Mascots in a movie theater

This was a fun lighting setup to do for the cover of a college football special section for The Spokesman-Review newspaper I work for. It was a chore for my photo editor to find the perfect time where all three local colleges mascots’ could be available for the photo shoot. Once they arrived at a local movie theater, all three went into mascot mode–where they didn’t speak. It took some patience on my part the get them all to settle down and into the front row seats. Popcorn was all over the place after one mascot started to throw kernels at the rival mascot.

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The projector room light was too high to use, so I placed a Profoto wireless  B1 head with a blue gel at the top row of the seats.  My key light was placed camera left, with a B1 wireless strobe head and a Westcott Switch 3-foot Rapidbox. One more light, a Profoto B2 head and 1 x 3 foot strip light with a soft grid, was placed about four rows back at camera left. This helped add some needed separation light behind the subjects

MASCOTSAfter the shoot, the scene descended into madness as a bucket of popcorn ended up on the head of the one of the Mascots. I  kept shooting and the moment ended up being used in the table of content page.

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 Settings: Nikon D850; Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 lens at f/3.5; 1/160th of a sec. at ISO 400. White balance set to 5200 Kelvin.

Weeping willows with three lights

My assignment for the newspaper was to photograph Whitworth University’s Haley Goranson Jacob, an assistant professor of theology, who has been named “one of 10 female theologians to know” by Christianity Today magazine.

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Whitworth University’s Haley Goranson Jacob, an assistant professor of theology, has been named “one of 10 female theologians to know” by Christianity Today magazine. Jacob earned a doctorate in divinity at the University of St. Andrews and joined the Whitworth faculty in 2015. Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

As I arrived at her house, I had to make my way through a gauntlet of weeping willow branches that lined Goranson’s walkway. I new right then that this would be my portrait location. I set up three lights. My key light was camera left. I used a Profoto B1 with a 2-foot beauty dish. I could only raise it so high because of the limbs. For the background, I wanted the leaves to sparkle with highlights. I placed a B1 head with a color temperature orange gel about ten feet behind Goranson and aimed it at the back of her head. Just for kicks, I place one more strobe a Profoto B2  behind the foliage camera right. I’m not sure if it did much though. I set my manual ambient exposure so that is was about three stops under by using high-speed sync at 1/640th of a second.

Next, I fired off a tight shot of Goranson’s face in TTL and then locked the exposure in by switching to manual on my Profoto Air Remote installed on the hot shoe of my camera. The key light was set to Group A, and the rear lights were set to Group B. I brought the exposure of the rear light up about a stop, which gave me the highlights in the leaves I was looking for.

Settings: Nikon D850 with a 24-70mm 2.8 lens at f/4; 1/640th Sec. at ISO 80

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Two strobes and a tree

For this portrait, Joel, age 7, wanted to be photographed in this tree. He climbed up and struck this pose naturally. I told him not to move as I placed my key light on camera left. This strobe, a Profoto B2 with a Westcott 3 -foot Rapidbox Switch attached, provided  broad soft light on the subject. Behind Joel, I had his father hold a Profoto B1 above his head. The wireless monolight had a Magnum OCF reflector with a warming gel attached. This edged the tree and Joel in warm light that mimicked golden hour.

 

DSC_9457ddTo get my exposure, I shot one frame of Joel’s face in TTL, ( through-the-lens auto metering) then switched the Profoto Air Remote over to manual and fine-tuned the exposure. Even though I recently bought a Sekonic flash meter, I struggle finding a need for it on location shoots like this.

Settings: Nikon D5 with a Nikkor 50 f/1.8 lens; iso 125; 1/320/sec. at f/2 White balance set to 5400 Kelvin

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Four soft lights and a flute

This is a portrait of my musician brother who wanted something he could use on social media. I set up my Profoto B1 and B2 wireless strobes in my neighbor’s backyard because they have a nice red fence I like to use as a background.

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For this portrait, I wanted to try and surround Burke with soft, pleasing light. The rule I have learned is this:  The closer my light is the subject the softer it will be. The same goes for the light modifier. The larger the modifier in relation to the subject, the softer the light will be.

