I’m not sure why I’m so intrigued by the difference between first-curtain and second-curtain flash images. Maybe it’s because they have an aura of magic about them, since they reveal something that the naked eye cannot detect. Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted some shots with the Panasonic Lumix LX5 illustrating the effects of the first-curtain versus second-curtain flash setting, and now I’m back with more.
The first time, I used a remote-controlled model car, and the pictures showed how the car’s headlights shoot long beams in front of the car with the first-curtain setting, and how the headlights’ beams lag behind the car and overlap it with the second-curtain setting.
This time, I used a Lionel model train set that includes a Searchlight Car in the middle of the set. For both shots, I had the Lumix LX5 on a tripod in Manual exposure mode, at f/8.0 and ISO 80, because I needed to use a long exposure to illustrate the flash curtain effects. For the first-curtain shot, the shutter speed was one second, and for the second-curtain shot, the shutter speed was 0.6 second.
The train set was moving at a reasonably good speed from left to right in the picture. The searchlight is a fairly bright light that was aimed towards the camera. In the first-curtain shot, immediately below, the searchlight extends forward, because the flash fired at the beginning of the exposure, and the searchlight then traced its light beam in a straight line to the right for the rest of the long exposure.
In the second shot, below, the LX5 was set to use second-curtain flash. This time, most of the exposure took place before the flash fired, so the searchlight traced its light beam along to create a bright streak before the flash illuminated the train. It seems to me that the shot with second-curtain flash looks more natural than the other one, because it seems as if the light is streaming behind the Searchlight Car.
That’s all for this time. This train set has a lighted caboose, which might make for an even better illustration, but it was daytime when I took these photos, and there was too much ambient light for the caboose light to show up. I may try some examples with that light, as well as the engine’s headlight, in a future installment.