Friday Night Lights

Zoom Street Photo by Derek Pell

I took a Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight for a spin Friday night. Needed to nail down some shots for a  Noir feature in the February issue.

Got off cheap because the model was Zoom Street’s DV editor, Wendell Sweda. Unfortunately he left his trench coat in Santa Monica, so we had to go with the black, Exorcist look.

Also wanted to come up with a more traditional cover than this one. We needed flesh and blood, a film poster look.

The location was Clayton’s Coffee Shop in Coronado. Atmosphere was dead-on with one minor exception: they still had their Christmas lights lit!  Not exactly the effect I was after, and it marred the nice  Alamo-arch.

We were pressed for time so there was no elaborate set-up. I kept the Speedlight mounted on an old Fujifilm S3 Pro and—in the shot at the top of this post—rotated the head and bounced the light off a gold reflector clamped to a C-stand. I hand-held the camera, shooting wide (18mm) with most of the shots taken from a crouching position. I wound up with two shadows for the price of one, a nice surprise I hadn’t noticed in the viewfinder. (Double Indemnity, anyone?) I added the “Dutch Angle ” in post.

Below, you can see the holiday lights, (click on the image for a large view)  but the spill from the SB-900 overpowered them leaving just the scraggly cord. At first I was bothered by the two protruding spotlights above the lettering, but my wife thought they nicely echoed the subject’s eyes.  Since the composition is strong, the lights got their sentence commuted.


The SB-900 is one hell of a powerful flash. Incredible range, flexible, fast. It gives you total control over the lighting—indoors and out. And if you can afford  three of ’em, you’ve got a wireless juggernaut.


We’d also planned to shoot some interiors at a Lebanese hookah bar in downtown SD, but we couldn’t find a parking spot. It was late so we decided to pig-out at Denny’s and call it a night.


I’m not posting the final cover shot here because, hell, I want you to catch it on the front page  of ZS  next month.


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