Shooting Foo Fighter's Dave Grohl with an A1: How Tom Barnes got the shot

31 August, 2018

Written by: Ailish Cook

Shooting an international rock star comes with a lot of pressure, let alone only having only a couple of minutes to shoot with an on-camera flash - something different to your usual equipment.

Tom Barnes first picked up a camera at the age of five and has self-taught himself through a lifelong obsession of photography, something now his career. His reputation for being a fast worker means that many jobs he is assigned to are complex, whether it be a tricky subject or a short time frame. This means that Tom never gets bored in his work and is continuously introduced to new and exciting situations.

Overcoming time restrictions

In a recent assignment that met the conditions of a complex shooting situation, Tom was asked by Kerrang, a renowned rock magazine, to capture Foo Fighter's lead man Dave Grohl at one of their stadium shows. With only a couple of minutes to shoot and the requested necessity of on-camera flash usage, Tom had to experiment away from his traditional off-camera lighting. Used to using multiple Profoto B1 or D2 heads, Tom chose the A1 as his weapon of choice to fulfil the shoot requirements of having lightweight and mobile equipment.

"Having taken delivery of the A1 to test a couple of days before the shoot meant I could get used to it - it’s not quite like any other flashgun I’ve used before - it’s way more powerful and has the air trigger system built right into the unit. I was really impressed with the power and speed from this unit so I knew it’d be perfect for the fast-paced job the day after.

I've shot with on-camera flash before, a few years ago, but this was the first time shooting with one that could keep up with how fast I was shooting - recharge time was near instant and I love the zoom and diffusion dome. I didn't really get to play too much with that but the magnetic system seems really efficient and quick to use.

I wanted a hard light on this shoot as that was the brief, but I did also keep the dome on just to soften it ever so slightly. The A1 is far smaller and more compact than the usual lighting I am used to using."

Getting the shot

Having a mere few minutes to shoot a subject can be challenging, particularly when you are limited in time for conversation, something that helps to relax the subject. Despite time restrictions meaning he had to get along quickly, Tom incorporated small-talk into the time given to get into the flow of shooting. Small talk provided Tom with the pose and expression, enabling him to get 'the shot'.

"I always like to chat with my subjects, Dave, the band, PR and their crew are really friendly and made us feel very at home - I think we’d been chatting about favourite food weirdly as I’d been in the last part of the interview and I think I’d asked him what his favourite all-time dish was, he started thinking and this shot was mid-thought. We had to end the shoot two frames after this and I think he went with steak!"

Increased creativity and flexibility

Despite usually using off-camera flashes, the A1 gave Tom the power and speed needed to get the shot.

"I first started working with Profoto lighting a few years into my professional career and have never looked back - in 14 years now I have only had one light fail and that is because I dropped it eight feet on to concrete whilst shooting in 50º heat in South Sudan, I don’t really think the light can shoulder the blame there.

Since I started using profoto I have travelled to almost everywhere I could have possibly thought about travelling and taken my lights along for the ride, they are housed in Peli Storm cases with custom foam, they have taken a beating almost every day and are still going strong.

The A1 is the speed of the unit and the power, it was quick enough to keep up with rapid firing but also punchy enough for me to consider adding to my location kit for inside shoots where I might not need the full power of the monoblocs. I can also see why this would be a bit of a game changer for photographers shooting weddings, events or anything else where fast recharge and power would be useful!"

Thank you to Tom for featuring in our local stories. To see more of his work visit his website or Instagram. Click here to explore your light shaping possibilities with the Profoto A1.

Written by: Ailish Cook

Products used in this story

Dome Diffuser

Brings a softer, crisper light to the A1

Air Remote TTL

Wirelessly connects your AirTTL light with your camera