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Justin Bettman

Maggie Valley

In September, I had the opportunity to go visit my friend Rhea in Maggie Valley, North Carolina with the sole purpose of creating new work. When I lived in California and first started shooting, I would make these large scale scenes and I wanted to go back to making some of that work. Where I live in NYC right now, it can be difficult to find locations that will let you shoot there. The only issue with shooting in North Carolina was that I didn’t have any trained photo assistants, so I apologize that there aren’t any BTS pictures since there wasn’t much of a photo Crew. 

When I got to North Carolina, I spent the first few days just location scouting and trying to meet some of the locals. Maggie Valley is a popular vacation destination, so it was hard to find locals to meet since many people there were just visiting. But I did manage to find some cool locals. One day I was out on a walk with Rhea and we walked passed her brothers house, and it immediately looked like a great shoot location. He had this perfect little shed and around the corner he had an old VW that he was fixing up that we were able to use. Her brother was out of town, but when he arrived again the next day, I asked him if he’d be in the shoot.

When I create these large scale scenes, I like to match with the ambient and use light to lead the viewer’s eyes. I also try to make sure that any lights I place in the image feel like they’re motivated or coming from somewhere so it feels more believable and cinematic to the viewer. I have included an image to show you what it looked like with only a light in the shed and no other strobes, so you can see how much light makes a difference.

Broncolr Blog Lighting Diagram

Since this lighting setup was quite complex, I put numbers on the final image and will break down the purpose of each light. For all of the heads in this shot I used either Siros 800 L or Siros 800 S.

  1. This light was meant to mimic a street lamp or a light coming from another house. I wanted to use this light to create a bit of separation of the shed from the dark forest in the background, as well as highlight the laundry on the laundry line. I can’t remember for sure but I think this head had ½ CTO and was up high on a C Stand with a mini boom, angling down.
  2. I had a light in the shed since I wanted to drive the viewer's eye to this element. Without it, the shed gets a bit lost with the background. It also helps create a surreal or scary element to the image and the light that’s leaving the shed leads you to the main subject. This light was initially gelled with CTB but I ended up taking it off because it was such a strong contrast from the warm car lights and didnt have much motivation for being so blue.
  3. This car was not actually functional, the subject was reworking it and had taken the engine out. So I put a strobe head in the hood of the car, facing up, with CTO on it. I also initially had a hazer in the hood, but it ended up pulling too much power, so I switched to using FantasyFX canned smoke. It ended up working out pretty well :)
  4. I wanted the car to look like it was still on and add some mystery, so I decided I should have a light source coming from in the car. I only had Siros 800 heads which are quite big, so I wasn’t able to rig the light shooting down, but I did have it shooting up and still got a great effect! If I recall correctly, I layered a 1 stop CTO with a half stop CTO to really give it some saturation in color!
  5. The final light I used was on the far camera right, off screen. I wanted this one to act similar to light #1 where it gives some separation to the forest so it didn’t become a black hole.

I had a 6th head with me, but I didn't end up needing to use it. I initially had it on an octabank near camera and planned on using it for fill light, but it seemed unnecessary.

Overall I’m super happy with how the final image came out. Having the Siros heads was great because I could control them from the remote or app to balance with the ambient and make quick adjustments.