Not many things work better with less of the thing that makes them go. No one ever says “This burger needs less beef”, unless they are vegetarian, in which case substitute beef with “healthy”, or something, and my car sure as nuts doesn’t go very well with little fuel. But photography, now here magic can happen with very little of our key ingredient, light.
Less light, means more time, and more time means, well, opportunity. With the image above I wanted to try a jigsaw approach to lighting, building the image up piece by piece from separate exposures. Being quite interested in the idea that a photograph can transform something quite mundane into a more exciting version of itself, I decided on a pretty mundane subject: the public toilet in a park across the road from my home. Obviously convenience played into the subject choice too, the only difficult part in setting up the image was convincing my sticky 3 year old that knocking over dadda’s camera would be bad for his future sweety stash potential.
Then it was simply a matter of waiting for the ambient light to dim down enough so only my controlled light sources would show up. Having very little light available allowed me to selectively light whatever part of the scene I wanted lit, while leaving everything else dark. All the little jigsaw pieces were then added together in Photoshop to make the final picture.
Below you can see a selection of the individual frames, including a relatively evenly exposed base image, used to align everything. The images with very small lit patches were lit with a single remotely triggered speedlight, with settings of 1 second @ F8, on 200iso to cut out as much as possible of the remaining available light. The ones with large swathes of light were lit with a very bright LED torch, in a series of 30 sec exposures at the same ISO and aperture. In total, 34 separate exposures and a few adjustment layers went into making this image.
And in case you wondered, below is what the layers palette looks like for the working file. And yes, I had to make three separate screen shots, because the whole palette doesn’t fit on my screen. It’s safe to say that my rather geriatric computer did not cope well, or willingly with processing this image…