How do you capture the many faces of men with a cinematic touch? German photography and design student Bo Lelewel traveled all the way to Cuba to do just that. With the use of Profoto B1 and HSS he was able to get exactly the look he was going for.
“I’ve always been drawn to photographing people and using studio lights to get the look I am after. I have been shooting a lot in the studio, but lately I like shooting on location even better”, says Bo.
Everything started when Bo and his friend, a filmmaker named Jan Stollberg, had an idea of a project. At first they were leaning towards doing the project in Iceland or Morocco, but ended up travelling all the way from Germany to Cuba. “I knew that I wanted to take portraits of the locals. But I have seen a lot of portraits of those people using only natural light”, says Bo.
Bo on the other hand did not want to be limited only to the use of ambient light. Instead, he wanted to mix ambient light and artificial light to achieve the cinematic look he was going for. In order to do that, he knew that he needed a portable yet powerful solution that was easy to bring along to Cuba, yet powerful enough for his needs.
“I used the B1, because I needed enough power to overpower the ambient light but without all the weight you usually get when using a studio light and a generator. The TTL function was also really helpful to get my first exposure, and then I was able to tweak it just a bit. I love the consistency of the flash output and the durability of Profoto gear”, says Bo.
“I always try to start with only one light and then add more if necessary. If you work on location during the day you always have a second light with you (the sun). It is just a matter of personal taste how much you show of it”, Bo continues.
“At first I wanted to make a series about the young generation of Cuba, but in the process I switched to photographing only the men of the island. I wanted to show the diversity between them, from the small boy to the old man. I also wanted to show their surroundings and the place where I found them! Most of the images were taken in Havana but some were taken in Viñales, a beautiful valley about two hours away from Havana.”
Bo describes the series as cinematic and finds a lot of inspiration from the cinemas. “I wanted to make my subjects look larger than life, powerful and proud”, he says.
To achieve the cinematic look he was going for, he set up the B1, equipped with an Octa Softbox, placed it camera right and above the subjects head. He wanted to get the light really close to them to capture a dramatic light falloff.
“In the unretouched images you can always see my friend Jan holding the light stand. I shot the location from the same perspective afterwards without him in the shot, so I could mask him and the light out in Photoshop. This was quite difficult sometimes, as I didn’t shoot from a tripod”, Bo explains.
You used HSS to capture these images. How has it changed your way of shooting?
“Without HSS the whole series would have been much more difficult to do. I was hoping to get the update before I went to Cuba. I took an ND filter with me, just in case it didn’t come in time.”
“On the second day the update was released and I installed it in the lobby of our hotel immediately. It worked so perfectly and I was blown away that I was able to sync my strobe with the camera at any shutter speed! I wanted to shoot the series with an almost wide open aperture during the day. I had to use high shutter speeds to darken the ambient light and get the exposure I wanted.”
“The HSS is still one of the best things about my B1 and I wouldn’t want to miss it anymore.”
See more of Bo’s work at his website.