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Riding a broom at night

How'd they do that?


Not quite Harry Potter in flight, but just as much fun to photograph.
Not quite Harry Potter in flight, but just as much fun to photograph.

This is a fun photo project that is not difficult to do. The idea is to create the illusion that a subject is "flying" on a broomstick, high above the ground.

A DARK BACKGROUND AFFORDS YOU MANY OPTIONS

In order to single out our subject, we chose to photograph him against a dark background - a lake at night. He was illuminated with the camera's electronic flash.

Overexposure will occur if your subject is too close to the flash.
Overexposure will occur if your subject is too close to the flash.

BACKGROUND ELEMENTS

The shoreline lights in the distance added the feeling of depth and enhanced the illusion. But they were not part of the original scene. They and the moon were photographed separately. PhotoShop's clone tool (also known as its rubber stamp tool) was used to transfer them to this image.

Because the background was so dark, black really, it was simple to add other elements to enhance the composition.

The moon and shoreline in the background were photographed separately and added in PhotoShop.
The moon and shoreline in the background were photographed separately and added in PhotoShop.

SAFETY FIRST

Because the scene was so dark before taking the picture (that is, before setting off the flash), an assistant illuminated the general area using a flashlight. We didn't want our subject to land on an unseen object in the dark.

VISIBILITY

We also wanted to have enough light to see the subject clearly ourselves so we could capture the shot at the right moment and so that the camera's autofocus had something on which to focus. Another assistant shone a second flashlight on him to act as a modeling light - a light that is overpowered by the intensity of the camera's flash.

ASSISTANTS MUST BE CAREFUL NOT TO BECOME INCLUDED IN THE IMAGE

Care must be taken to ensure that the assistants handling the flashlights are not included in the picture, illuminated by the flash or by any other light. The image on the right below inadvertantly shows an assistant, faintly illuminated by flashlight, whose motion caused her to appear as a blur.

It seems you can expect the unexpected when taking pictures. The blurry
It seems you can expect the unexpected when taking pictures. The blurry "ghost" image on the right is an assistant who was shielded from the flash, but not from a flashlight being held by another assistant.

YOUR SUBJECT

You have probably quickly figured out that the subject has to be somewhat athletic and agile in order to leap into the air, tuck up his legs and tilt his head back, all the while placing himself directly in front of the camera position.

WHEN TO TRIP THE SHUTTER

As the photographer, timing - that is, when to take the shot - is critical. It must be taken just when the subject has reached the apex of his leap and looks "just right" for the desired effect.

CAMERA HEIGHT

You must be sure that the camera is at roughly the same height as the center of the subject so you are neither looking up nor down at the subject. It must appear as though you were "flying" right next to him.

TRY, TRY AGAIN

Finally, you must be prepared to shoot the same set-up more than once, probably several times, in order to get it right. It is rare to get it on the first take.

You will probably find that it takes several
You will probably find that it takes several "launch" attempts to get just the right pose and position.

USE YOUR CREATIVITY & IMAGINATION

There are many other scenarios that can result in fun and funny unusual photographs based on the simple principles shown here. Some suggestions? Sure.

  • If you have a modestly large model rocket, you could substitute the broom for it.
  • Or, use a model dressed in a witch's costume and equipped with an older style of broom for a humorous Halloween picture.
  • Or, have your subject "parachuting" using a handkerchief or table cloth instead of a parachute.
If you use your imagination, you will likely come up with many other situations that will give you some fine, fun photos that you will treasure and enjoy showing your friends.

SHOW US YOUR BEST SHOT

When you do, be sure to send your completed picture to us, and we may just display it here for all the world to see.

 
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