Simon Nakhale spends a lot of time on the road commuting to his two jobs to make ends meet for his family — around three hours each day from his home in Renton. I was given the assignment to make photos of him during his commute.
I knew I would have to light Simon since it would be darker inside his car than outside and I didn’t want the outside of the car to be blown out. But sitting next to him, bouncing a strobe off the ceiling as he drove just seemed like a pretty boring source of light. Luckily Simon was a real trouper and said I could mount a flash, pointing right at his face, on the hood of his car. I couldn’t find a secure spot on the hood, but finally was able to attach it to his windshield wiper. I used a very inexpensive Godox V860 flash with a Godox Cells II-C transmitter and sat next to him as he drove. Using a slow shutter speed showed movement outside the car, and I fired away as he drove down the road, hoping the flashing light wouldn’t be too distracting. He did great.
Later I thought that it would be even more interesting if I was in a car ahead of him and photographed him surrounded by traffic. Once again, the only way to expose him properly would be to use a flash inside the car and fire it with a transmitter attached to my camera. Mike Siegel, another Seattle Times shooter, was able to drive and loaned me a Speedlite 600EX-RT remote strobe and Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter, which is a flash system using radio wave communication. The Godox transmitter would not be able to trigger a flash that far away.
Mike and I arrived early to test the flash. Once Simon arrived, we attached it to his glove compartment, pointing up at his face, and hit the road. I tried shooting through Mike’s back window for a while. But I had trouble with reflections and even with a neutral density filter, could not get a low enough f/stop to totally eliminate the defroster wires in the back window from showing in the frame. I finally popped out through Mike’s sunroof, braced myself and shot Simon as he followed us. I used a polarizing filter to reduce the glare on his windshield and made the final shot.
The flash is at right, blasting through the windshield to properly light Simon’s face as he drove.
Before hitting the road, I checked my lighting by photographing Simon in a parking lot while the flash was attached to the visor on the passenger’s side of the car. Since the flash showed in the photo, I opened the door on the glove compartment and attached it there.
Simon is driving on the West Seattle bridge, I’m shooting out of the skylight, and we’re just hoping for more traffic.