Image Breakdown – Extreme handheld shutter drag

Here’s an example of one of my favorite portrait shoots.  My client and I join forces about every 5-6 months for new portraits which vary between “nice” to “dramatic”.  This is a great example of one of the more dramatic shots we got that evening.  I use this image in my lighting class to teach shutter dragging, motion and flash.  My client wanted a really dramatic night photo with lights buzzing by.  We picked a Tuesday evening (if I recall) and, guess what, downtown Raleigh was dead.  Not a lot of opportunities to get this right so I ended up finding a corner close to the bus station where all the buses were going by.  As luck (or my absolute lack thereof), every street corner had a new & BRIGHT LED street light over it.  And, of course, I failed to bring a tripod as well (go me!).

Equipment used

– Quantum T2 Qflash
– Lumedyne Battery pack
– Interfit 24″ square soft box

Shooting Data

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 10.19.06 PM









The Setup

– street light bleeding ambient light onto his head
– no tripod
– Sun was down so only street lights
– Buses, not cars, for traffic
– 1 light, set close to my client (2′) camera left, center of the soft box even with the top of his head
– After taking test shots, I finally figured 2 seconds (shutter speed) @ f16 would be enough for a bus to pass by completely and not let ambient light in.
– My flash was at full power but as I only got one shot each attempt the recycle time was not an issue
– Flash fired on rear curtain (fires when shutter is closing)

The Shoot

The really fun part about this shoot was the fact I had to time my shutter release early enough to capture the lights, but have the two second shutter elapse AFTER the bus had passed.  If the flash fired while the buss was behind him it would cause a ghost and ruin the effect.  Handholding for this long is not easy and the only way I could do it was by using the flash to freeze my subject.  I did have to do a little cleanup as my client also moved a little but, in the end, I really loved the end product!  The lights you see streaking thru the frame are the headlights, the top running lights and the diagonal line was the scrolling “destination” LED screen.

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