Deep-water soloing with Profoto B1X

Written by Seth Chandler on . Posted in Off-camera flash

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© Tim Kemple

 

Profoto challenged adventure photographer Tim Kemple to put the new Profoto B1X through its paces on the location and subject of his choice. He chose Mallorca and deep-water soloing, which means climbing above the ocean with no ropes: “If you fall, you’re going into the water.”

Tim has been using Profoto B1’s on expeditions all over the world for years. “In that time, the combination of power in a compact package has allowed me to use flash in locations I’d never been able to light before,” he says.

He chose climbing for this shoot because that is where he got his start as a photographer. “I’ve always been the type of person who will push things further,” he says. “So I thought it would be really fitting to revisit my past for this project but look at it from a fresh perspective.”

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

 

Deep-water soloing might seem extreme, but Tim is known for getting into places others won’t go. “It’s easy to shoot an idea someone else has captured,” he says. “But why shoot the same subjects and perspectives everyone else has? Focus on the world you are passionate about and rock it in a unique way. Find a fresh perspective. Define the future. Don’t copy the past.”

 

Willing to crawl for a dream photograph

With professional climbers Edu Marin and Lindsey Tjian, plus a skilled assistant lined up, he was ready. Then, a week before the shoot, he fell on a glacier and broke his ankle. But he was not about to let that bit of adversity get in his way. “If you are willing to crawl to get your dream photograph, I can tell you that it will be worth every inch,” he says.

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

The lighting for the shoot consisted solely of the B1X Location Kit, with two B1X heads, two batteries, and two new OCF Light Shaping Tools that are the first hard reflectors specifically designed for on-location photography. The OCF Zoom Reflector gives photographers an additional stop of light. The OCF Magnum Reflector gives almost two additional f-stops of light, which is especially useful in getting extra focus and light on the subject on a bright day.

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

 

© Karl Gough

 

Overpowering the sun

The shoot started at the Diablo wall, the birthplace of deep-water soloing. On a bright, windy day, with the wall a little wet and nursing his broken ankle, conditions were far from perfect.

For the first shot, Tim’s aim was to make Edu stand out from the wall by spotlighting him with the flash and darkening down the ambient light from the sun. So Tim used the B1X directly overhead as the key light and the sun as fill.

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

 

To do this, he used the HSS function on the B1X and shot at 1/2500 of a second. “That fast shutter speed allowed me to knock down the sunlight that’s hitting the cliff. And by setting the B1X to the maximum power and using the OCF Zoom Reflector for an extra f-stop of light, I could overpower the sun.”

 

© Tim Kemple

 

Creating natural light

Next up was a drive 30 km down the road to his favorite place in Mallorca to shoot climbing, a small beach called Cala Sanau. Wind made the wall wet and also dangerous if the climbers fell into the water.

For the first shot at Cala Sanau, Tim rappelled down the wall to get as close to Edu as possible. He shot with a wide, 14 mm focal length to get close to the action but still capture the environment. “The color and texture of the rock and the rough sea are vital in making this image come alive,” Tim says.

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

 

Meanwhile, his assistant hung on the other side of the cave with the B1X and the OCF Magnum Reflector. This time, Tim wanted to imitate the sun and use the B1X to produce a natural-looking highlight on Edu’s face and body.

Together, the light and reflector gave Tim two extra stops of power to help him overcome the bright ambient light.

 

© Tim Kemple

 

B1X as rim light

Moving down the coastline to another alcove to shoot Lindsey, Tim started by perching on a ledge. His assistant went deeper inside the cave to create a rim light around Lindsey. Here, the idea was to put the flash in a place where light doesn’t usually go.

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

With that shot in the bag, Tim moved a bit closer by doing a bit of deep-water soloing himself, broken ankle and all. Here, he wanted Lindsey to climb an overhanging face and he was lighting her by moving his assistant with the B1X above her. “Shooting on location with professional athletes is always an exciting opportunity,” Tim says. “I want to push them out of their comfort zones to capture that raw emotion, but sometimes I push a little too far.”

Lindsey fell into the water with a splash, but before Tim could even ask if she was OK, she was up and getting back into position. “I get my shot and it’s my favorite one of the day so far,” he says.

 

© Tim Kemple

 

One last shot before it gets away

As the day drew to a close and the sun began to set, Tim and the team went back to the cave they’d shot at earlier. “I think all photographers are similar. We’re always thinking about the shot that got away,” he says. “So I knew that if we had time, I wanted to come back and shoot from inside the cave.”

