I have been getting back into taking pictures again. This follows on from my moving and renovation experiences late last year when I took almost no pictures of anyone or anything except the progress (and at times … total lack of progress) on the renovations to my flat. It was a period of perhaps six or seven months where I took next to no pictures purely for the pleasure of taking pictures … it was like my photo-mojo had vamoosed. I like to think of it now as a kind of enforced sabbatical … a time when I reflected upon other things and new directions … though I recall at the time finding it confusing and debilitating.

I mean, after a while you start to think about whether you’ll be able to take pictures again. You look back on the remarkable things you’ve captured and published before but they feel like they were taken by a different person and there’s so much going on in your mind, things are moving so quickly, that even beginning to write a post feels like it’s passed before you even start.

I knew the mojo would return … I could feel it circling me. I began to see pictures again … the ones the you compose when you aren’t carrying a camera. You see the picture … the light, the crop, the depth and the colour even though you didn’t actually take it. Truth be told that’s how most of my pictures are captured … I have a large mental store of those ones … the ones I saw but didn’t take.

Enter The Ellis Collective; a six piece folk-rock (also referred to as ‘Bloke-folk’ 😉 ) group from Canberra. I’d shot them before and we were both very happy with the results. I met with Matty Ellis (the large chap with the shaved head) in early March and we tossed around some ideas. There were to be two separate shoots … the first of the band having a picnic and the second … well …

Matty had this idea of a shot with band at night standing in front of a car’s headlights and I began to think of how I’d do it. This was one of those times when you know technically how you would take a shot but have never actually taken a shot like it. I knew from my Strobist readings many years ago (that’s a great site if you’re into using any kind of flash in your photography btw) how to expose for the background lighting and illuminate the foregound with speedlights or flash.  I knew I could do it and I wanted to do it and the band were into it but I’d never attempted it before … and certainly not with paying clients! There was a real risk that we would come away with nothing … that I’d assembled the group in the dark for nothing 😉

The shot called for a stretch of deserted road … I used trusty Google Maps and found a spot amongst the fields of Pialligo out near the airport, arrived at sunset and began to set up. We moved a car into position and I got the band to stand in front but it became clear that I needed more light … so we moved another two cars to just out of frame … now we had plenty of light 🙂

Now for the speedlights, I used two (Nikon SB-910 & SB-800) atop two mid light stands on either side of the band. The SB-910 on the right of the frame sported a Honly speed grid to provide harsh, directional light across the band. I controlled the power of the speedlights using the the D600 camerabuilt in flash as a commander. The camera uses the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) to alloow the body to remotely control the power setting of speedlights. The camera was atop a tripod and the pictures shot through my 70-200 f/2.8.

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The road was dusty and I got the band to kick up some dust to produce a smokey effect. One hassle with that was there a light breeze blowing across the frame from right to left … I left the camera (with my remote in my pocket) and went down to band to get some dust in the air. However, the remote sensor on the Nikon is on the left side of the body and wouldn’t trigger from my upwind side … for these pictures I threw the dust, ran across the frame, fired the remote and got the picture … fun! I do like a picture you have to do some work for 🙂

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I even did a lighting diagram just for you 🙂

Ellis Collective lighting diagram


And some from the picnic shoot too 🙂

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Geoffrey Dunn is a Canberra based photographer specialising in portraiture and event photography.




Like what you see?

I do too! Please remember that all of the images presented here are owned in full by the photographer with all rights reserved. If you like an image you’ve seen during your visit and would like a print, copy or are interested in using it in some other fashion, please contact me directly.


PO Box 1087, Dickson ACT 2602

p: +61 422 637 153

e: info@geoffreydunn.com.au

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