Lighting a large scene with just one flash is something I’d wanted to try for a while and finally got around to it with this shot in today’s Oldie-but-Goodie.
This photo is a composite of six shots, stitched together in Photoshop CS5. In each, I lit a different part of the building using a single SB-900 flash with the standard diffuser cap. I fired the flash using the test button and in most of the shots I fired it multiple times. The camera (Nikon D300s wtih Tokina 11-16mm) was set to manual exposure (f/8 8s ISO 100) and manual focus and set on a tripod in the parking lot. The long exposure allowed the camera to capture the ambient light but also gave me the time for the flash fires.
Here are the shots that went into the composite. In the first four I lit both the concrete and brick walls.
In the next two I tried to light the smoke stack by zooming the flash in to 200mm. The flash lost a lot of power at that distance and even with multiple fires it was difficult to light the stack.
At this point the images look like a mess with many points of light and many Owens. However, by choosing which part of each image I wanted to come through using layer masks I could clean this up considerably. Below I show a capture from Photoshop with each of the images and their corresponding layer mask. Notice that for the most part only a small area (the white region of the layer mask) is used in the composite.
In the end I did have to remove a few stray flash bursts and Owen limbs here and there using the healing brush and clone tools. Finally, with a curves adjustment to brighten the lower mid-tones, I ended up with this!
As this was my first ‘light painted’ composite, I did learn a few lessons. Most importantly, it was difficult in a few instances to remove my ghost from the image. Next time around I would use brighter flashes and stand further away from the subject to not catch as much of the reflection. Distance would also help broaden the spot as it falls on the surface. Overall though, I was happy with this first attempt!
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