Using Speedlites to Capture Action in Sports Photography

While on location for Red Bull's King of the Air in Cape Town, South Africa, digital art photographer Lars Daniel Terkeleson caught up with professional rider Nick Jacobsen for an incredible photo session. In a unique approach to using speedlites in sports photography, he was able to capture action in rare form against the breathtaking South African sunset.

Kiteboarding, like many action sports, requires an element of cooperation from the environment. The wind, the waves, the light, and the visibility all need to be just right for the optimum conditions. With a spectacular orange glow of the setting sun, there could not have been a better scenario to execute this fairly basic flash technique. Attaching speedlites to a GoPro mount about 10 feet up on the kite lines, Terkeleson was able to achieve an isolated spotlight on the rider. While the slow shutter speed did not allow for any fast tricks, the dramatic and lofty maneuvers provided for some beautiful photos.

The best thing about speedlites, in my opinion, is their near indestructibility. I've dropped my 580EX in the water multiple times and not only did they float, but they seem to survive despite my better efforts to do them in. Putting them just about anywhere for a little extra push of light can make the difference between a good and a great action photo. Though there are some severe limitations using them for this kind of photography (e.g., sync speed or lacking a full punch of a strobe), a speedlite will always have place in my bag. Share in the comments below some scenarios you've been thankful you had these guys handy.

[via WOO]

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Jason Hudson is a writer and photographer living in Central Coast California. Jason is currently a full time photographer and designer at a reputable branding firm and has freelance clients ranging from GoPro, Phillips, Outdoor Magazine and more. For inquiries about Jason's work, The Keller Whale, visit

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Great use of speedlites, some out-of-the-box thinking there. Definitely expanded my thoughts on looking for opportunities to use speedlites in more creative manners. Even though I don't shoot action or sports, but I know I can apply some additional creativity into weddings beyond the popular night time-rain-flash-backlit-shot. Thanks for the post

Completely agree on all fronts. I just would have never thought of this but now I'm thinking about all the crap I can attach speedlights to!! This was awesome and inspiring!

so awesome!!! i wish i could give this a try!!

Whoa! Love use of the lights and the results!

Awesome video and love the idea!

Having speedlites in my bag just completely saved me recently. I flew to South Carolina on United for a golf ad shoot, with plans of only being there for about 48 hours. My Pelican case with all of my lighting gear went MIA for the duration of the entire time we were there. Each time I called United I got a completely different story about where my gear was. Luckily I had some LumoPro LP160's in my bag with a reflector kit so we just made it work the best we could. After getting back home to Denver I found my Pelican case in the United baggage office, with tags from Houston, Charleston, and D.C. on it!

Case in point, always carry speedlites.

Ah, seeing Table Mountain in the background makes me miss my home town, Cape Town

Didn't he use the Yongnuo YN560III, cause he had the Yongnuo YN560TX on his Camera. Or am I completely wrong? Or can I control and trigger a Canon 580ex with the Yongnuo 560TX? Or is this a special Canon trigger? And will this even work without HSS?

Really great feature - brave use of kit as well, water and flash!

Epic shots!

Thanks for posting the video, and for your nice comments.
I can add, that I have Canon speedlights and PocketWizard Flex TT5´s, but the moment I knew I had to try the line mount, I ordered three YN560III and the YN560-TX. Best thing: No need of reciever. One unit only, and this is the way it should be. Lighter and more sturdy. Less batteries to think about. And what I paid for three speedlights and transmitter is less than what I paid for one Flex TT5, which is nice since what I am going to do with them is quite rock'n'roll. :-)
Finally, I found that a really useful bonus is, that I can remotely control the zoom of the YN560III. So in the beginning of the session when ambient light was strong, I zoomed in to maximize power on the rider, and later I could zoom out to light up a whole wave.