I started with my key light, a Profoto 2 x 3 OCF softbox on a Profoto B1 monolight on camera right. For a fill light, camera left, I used a 1 x3 foot stripbox with grid to soften the shadows. Just for fun, I used my 2-foot beauty dish (gridded) as a kicker light behind camera left and another stripbox camera right, aimed at the fence in the background.

I put my camera on manual and set my ambient exposure to about a stop under exposed. I set my Profoto Air Remote to TTL mode and took a tight shot of Burke’s face to get a correct flash exposure. I then switched to manual mode on the Air Remote (it locks in the TTL settings) and made exposure adjustments to each light.

Here is the great thing about wireless strobes. I can set each strobe on its own group setting. From the Air Remote, I  can then select a group–in this case my key light was group A– and make an exposure adjustment for just that strobe.

Once I got each light (group) dialed in, I shot with my Nikon D850 and 85mm Nikon /1.4 lens set to f/4; ISO 100 at 1/250 of a second shutter. White balance was set to daylight.

The cool thing here is that you don’t need all this expense Profoto gear to make a portrait like this. A cheap set of wireless speedlights, a controller, and some inexpensive umbrellas would have worked just a well.

Strip softbox as key light

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Muhammad Bekjanov, a pro-democracy Uzbeck newspaper editor who endured of 18 years of torture as a political prisoner, was reunited with his family in the United StatesFor this week.                     Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

For this editorial portrait of a former political prisoner who was recently reunited with his family in the U.S., I wanted to use strong, dramatic lighting to reflect his resolve he used to resist his captures. I set my Profoto B2 strobes up in his daughter’s living room while Bekjanov was being interviewed.

The background was a light brick wall above the fireplace. I placed  one B2 head with a 1×3 stripbox ( vertical) camera right and slightly behind as my key light. For the rim light, I used my Profoto OCF beauty dish camera left. This is the opposite of what I usually do. My  standard is to use the beauty dish as my key.  There was some ambient window light in the room, which I overpowered using high-speed sync at 1/400 of a second, Iso 125 at f/2.8.

From this camera setting I took a close up shot of his face in TTL, then kicked my Profoto Air Remote over to manual to lock in the setting. I made a plus half-stop adjustment to key light and dialed the rim light down 1 stop to keep the subject’s gray hair from blowing out. This is the first time I’ve used the strip light as a key.  I’m liking the look! Nikon D850, Nikon 70-200 2.8

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Simple butterfly lighting

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When I see a great face I just have to stop and take a photo. I spotted street musician Joe Sumner as I was heading to a diner with a friend. As I walked past him, the only thought I had was, “I need to make a portrait of him.”

I went back to my car and grabbed my Profoto B2 location light kit and a OFC beauty dish with diffusion. Sumner was cool with me making his portrait, and with the help of my friend Tony, who became my human lightstand, I started shooting photos.

The one thing I love best about the Profoto Air wireless system is that I can put the controller on TTL (through the lens) metering and shoot a tight shot of the face. From that perfect exposure, I switch the controller over to manual, which locks the TTL exposure settings in. With this method, I rarely feel like I need a flash meter to get great exposures.

For this shot, I wanted to try a simple butterfly lighting pattern. I had Tony hold the beauty dish right above my camera and slightly tipped down. The light from the dish was hard, but not harsh. My camera settings were 1/250 of a second shutter, f/6.3 at ISO 50. This killed most of the ambient light, which is what I wanted. I love the complimentary colors of the blue wall and the red clothing. In post I kept it pretty simple with adding clarity, contrast, vibrance and a vignette.

Keep in mind, that you don’t need to use expensive lighting gear to make a portrait like this. I could have just a well shot it with my cheap $179 Godox 860 II speed light and a cheap Godox beauty dish.

