Not the usual fox hunt: Shooting wildlife with flash
As a portrait photographer of people and animals, Vlad Kamenski loves to explore the endless possibilities of light shaping in his studio. As a wildlife photographer, he loves being outside in nature and connecting with animals, especially a few families of foxes he has been photographing for generations.
In fact, animals and nature have been a central theme in Vlas Kamenski’s life for as long as he can remember. Eventually, he even became a veterinarian. “I could not imagine practicing a profession that was not related to animals,” he says.
After working for a while in a clinic, Vlad was eager to escape from work to observe and enjoy the wildlife and his own animals at home. He says he spent countless hours educating himself – reading books, taking online courses and observing the master photographers.
Experiments with fur
Eventually, he bought a mannequin and started renting and buying different Profoto Light Shaping Tools to see what exactly they could do. “The more I learned about photography, the more I enjoyed doing it,” he says.
After photographing people for some time, Vlad started photographing pets, mainly dogs. “I was fascinated to discover that every breed has different fur and shape so this was an endless field for experimentation with lighting. I started experimenting with different dog breeds and I as a result I shot more than 50 different breeds (You can see them here: www.attorstudio.ca).
From there, he evolved into shooting wildlife, mainly foxes outside. “Eventually, I decided to try something different by bringing my studio equipment outside and photographing the foxes after dark.”
How to catch a fox
The setups changed constantly depending on the behavior of the foxes. “I would lie on the ground and my assistant would approach the fox from different angles according to our plan, then changed the plan according to the situation,” he explains. “My wife assisted me and pointed the lights at the foxes. Sometime we were far from each other and we had to communicate via walkie-talkies. “The focus was the most difficult part,” he says. “I hand-held the camera and never used a tripod. To focus, I usually used Profoto’s modeling light with a 300mm or a 420mm (+1,4 X) lens, or even a 600mm (+2X) mm lens for the close ups.”
Vlad says the portability of the Profoto B1 head was crucial. “The Profoto B1 head is also very reliable and fast recharging,” he adds. “It gave me the chance to capture the momentary opportunities that this type of shooting offers.”
Learn by doing
Part of the fun was experimenting with a variety of Profoto Light Shaping Tools. “Every day I used a different modifier,” he says. Magnum Reflector, white and silver Softlight Reflectors, a Zoom Reflector, a Narrow Beam Reflector, Seven Inch Grid Reflector. If it exists, Vlad has tried it. “I always want to challenge myself by trying something new with light, and the different light shaping tools were really cool additions to my creativity.”
After every shoot, Vlad evaluated the results. “If I had something nice, I tried to improve even more the next time.”
One of the biggest challenges of this kind of photography is that the photographer has no control over the subjects. “It is very hard,” Vlad says. “You have to adapt constantly and have good technique because thing change very fast. It is also very disappointing most of the time because you go out with all this equipment and don’t find any foxes at all. And sometimes I even had people come out to see what was going on and then the foxes disappeared. When this happened, I had to start all over again the next day.
Weather was another challenge. One particular shot took months of shooting in the rain to capture. “Sometimes the rain was too strong or too weak and sometimes the foxes weren't there or were on the wrong spot,” he says. “But finally my patience paid off and one day everything came perfectly together one particular day.