Simeon Quarrie captures the warriors of the Maasai Mara with the Profoto B1

14 September, 2018

Written by: Ailish Cook

Simeon Quarrie has captured remarkable moments over the years as a photographer and cinematographer and has perfected his ability to connect with people across the globe. His trip to the Maasai Mara was no different, where his connection with others is evident through the moments captured.

The Maasai Mara is an area of preserved land in southwestern Kenya, host to beautiful scenery, majestic animals and above all - the Maasai people, who are home to the area. Canon Africa asked Simeon, as a Canon Ambassador, to visit the area and shoot with a 5D Mark 4 to encapsulate a celebration of Africa through a series of photos. His aim was to create a style untypical from the natural light images that are often traditional and associated with working light in the area.

Arriving in Kenya: Balancing shadows

Shooting in Kenya comes with the challenge of overcoming the strong and direct sunlight that is prominent in the area. To be able to increase his creative possibilities, Simeon knew that additional lighting was needed alongside the ambient to even out dark shadows and create more balanced final images.

“I chose the Profoto B1 because of the amount of power that it would provide. It would allow me the portability of not having any taped and tethered cables to a power pack but would allow me to underexpose the images so that the background, the ambient environment, and the ambient lighting in the environment was slightly darker whilst providing a very rich, vivid and punchy light to my subject.

When you're working with darker skin colours and skin tones it can also be a challenge to get the levels of light that you need on the face and on the skin, particularly when you want to have a slightly underexposed background in order to be able to add drama. I wanted the ability to shoot inside and outdoors and to work at speed.”

 

Capturing a Maasai warrior Prince

The first image that Simeon wanted to capture was of a strong Maasai warrior Prince, who depicted strength and duty. The challenge was to capture him walking in the miday sun.

“James was a very, very tall and friendly, yet intimidating individual, with James being the English name that he'd given himself. I knew that I wanted to capture his regal stance and walk as a prince Massai Warrior.

I wanted to work on a long lens, 70 to 200, so I could get great compression in the background, whilst being very, very careful of what was included in the background, because I shot with a longer lens. I also shot at distance, and because James was walking in the image, it would mean that I would need to match his walking pace, but I still wanted to add that drama with the light. To achieve this, I added the Profoto B1 in the same direction as the light but just moved it around a few degrees so that the light would wrap around his face and around his body slightly more than the sunlight.

In effect, I was extending the spread of light that the sun was giving. I then used the Zoom Reflector in order to maximise the light output that the Profoto B1 was giving me. The silver reflector meant that the power of the light achieved was greatly increased and maximised."

Lighting inside a traditional shop

Unlike Simeon's first image, the second set up required him to light a much darker location insider a traditional shop. Additional lighting was used to enhance the earthy colours featured and bring out the details and textures within the environment.

"When I walked into this particular shop I was actually just on a toilet break after travelling for a number of hours between Nairobi and Maasai Mara. As I was walking through the shop to the toilet I saw this amazingly eclectic, detailed and textured background. What particularly drew my eye was the fact that the colour tones were so similar. I like looking for areas where the colour pallete is restricted.

The shop had these beautiful, earthy, natural colour tones, due to all of the leather and the wooden items that were contained within the scene. I very quickly asked the shopkeeper if he wouldn't mind me taking an image. I went and got my camera and my lighting, deciding to use the B1 and the portable OCF Beauty Dish, which is lightweight. One of the great things about the portable beauty dish is that it has a similar structure to a softbox."

The light shaping tools enabled Simeon to create a soft and balanced light, which maintained the earthy colours of the scenery and enhanced the subject.

Amplifying the night

A third image shot by Simeon in the Maasai Mara was at night, where the only natural light sources were from the moon and fire. He wanted to amplify the colour and drama by using additional lights and gels.

"Shooting at night can often be a challenge. I wanted to use additional lighting to add colour and drama, so I used the Profoto B1 on a minimized power.

By adding coloured gels to the front of my softboxes, which were very low down, I doubled up on orange gels to match and enhance the colour of the fire, putting the softbox in the same direction. I also used the zoom reflector on the backlight to create a much harder light, and added a blue gel to mimic and simulate the colour of the moon."

 

Smiles all round

The final set up of Simeon's journey involved capturing local children laughing and playing in their home.

"This was a really a great shot because I wanted the light to feel natural. However, I needed to make sure that the direction of the light was something I had control over.

The great thing with this shot was that I knew that the recycle time on the Profoto B1 was very quick, so if I needed to, I could take a series of shots to capture the expression. I played a little game with them in order to keep their expressions by almost sort of playing hide and seek as I was taking the image."

Simeon used the Profoto B1 and OCF Beauty Dish, which created a beautiful and soft light source. The clouds came over when Simeon was taking this shot, and therefore light enabled him to create an image with a sunnier and brighter feel, achieving his brief of capturing a celebration of Africa.

Enhanced creativity

"I love to have flexibility by working with multiple modifiers over the course of a shoot. The OCF beauty dish was great because it was something I could collapse very easily. I've been more traditionally used to the harder beauty dishes, but this meant that I could very quickly pack it away in a bag, bring it out whenever I needed to, whilst enabling me to travel light, and travel at speed. I then simply used a zoom reflector, which gave me an option for much harder light."

With two modifiers, the OCF Beauty Dish and the OCF Zoom Reflector, and the Profoto B1, Simeon was in a position where he had the pliability to create and shape soft light, as well as hard light, leaving him the flexibility he needed to shoot imagery and portraiture in the Maasai Mara in a way that wasn't typical.

Thank you to Simeon for featuring in Profoto stories and giving us an insight into shooting in the Maasai Mara! To see more of his work, visit his website or Instagram.

Written by: Ailish Cook

Products used in this story

OCF Beauty Dish Silver

A portable beauty dish for off-camera flashes

OCF Magnum Reflector

Adds maximum power to our flat fronted lights

OCF Color Gel Starter Kit

A kit with a Grid and Gel Holder and 10 popular gels