Ruby Law takes Profoto A1X and Connect to the streets of Beijing Hutong | Profoto (IN)
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Ruby Law takes Profoto A1X and Connect to the streets of Beijing Hutong

15 May, 2019

Written by: Steven Hanratty

Often in crowded and chaotic locations, it’s difficult to shoot with big bulky lights in tow. So Ruby hit the streets to complement the existing light with the natural and beautiful light from the small, lightweight and compact Profoto A1X.

Beginning at the end

At the end of her shoot, Photographer Ruby Law shared her experience from the shoot with Profoto A1X and Profoto Connect: “It's like my camera and light have merged into one."

That thought encapsulated also Ruby's concept for the entire shoot. "I imagined a young couple, two strangers meeting in the magical city of Beijing. And as they explore the city together, they get closer and closer."

The idea of 'connection' is also evident in Ruby's shooting style. "I spend a lot of time talking to the people I'm shooting. Communication helps build trust between the photographer and the subject. I want to get to know them, their hopes, their dreams - even their fears. Then hopefully, that 'spirit' will come through in the images I create."

Navigating crowded streets

The Hutongs of Beijing was the place Ruby chose to shoot in. She was attracted by how the streets, narrow alleyways and the people have so much character. She wanted to capture the couple discovering the city for the first time, a little like Ruby had a few years when she shot in the city for the first time. "That feeling of discovery, when everyday things seem so special."

The first location was everything Ruby had imagined when planning the shoot in Beijing; a grey patterned Hutong alleyway, red lanterns swaying on bold winter branches, and people - every 10 seconds people, a family or someone on a motorbike would pass by.

The pressure was on to work fast, so Ruby placed the Connect on her camera and slid it to 'auto' mode. She set a single A1X, with a dome diffuser snapped on to the magnetic head, on a light-stand. Because the sun had hidden behind some distant houses, her assistant held the light-stand high with the A1X where the sun should have been - with the flash at a 45-degree angle, walking with the couple as Ruby captured the image.

Move fast or freeze

There were more reasons to shoot and move fast. First, the weather was cold - brutally cold. The brief was for a springtime wardrobe as opposed to heavy winter gear so to linger over every setup would mean the models would suffer. Second, the locals can be curious and have a habit of gathering around, and sometimes you might attract the attention of the police, especially if you're working with big lights. So, it helped that the A1X is small and lightweight.

For the next image, the couple was riding a bicycle along a broad Hutong street with shops along either side. When the bike started to move the models got even colder - so time was of the essence.

"It was almost sunset, and the sun was behind the models. Because they were backlit, I wanted to throw a little light into their faces without losing the golden color in their hair." Again Ruby paired the A1X with a Dome Diffuser, and as the models moved on the bike, her assistant walked with them carrying the A1X on a stand illuminating their faces.

Complimenting natural light

"When I'm shooting outdoors on location, I see flash supporting the natural light. That is to say artificial light should never disturb the natural environment, or it will destroy the story I'm trying to tell. Fortunately, The A1X gives both natural and beautiful light."

Sitting by the side of the road and backlit by the sun, cars would drive by gently blowing the models hair. Ruby was determined to capture that moment because, in her opinion, it's the little details that tell the entire story.

Ruby placed one A1X with a soft bounce on a stand for her assistant to hold to create a side light effect. The assistant stood quite close to them to create a subtle shadow that brought shape to the models' faces. To bring a little more light to their faces she had another A1X on camera with a dome diffuser, that makes the light from the A1X even softer.

Finally, to add just a little more warmth to the image Ruby took a yellow OCF gel and just placed it in front of her lens.

Time for a portrait

High up Ruby's wish-list of images to capture on her shoot with the Profoto A1X, was a close portrait of the couple.

The light was positioned high and about 1.5 meters to the left of them from her shooting position to create the look of natural sunlight, this brought shape to their faces, and a little highlight at the top of their hair - and the soft bounce ensured the strong light was soft and natural.

This was the ideal time for the Profoto app to help out. "Being able to adjust the A1X power on the app was useful since it was being held so high - I didn't need to keep pulling it down to adjust it - which again saves time."

Profoto A1X, camera, action

For the final image Ruby wanted to create a little movement. "I asked the models to walk away from me, and when they looked back, I wanted the girl to flick her skirt - it was an action shot of sorts, and I was pleased that the A1X worked perfectly with my fast shutter speed."

The A1X was held high on a stand with a soft bounce, and the assistant walked at the side of the couple just out of the frame. "The A1X had easily enough power to bring light even in the bright conditions - I set it on medium power to keep the light soft and natural."

A slick and compact package

Ruby felt the A1X now gives her the ability to shoot in places where it's impossible to go with big bulky lights. "It's slick and compact - great battery, fast recycle time, new easy to understand user interface - the A1X is a small and handy studio light that paired with the Connect makes everything way more straightforward than it used to be."

"Using the Profoto A1X and the Profoto Connect together gives me the freedom to create natural looking light anytime anywhere with zero stress and with the Connect on auto mode, I can just switch on and start shooting."

Written by: Steven Hanratty

Products used in this story

Gel Kit

Used with the A1X or A1 for color correction on the go