How to think you’re clever, how to CYA, and how to scare yourself

How to think you’re clever, how to CYA, and how to scare yourself

The background: I am assigned to shoot a recently refinished house, interiors and exteriors. Not a problem, as usual. I load up the car…cameras, tripods, light stands, monopod…mono-what? Why in God’s name are you bringing a monopod to shoot a house? I’ve asked myself the same thing time and time again as I load up my car to go to this assignment. I’ve never used it, and I didn’t know what i’d use it for. I arrive around six, and begin to shoot interiors. I sincerely hope that at this point, you are completely captivated by my thriller of a story. I finish up my interiors without any issues, and begin to set up and take a walk around the house, making sure all of the lights are on for exterior shots.

Perfect. We’re lit up like the Taj Mahal and the light is just about to be the definition of balanced. Roughly 9pm, nice blues in the sky, the outdoor light matches the intensity of the light coming from the house. Aaaand click. I look at the LCD screen of my camera and for some reason, immediately see that I’m missing a baker’s half-dozen (or so) worth of lights. I guess my eyes had adjusted to the ambient and not even noticed this at the moment until I saw it on the LCD. No lights on the exterior of the garage and none in the main entryway. A frantic search for these lights turned up nothing. I don’t know if they were not yet connected to the electricity or my panicked head couldn’t think straight.

This reads like such a cliffhanger, doesn’t it?

I had about three minutes to either find the lights, or attempt to jury-rig something while the outdoor light dropped like a rock. I remembered my monopod that I always keep stashed in my car. Quickly set a remote flash up, got lucky and realized that one of my flashes already had a CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel on it from my last shoot, and went back out, and made a quick exposure adjustment to compensate for the change in ambient. Aimed my flash-on-a-stick contraption where I guessed the lights would shine, and fired off four shots. One for the main entryway, and three garage lights. Four shots, with the flash in one hand and a remote in the other. Combined a total of five shots after the fact, and somehow, via either luck or skill (maybe a 90/10 split on that one) managed to get the shot before the light dropped too fast to save it.

The first shot here is the original, straight-out-of-the-camera, unprocessed shot where I noticed I was missing about half of my lights. Sure, I could have left them as they are, dodged and burned in photoshop, cloned some of them out – but that would quite frankly be cheating, and it would be obvious that something was missing. The third shot is the final shot – five exposures blended together (one ambient exposure, 4 flash shots, one on each dead light) and post processed to bring out some color, shadows and detail.

Quite a difference if I say so myself. And that is why I lug every piece of gear out to a shoot, my 23 year old back be damned.

Now, I realize that this shot isn’t perfect. I was severely limited in my choice of angles by the tree on the right and the unseen giant Pine tree on my left, along with some scrub in there. The lights aren’t precisely even, and the color temperatures are a bit off, but I am glad that I took the extra time to do this – I will have to say I think it looks a hell of a lot better than without those lights on.

And on a less-intense note, here are a few other recent shots that I’ve worked on over the past week. It’s been a busy one, with a few 3:00 and 4:00AM nights thrown in, editing at full speed.

And (if you’re still here!) here is a teaser of sorts. I’m in the middle of a personal self-portrait project to kill some time and get some fresh air when I can. This was fired with a remote in one hand as I skated, two flashes on opposite sides (one for rim light on me/lightin the bowl and one to illuminate the bowl camera right). Taken at around 10pm.

Ideally I’ll have a set of four or five of these before the month is over.

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Comment ( 1 )

  • Mike Lamb

    Hey Mike (good name),

    I'm a 23 year old Photographer trying to make a living out of freelance Photography. I've just been reading through your blog and been getting really inspired to step my Architecture photography game up. I've been thinking of ways to increase my list of clients (at the moment only three local Agents use me semi-regularly) and I think you're technique of multiple exposures firing the flashes might be the point of difference – hope you don't mind me jacking your process! All the posts about getting your name out there and how to approach potential clients is going to be super helpful to me as well.

    On a side note, I'm actually primarily a Skateboarding photographer – and seeing your self portait in this post really surprised me! (sick feeble by the way).

    It's rad to see a fellow skater making a living out of Photography. Keep up the clean work man, really inspiring stuff.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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