Some days at the newspaper I work for, I get what I call the eye-roller assignment–also known as the building mug drive by. Traditionally it is one of those photo assignments that does not take a bunch of brain power or skill to shoot. Just drive by and snap a few frames of the exterior and move on to the next assignment.
The story I needed to illustrate here was about five “zombie” abandoned houses in a neighborhood that were being slated to be rehabbed by the city for low-income housing.
When I pulled up in front of this house, I saw a mix of shadow and highlights on the front. I started to wonder what would happen if I tried to light the exterior of the two-story structure in broad daylight? Hmmm…
I pulled out the strongest lights I had with me—two Godox AD200 wireless strobes. These small but powerful strobes put out 200-watt seconds of power–about three times that of a traditional speedlight.
I placed one strobe with no modifier in the front yard next door, camera right pointed toward the center corner of the house. For the second strobe, I needed to put some light in the shadow of the front door, so I hid it behind the weeds in front of the house, camera left.
I went across the street and did some test exposures with my Nikon Z6 paired with a 24-70mm /f2.8 lens. I found by underexposing the ambient light about a stop and a half, it balanced the nice blue sky with the front of the house, which was lit by the sun behind me. I shot the strobes at full 1/1 power. My camera exposure was set at to f/14; 200th of a second shutter at ISO 125.
As I was shooting, I noticed a flock of birds circling the house. I started to shoot the birds when a young girl, who lived next door, ran by. Perfect!
I love how the strobe light added a spooky feel to the photo. I had a lot of compliments from readers about the photo. I love being able to take a boring photo assignment and make something engaging for the reader.