The little rubber band that could
It's amazing how true this saying really is.
I attended a street shoot meet up this past week end in New York hosted by native New Yorker, and fellow street shooter, Steve Hill. He had limited the event to ten people and we were waiting on a couple more to show up. In the interim, Steve was going over some finer points of exposure to a couple of beginners in the group.
One young lady there was having problems getting her camera to shoot above a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. After some discussion and subsequent head shaking we could not really figure out why it didn't want to shoot faster than 1/500. It just made no logical sense as there was no obvious reason that we could see that would prevent any dSLR from being able to go past 1/500. I shoot Canon while she had a Nikon and I was about to chalk it up to my lack of knowledge of the Nikon system when I noticed her pop up flash was up. Ding!
The light bulb went on over my head and I pointed out that some camera systems will not allow faster shutters when the flash is up (quoting sync speeds, etc.), to which she responded that her flash had recently been damaged and would not remain closed. Steve suggested holding it down with her finger while she tested that theory. Voila, it worked!
While the temporary fix worked, it would make for a very tedious day of shooting if you had to keep your finger on the flash all day long. Time for a more permanent solution, tape. Gaffer's tape to be exact. Every photographer's ally in keeping a shoot on track, but, alas, there was none to be had by anyone in the group. We had all packed light for a day of street shooting. We were also on the sidewalk outside Battery Park in Lower Manhattan with nothing around us but tour buses and a couple of street vendors (who didn't have tape). Fortunately for our girl I came upon a lone, worn and forgotten rubber band sitting beside a cardboard box at one of the vendor's table. I quickly snatched it up and triumphantly presented it to the owner of the broken flash.
Suffice it to say that it worked and it made it through the rest of the shoot, keeping that busted flash down and returning normal operation to the camera. Which goes to show, no matter how expensive or technically advanced a product is, any little problem can cause a shoot to come to a halt. However, when something goes wrong it's that lowly 1/2 cent discarded rubber band that can save the day.
Now I just have to remember to always carry a bit of gaffer's tape with me wherever I go.