APPLYING THE LIGHT
How does the actual application of the light work? We compare it to painting, but is that what's it like? Pretty much. "I usually tell people to move the light source in either a circular motion or in a very gentle brushing sort of motion," Dave says. "With light ‘painting’ I can wrap light around my subject, rather than apply it directly as I would with a flash. I can soften the edges—much softer than if I were using even a giant softbox. I can highlight specific areas, and give extra light where I want it, and need it, to objects in the scene that I call supporting characters—the things that help hold the picture together. But the most important thing is, you have to move the flashlight; you can't just point it and hold it. You want soft, transitional-edge light."
Direction is also important. "Typically you want any kind of light, whether it's flash, sunshine or lighting it with a flash light, to come from an off-camera location. It's much more pleasing to have an angle of light coming in on your subject, defining your subject. Straight-on light is flat, and it doesn't look very appealing."
We know what you're thinking, and so does Dave: how do you light people during 30-second exposures?
"Finding a suitable person is part of the challenge," Dave admits. "You need people who have patience, and then you prepare them. You tell them, 'This is how it's going to come down: you have to hold very still. You won't be able to move for 30 seconds.' And you tell them it's going to be a long session."
Dave tries to always place his people in comfortable positions. None of the people you'll see in the accompanying photos—the couple on the motorcycle, the ballerina in the chair, the girl lying on the floor—is standing in free space. "My subjects are either going to be supported by something, leaning against something, holding onto something or sitting on something. And as I try various positions, I ask, 'Are you comfortable? Can you sit still for a minute?' The ballerina's position would have been difficult for almost anyone, but she's a trained professional and it was no problem for her to lean forward and hold her hands in that position and not move."
When people are your subjects, light up their faces first because that's the most likely part of the body to move during a long exposure. Turn the flashlight on, illuminate the face, turn it off and move to light other areas if you wish. Now if your subjects blinks or moves a facial muscle, there's no light on the face to illuminate that motion.