 

© Karl Gough

 

The conditions were perfect, with clouds rolling in making the scene seem threatening. “The lower ambient light also means I can use the flash to light up Edu and the cave to get more areas of light and shadow to add more contrast and drama,” he says. “I don’t want to overpower the scene with flash, so I’ve set the B1X to a low power setting, which I can do now, thanks to the 9 f-stop expanded HSS range.”

 

© Tim Kemple

 

“The B1X took all the hits I could give it”

So, between hobbling about on crutches and seeing a camera drop into the sea, how does Tim feel about the day? “We shot from underneath the cave to on top of the wall, my body feels beat up, we lost some gear, but the B1X took all the hits I could give it and it’s still ticking. I’m psyched, it was a great day. Wow.”

The gear

1 × B1X Location Kit
1 × OCF Magnum Reflector
1 × OCF Zoom Reflector
1 × Air Remote TTL-N

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Karl Gough

 

© Tim Kemple

 

© Tim Kemple

 

© Tim Kemple

 

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Comments (10)

  • John R

    |

    Essentially, the B1X is a B1 with new firmware to finally allow full power range use under HSS, a higher capacity battery(which works with a B1), and a brighter LED modeling light.

    Yes, to those B1 owners reading this, the latest firmware update finally gives you full range of power under HSS! Instead of 7-10 you now get 2-10.

    I don’t use the modeling light a lot, but am curious if the B1 supports the new brighter bulb, and if it’s available for purchase. If so, a new battery, light, and updated firmware on your B1 units gives you the B1X.

    Reply

  • John R

    |

    Listed gear shows a Air Remote TTL-C.

    How did he get that to work on his Nikon D800? (See third photo under “The Gear”

    ?

    Reply

    • Lana Ostojic

      |

      Hi John,
      good catch. He used TTL-N for Nikon. Now it is updated in the gear list.
      Thank you for your comment.
      Best regards, Profoto

      Reply

  • Lee Christiansen

    |

    For the firmware upgrade to the B1’s, how stable is the output level and colour when using HSS at lower power levels.

    For the next firmware upgrade it would be great to finally have a 4-bar battery indicator on the strobe to mimic the actual battery indicator.

    And finally, although the B1’s LED modeling lamp is built in to the head, it would be great if Profoto could source a suitable LED modeling lamp which would fit the D1’s, (then we can start using more of the OCF modifiers…!

    Reply

    • Bastian

      |

      Lee Christiansen is right. A 4-bar battery indicator would be great.

      Reply

  • Edwin Fdo Garcia

    |

    The new products (B1X) are very much the same as the previous B1 units, except for four changes:

    1 – New firmware, you can download and install this in the B1. For your free download, set up an account or log into My Profoto – http://profoto.com/us/myprofoto-login
    2 – New battery, this will be sold as an accessory and when used on a B1 will make the B1 battery performance equal to the B1X.
    3 – A brighter modeling light, this is not upgradeable on the B1 at this time.
    4 – Cosmetic changes, these do not affect performance.

    Reply

  • preshovich

    |

    hi,
    I’m a little dissapointed to see the same design since the d1. To me the first thing to do if you want a powerfull flash is to have a barebulb flashtube. + we can’t use a zoom reflector with umbrellas with those heads + the The axis of umbrellas is a little more move away. +…. +…. +…..

    presho

    Reply

  • Lee Christiansen

    |

    Whilst we’re on the subject of design changes…

    I would love to see a change to the tightening screw on the strobes. Unlike most other manufacturers, Profoto’s shaft of the screw has a rather sharp end – presumably to get a better grip on our spigots.

    Alas they also tear our spigots to pieces and tend to twist the light position when we tighten them up.

    A simple thing – but can we have flat ends on the screw tighteners. (And a way of getting the old ones off as Profoto seem to have helpfully (?) stopped us getting them out to replace)

    Reply

  • Felix Wu

    |

    Hiya! What’s the colour temperature of this B1X? 5600K as stated by BHphoto? I couldn’t find colour temp info on any of the official specs…except Pro10 being 5900K? This is really confusing…if we mix different Profoto strobes we get different colour temperature?

    Reply

  • Sho

    |

    W/r/t the new OCF Reflectors, any noticeable difference in performance/light quality compared to their regular counterparts?

    Reply

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