Haiyin Lin embraces the huge, epic landscapes of Northern China to experience the Profoto A1, world's smallest studio light.
Haiyin Lin's journey as a photographer began after she graduated from Columbia University in New York City. At first, she mostly specialized in portraits but pretty quickly moved on to fashion shooting for top magazine titles such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.
No surprise, then, that Haiyin's initial instinct was to put the Profoto A1 to the test in the familiar surroundings of New York City. But after a little more thought, she came up with an even better concept. "I liked the idea of doing something more in the Chinese tradition, with a model wearing traditional clothes with a modern twist." As a result of this change of heart, Haiyin couldn't have found a location farther from the loud, overcrowded, choked-up streets of Manhattan.
After a roughly six-hour drive from Beijing and a short hike across a small mountainous region, Haiyin and her team found themselves standing by a lake in the lush green grass, in the wide-open spaces of the Ulan Buh Prairie in Inner Mongolia, Northern China. "This place has a magical quality ideal for the images I wanted to create – a sort of fusion of fashion, tradition, and nature.”
As the sun rose at around 6 am, the mixture of sun and cloud created warm, soft tones. Haiyin wanted to shoot her model with a horse walking alongside the lakeshore.
"To create the most natural feeling possible, I decided to combine the ambient light with flash from the A1. I liked the soft natural light the round head produced – it matched my style perfectly."
For the first shot, Haiyin chose to use the A1 off camera, with her assistant holding the A1 high in his hand as they moved around to find the ideal shooting position – model and horse perfectly framed against the backdrop of the shimmering lake and the gently rolling hills in the distance.
What little sunlight there was quickly gave way to more and more cloud, so for the next image, with the model sitting on the grass embracing a lamb, Haiyin set the A1 on camera with the Soft Bounce placed on the flash head.
"With the Soft Bounce on the A1, I can bring a little natural brightness to the model's face to compensate for the ambient light being fairly muted."
The weather in this part of Inner Mongolia is famously unpredictable and, true to form, the clouds were growing darker and more ominous by the minute; rain was looking inevitable.
Here, at a beautiful stone structure draped in colorful ribbons and flags, Haiyin decides to use the A1 on camera both as a flash and a trigger for a more powerful second light, the Profoto B1X.
The A1 brings soft natural light to the model's face while the B1X acts as a rim light on the model's hair and helps to separate her from the background. "It was all so fast and easy to set up, which meant I could work quickly and get the shot before the rain came in."
Once the rain cleared, Haiyin and her team set up to shoot the model lying in a field covered with pretty wildflowers.
With the A1 on camera with a Dome Diffuser fastened to the flash head to make the light even softer, she was impressed by how lightweight it was as a unit. "To help me move quickly, I need something that's easy to use and portable, especially after a long day shooting on location."
Twelve hours later, and it's time for the final shot of the day.
To differentiate between the sunrise images they had taken earlier in the day, they waited until the sun sank behind the distant mountains. That gave them the soft twilight feel they wanted, but it also presented them with a problem – the light was getting weaker with every passing second. "Thanks to the Profoto A1's large clear interface, it was easy to set the power setting I needed for the flash, and I got the shot."
Shooting on a medium power setting with a Dome Diffuser on the A1 head and utilizing the silver side of a Profoto Collapsible Reflector to bounce the last remaining embers of ambient light onto the model, Haiyin achieved precisely the effect she was looking for – an image of pure beauty and tranquillity in this otherworldly landscape of Northern China.
In the end, Haiyin was delighted with how the Profoto A1 performed. "Photography has taken me to every corner of the globe and light is vital for what I do, whether that's observing natural light and the many effects it produces or mixing ambient light with flash to create the images I have in my mind. I'm sure A1 will become an important tool to help me do that."