Adventures in Off-Camera Flash

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.

SRX_ZOMBIE-HOUSINGFB
The city has placed five zombie houses in West Central, including this one at 2130 W. Boone Avenue, into receivership with an eye toward turning them into affordable housing. Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

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.

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