A trombonist and his PR rep flew in from Nashville, TN to conduct two day photo sessions for his upcoming CD release in the Fall. We had spoken over the phone and via email about the theme for his shoot. I didn’t feel that a traditional musician with instrument would suit his personality. Nor did I believe it would show any creativity, so we agreed on two separate sessions. One on location and one in studio.
Day one was conducted on location at Ocean Beach in San Francisco just before sunset. During his trip it was the only day when rain was not forecast which meant IF the weather people were correct, the sky would have wonderful clouds, one of my favorite elements for outdoor sessions. As luck would have it, the sky and weather were perfect…whew!
BTS shot. Here I used one AD-B2 with two eVOLV200s shot through an adjustable Aputure Fresnel Lens as the key light. Another single eVOLV200 using its included Fresnel head was used to augment illumination of the fire/cello/violin fire.
For each shot on both days I used a total of six different modifiers, but only two different strobes. xPLOR600s, and eVOLV200s. Using AD-B2 and 600ws extension heads gives me flexibility like no other system. It’s one of the big reasons I have switched over to this system.
Two eVOLV200s mounted in a single AD-B2 shot through an Aputure Fresnel modifier was the key light. A single eVOLV200 using its native Fresnel head and barn doors with gel was used to augment illumination on the fire/cello/violin bonfire. Canon 1DX Mark II 1/400th.
Canon 1DX Mark II 1/400th using two eVOLV200s inside the AD-B2 shot though the Aputure Fersnel head.
Day two was shot in studio using four different modifiers on four xPLOR600s, two using remote heads. The modifiers were:
An Adorama GlowPop 38 with both inner and outer diffusion panels as a rim light
An Andoer Metal Conical Snoot on a boom to illuminate the martini glass with mini trombone
A Cheetahstand 40 inch (100cm) QS40 Silver Beauty Dish with diffusion panel installed as the model’s leg light
Although I use a wide variety of modifiers from many different manufacturers I only use Flashpoint/Godox strobes. Why? Well because their performance, value, quality and flexibility gives me options that I’ve not been able to find anywhere else. The battery life of either of those units is incredible. I have yet to exhaust the battery during an all day session.
I’ve recently written a post about my use of the xPLOR600/eVOLV200s with several different modifiers for a session. You can find that post here.
One of my clients had a concept for their upcoming publicity campaign. He wanted the shots to all resemble the Dutch Master’s style of lighting. Not too difficult EXCEPT it involved 90 musicians with their instruments along with props that include table settings, flowers, wine…you get the picture, no pun intended.
Even though I’ve shot there many times from both the house and from the backstage vom it was always done under normal house/stage lighting. He felt that the Center’s lighting designer could recreate the lighting needed for the shot. When he sent me a photo of the lighting I thought “Oh gosh that’s not going to work well. I know his stage lighting person did his best, but he doesn’t really have the right instruments to obtain the light they’re looking for.”
And photos never come with a back story. So if the light is not right no one is ever going to think “Gosh Mark must have been dealing with someone else’s lighting, that’s why the shot looks that way…” LOL yeah right it’s up to me to make sure the light looks right! After all it’s my shot!
So I decided to take four xPLOR600s, rent stands locally and fly the modifiers in checked baggage I felt I would need to do the job. Since I’d have to side light all of the musicians and keep the lights out of frame I knew I would need two modifiers that would evenly spread light, one that could throw light a long distance with pinpoint accuracy and one that would throw light a long distance, yet provide an even spread of light.
The two PCB Omni reflectors would do the job for an even light spread for the musicians closest to the strobes. One Bowens 12.5″ High Performance Reflector with Parabolic Design would throw the light over the Omnis and not bleed more light where I didn’t want it. And finally the PCB Retro Laser(sadly no longer available…) which can be focused, would throw light the furthest distance from where the strobes were placed applying light on the musicians on the right hand side of the stage with pinpoint accuracy. (Stage left/House right in stage terms) Be aware that with the exception of the Bowens reflector I have modified all PCB modifiers to Bowens mounts.
I had 45 minutes to set up the lights, determine which elevation and distance was the best and balance the lights. My partner and I communicated via cell phones/Bluetooth headsets so she could do the fine placement adjustments as I took test shots before the talent was led onto the stage. The Marketing VP was communicating with his stage manager to tell her if people needed to move slightly to avoid being in another person’s shadow or the shadow of a prop.
