Running Scared

Continuing on the theme of photographic ideas, here’s another image from a photo session in Zürich a couple of weeks ago, in which lighting played a key part in the shoot. The idea was born when I came across the unusual road markings in the middle of a four-way junction. Thinking for a moment, I realized that with a little planning and some heavy post-processing, I could take the next photo in a series which started with this photo of Bern band Choo Choo.

CHOO CHOO, Bern Strobist day

I conceive this kind of photograph in advance of setting up camera or lighting, where the overall mood of the final picture is part of the conception process. Once I’ve spotted a suitable location, I take a few moments or minutes to walk around and examine the place from all angles. In this instance, the architecture and roofline of the building in the final photograph made the point of view obvious. Once I’d decided on the angle of view, I set up the lights and took a number of test shots to achieve as much of the lighting effect as I could on the spot. By preparing as much of the lighting plan during the shoot as you can, there is much less work to do in post-processing. The shot was made a little more difficult to set up by what seemed like an endless stream of traffic, meaning that most of my setup shots were carried out without the model appearing in the shot.

Both this shoot and the Choo Choo shoot were plagued with difficulty in terms of lighting; in Bern, I couldn’t get all of the flashes to fire at the same time and in Zürich, I had insufficient triggers to allow all of the remote flash units to be fired in one shot. So, in both instances, I took two shots to include all of the elements of the shot. While this means that both shots have been constructed in the computer, the scene in both instances was true to life: no element has been added in which wasn’t in the original frame. In the case of the Zürich photo, I couldn’t light both walls of the building in the background in one “take”, so I shot two frames: one with the left wall illuminated and one with the right wall illuminated.

Once at home, I spent around two hours re-touching the photograph, from removing suspended orange street lights and car registration plates to removing a pedestrian crossing and blanking out the windows of the building; the lower windows were illuminated and distracted from the dark feeling I wanted to achieve in the shot. Manhole covers are a pet hate of mine and while the prominent one in the Choo Choo shot was just too difficult to remove, I managed to get rid of a total of six in the Zürich shot. I’m very pleased with the end result and look forward to the next shot in the series, which I’m hoping to create this weekend at the last Swiss Strobist group session of 2009.


  1. Love the effect in both of these – definitely worth the hard work to achieve – Maybe you could have photos like this in the next presentation you do?

    As already said in Flickr – the first one looks as if it should be in a scene from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – the second looks like a painting by ‘Edward Hopper’

    Excellent stuff!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.