When photographer Viktor Andersson was asked to join a workshop tour to the US to teach parkour, he didn’t want to leave his photography equipment at home – instead, he seized the opportunity and tried to take the best parkour photos he had ever taken. But neither his carry-on nor the backpack he was taking could fit his old flashes. He needed flashes that were lightweight and portable, but also fast and powerful enough to stand up to the southern sun. The answer? Two Profoto A1 flashes.
Being a photographer was not Viktor’s original choice of career path. He wanted to be a graphic designer or an illustrator and he had a handful of freelance jobs throughout the year. But he was very interested in technology and gradually, he acquired more and more photography gear. In 2013, he was asked to take his first proper photos: pictures of parkour for a friend’s degree project. It quickly became clear that Viktor had a knack for documenting parkour in particular, and he landed several commercial jobs for brands like Carlings.
“I wanted to take the best parkour pictures of my career!”
When he started freelancing as a photographer, he stepped inside the studio instead, where he learned to take portraits and work with lighting. There, he was able to have 100% control within his photography. Shooting parkour photography fell a bit by the wayside, but he continued practicing the sport himself and also started teaching others. After practicing the sport for 12 years and training hundreds of students, he was asked to join a workshop tour to the US to train others in parkour once again.
“When I got the news from the organization Quality Movement Parkour that I was going to Texas for a workshop tour to teach parkour, I panicked a little. It felt scary to kind of put my career on hold and not be in the studio or delivering photos of the quality I’m used to,” he says.
“But that was when I decided to mix business and pleasure and try to return to parkour photography, and to try on the trip to take the best parkour photos of my career to date! I wanted to use the knowledge I had acquired in the studio to try to do something really spectacular.”
For the pictures to stand out, he needed them to be infused with the feel of parkour: a fairly tough, yet harmonious form of movement. “I like having the person in focus when I take pictures and I knew I wanted to do that here, too. At the same time, I wanted it to be in unison with the environment. People are one with their surroundings; no wall or obstacle is too big to overcome,” he says.
The importance of the right light
The right lighting was crucial for Viktor to be able to take the best parkour pictures possible. “If the light isn’t right (whether natural or artificial), the pictures will easily be boring and lack interest,” he says.
“Parkour pictures, as you can probably guess, are entirely dependent on the environment you’re in and what kinds of exercises you can do in that space. Without a flash, you’re even more limited, because some environments might be in the shade, or they might be backlit by the sun. But with a flash, you can light up the face to focus on the person who’s actually jumping, which is still what I want to focus on in my parkour photography.”
When Viktor packed for the trip, he knew he needed convenient equipment. His old speedlites were the right size, but he had been working with Profoto for so long in the studio that he wanted to try to use the same flash system that he was so pleased with.
“I wanted to bring something I could trust and that would work in every circumstance. The A1s were perfect because I could just pick them up out of the box and I knew immediately how to handle them. No hidden menus or fussy settings. Just start using them!” he says.
Two Profoto A1s for maximum light
Because Viktor was up against the strong southern sun, he needed a lot of power. Placing the Profoto A1 at the right distance and bundling two of them together gave him exactly the power he needed. Thanks to the High-Speed Sync function on the flash, he could shorten the shutter speed to at least 1/1000 and retain the blue background he was looking for.
“It’s fun that it all worked out so well and that I could get all the pieces to fit together. The shutter speed, ISO, aperture, sun, and the brightness of the flash,” he says.
Portraits with a Profoto A1 and umbrella
In addition to the action shots, Viktor wanted to take individual portraits of the parkour coaches. It was important for the lighting to produce an attractive, well-lit setting that emphasized the shapes of the face without feeling artificial.
Because the background already had light in it, Viktor opted to add a rim light consisting of a Profoto A1 to get the light of the flash to melt in more with the surroundings and feel more natural. The main light consisted of a Profoto A1 with a Profoto Umbrella Deep Silver Small, with a diffuser screen.
“I placed the umbrella at about 45 degrees on their left side and angled it about 45 degrees down. Honestly, a very stereotypical portrait light setup. But that was also what I wanted: to be able to give them photos that they could use to represent themselves or their organizations.”
“I don’t have contact with everyone on Facebook, but about half of them updated their profiles on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn with the pictures I took, so the result was as intended,” says Viktor.
“I really love working with light,” says Viktor. “Getting to create things and work with my hands, and for every picture to be handcrafted.”
“I can probably truly say that these were also the best parkour photos I’ve ever taken!”