December 31, 2013

Silo pop

Filed under: Photo of the day, Photography, Photos — paul davis @ 11:54 am


Because I busted my kiester for this shot, I’m going to say how.

Yesterday was gray gray gray. Or maybe that was just the inside of my head. I was still trying to get something going, photographically (yeah, all the other ways, too) at the end of the day. To mess with my head (see above), I put on my manual 85 and filled my pockets with a manual off-camera strobe and a pair of cheapo triggers. Traipsing ensued.

I’m not good at adding light to scenes. “The ambient” is complicated enough. (I suppose that’s my favorite phrase—“the ambient”—I use it to mean, simply, everything as you find it.) Adding light takes the complexity up one order of magnitude. (Non-engineers (and engineers) often misuse that term when they want to say: “a lot.” It means “by 10X.” Two orders of magnitude is 100X.)

After a good bit of fruitless strobing/unseemly muttering, I remembered that my cheap knockoff Chinese triggers came with a claimed range of 100 feet. With a trigger on the camera and the receiving trigger affixed to the hotshoe of the strobe, you are supposed to be able to set it off a long way away. The light was fading and my favorite pair of blue silos were going to backlit black. I postholed through the deep snow and planted the strobe in a snowbank at the base of the near silo, aiming it up to fan the silo. The downside of strobes is that you can’t see what the light’s doing with your eyes–it’s too dang fast. So: 100 feet back through the snow, take the shot, check the power and spread of the flash.

They (the noncheap people) make devices that let you adjust power and spread of a strobe from a distance. Yesterday I began to understand the value of those devices. An assistant that I could shout stuff at would also be nice. But: me: back and forth through the snow to my knees.

What ended up being kind of cool about this photo isn’t the fan of subtly lighted blue (though without the light, it’d have been a black corner), but the yellow globe of the strobe itself. The brighter ball of light mid left is the strobe in the snowbank. The echoing ball of light just to the right, I don’t know what that is—a nice little surprise.

The setting sun upper right is lighting the snow.

There isn’t any light added to the leaf in the foreground–that there’s “the ambient.” I think it should have turned out backlit. So, who knows?



  1. I wish you a happy new year! 🙂

    Comment by Antonio De Simone — December 31, 2013 @ 11:58 am

  2. I think your struggle through the snow was worth it. I love this image! And you managed the light perfectly. Happy New Year!

    Comment by George Weaver — December 31, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

    • I made it sound like I was scaling Denali in December, didn’t I?

      Glad you like it, and happy new year to you, too. I hope it really is very good.

      Comment by paul davis — December 31, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

      • Thanks. Yes, the narrative was hilarious. I imagined you flailing and swearing back and forth. It was delightful. 🙂

        Comment by George Weaver — December 31, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

  3. Happy New Year Paul! Nice to hear a bit about your process regardless of how arduous it is!
    Cheers, John

    Comment by johnhadden — December 31, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

    • I suppose I overstated the difficulties of walking a hundred feet a few times. In my case, if there were no overstatements, there’d be no statements at all.

      Happy new year to you, too, John.

      Comment by paul davis — December 31, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

  4. Viewing your work has been a treat this year and certainly has influenced my eye. Looking forward to seeing more in 2014.

    Comment by Cynthia — December 31, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  5. Loved the overstated and the visions it gave me having never lived in snow. Looking forward to more erudite captions in 2014.

    Comment by leecleland — January 1, 2014 @ 12:55 am

  6. Mystery upon mystery. It was a good experiment, and so much fun to read about. Refreshing! I don’t even try with extra lighting – even a tripod makes me itchy just thinking about it! True confessions. But it’s so interesting, isn’t it, that you can up your knowledge and equipment and still wind up with an image whose etiology (if I may) you can’t quite figure out. If you hadn’t used the strobe it wouldn’t have been this interesting, so you do it, with the knowledge that ceding control must dance with gaining it, and the outcome may be a mystery.

    Comment by bluebrightly — January 1, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

    • Now that there is a comment! 🙂

      “…etiology you can’t quite figure out.” “…ceding control must dance with gaining it.” I used to know a preacher about whom it was said, “he can really shuck some corn,” and he had nothing on you.

      Thank you. I love it.

      Comment by paul davis — January 1, 2014 @ 2:26 pm

  7. Honestly, when I read how you got the shot I thought “why would you bother?” I hope this doesn’t sound bad because your photos are exceptional and I don’t think it’s your equipment that does all the work. Your vision and creativity lead the process. Thanks for a great year of inspiration. regards Peet

    Comment by pdjpix — January 7, 2014 @ 1:41 am

    • Thanks, Peet, you’re very kind. I agree with your “why bother?” point. It surely wasn’t worth it. I’ve been putting a speedlight in my pocket when I go out a few times this winter, I guess to throw a wrench into my usual ways. Then once you’ve got another tool along with you, you feel you should use it. That’s why I don’t like taking a second lens—I’m always asking myself, “Should I switch lenses?” instead of looking at what’s in front of me and applying the single tool I brought. So, instead of needing this speedlight to make the shot, I spent the whole ramble looking for a shot that needed the speedlight. Dumb. I do wish I knew how to add light better, and I’m going to try to learn, but working with the light that’s already there is a better first lesson.

      Comment by paul davis — January 7, 2014 @ 5:10 am

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