Flash in a chimney

I realised recently that I hardly use any flash in my photography. I’d like to improve my skills with artificial lighting and the only way is by practice. Trouble is, I’m not really interested in portraiture, which is the most common use for strobes. Today I was inspired after seeing some pictures of night landscapes lit with artificial light, so I decided to try it.

This shot of Troopers Hill chimney was lit with two flashes, one inside the chimney furnace and one behind it. I was hoping the one behind it would cause either a shadow pointing towards the camera, or a hazy aura, but the air was too clear.

I was using radio-controlled flashes but unfortunately they were too far from the camera to work, especially as one was inside the chimney and one behind it. The chimney is made of thick stone and is pretty good at blocking radio signals.

In the end I used a 20-second exposure after a 10-second self timer. The camera was too far away for its integrated flash to have any effect on the picture but it allowed me to tell when the exposure started. I pressed the button, sprinted up the hill and stood behind the chimney in the first ten seconds, waited for the first flash from the camera and then triggered the two flashguns by hand.

The effect isn’t what I had imagined but the illuminated furnace brings a focal point to the image and the light polluted sky reminds me of fire.

This concept is definitely one to visit again, bearing these lessons in mind:

  • It would be easier with one person to operate the camera and one to operate the flashes
  • You need a lot more flash power than you think to illuminate large objects. Need a longer exposure and multiple flashes
  • Your eyes acclimatise, but the camera always sees sodium light pollution

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