More than meets the eye with Trupal Pandya and the Profoto A2 | Profoto (SE)

More than meets the eye with Trupal Pandya and the Profoto A2

13 July, 2022

Written by: Trupal Pandya and Angella Irwin

Many of us have dreamt of traveling to the places portrait and documentary photographer Trupal Pandya has been. He’s explored many different parts of the world, sometimes miles away from civilization. Follow Trupal Pandya as he embarks along the towering volcanoes of Guatemala, making impactful connections and beautiful portraits with the light and portable Profoto A2.

Trupal's own words about the journey

From smoky caves perched hundreds of feet above a serene lake to textured cobbled city streets, and towering mountain ascents; my journey capturing the beauty of Guatemala was physically demanding to say the least. That’s why traveling light and with the right gear was super critical. With the small and lightweight Profoto A2 I never had to compromise with travelling to remote locations to capture the striking and dramatic natural beauty of the land and its people.

Pack light

Whether I am trekking up thousands of feet, hopping on and off bustling commuter-packed boats or maneuvering through tight enclosed spaces that are dimly lit, being able to pack light so I’m not weighed down with heavy and bulky gear is beneficial. Having a small yet powerful light the size of a soda can like the Profoto A2 makes it possible to shoot in any space and environment on the fly. While on location, I’m introduced to a variety of people and situations that aren’t always posed or planned, so I must be ready at all times. That’s why being able to have a small kit to quickly open my bag and capture my first shot in under 60 seconds is the coolest.

Where the roads stopped

I embarked on an extraordinary journey to meet local Mayan shamans and to observe and document their culture and practices. The journey took me on a scenic drive to Panajachel, the port city along the achingly beautiful shores of Lake Atitlan. Suddenly the roads ended and then it was just the water and the surrounding mountains, which meant there were some interesting logistical considerations. Trying to wrangle big lights while shooting on a fast-moving boat is not ideal, so luckily, I had my A2. The size and shape made it easy to handle on the roiling water, and even with the ultra slim packaging I didn’t have to sacrifice quality or power. Not to mention with the addition of the Clic Softbox, the convenience of assembling and disassembling in a quick snap and placing the A2 in my pocket meant more time focusing on the project rather than worrying about all the gear.

Into the fire

My projects take me into some extreme conditions that not only challenge me physically and mentally, but also put my equipment to the test. Everything I use has to be reliable, tough, and ultraportable. I try to understand the ways of people living miles away from civilization, and my approach is to first observe their practices, which brings a stronger trust and impact to not only the viewer but the people within the community.   

Up high along the steep hills that surrounded the lake, we planned to explore local rituals and ceremonies and meet with a number of shamans. As we came upon a group in a large cave mouth high above the water, there were pilgrims asking for help and protection in various areas of their lives.   

During this time, trapped smoke began to fill the cave, which made an interesting challenge for lighting. I relied on my modeling light to focus my camera in the dim lit space and used the Clic Grid to control the spread of light through the thick smoke. As we traveled forward, I experienced one of the most powerful ceremonies within the dense neighborhoods of Panajachal proper and inside the home of a local shaman. There was an enclosed porch where she performed her rituals and kept altars to the spirits, or as they refer to them, Nahuales. I was able to capture the intensity of the moment in the Shaman’s face. I could see the traces of the hard work and energy spent in her eyes, the set of her mouth, and her posture. Shooting fast and using the light’s ability to recycle quickly helped me catch the details that made it so beautiful to share that space with her, feeling the resonance of such a focused spiritual practice. 

I don’t want to “take” your picture
I want to show you what I see
An offering
To remind you of the infinity of your being.
To hint
To point
Shoot, {it is beautiful}
And it’s over in a flash
Something for the future it’s a present from your past.
A memory of the mountains that life has given you to climb
A reminder of all you’ve conquered and surrendered in your life
That to see inside
To to journey towards see, look at what’s upwards downwards heartwards soulwords
It’s worth it.
– Max Stossel

Helping hands

During my intensive and rigorous off grid travels, I typically rely on a simple set-up. But even with the bare minimum of equipment, I still need a few extra hands. Whether I’m traveling solo or with a friend or family member, there is always someone from the community that’s helping me out. Sometimes it’s a stranger I meet along the road, or the local guide who is introducing me to their neighbors, or even someone who just sat for a picture and wants to help me take the next one. The lights and my white backdrop are often in the hands of someone I just met, and it creates a deeper connection not only between me and my impromptu tech crew – but also with the subject within the frame. I find that inviting people to take part in the creation of these portraits makes the whole experience richer, because we all work together to make the photograph come into being.

Ritual, nature, kindness, and spirit

My mission was successful, and I returned from a land of so much spiritual and communal power with a renewed vigor, human connection, and beautiful imagery. I was most moved by the intensity of the fiery Mayan rituals, the lush flora and fauna inhabiting such a dramatic landscape, the kindness and deep spirit of the people I met, and the awesome power of an erupting volcano seen from a neighboring mountain. With the A2 I was able to get into the smallest spaces and properly capture the glowing face and dripping sweat of a shaman, ascend over 12,000 feet of shifting volcanic soil, and light the tired but hopeful faces of pilgrims seeking out help from the shamans – and with just the gear on my back. I got to create compositions from these live scenes that do justice to the humanity underneath it all. That’s what I’m always trying to share, and it’s my favorite thing to light.

Written by: Trupal Pandya and Angella Irwin

Products used in this story

Clic Softbox Octa

Soft light in a Clic
From 3 490 kr

Air Remote TTL

Wirelessly connects your AirTTL light with your camera
From 2 495 kr