Light-painting to the rescue
Here is a tip for you when you are on vacation/ or really anytime you are out shooting and things aren’t going as you imagined. Sometimes you get to a location and the background is just too plain or busy, or there are too many people or animals roaming around and you just can’t seem to get a pleasing shot. Maybe a good option at this point is to go shoot something else or grab some dinner and come back when it is dark. Light-painting gives you the option of how much of the background is shown and takes care of the people getting in the way… most of the time. (I did have the police do a drive by and make sure I was just a nut with a camera when making the picture down below, but that is half the fun. :D)
The buffalo up above is just one of the local sculptures that surround the Jackson Hole area. However, the background isn’t that awe-inspiring. So armed with a challenge from a fellow KelbyOne member, I decided to come back and try my hand at light-painting. This gives me complete control over how much gets lit and how much stays dark. I only had a single Phottix flash, so I used a little creativity. I found that I could park the truck I was driving just right so the headlights caught part of the sculpture, and then I could pop off several flashes from my Phottix to fill in the rest during a long exposure and it gave me a little warm/cool lighting contrast. I believe I was shooting around a ten second shutter speed and running in an arc around the right side of the sculpture. (Be aware of things around you, should you decide to try something like this. Notice the small light-pole in the grass just to the right of the sculpture. It was not working, so it made for the perfect ninja booby trap as I was running around that side of the sculpture. I may have said a few naughty words about that light… fortunately no one else was around… so I didn’t have to try to act cool as I picked dirt and grass out of my face.)
The other bonus of being able to control the amount of light, is that you can hint at the background or let it go completely black. One reason you may want to do this is to drop a new background in, and it makes it a lot easier to blend it in with the black using blending modes and masking.
So the next time you are somewhere and the scene isn’t working or there are too many interruptions or distractions… think about coming back later and do a little light painting.