and very exciting lens for many in the GFX system and it is obviously a very complex build. Below is a layout of all the lens pieces on a display. We weren’t allowed to photograph anything else in this facility save for our group discussion (below the TS lens outlay). But suffice it to say that we were shown just how difficult and time consuming it is to fine-tune the optics in this new Tilt-Shift lens. I can see why it costs $3,999 USD and honestly I am amazed it is that cheap considering how complex it is to manufacture. I hope to get the 30mm Tilt-Shift lens at some point. Stay tuned for that.

Above is an image of Toshiya explaining to us the process of aligning lens elements and how difficult that can be. As you would imagine each step in building complex lenses like this is very specialized. Seeing the lens manufacturing facility really gave me insight into just how hard it is to design and build the phenomenal lenses that Fujifilm manufactures. Though I can’t discuss some of the stuff we saw here on the blog, what really surprised me was just how much time it takes to really calibrate and hand-tune the lenses before they can be boxed up and shipped out.

After touring the lens facility we went back over to the camera production building where they were building the GFX100 II camera bodies. As shown at the top of this blog post and below, the internals of any digital camera and especially with a camera like the GFX100 II are extremely complex. At one point we walked by a placard showing sensor defects and the images were created using a very high power electron microscope. I recognized the images right away for what they were and asked about them since this was pretty similar to what I worked on in my physics work back in the 90s, but with an STM (Scanning Tunneling Microscope) which electronically images individual atoms on the surface of a chip. That placard was showing just how hard it is to create flawless image sensors with perfectly flat surfaces.

As we walked the camera production facility, we saw the build process of the new GFX100 II camera bodies in various stages. At one point the internals were being built up and were fully exposed (as shown below). And then just a little farther down the line we could see how they were mounted into the camera body itself–as can be seen in the image at the top of this post.

As with the lenses, what really surprises me is that we don’t have to pay much, much more for these incredibly complex cameras. The tolerances are so small, and the details are so critical to actually make a digital camera work–even just thinking of the physical build of the camera body and not to mention the computing side of things. It is absolutely amazing we can have a medium format digital camera for less than $10,000 USD these days. The Fujifilm engineers conveyed a few of the challenges in building cameras with huge sensors to us–and talked about how things like shimming the sensor at the factory so it is parallel to the lens mount is even more critical and difficult on the larger sensor than on smaller sensors.

After finishing up on the camera line, the engineers thought it would be fun to let us try our hand at some non-critical tasks. In this case, they allowed us to try putting the rubber cladding on the outside of a few GFX100 II bodies. I started with the easier side opposite the grip (as shown below) and did a pretty solid job applying the adhesive and then the rubber grip to the camera. But, when I tried to do the grip side, I started out ok but then my alignment of the rubber material was a bit off. As shown below, we watched a true professional apply the rubber grip and her work was flawless and took maybe one-fifth the amount of time when we tried.

As I said earlier, at the end of the tour we created some images of the engineers and managers with my image up front in the lobby after our tour. We also organized a group photo of all of us to commemorate the occasion. In that image you can see the specialized shoes they had for us to wear in the facility. Since most of the facility is a giant clean room, it is critical to keep out dust and any debris. None of us want that in our camera. Hence, the precautions and the reason for the clean room environment.

I have to say a huge thank you to Fujifilm, the staff at the Taiwa factory and the Fujifilm product design team that accompanied us for taking a full day away from their normal work to show us the factory and give us a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create these amazing cameras. It is a true honor to work with Fujifilm and to have these incredible tools that let me live a creative lifestyle with my work. Without all of their incredible effort and know how, I would not be able to do what I do or create the images you see here and on my website. These cameras are truly my passport to adventure and exploration. All of us in the photo industry stand on the shoulders of the engineers and designers that develop and build the gear we use.

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Fall 2023 Newsletter

The Fall 2023 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue of the Newsletter includes an editorial entitled Dropping In, a review of the FUJIFILM GFX 100 II medium format camera, an article detailing my assignment creating images for the launch of the FUJIFILM GFX 100 II, an editorial entitled The Inch-Worm Effect, and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 8,000 photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Fall 2023 issue on my website at:

If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available on my website here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at

If you are a subscriber and you have not already received the Newsletter, which was email out a few days ago please send me an email with your current email address and/or check your spam folder.

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *