Carhenge at night

August 6th, 2008

Carhengescanlayers2 Carhenge at night I went to Carhenge on this past trip specifically to take this photo that I had been wanting to shoot since I first saw the place more than 20 years ago. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had planned it. I’m not completely happy with the result, but I’m sharing it so I can tell you about how it was made and the pitfalls I fell into along the way.

The basic idea, which has been done with this subject by many other photographers, is to shoot it at night using a hand-held strobe to light each car individually. My twist, of course, was to have Brooke pose beside the cars, moving from one to another as I fired the flash. I still think it could make a fine photo, but I did not succeed in getting that photo this time, entirely because of my own technical problems. Since I don’t plan to return to Carhenge because of the way it has been ruined, maybe someone else will pick up this idea and do a better job.

I planned to shoot both film and digital. For film I brought along my old reliable Nikon F. It has a shutter setting that most modern cameras lack: “T” which is perfect for this situation. On the Nikon F when set at “T” you push the shutter button and the shutter stays open until you wind the film to close it. Very simple. No need to worry about locking cable releases or other stuff to keep the time exposure going. And there’s no battery in the Nikon F…it’s a simple, reliable, mechanical camera, so no worry about battery failure during a long time exposure.

The photo you see here was shot on film with the Nikon F. One long time exposure in the dark night with me and Brooke walking around, her posing and me firing the Vivitar 283 to light up each pose. I also cheated a bit and used photoshop to add bits from another frame that had some better poses and exposures of the cars. If you look close you’ll probably be able to figure out where I did that, since my skills at that sort of thing in photoshop are rudimentary at best.

There are problems with this approach. The main one is ghosting where the flash overlaps with a previous firing and creates a double exposure, so that Brooke appears to be partially transparent, with the background showing through her body. I had hoped to overcome that problem by doing digital exposures at the same time as the film exposures.

In order to make that work with my D200 I needed a remote triggering system. So, just for this photo, I plunked down almost $1,000 for three Pocket Wizards and a ridiculously overpriced camera cord to let them trigger my D200. I’ll never buy anything from Cord Camera in Columbus again since I discovered they charged me almost exactly double the normal price for that cord…but they were the only place that had one, since they were on backorder everywhere else, even the major dealers in NYC.

OK…so I got all this stuff together and hauled it along on this trip…and I tested it in the studio before leaving to make sure it all worked. Then I get to the location and set the two cameras up on tripods side by side and start trying to make the photo. The Nikon F is set on “T” so it is recording each flash on film. The D200 is hooked up to a Pocket Wizard. The 283 is hooked to a Pocket Wizard. And I’m using the third PW to fire a sequence. The way this is supposed to work is that I push the button on one PW which fires the camera. The PW on the camera then waits for a synch pulse from the D200 and when it gets it the camera PW transmits to the PW on the 283, firing it in synch with the shutter on the D200. My plan was to do an exposure using the D200’s multi-exposure mode to capture 10 flashes on one file, then to do another exposure, or rather series of exposures, capturing each firing of the flash on a separate file. That way I could assemble all those individual files as layers in photoshop to produce the final photo with, hopefully, no ghosting.

All sounds good…but it didn’t work. The PWs weren’t firing the flash. I’d sometimes get one flash, then they wouldn’t work on the second exposure. I did a lot of running back and forth to the camera to try to figure out what was wrong. Finally I realized that the D200 was turning itself off before I was ready to make the exposure. I had the wrong cord. There’s a different cord that has a feature that keeps the camera from powering down. That cord wasn’t available at all when I was putting the kit together.

So, all I got was the film. And I’ve had 8×12 prints made and have scanned those prints to produce the photo above. I’m not real happy with the quality of the result and I’m not sure if it is a problem with the quality of the prints or the scans, or if the negatives are just not all that good. I’ll play with them some more, but meanwhile I thought I’d share the result so far with you.

Brooke Lynne, Carhenge, flash, nude, rant, west trip 2008 | Comments | Trackback

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Photos and comments by Dave Levingston. This is the place to see my most recent work which may include nudes, dance, landscape, nature and whatever other kinds of photos I feel like taking.

Since it does contain nude photos, this blog is not intended for viewing by anyone under the age of 18.

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