Surfer Portrait with Sony A1, Westcott FJ400 and High Speed Sync

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: May 21, 2021

Category: Photography | Kit

Following on from my previous post, here’s a portrait taken using the new Sony A1 and the Westcott FJ400…

Felt so good to be ‘Back in the Saddle’ taking a portrait (if only a few frames) having not been able to take portraits since restrictions kicked in. I grabbed this portrait as part of content that we were filming for Sony throughout the day with a number of different cameras and lenses.
This is one of the frames I captured of Jack of Walking on Waves Surf School at Saunton Sands, Devon taken on what was a bloomin’ fantastic sunny day!
Despite the sunny, bright conditions and cloudless sky (where we were positioned), the camera and lighting combination worked like a dream!


  • Sony A1 (Camera)
  • 85mm f/1.4 G-Master (Lens)
  • Westcott FJ400 (Lighting) LINK


Photographing a portrait out on location, on a bright, sunny, cloudless day AND using flash combined with a shallow depth of field to really isolate Jack from the background meant I would need to shoot at a VERY fast shutter speed.

Ordinarily this would cause problems with the flash and the camera talking to each other so that plenty of light from the flash lands on the sensor, however this is where High Speed Sync comes in extremely handy.

With High Speed Sync I can easily use flash with speeds of 1/8000 second because of how the flash behaves once it’s activated.

So, my settings for this were:

  • Aperture: f/1.4
  • ISO: 50
  • Shutter Speed: 1/8000 sec

If you’re unsure about High Speed Sync and how I use the camera to first of all set the scene, and the flash to light the subject, check out this previous LIVE video I did on my YouTube Channel:

Here’s a BTS (Behind the Scenes) of the set up which as you can see was extremely simple with my friend (and great Landscape Photographer Douglas Insole) holding my Westcott FJ400 camera left which is the same side as the sun so that the light from it matches and comes from the same direction.

Also the FJ400 was fitted with a reflector rather than a softbox or umbrella etc… The reason for this was that the lighting needed to be fairly hard, again, to match that of the sun; a softer light from using a softbox wouldn’t match the scene. 

Plus, using just the reflector meant that I was able to get more power from the light as using a softbox or similar would easily knock out 1 stop and more.

Ordinarily I would use a tripod when taking a portrait but 1/8000sec and flash would ensure a pin sharp image, plus more and more I tend not to hold the camera to my eye so as to maintain a better connection with whom I’m photographing.

going forward I’m so looking forward to photographing and filming more of this kind of content now I’m living in Devon. I had planned to be in the sea taking a portrait of Jack on his surf board awaiting the big wave, but conditions weren’t right and it would have meant me being shoulder deep; something I’ll save for another day when I have a waterproof housing for the camera.

HUGE thanks to my friend Doug for helping us out on this shoot, and also to Jack who totally nailed it! Can’t wait to work with him and his team more in the future.

If you’re ever in Devon and fancy taking some surfing lessons I’d highly recommend Walking on Waves; such a great bunch of folks! 

As always if you have any questions or comments, please do make use of the comments section below and I’ll make sure to reply.


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