Shooting downhill bikers with the Narrow Beam Reflector and Profoto B1 | Profoto (IN)

Shooting downhill bikers with the Narrow Beam Reflector and Profoto B1

28 November, 2016

Written by: Jens-Linus Lundgren-Widén

Óscar Santiago is a sports photographer with a knack for capturing action-filled images of downhill and off-road bikers. We had a short chat with him to learn about the secret behind his striking pictures: The Narrow Beam Reflector.

Being a photographer means you not only need to be able to spot an opportunity, but you also must have the ability to seize the moment and create amazing images while doing so. One of these moments occurred when Óscar Santiago was given the chance to shoot up-and-coming Spanish downhill star Telma Terrogrosa – which is something Óscar has wanted to do for some time. So when Telma agreed to take part in the shoot, Óscar new exactly what to do.

“I already had an idea for the location. It was clear we needed a crisp sharp light.”

Óscar wanted to shoot Telma in the bike tracks. So he went to set up his Profoto B1 Location Kit. To achieve the desirable crisp light without interfering with the rider, he needed a light-shaping tool that allowed him to work at a distance. For that, he chose the Narrow Beam Reflector.

 The two-light setup aimed to create a focused light over a long distance. In order to launch powerful and concentrated beams with tremendous contrast, Óscar mounted a Narrow Beam Reflector on each Profoto B1. He pointed One B1 on Telma’s bicycle, while the other flash was aimed at her face.

“I used one more f-stop so I could enhance the brightness of her eyes inside the helmet. I took another shot with a flash just in front of Telma with a second one used as a backlight.

“The biggest challenge was undoubtedly to freeze Telma without disturbing her and possibly risking her career. Thanks to the Narrow Beam Reflectors, I could place the lights within a distance of 11 meters.”

The photographer himself also needed to stay out of Telma’s way. So he took his Nikon D810 and 70-200 2.8 telezoom lens and took cover. Using the Air Remote TTL-N, he could trigger the flashes from a distance.

“Both flashes shot perfectly – even when I was 20 meters away, hidden behind the brushes – and the color accuracy was brilliant.”

“Profoto’s unique AirTTL function gave me the speed I needed. I had already set my aperture and… Boom! Magic! In less than 20 seconds, I got exactly the light power I needed. Then I changed to manual so I was able to adjust the power for each flash. I would describe Profoto AirTTL as fast and efficient, the best TTL system I have ever tried (and you can be sure that I have tried a bunch of them).”

Shooting sport and action photography places high demands on your gear. Not only do you need to have reliable and easy-to-use equipment, it needs to be portable and flexible so you are not interfering with the action you are trying to capture. Óscar Santiago is known for his ability to capture bicycle riders in motion in a really convincing portrayal of their strength and talents.

“I really try to freeze the maximum tension moment of the athlete. To achieve this, I need to be able to control the light with reliable flashes.”

Óscar explains that he likes the Narrow Beam Reflector since it is a small reflector that allows long-distance applications without hardly any appreciable loss of light. It’s convenient and efficient.

“I’ve been shooting from more than 12 meters away without any loss of flash output. It also provides a beautiful light contrast and great definition. It’s certainly a tool that would benefit all professional users.”

“Since I’ve discovered the Narrow Beam Reflector, my pictures have taken on a new dimension. The light quality it provides has lifted my photography to a new level and suddenly, I can shoot images that were simply not possible in the past. For instance, I can set the light in front of a bike rider at a great distance, shoot and get out of my subject’s way – without putting her or my life in danger,” he says jokingly. “I never go to a shoot without it.”

He primarily uses the Narrow Beam Reflector as the mainlight in his action images when he wants to put a spotlight on the subject, but explains that it is also perfect for still life photography when you want to tune details and highlight the textures.

“It’s a perfect light-shaping tool for the Profoto B1 and Profoto B2, since it allows me to access the full potential of the flashes at any distance.

Written by: Jens-Linus Lundgren-Widén