Friday, January 18, 2008

Things not to do at 3am...

So last night I had a nice conversation with a couple of police officers after they caught me flashing at the local elementary school.

Not like that.


I was trying to take a photograph for Strobist's latest assignment which involves cross lighting and balancing ambient with tightly controlled flash. My concept was a motorcyclist, leaning into a turn towards the camera, with the ambient light coming from outside the turn, and the flash highlighting the rider's head and shoulders, and the front of the bike. Sounds easy enough, except for a few minor details:
It was 3am (not much daylight to work with)
I'm not a very good rider yet.
I don't have anybody else to work the camera while I ride, or vice versa.
I don't have a remote for the camera
Other than all that, no problem, right?

So I find a dark corner of an empty parking lot, set up one flash at a distance to act as ambient/backlight for the bike, set up the other with a cardboard tube on it for a snoot , take a couple of test shots to get the exposure right, and set my timer. So now the camera shoots every ten seconds, with a Pocket Wizard triggering the flashes, and me circling the parking lot quickly trying to time my laps so I was in front of the camera when the flashes popped.

About three laps after I got this shot, I pulled the bike around for another pass, and saw two sets of blue lights pulling in off the main road.


So I stopped the bike, cut the engine, and pulled my helmet off. They ask for my license, etc, then the questions start.
"What are you doing out here?"
Taking pictures.
"Because I'm a photographer. It's what I do."
"Why are you doing it at 3am?"
"Because it's dark."
--Blank stares--
So I launch into an explanation of balancing ambient light, freezing motion with the flash, the setup I was using, the function of the cardboard snoot, what a Pocket Wizard was, how I was using a CTO on the backlight to create some separation...
--Blank stares continue--
But one of them was sufficiently interested to ask to see the pictures.

I show him the one above. Almost asked if they would pose for a photo, but as they seemed to be losing interest I figured that might be pushing my luck.

Another quick apology, pack up, and ride home.

Ha. I out-geeked half of the Dublin PD in one shot (Literally!!)

Thanks Strobist!


David said...


That's funny! I was riding on the hood of a car, shooting time exposures with strobes inside the car, when they pulled me over. They were not amused.

Mike said...

Its kind of sad that you need to apologise for doing absolutely nothing outside of the law. Its not like you were speeding down main street while shooting.

Brandon said...

Were you trespassing or breaking the law? Why did you leave the school?


Nick Davis said...

I'm pretty sure the noise I was making was attracting attention from the neighbors, and then the cops. I live in one of those towns with "Quiet hours" from 10pm to 6am. They can and will cite people during those hours for loud music, barking dogs, motorcycles with aftermarket exhaust pipes, etc.

Phil said...

Great pic, but to me it looks like you're going backwards because the light tails of in front of you.

On most cameras you can set the flash to go off at the end of the exposure instead of the start, which would mean that the light would tail out behind you making instead.