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Friday, December 30, 2011

Blair Bunting: A Rugby Shoot in the Wee Hours

Using the TritonFlash™

I'm a commercial photographer who specializes in shooting portraits and cars, and I've been a huge fan of Photoflex® lighting modifiers for years. The rugged, textured images I am known for are due in large part to the quality of light that I get with the Photoflex® OctoDome® series, primarily the medium and small.

For this shoot, I was eager to try out my first real experience with Photoflex® electronics in the TritonFlash™. I had read the specs and descriptions of what the product could do and I was excited to try it out for myself. My hope was that the TritonFlash™ would finally give me the advantages of studio lights when I was out on location.

I shot the rugby campaign for Arizona State University last year, and the shots called for bright, high key light and gritty, up close head and shoulders portraits, which meant shooting during the day and accentuating the sunlight with just speed lights and reflectors.

This year, I didn't want to just do the same thing. In fact, I decided to do the exact opposite. I wanted a darker look to this campaign. Instead of shooting during the day, I was looking for minimal light so that each shot would be extremely dramatic. I opted to shoot at 4:00 AM before the sun came up.

Keeping It Simple

I came to the shoot armed pretty simply. I brought a small OctoDome®, a medium OctoDome®, two TritonFlash™ strobe heads and batteries, and a few LiteDisc® reflectors in case I needed some fill.

I like my key lights to be just slightly soft, but still give enough hard light to accentuate textures. I find that my favorite key (or main) light comes from the OctoDome with only a baffle and no face. I also mix the removable silver and gold inserts to get a nice color mix that's just warm enough, but still nicely specular.

After a quick setup, I was ready to arrange the athletes for my shots.

The Huddle

The first set up had the girls huddled close together passing the ball amongst one another. One of the girls, Peaches, had really stunning eyes. For this shot, I wanted keep the lighting very simple and use just one light. Any time a model has striking eyes, this is typically what I do. I don't like to muddle up beautiful eyes with too many catch lights.

The one light was looking good, but I thought I was losing too much detail on some of the jerseys. To fix this, I had one of the girls hold a 32 inch silver LiteDisc behind the huddle to kick some light onto their backs.

For this shot, I used my 70mm lens on my Nikon D3X and had it set to:

  • Shutter Speed: 1/200
  • Aperture: f/14.0
  • ISO 800

The Lift

For the next shot, the coach had the girls lift one of the athletes up and act like she was catching the ball. This was a really cool multi-player pose and I was excited to figure out how to light it.

While they practiced the lift and holding the pose, I thought about how I wanted to arrange my lights. I decided to use one plane of light to paint the height of the shot, and another to add some glare. To do this, I kept my key light the same, raising it a few feet in order to assure that the light spread would evenly cover the girls. To get the particular quality of light I wanted, I placed another TritonFlash™ with a small OctoDome® behind the girls and aimed it back at the camera.

Simple High Key Finish

Finally, I opted to use one of my more tried-and-true lighting arrangements. It's a standard high key with no fill, no kicker. Quick and easy. The medium OctoDome® I placed high camera left and the small OctoDome® I placed low and camera right.

For this series, I had my camera set to:

  • Shutter Speed: 1/250th of a second
  • Aperture: Varied between f/18 and f/22
  • ISO 800

Before walking out for this shoot, I imagined that shooting with the TritonFlash™ system would be like shooting with AlienBees 800s, but I left feeling like I shot with my top of the line ProFoto studio strobes. The speed of the recycle rate is incredible, the tubes are great, and because of their performance, it was very easy for me to treat them like studio strobes that were finally portable instead of treating them like a glorified speed light. This felt like a solid, reliable system. I wasn't settling with the gear, I was selecting it. Outside the studio, it's my goal to get enough TritonFlash™ strobes so I don't have to shoot with anything else.

If you have any questions about this shoot or any of my other photographs, feel free to tweet me at @BlairBunting and tag your tweets with #BBtheTeacher.

Until next time!

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