Lighting the Bus.


One thing I seem to have been doing more and more over the last couple of years, is making photographs of art, installations, and exhibitions. Like anything, the more you do, the more experience you get, and the more active you become – but these jobs are extra-interesting because you do get involved with the content of whatever you’re shooting – which often means long, tangential, rambling, very satisfying conversations with artists, curators & others – and this means I’m so busy shooting and talking I forget to document what I’m doing for this blog. Blast!

On Saturday though, I found myself at Bus Projects in Collingwood again, shooting for the gallery’s own documentation of their current exhibition. And this time I DID manage to squeeze in a setup shot so I’d have something to chat about here. 

The brief for these photos was to provide wide (literally wide) shots of the work in the gallery space context, and also some detail shots to augment these.

Bus Projects’s current home is a nice white-walled space that lends itself very well to being artificially lit – which I LOVE doing because I can control the quality of the light: general illumination, white balance, shadows, relative intensity to other/existing sources and so on. 

My standard kit these days is a bag full of little eTTL flashes with eTTL radio triggers. These are very useful because you can dial the power up and down relative to anything, and they sync with the camera shutter at high speeds, so you can balance their output against DAYLIGHT as well (simply by using the shutter). In a space with white walls, the very room is a light-modifier – so I spend my time in these shoots happily bouncing lights off the ceilings and walls, to flood rooms with light in a way that makes sense, and so you can see everything. With gels, you can colour balance them to anything as well, or ADD colour (as per the last post).


In this setup picture, you can see a work called Surface Noise, ‘Featuring albums and audio works by Eugene Carchesio, Alex Cuffe, ∑gg√e|n, Lawrence English, HAPPY COOL, Benjamin Kolaitis, The Histrionics, and Darren Sylvester.’ It’s a large table in a white room with large windows, and video screens on the walls. Without the artificial light (my flashes), the daylight from the windows dominates, making the opposite side of the table quite dark. The flashes bouncing off various surfaces bring up the room light and eliminate difficult shadows, whilst making daylight seem ‘real’, and the video screens still visible (a shutter speed of around 1/15th second, f/6.3 and ISO 100)

This involves a combination of experimentation, knowledge of equipment/experience, careful placement/hiding so your lights/reflections aren’t in the shot, and a good sense of what you actually want to end up with in the end. The more you do, the better you get, but like with hair, everyone has their bad days too. My most annoying practice has to be routinely forgetting to turn the radio triggers OFF at the end of shoots – typically the on-camera radio which of course has the pricey watch battery in it. Grr – I need to put post-it notes on my hands or something…


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