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Making Window Light

Mar 23

In In The Field, Lighting at 5:08am

So, referring to yesterday’s blog post, definitely not practical to line the Northeast Amtrak corridor with SB units to create window light. I got lucky photographing then Senator Biden with soft light on a cloudy day, and even luckier with the Tri-x in my camera. (No worries about the greenish windows often present on trains shifting my color transparency film over into “aquarium” mode, and making my subject look like Swamp Thing.)

But now, in our digital world,  in a more static situation, it is easy to make window light with speed light.


As I always tell Thomas Wingate, who’s a great friend and an American original, his face belongs on Mount Rushmore. It is the road map to an interesting life, well lived. I not only enjoy photographing him, I enjoy the time we have when we just say cameras be damned, let’s just hang. This has occasionally involved putting the camera down and picking up a beer, or several. While you cannot make a picture with a can of beer, it is potentially an important component in terms of imagining your next picture.


In this instance, Thomas is being lit by 3 SB 900 units, placed outside the smallish window of the jail cell in Eaves Ranch. I viewed the small size of the window as an advantage, actually, as it is easily sealed off with one 3×3 Lastolite skylite panel.When I say sealed, I really mean that. When doing this, it is generally advisable to let no other stray daylight in. Hence the Avenger c-stand with the extension arm. That arm is able to angle the panel right flush to the side of the building. The only light gettin’ in there now is comin’ from the speed lights.


I remain inside with the camera. We ran a couple of SC-29 cords from the hot shoe of the D3X to a commander SB-900, justin clamped to the bars of the other window. You can see it, over there on the right. It is talking to the window lights for me. I put three out there, which may or may not be overkill. If I had just one, it would be working pretty hard, to be sure. So the extra lights, to me, make sense, especially if you want to move with any speed through a set of pictures.


So here’s the beauty of wireless flash. I can stay in the jail cell, talk it out with Thomas, and shift my lens/f-stop combo seamlessly. I went from the 70-200 at F8, used for the above pictures,  to a 200mm at f2 for the snap below. Without going outside to change the lights. Cool beans. Don’t know which version I necessarily like better, but, when you are moving fast, the ability to flip a couple switches and get a distinctly different result, to me, just enhances your versatility as a shooter, maximizes the efficiency of your location time, and can, at least occasionally, endear you to the art director, if such a person is present on the set with you. Clients love it when you can change on a dime. Versatility and flexibility can mean you’ll get called back, which is generally desirable.


And then, just to see the reach of the light, I put the magnificent Mawgie in there. I’m not saying Mawgie is the type of lady who might get arrested on her wedding day, but hey….


A bunch of my favorite folks, a few speed lights, and a jail cell. What more could one ask for? More tk…..

58 Responses to “Making Window Light”

Jijan says:

on March 31, 2010 at 11:35 pm

i really love this series… thanks man…

Manolo Roxas says:

on April 1, 2010 at 8:49 pm

You said that you strung together two SC-29 cords together. Can that be really done without additional hardware? I find one SC-29 cord too short at times and just shoot on manual wireless but it takes a lot of trial and error.

Infinity Photo Blog says:

on April 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Gorgeous !

Kat says:

on April 16, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Thanks so much. I learned so much from this!

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