The Little Light That Could…

Photo © Bob Krist

We’re in the homestretch and what better way to wrap up a road trip than in a car graveyard…but not just any graveyard, the inimitable Carhenge in western Nebraska.  Based on the slightly older, all rock Stonehenge on the plains of south England, this wonderful sculpture came to be as a memorial for a family member during a farm family reunion in Nebraska.

I originally wanted to lightpaint this at twilight with a million candlepower flashlight I brought with me. Somehow, though, when Peggy and I finally got here, our cheapo giant flashlight had totally lost its charge from the day before. What to do? The twilight was fading, and I had only one other light with me, a little ole SB 900. To read how we worked with the little light that could, plus a look at some black and white infrared panos of the site, hit the jump.

I took my D300s, rather than my D90s, on this trip because I have a Lightning Trigger and I only have a cord for the 300. I didn’t get any good lightning situations, but the 300’s multiple exposure capability came in handy.

First, I set the light balance to tungsten to make the most of the rich blue twilight. I used the pop up flash as a controller and set the unfiltered SB900 in remote mode at a 1/4 power. I programmed in 3 exposures to the multiple exposure, and underexposed the sky by about 1.5 stops or so.

Then, with Peggy popping shutter, she took one shot with me directing the light at the cars from the right hand side, one more exposure with me standing near camera to fill in the middle, and the final exposure with me directing the flash from the left hand side.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of my fancy Honl light modifiers with me, so I used the zoom head and my hands to make a snooty type of arrangment to minimize spill. We checked the LCD after each shot and kept adjusting the shutter speed downward as the light faded.

Using separate exposures instead of painting with the flash during one long exposure gave me time to relocate, and the flash time to recycle. It’s the easiest, and maybe the only, way for one man, one woman, and a compact speedlight to do the job without tripping in the dark, burning up a flash tube, (and possibly ruining a marriage!).

An approaching rainstorm hit us just as we were wrapping up, but not before we got a couple of keepers. Here’s a few black and white infrared panos we shot earlier that day. All in all, not a bad day in Nebraska!

Photo © Bob Krist
Photo © Bob Krist


This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Great stuff here Bob. Also a fine example of adapting to get the image you want. Once again it isn’t the equipment, it is the man and women behind the stuff you have available that makes the image. Hope it has been a good trip

    1. Hi Ray: Thanks for the kind words. It’s been a great trip but it’s good to be home!

  2. I don’t understand a word you said, but I love the photos.

    1. Sophia: That’s cool…it can be enjoyed on many levels, not just the photo geek one!

  3. I love this technique but I’ve only used it to subtract light, not add it.

    Last December I wanted to get a picture of the family Christmas tree. I needed a longish exposure to get the tree lights to glow, but if I did that the star on the top of the tree was a white mess.

    I used two exposures, one very short to handle the star, then turn the star off and take a second longer shot to get the tree lights. Worked like a charm.


    1. Pete: That’s a great technique for solving the problem of wildly divergent light volumes…thanks for sharing! Bob

  4. That is quite incredible Bob.
    You both are a great team – the images are sweet and I love the cool tone of the first.
    Glad you are back as well.

    1. Thanks Arun! Back for a while and then gone again. Hope you are well. Bob

  5. Bob, thanks to your blog I can watch every move you make, every photo you take and every word you write! You know how to make a grown person cry as we wish to be as creative as you. You’re the best.

    1. C’mon, Chuck, I could never live up to your Geographic stories! Especially the tough ones, like that archeological dig in Siberia where you made 20 amazing pictures of a hole in the ground. That’s where you separate the men from the boys and you are the man! Blogging is, you’re right, time consuming, and if it doesn’t help me get discovered by some young ad agency AD turks soon, I’m going back to private life!

  6. Bob,
    You knock my socks off every time at bat. No matter what or where the location you bring back beautiful images! The blog is a great effort too. Looking forward to your next visual destination.

    Safe Travels to you and Peggy, Randy & Susan

    1. Hi Randy: Thanks for the kind words. Catching a little R&R after the trip, finally. cheers, Bob

  7. Hi Bob,

    I am a regular follower of your column in Outdoor Photographer. In this month’s issue, you have detailed your trip to Machu Pichu, Peru. Can you advise on:
    1. What is the best time of the year to visit Peru (I am planning on my first visit in 2010).
    2. Have you visited Bolivia bordering Peru and could you recommend a few places for a Nature Photograher that could be combined in a Peru + Bolivia trip.
    Many thanks for all your help.


    1. Hi Swap: I’ve never been to Bolivia, so I can’t advise you on that. For Peru, I’d try to go in the dry season….best thing to do is to consult the Peru tourism sites…I’ve always had to go when the tour operators I was instructing for were going. Truthfully, you’ll be fine at any season, and the weather at M.P> can be good or bad several times a day in any given season, bu the dry season will be hotter, but more reliable.

  8. Thanks for sharing, Bob. I love the way you write — clear, concise and to the point (just as you do in your books). Best of all, you make it all sound so simple.

    1. Many thanks…. I try to be coherent, but sometimes, it’s a lot to ask!

  9. Gosh, that was a real find. Makes me want to go to Nebraska with my camera.

  10. I used to live near Carhenge, I think these are the best photo’s I’ve ever seen of it. You make it look beautiful. Thanks for sharing your technique!

  11. Very nice pictures! Very very very beatiful! Thanks for sharing the tecniques it helps me a lot. When you have time and you are interested ofcourse check out my pictures and tell your opinion. Here is the link:

    PS:Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year by Botond from Transylvania!

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