Using Flash to Light a Wingsuit Jumper

Lighting action and sports photography can often be complex. The flash cannot always be placed where it should and with the x-sync limitation of our cameras, it can be difficult to have the required settings. But some photographers, like Tristan Shu, master their craft and can push the boundaries of flash photography.

Being able to freeze an action at the exact moment and with the perfect settings is not easy. However, it is something that every good sports photographer has to master, especially when playing around with off-camera flash. Technologies such as TTL metering or Elinchrom Hi-Sync can make things much easier. For one of his recent photo shoots, Tristan Shu took advantage of the latter and went out to photograph a wingsuit jumper using a flash!

Tristan is a commercial and action photographer based in France. If you haven't seen his work yet, you should definitely look at his portfolio. He has created some amazing pictures.

While I have seen other photographers use strobes in very bizarre places and ways, I had never seen someone paragliding with an assistant holding a heavy Ranger RX to light a wingsuit jumper. Talk about taking it to the next level — using flash on someone flying only a couple of feet away from you! How crazy is that? In the behind the scenes video, you'll hear Tristan say that they got the shot in only two takes. When I heard it, I thought they meant they had done a couple of tests to get the settings right, but apparently not. When writing to Tristan to learn more about this shot, he confirmed that they only did two takes.

The initial idea came from Tristan's desire to use flash to create pictures that are usually impossible, or at least difficult to strobe. Apparently, this was one of his ideas. I hope there will be others coming soon! This image, to me, is also proof that features such as Elinchrom Hi-Sync or Profoto HSS are slowly becoming things that photographers make use of in creative ways. Something like this shot would have probably been complicated to achieve without syncing at 1/4000 s.

What do you think? Does this image push you to rethink your use of flash and find new creative ways to use it as well? Do you think Hi-Sync and HSS are opening up new possibilities?

Quentin Decaillet's picture

Quentin Décaillet is a photographer and retoucher based in Switzerland specializing in portrait and wedding photography.

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Badass. Wish I had come up with this.

Great shot. Only could have been better if he was in a Batman cosplay style wingsuit imo.

This is wonderful.....great use of HSS, something I have been wanting to use myself....great work

He used Elinchrom's Hi-Sync, not HSS. Hi-Sync is very similar to PocketWizard's HyperSync while HSS is what you can find on Profoto's B1/B2 or small hot shoe flashes :) The loss of power using HSS would have been too great for this kind of lighting setup ;)
You can read more about the difference between the two in one of my previous articles here:

Well, thank you for the clarification

Amazing, not too many chances to correct lol
great job!

WOW, that is a well executed chute (punn intended :) )