Creating the Photograph: Ronen Goldman’s “Danger Close”

Creating the Photograph is an original series where photographers teach you about how they conceived an image, shot it, and edited it. The series has a heavy emphasis on teaching readers how to light. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com.

Photographer Ronen Goldman is a surrealist who finds a way to channel feelings into images. We’ve featured him and his work on the website before but nothing could prepare us for this story. To preface this, it’s the story of an agonizing wait to hear about whether the life of someone very close to you will be in jeopardy. Those feelings were channeled by Ronen into a photo shot on film. And by all means, it is fantastic.

Here’s Ronen’s story.

The Concept

I have been working on “The Surrealistic Pillow” for the past nine years in between commercial jobs and I used it as an outlet to try new photography techniques and ideas that interest me. Most photographs in the series start with a dream, or part of a dream that I remember and write down when I first wake up. I try to extract elements of the dream, sometimes an abstract feeling but sometimes it’s actual objects or places. I then think about the overall atmosphere of the idea, and why it had such a pronounced effect on me. After that, the creative work of planning and preproduction begins, followed by the shoot and post processing. The entire process sometimes takes months for a single photo.

Though this image is part of the “Surrealistic Pillow” project, I approached this image in a different way than usual. This image did not come in a dream, but rather an idea I had in my head for a while. My wife and myself recently had to deal with some life threatening medical issues. With such a life changing danger looming ahead of us, I was amazed to observe her resolve and positivity. After a long week of being in the dark and in limbo, the day we were to find out what the test results were, I decided we should go ahead and do this photoshoot. I find that art helps, sometimes, to deal with life when it gets rough. We got word the following day that she was all cleared – false alarm. This image remains as a reminder to what was probably the longest week of my life.

The Gear

  • Shot on Portra 400 Film
  • Mamiya RZ67 proii with a 110mm lens
  • Lighting with a mixture of gelled speedlights and godox ad360, triggered with pocketwizards
  • Film Developed at Panda , Scanned using an Epson v850 , Silverfast
  • Post processing color correction with photoshop

The Shoot

Shooting film means you don’t get to see the results right away, so you really need things to work the way you intend them to. I did a few test shots with a digital camera (Canon 5D Mk III) with a 50mm lens to simulate what I would be getting from the Mamiya rz67’s 110 mm. But things don’t always work the same way and translate from digital to film. Of course each medium format 120 roll has only 10 shots on it, so you need the posing and action to be spot on when you start shooting the real thing. Triggering multiple flashes (five of them) at the same time was challenging, as it was a mix of canon speedlights and godox ad360’s, which had different triggering systems. I connected the pocketwizard transmitter to the hotshoe of the rz67 and connected the godox trigger to the pc sync port on the lens.

At first I had trouble getting the light inside the bunker to work. I then realized that the radio signal was having trouble getting through the reinforced concrete, so I changed its position until I found a spot where the antenna managed to get the signal. Waiting for the film to be developed took a few days of anticipation, but after getting the negatives back from the lab and scanning them I saw I got exactly what I wanted – depicting a couple living at a fallout shelter, a far away explosion detonates in the distance. The man cowers and shields his eyes from the danger. The woman does not shy away, she has binoculars and resolve – she wants to get a better a look of what’s to come.


Man: Boaz Gordon

Woman : Sivan Mor Goldman

BTS Video Edit: Sivan Mor Goldman

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.