Shooting in the dark

I have received an assignment to shoot architecture for a commercial painting contracting company that does high rise buildings as well as historic homes. They are moving into new offices and have commissioned me to produce cool photos of some of their more memorable and interesting buildings that they have worked on.

One of the most beautiful buildings I have photographed for this project is the historic Antrim House in Boulcott Street, Wellington. On the particular day that I shot this building, I had my assistant Erin Taylor with me helping. We got to the home around 5am and because it is the middle of winter, it was pitch black. There is a sweeping driveway at the front of the property that I started up. With the headlights from the car on full beam, it illuminated the lower portion of the house. We decided to park the car there and use that as the base light source (the city lights were not giving any appreciable exposure as there are trees surrounding the property that blocked everything).

The building is 3 stories so needed some additional lighting to build up the exposure. The base exposure was set at 10 seconds to give us time to work with. Then Erin used a SB900 flash unit at full power and fired the upper sections of the house. She ran across the front of the house during the 10 second exposure and fired off the flash unit manually while pointing up at the building. We went by trial and error- I reviewed the image at the back of the camera and then passed on the feedback. Bit more on the top turret, or right hand side. From there we worked out muscle memory of the best way to expose the building. It was kind of comical watching Erin run across the house firing away. For an outside observer, it must have made a sight!

A custodian arrived and switched on the lower level lights inside the house. As she came out onto the porch I walked up and introduced myself and asked if we could get all the lights switched on. She was very helpful and obliged. With the coming sunrise, it made for great shots to get the balance of car headlights, flash unit, interior lights and background dawn light. Sticking at it and staying there for a long period of time helped to get a range of lighting conditions. I even came back mid morning and shot the house in daylight to make sure I covered all the options. Thanks to Erin for being a good sport, dedicated running while light painting and of course being tough and sticking the cold morning out, even when I was thinking of taking a break and getting some well deserved breakfast at one stage.

Antrim House, Boulcott Street, Wellington. Shot from near pitch darkness wtih just a hint of city lights in the sky and on buildings behind. The House itself was in practical darkness.

Antrim House later on in the morning, this time with the interior lights on and dawn approaching providing more of a base exposure.

To view all of the images from the shoot feel free to view using this link.

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