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In cooperation with our partners for memory solutions

Justin Lister

Close Encounters

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The concept of this image is quite simple but needed a complex solution. I’m working on a Sci-fi series of close encounters. The goal is to have narrative conceptual images that weaves in science fiction characters that are universally known and generic. It was to take place at dusk or dawn, but because that time of day is only 15-20 minutes, I had to use techniques to extend that time.


My challenge was that the time of day had to be dark enough to capture the tail lights on the back of the truck, but light enough to shoot at low ISO and maintain image quality for the final output as a very large print. In order to do this, I decided to shoot the image in two stages.

Close Encounters Alien Justin Lister-38 copy

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The first was using broncolor Siros L lights when it was still light out, in combination with Hasselblad leaf shutter lenses to overpower the ambient light enough to make it look like it was night and shoot at ISO 100 or lower. I used two in front of each headlight to mimic the truck’s headlights, one from above the subjects, and one from behind the subject. The idea was to  use hard lights to mimic moonlight at night as well as a small highlight from the sky behind  them. I also used smoke candles to make it look like a mist or fog.

The second stage, I waited until it was actually dark and used led lights to light up different  parts of the truck and to capture the tail lights. Later these were combined in Photoshop to make a seamless image. As you can see below from the behind the scenes, it was quite bright outside when I did the first stage, yet the straight out of camera shot looks like night time. 

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The app bronControl for the Siros lights made this so easy for me. I was on the bed of my truck and on a ladder. The lights were so high up that they were out of reach to turn up and down. I could control everything from the app or the trigger on the camera, amazing. 5 years ago I would have had to had generators running and chords everywhere too. This technology has really opened the door to new and better images.