Andrea Belluso is an experienced photographer with more than three decades in the business. Once a month, Andrea takes us behind the scenes of a recent shoot to share some of the knowledge he has gained over the years. This time he brings strip softboxes to a murky hangar to shoot an elegant yet dramatic portrait of an old friend of his.
Flying gliders and taking pictures are two of my greatest passions in life. Being able to combine these two passions is even better! So, needless to say, the day I photographed my old friend and flying instructor Peder Ek (who also happens to be a great photographer) at our flying club was a pretty awesome day at work.
As if that wasn’t enough, I wasn’t just taking Peder’s portrait. At the same time, I was also shooting the finest aircraft we have at our flying club – the two-seated glider Dou Discus. She is such a beauty!
Right from the start I knew I wanted the image to be an elegant and timeless yet dramatic portrait of an experienced pilot and his beloved flying machine. In short, I wanted something that made Peder justice. He is a thoughtful and straightforward kind of guy. The image should be the same.
So how did I do that?
The reason why I chose to work with the B1 was simply because it is so easy to work with on location. The reason why I chose to work with strip softboxes, on the other hand, is that I wanted to a soft light that I could shape and control. So, what does that mean, you might ask?
Well, the main light was coming from a B1 with a Softbox RFi 1×6′ equipped with a Softgrid. The Softgrid was added to increase the contrast as well as to reduce the light spread. Like mentioned before, I wanted some drama in the image. This was achieved by using side lighting on Peder. In other words, I placed my main light to the right of Peder, so that the light hit him from a 90° angle from the side.
It is also worth mentioning that the reason why I prefer using RFi Softboxes is that they have a deeper shape than most softboxes. The deeper shape gave me more control and an even deeper and more intense light, which was just perfect for what I wanted to achieve.
I used a second Softbox RFi 1×6′ to light the front of the aircraft. I did not use a Softgrid on this light – only the included internal and external diffusers. The recessed front of the softbox was in this case enough to control the light spread. This gave me a nice looking outline on the nose and the cockpit of the plane.
The third and final Softbox RFi 1×6′ was used to light the part behind the cockpit. This softbox was equipped with a Stripmask, which is an optional accessory that is mounted onto the strip softbox to create an even narrower light spread The longer shape of the strip mask gives me a very soft light in one direction, while its narrow width gives me a much harder light in the other direction. This created a lovely narrow light on the back of the fuselage.
The two highlights created by the two strip softboxes can clearly be seen in the final image. There is one to the left of Peder, and one to the right, working together to reveal the Dou Discus’ beautiful, curved shape.
I think results such as these are really simple to achieve if you just remind yourself from time to time that a highlight is simply a reflection of the light source itself.
The fourth B1 was a equipped with a Magnum Reflector. The effect from this light is really subtle. I just wanted to add a bit more light to the wing in the back.
Last but not least, I used the Air Remote to control and balance my four lights. The air sync is also built into the grip of the Phase One camera that I used, communicating directly with the Profoto flashes. That made my life a whole lot easier!
We had a very satisfying day at my Flying Club among friends and with wonderful technical toys such as gliders, cameras, flashes and light shaping tools.
- 4 x B1 off-camera flash
- 1x Softbox RFi Strip 1×4′ with Softgrid
- 1x Softbox RFi Strip 1×6′ with Stripmask
- 1x Softbox RFi Strip 1×6′
- 1 Magnum Reflector
- 1 x Air Remote
- 1 x Phase One camera