“The Light Shaper” battles the forces of nature with flashes and Collapsible Reflectors
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. Today, we join him on a challenging on-location shoot where the forces of nature seem to conspire against him.
There are days when the whole world seems to smile upon you. But there are also days when the forces of nature seem to conspire against you. This shoot belongs in the latter category…
The shoot was done at Långtora Airfield outside Stockholm, which is the airfield where my gliding club is based. The look we were going for was a modern version of the flying ladies of the 1940s. Quite a few of the classic Hollywood stars flew gliders. The particular glider we were borrowing for this shoot was used by the Danish air force during the 1940s to train fighter pilots. Some people at the club claim that the gilder was once flown by Greta Garbo. But that fact is still to be verified…
Lighting-wise, we planned to shoot with sunlight and Collapsible Reflectors only. I wanted a subtle and natural backlight in the images, and Collapsible Reflectors are great for that. The fact that Profoto offer ten different Collapsible Reflectors in six fabrics (black, white, silver, sunsilver, gold and translucent) would be helpful, as that allowed us to create different light characters and moods by simply replacing one Collapsible Reflector with another.
That was the plan. But as it turned, the forces of nature refused to cooperate.
When we arrived at the airfield, the sun was shining. So we pulled out the plane, unfolded our Collapsible Reflectors and prepared the set. Then came the clouds. So we had to unpack our Pro-B4 battery packs and create our own sunlight. But as soon as we had set up all the gear and were good to go, the sun returned. The whole day was like this – sunny, cloudy, sunny, cloudy… Sigh…
So we had to stay on our toes and act fast. When there was sun, we used the Collapsible Reflectors. When the clouds came, we used the Pro-B4 to fake sunlight. It wasn’t easy. But once we got into the groove, we created some pretty stunning shots, if I might say so myself…
Below is a more detailed description of how each shot was created.
Collapsible Reflector Gold/White
For the picture where the model is standing under the glider’s wing, wearing an orange coat, I wanted there to be like a golden glow around here – a warm tone that would enhance the feel of the coat and bring the model’s skin to a similar level, thereby creating a more uniform tone range in the picture. So, for this image I used the gold side of the Collapsible Reflector Gold/White. At this point, the sun was nowhere to be seen, so we created our own sunlight with a Pro-B4 equipped with a Magnum Reflector.
Collapsible Reflector Silver/White
For the picture where the model is sitting on the grass next to the glider, I needed a punchier light. I wanted more contrast on the white fur. I also wanted her skin tone to match the colder feel of the white fur. So for this shot I used the silver side of the Collapsible Reflector Silver/White. The sun wasn’t cooperating, so, once again, we pulled out the Pro-B4 and the Magnum.
Collapsible Reflector Sunsilver/White
For the picture where the model is standing in front of the glider, carrying a white hat box, I wanted a light that was warm but not quite as warm as in the picture with the orange coat. So for this one, I used the sunsilver side of the Collapsible Reflector Sunsilver/White, as it creates a light that is right in-between the crispiness of a silver-sided reflector and the warmth of a gold-sided reflector.
Collapsible Reflector White/Black
For the picture where the model is wearing a scarf flying in the wind, I wanted a more neutral, softer skin tone. So for this shot I chose the white side of the Collapsible Reflector White/Black. In addition, I used the black side of a second Collapsible Reflector to flag off some light from the white reflector, thereby creating a subtle shadow under the model’s chin, which enhanced the structure of her face. Without the black-sided Collapsible Reflector, the image would’ve been too flat!
Collapsible Reflector Translucent
Finally, for the picture where the model is sitting in the glider’s cockpit, I wanted a direct but diffused light, as opposed to the reflected backlight I used in all the other pictures. This was the only picture where the model was actually sitting in the glider, as opposed to being in front of it or next to it. I wanted a slightly different feel to go with that. The Collapsible Reflector Translucent was the solution.
All in all, I’d say we did a pretty good job battling the forces of nature. In fact, I’m glad the weather was as bad as it was. It forced us all to be at our best, and the final outcome made our efforts worthwhile!