We try and run a pretty tight ship (if you’ll excuse the pun) and do our best to stay up to date with equipment that helps us achieve the best results possible for our rather demanding clients. Shooting in the marine industry, always on location, and almost always at sea is tricky at the best of times, even when things are going your way, so it really is imperative we have the right kit for the job.
On location we light our stills shoots with the pretty awesome Elinchrom Ranger Quadra HS system which we upgraded to just a few months ago. Firstly, they are ultra-lightweight and portable, which is a huge plus, as quite often we are faced with manhandling cumbersome flight cases on and off yachts, which can be tough in itself, not to mention the bills from airlines when checking in lots of heavy equipment.
The compact size and weight of the heads really does make it a lot easier, and keeps the travel costs down compared to previous systems we have used. The Quadra heads really do come in to their own for us when faced with lighting tight interiors though, as we can hide them away almost anywhere. Their ease of use, really does mean we use them more, which leads to better results for our clients, win, win.
Decide before you start shooting how you want your shots to look, whether that’s a really bold and heavily lit style, or a more subtle ‘has it been lit or not’ look. Just having lighting with you doesn't dictate anything, so be focused on the effect you are trying to achieve, and shoot plenty of variety with the lighting positions, as what can look great on the back of the camera in the heat of the moment, can turn out to have an awkward shadow that ruins the shot back at home on the computer. A common example of this is when the shadow from a model’s nose casts on to their upper lip, or across their eye.
You can ruin the perfect shot by underestimating the subtle colour temperature difference between the natural light and your flash. With nearly all flash lighting being close to daylight at 5500K, shooting outside on a bright sunny day, your lighting will match perfectly, but as soon as it gets overcast, or you start playing with lovely warm light in the evening, or subtle hues at dawn then you need to think harder about matching colour temperatures for polished results. We always carry a selection of gels to warm up, and adjust the colour to avoid shots looking too forced or ‘flashy’. You can also go a step further and really start adding colour in to your lighting and create a whole new look.
One huge benefit of good quality location lighting is the ability to freeze the action, even when there isn’t enough light for a fast enough shutter speed. In addition, being able to bring motion in to your images, whilst keeping your subject pin sharp can liven up pretty much any action sport. Just make sure that your flash is really ‘hitting’ as much of your subject as possible, as it is the ultra short duration of the flash that freezes the action, not the shutter speed of the camera.
Never skip the chance to stick a battery on charge, as you need them to be there for you when the time matters, and keeping Lithium batteries topped up will help maintain their performance and prolong their life.
In a world of enhanced security checks and long airport queues, if you travel with your flash kit and batteries, be prepared for some questions. We fly on around 40 location shoots a year, and how you and your kit gets treated varies vastly from airport to airport, but smaller, more remote locations that don’t see camera crews and photographers every day will be wary and suspicious of strange looking batteries. Best advice is to carry printouts of the specification and safety documentation that the manufacturer provides, and know the rules yourself. Elinchrom do a great travel document, just for that purpose. Also, be friendly, we have had expensive batteries confiscated in the past, just by being in a hurry and rubbing officials up the wrong way.
By Park Cameras on 16/10/2017