Self Portrait South Styles

Frustration sitting on a motorway overbridge

After investing in a couple of speed light 580ex ii’s I was on a strobist mission so this is just another chapter in the story. There was no real plan and the idea was to just get out and shoot. Sometimes on down time it is good to try and upskill a little more and that is half of the attraction to photography I guess. There is always so much more to learn if you are willing to “give it a go” and try new things.


This shoot seemed doomed from the start with bad luck. I found a spot by a local sporting club where their flood lights were illuminating through some trees across a field. The light was perfect as the was just a little bit of mist making a natural gobo and light show. I set the shutter so that the exposure was good for the light and then set up the flashes on tripods all the while working fast. You never know how long a situation will stay in your favor. I guess the flash exposure and took some test shots. I was out by about 3 stops which was not a bad guess. Finally I was ready to go so I set the timer on the camera, took up position and the sports club turned off the floodlights. The flashes fired and there was a nice shot of me against a completely black background. So the 15 minutes or so of feverish set up was almost done in vain. At least I got some practice in working fast and setting up for the shoot.

I decided then that I would go for a light source that would not be so unreliable and then I remembered a spot I had shot at late evening before. I drove and found the bridge and everything looked great. I set up the shot again working fast and the crazy thing was that my tripod was set up in the middle of the road. Lucky it was not a busy bridge although the freeway underneath seemed pretty busy. Evey time a car came across the bridge I would have to scurry out and grab the camera and tripod out of the middle of the road and hang out all casual like as if I was supposed to be there. Good thing I could see the traffic coming for quite a distance. I started to take shots and…

“I noticed there was camera shake issues. The flash would fire and because of the longer exposure, half of me would be sharp and nicely exposed and the other half would be a blurry mess.”

I couldn’t understand what was causing the shake as the tripods are great quality. The camera was correctly set up with mirror lock up and a timed shutter release. I had pre-focussed and had turned the IS function off on the 24-105mm lens as sometimes this causes problems when shooting from a tripod.
After around 10 shots I stopped and decided to watch and see what on earth was going on. I closed my eyes and stood as still as I could and I noticed that the bridge was shaking every time a heavy truck went under it. Even normal traffic would cause some minor vibrations. Sure enough I waited until there was no traffic and took a test shot of the pavement. It was crystal clear so I figured that I had to wait until the freeway was clear before taking the shot.


Once I had the source of the vibrations locked down I could get onto the business of shooting. I was noticing that the spill from the flash was a little too wide so I used a snoot to close it up a little. From there it was just a matter of shooting 20 or so shots that had differing light patterns, background traffic and setting up the second flash just to add a little detail in the shadows and to correct the yellow/orange tungsten hue. I could have changed the white balance but I wanted the background to have that warm glow. Finally I was happy with the shots and wrapped up. Probably a good 45 minutes at this location and a police drive by and them asking me what I was doing were the highlights. A bit of an adventure and success after quite a bit of frustration.

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