How I Got The Shot: Dave Williams

October 14, 2019

dave williams litra

Welcome to our How I Got The Shot series! Here we go behind the lens of photographers and videographers around the world to find out how they used their Litra gear to capture an amazing shot, sometimes in the most unexpected situations. Below we hear from Dave Williams on how he captured this amazing Milky Way shot on the side of Route 66.

How I Got The Shot

As a travel photographer it’s quite rare that I need lighting, but on the rare occasion that I do it’s often without warning or time for preparation and therefore nothing beats the LitraPro. One of these occasions popped up recently when I was travelling with minimal gear on Route 66.

The reason I was travelling with minimal gear was because I was overseas and on a motorcycle. I had just finished up at Photoshop World where I was teaching a travel photography class and I’d gone over to pick a Triumph Tiger 800 from Eaglerider in Las Vegas with Mark Heaps. We each had a bike equipped with panniers, but as you can imagine there isn’t a lot of space left once all my clothes and gear are packed in for a few days on Route 66, so having a light available which took up a mere few cubic inches was perfect just in case I came across any situations where I did in fact need those lumens.

The ride was fantastic – I’d done stretches of Route 66 in a car, but being free and exposed on a motorbike was just a whole different gear. I ride a Triumph back home in the UK so I was familiar with the layout and controls, which meant I could divert my attention to enjoying the scenery and the ride.

On one of the days we were exploring far and wide form our base in Seligman, AZ, and were on our way back from Watson Lake to get some food and settle down for the night. We’d just come off the I40 and were headed up West Historic Route 66 when we noticed how dark it had become, having made the transition from interstate to back road. The stars we’d noticed while riding on the Interstate became so much clearer, and overhead the cloud of the Milky Way was clear. We pulled off to the side and came up with a plan to shoot the bikes, and this is where the LitraPro demonstrated just how perfect it is as a light for a travel photographer.



Firstly, the LitraPro illuminated the ground around us, ensuring we were able to quickly and effectively check the area we’d stopped in for rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and scorpions. Being an ‘out of towner’ I was quite happy in the knowledge that none of these venom-packed creepy-crawlies were hanging around, and that there were no pot-holes for me to inadvertently roll my bike into while manoeuvring it around for the best angle.

Secondly, and perhaps more on point, the LitraPro gave me the light I needed to illuminate the foreground, with the absence of the moon. To get this shot I was open for 20 seconds at an aperture of f/2.8. The sub-25 second exposure times when shooting the stars ensure that there’s no blur caused by the rotation of the earth, while the wide open aperture allows as much light as possible to hit the sensor in that limited time of virtually pitch-black darkness. I had my ISO set to 1600 to afford as much sensitivity as possible whilst keeping a grip on any negative effects of high ISO such as noise. Knowing the power available from the LitraPro and the sensitivity I was set at, I knew I would have to be careful in the foreground. I had illuminated the entire scene in order to set my focus on the bikes, then locked it off by simply switching to ‘manual.’

I was ready to go so I opened my shutter and had my LitraPro set to a mere 5%, which was plenty in the circumstances. I needed to gently bathe the foreground in light, so with the diffuser attached, I pointed the LitraPro into the sky somewhere above the bikes. The spill of light that fell to the ground was plenty to light up the bikes nicely, and to ensure I had control of the shadows I simply walked from left to right behind my camera whilst pointing the light up into the air, and I only kept the light on for about four seconds throughout the 20 second exposure. The traffic passing by behind the bikes on I40 gave a kind of divide, acting as the horizon in the absence of sight of the real one, which was a nice touch.

After a couple of variations of the scene it was time to get packed up (checking my jacket sleeves for sneaky scorpions before putting it on) and get back to Seligman for dinner.

Gear Used

  • Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens
  • Platypod Max
  • LitraPro

About Dave Williams

Dave Williams is a travel photographer and social media influencer, writer, educator, and blogger, based in London, UK. His work has been featured worldwide in renowned publications and campaigns, and customers including Time, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Forbes, Boeing, Huawei, Microsoft, Triumph, The Times, Shell, Marie Claire, and more. His knowledge of photography and post processing is the amalgamation of years of practice and lessons, and he loves to share that knowledge. His tutorials can be found at TipSquirrel.com and in Photoshop User Magazine, his classes at KelbyOne.com, and his weekly photo oriented blog spot over at ScottKelby.com. Learn more and connect with Dave at http://capturewithdave.com/