It’s been a few weeks since I have had the time to post, so I wanted to find something that was out of the ordinary for this one. While I have been “working” I always try and grab some interesting photos if they present themselves. This was created for a lighting class that I teach at a local art center.

Working with these folks can be a fun time. I explain up front that I want them in front of the camera as well as behind so they know what it’s like when working with subjects. Towards the end of the six week class it was time to do something really out of the box. We went over on and off camera flash and how to use shoot through umbrellas. Everyone in the class was getting the hang of it so this was a great time to flip the tables upside down to see how they would handle something completely out of their new comfort zone.

I explained the scene that I wanted to create. I had seen a different version of this done before, but I wanted to see what we could accomplish with small off camera flash. My goal was to create a photo that portrayed a strung out woman in a bad part of town in a seedy hotel waiting for her daily delivery of……PIZZA! Well, you get the point. The scene would only be lit by the rickety old neon sign outside. Everyone looked at each other and wasn’t to sure until the person that offered to be our subject said lets get started. Our subject is very creative and is up for anything…that’s legal.

We had talked about using off camera flash with radio triggers. This was the time to show folks who are serious on how to use them. As I had discussed in earlier posts, we bought some PocketWizards Flexs last year. I fitted a light stand with a trigger and a Nikon SB800 flash. I zoomed the head to 105mm as I wanted to create some harsh light for this effect. Since I wanted red light from our fake hotel sign, I placed a red gel on the flash.

I ran outside in the parking lot and placed the flash about 30 feet away from our seedy hotel room window. I was in luck as the room that we were using had some metal mini blinds that would make a great graphic effect on our subject. I fitted the camera with another trigger and the PocketWizard AC3 to control the flash that was outside. As I started, I was at ISO 100, f/5.6 at 1/250 of a second. I really wanted to knock out all of the available light that was coming from the tungsten lights in the gallery that we were working in. I took a few test shots and I really wasn’t getting enough light for what I was envisioning. I was at full power on the flash and the lens that I was using only goes to f/5.6 at the tele end. So I had one more control to goose the light power, ISO. I went from 100 to 400 on the ISO and it gave me the look I was looking for.

Now that everything was in place, it was time for our subject to be in “distress” and looking for her daily “delivery”. She was great, she kept trying different poses and I kept firing away. Here is what I came away with.

 Seeing Red – Spencer Pullen © 2012

After I had everything set up, it was time for the students to take a few. I took the triggers off and set the flash to “SU4” mode or slave. I had the students turn their pop up flash power down. All we needed was just enough to fire the flash outside but not add to the actual exposure. Since the SB800 had a rotating head, I had an assistant outside that rotated the eye towards the room and rotated the head so it was in the same position. What really saved us was that it was dark out. If this was done during the daytime, it never would have worked, the flash would have never seen the light pulse from the students pop up flashes and we wouldn’t have been able to over power the sun.

As with all of my adventures, it’s never boring. I was kidding as I was setting this up saying, “I wonder if the cops will show up when they see this red light going off of the side of the building.” After about 15 minutes there was a knock at the gallery door. I looked at my students and said, “Here we go.” I got lucky and it was some of the other instructors asking if I knew why the cops were there! I laughed and explained what I was doing and all was well. At least I can’t say my job is boring!

I’m glad that I can start making weekly posts again and keep the free and entertaining info coming. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and I hope you get something out of it.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Great photo The “Red Eye Express”…

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