This is one of my favorite shots from my time with Bill Chester the other day, and a prime example of why photography is an art (if I can say so without sounding arrogant) and not just a documentary medium. What I mean is that this shot in no way represents the reality of the moment when it was taken; it as a story created through the intentional use of available tools and creative post-production. In reality this was shot in Bill’s garage around noon and it had to be about 115 degrees in there. Also, through the driver’s window there was actually a wall (at about arms length) with a cheesy desert scene painted on it. My first big problem was that I didn’t want the painting to be in the picture because it ruined it for me. There was no way, given it’s close distance, that I could obscure it enough with shallow depth of field to keep it from distracting so I came up with a plan that I think worked quite well. It also gave me a chance to use my new radio controlled flash system.
I started by placing my off-camera flash on the hood of the car, pointed into the front window at Bill’s face. I fitted the flash with a LumiQuest soft box that acts both to diffuse and enlarge the light source so that it’s not too harsh or focused. One of the things I hate most about flash is the harsh, obvious shadows that it creates and I’ve been working on different ways to obscure or minimize those shadows in my photographs so that they look more natural. In this case I think I was successful in that. I exposed my camera so that the ambient light was present but not dominant and let the light from the flash do most of the work to create a nice dramatic effect. I still had to go in and darken the windows up a bit in post-production to keep that painting from ruining the shot (in fact, if your monitor is particularly bright you might be able to see it quite clearly–if that’s the case, your monitor brightness is set too high! I would recommend lowering it to properly view my photographs). I didn’t want to just black it out as that might have looked too fake. Instead I just darkened it significantly, hoping that some semblance of a horizon line would remain and cause it to appear as a night-time scene. With the main light source coming in the front window it’s easy to imagine oncoming headlights on a night road as being the light main source.
One of the things that struck me most about Bill’s personality is that I bet he’d make a great grandpa (don’t know for sure if he has grandkids or not). He is so kind and full of life, someone you could just sit and listen to tell stories for hours. I chose a low camera angle because in my mind the story the picture is telling is a young one sitting in the passenger seat looking up in awe/affection at his grandfather telling stories as they wind along the roads at night. The warmth of the color scheme and the expression on Bill’s face both add to the sense of security and contentment that I would imagine a young one feeling in that environment. Thanks for reading.
5D Mk III with 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/60 sec. Lighting: Off-camera 600ex-rt Speedlight fitted with LumiQuest III Softbox LQ-119 and triggered via wireless transmitter.
© 2013 Johnny Kerr Photography