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Background light adds depth, drama to portrait of quarterback

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University of Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan poses for a portrait in the Kibbie Dome, Aug 23, 2017. Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review

As part of our annual football preview special section, I was assigned to shoot portraits of  local quarterbacks. I brought out my big guns for the shoot, two Profoto wireless B1s and a B2 location kit to light my subjects on their school’s football fields. At the University of Idaho Kibbie Dome, I faced a different lighting challenge in that I was shooting inside a medium-sized domed stadium. The other portraits I had been taking were all shot outside at dusk. Now I had stadium TV lights filling the space with bright tungsten (warm color) ambient.

Arriving a half hour before the shoot, my assistant Liz helped me set up my lights. In the far end zone I noticed a large Vandals team logo on the wall. During my test shoot using Liz as a stand in,  I found the wall went dark and muddy.

One of the great features of Profoto wireless strobes is that you can put them anywhere– up to 800-1000 feet away and trigger them right from your camera.

profoto_100793_ocf_magnum_reflector_1335545I placed a B1 with a magnum reflector at about the 15-yard line and pointed it at the wall logo. After shooting a frame using TTL on my Air Remote trigger, I switched to manual setting and balanced my key and edge lights to be about a stop higher than the background. I found the white wall with black letters needed some color, so I added a 1/2 CTO gel (color temperature orange) to the magnum background light.  This was an important step in that I was able to use this yellow light to make a better picture a few minutes later.

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In next shot, I had Liz bring the background yellow-gelled light just so the reflector peaked into frame from camera left. When fired, it created a warm streak of light that looked like the setting sun. It added something special into the photo that I wasn’t expecting. I kept the other lights the same. A two-foot octabox as my key light and two edge lights (the Profoto B2’s ) to add of kick.

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Things I learned:

Again, give yourself time to set up and test your lighting so when your subject arrives you are ready to go.

Don’t be afraid to experiment as you are setting up. This was the first time I had used the   Magnum reflector and I’m glad I put it to use. Gel are also a great way to give your portraits a fresh look. Think out what colors work best with your subject. I chose a yellow color because it worked with the black and gold of the Vandal’s team colors.

Balancing the background light in TTL didn’t give me the look I needed. It wanted to balance all the strobes the same, making the background too light. By switching to manual on the air remote it allowed me to dial in the exposure to my liking.

 

Location lighting breakdown: Using four lights

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Whitworth quarterback Ian Kolste. Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review

Sometimes simple lighting with one light source is best, but not in this case. I had just bought a Profoto B2 location strobe kit to go with my Profoto B1s. My assignment for my newspaper was to produce strobe-lit portraits of four different quarterbacks from around the region. I wanted to push my lighting skills and really work at shaping the light using a mix of hard and soft sources. Adding the Profoto B2’s gave me a chance to use four strobes on my subject.

I really like to use edge lighting with my 1 x 3 strip softboxes for sports portraits. When you look at the photo above you will see how the strip lights  help separate Ian from the background, These are the lights I start with first, as they can be tricky to find the best angle to edge the subject. I did a few tests flashes to get them placed, then moved on to my background light, which I placed about five-feet behind with a small reflector and a warming gel. This gave me a nice rim light on his head.

For my key light, I placed my strobe camera right, parallel to Ian’s face. At first, I had a two-foot octabox on the B1 head, but I felt I needed a harder light on his face. Using the bare bulb of the B1 head gave me the hard light I was looking for.

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I started shooting my first shots with my on-camera Profoto Air Remote set to TTL, then switched to manual to lock in the settings. I used three groups of light settings. “A” group was my strip boxes, “B” group was my rear light and “C” was my key light. I adjusted each group’s exposure to dial in the look I wanted and then fired away. My settings were 250th of the sec., f/4 at ISO 100.

I really liked how the Profoto B1s and B2s worked together flawlessly.

Some takeaways and tips:

  • Arrive early, set up and test your lights before the subject shows up. I was lucky in that my boss came with me to help assist. Having her be a stand in made the final shoot go quickly without a lot of trouble shooting.
  • Soft grids on the strip lights are really helpful in focusing the light where you want it, but also they prevent flare from hitting your lens.
  • Be willing to experiment and try something different. I started out with more of a ridged pose, but then had Ian go through the motions of throwing the ball. That motion really helped bring the photo to life.