Recently I came upon a photograph I had forgotten about. It’s from a Halloween story we did back in October 2011. The Haunted House of Horror had just started its operations in the old Courtland High School, and writer Catherine Godbey and I took a tour of the place before the visitors for that evening arrived.
The sets were quite impressive as well as the actors, costumes, makeup and prosthetics. Everyone involved had done a good job transforming the old school into something magical. Nevertheless, the place was dark out of necessity and not easy to photograph. I didn’t want to use on-camera flash because it would have ruined the atmosphere. So, I decided to create a scene with three of the actors, Kassie Morris, Emerald Hammon and Sonya Williams, in a very dark room, using a very slow shutter speed (5 seconds) and then adding my own selective lighting.
I gave Catherine a flashlight and asked her to “paint” the section of the bed, where the person being eaten was, to imitate a strip of light coming from an imaginary open door. Then, right before the five seconds were over, I triggered a strobe that I had previously hidden behind the actor on the left.
Five seconds doesn’t seem a long time, but when you have to be absolutely still, it could feel like an eternity. The three women not only had to remain perfectly still in their not-so-natural poses, but also had to hold their breath during that time; otherwise, the smallest movement, even a motion imperceptible to the naked eye, would have resulted in a blur.
About the series: Behind the Lens is a photo column that explores the thoughts and mechanics behind images of the community taken by Decatur Daily photojournalists. These photos resonate with the photographer, either through the story behind the shot or the image itself.
About the photographer: Jeronimo Nisa, who is originally from Spain, has been a photojournalist with The Decatur Daily since 2008. He earned a master’s degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He previously worked in Italy and South Africa.