I was using a Medium Format Camera for this shot which was placed about 250 feet from the stage. I controlled the xPLOR600s using an XT-32C controller mounted on my Pentax 645Z. I had zero issues with transmission from the controller to any of the strobes. I was shooting tethered and the client was sitting next to me as I shot to review the images in real time. Their new CEO was also next to me and I asked her to press the shutter so she could say ‘she took the cover shot’ LOL!!!!
Using battery powered xPLOR600s was a pure godsend. The power they produced overpowered the stage lighting as I knew they would. The ability to move the lights around without concern for a power plug is epic! And even though I used the lights all day they never even came close to running out of power. But my camera went through two….
Most people don’t realize just how powerful strobes are compared to constant light. The Marketing VP commented that he could not believe I was overpowering their 5000 watt stage lights. LOL, a simple method to help him understand was to divide 5000 by 125, my shutter speed which yields 40 watt seconds of light. I was shooting the strobes at 1/8th to ¼ power which is much more bright than the stage lighting.
PCB Retro Laser (discontinued)
PCB Omni Reflector
Stage lit with stage/theatre lighting. You can see my two strobes on stage using two Omni reflectors with xPLOR600s. On the left hand side on the second tier you can barely see my Bowens long throw and Retro Laser modifiers that shoot across the orchestra to illuminate the far right musicians.
Balancing the light before the talent arrives.
Shot as it looks out of camera. (not the actual shot they will use)
Shot with post processing applied to make it look more ‘painterly’ (not the actual shot they will use)
My client has used several of the publicity imagery in and around the greater Seattle area on billboards and bus banners.
My partner Tracy Martin completed and the client has released the film she created for their upcoming fall production of Holiday Inn. The film is a behind the scenes look into the making of the production which includes my publicity photo shoot for the show. This film will be shown nationwide through Fathom Entertainment in movie theaters. In the film you will catch short glimpses of the gear I used which includes xPLOR600, eVOLV200s, Parabolix 35D, Cheetahstand’s Quick Lantern among other items.
In my review of Cheetahstand’s Quick Stripbox and Lantern I have shown my lighting setups for a different dance troupe. You can view that post here.
I was recently hired to do an annual studio dance session by one of my long time clients. I’m posting this to show how I use xPLOR, eVOLV, Cheetahstand, CononMark, etc lights and modifiers in a session. This was an all-day session lasting approximately 6.5 hours of nonstop shooting. I had charged both the Xplor and eVOLV lights to full the day before. I never even ran close to running out of battery power on any of the strobes. All of the strobes showed half full at the end of the day. My Canon 1DXII showed 25% battery life left at the end of the day to give you some reference. I was using the WFT-E6A wireless transmitting dongle on my camera to wirelessly tether my rig to my iPad so the client could view the images as they happened. Using the transmitter uses more battery life than without.
There seems to be quite a bit of ‘talk’ that certain brands of modifiers/lights/etc. must be used in order to ‘be a pro.’ Nonsense. How one uses gear, how one engages with the talent and how one uses their imagination are the most important part of imagery to my clients. So I post this in hopes that it will help other shooters who are interested in multi light set ups, but not hung up on brand names or scientific theories about what makes a true parabola or other talking points. When people ask me what is the one thing I would have for gear over everything else, I always say your imagination. Years ago I was blessed to be able to spend time with Annie Leibovitz and I asked her “How do I shoot more like you?” Her response? “Don’t shoot like me Mark, shoot like you. It’s the only way to develop your own style.”
I used a four light setup most of the day. My key light was the CononMark 120cm inverted octa using an xPLOR600 with a remote head. I opted to not use my Parabolix D35 because the size I needed for the day required a larger modifier. And I’ve been very happy with the quality of light from the Cononmark. My two rim lights are Cheetahstand Quick Strip lights using xPLOR600s and the top overhead light is an eVOLV200 mounted into an AD-B2 housing. The modifier is a Fresnel adjustable head. For dance I always use a 140″ wide seamless. In this case I’m using black to give a grittier look to the imagery.
I use children’s ABC flash cards to help me know what light is in what group.
The great thing about battery powered strobes is I can roll the key lights or others wherever they’re needed when I want a different look for light
I had to be creative in sandwiching my eVOLV200 against the ceiling!