Claimed to be the fastest studio flash ever, Profoto’s stated intention with its high-end Pro-10 is to change the creative possibilities available to photographers for high-speed capture and burst shooting. So sports photographer Simon Derviller was intrigued to put it to the test.
Over his 25-year career, Simon has become the photographer of choice for dozens of global brands and sporting organizations, thanks to his reputation for creating sharp and slick imagery.
“It’s a combination of understanding sport and mastering the art of encapsulating the personality of a sports person,” explains the 45-year-old, who once appeared on Britain’s Next Top Model as a guest shooter.
“It’s about research of the subject and understanding any little defining details of the individual, particularly technique and mannerisms.”
Blessed with countless career highs, Simon struggles to pinpoint his most memorable. “I was chosen as the UK’s photographer to capture Team GB athletes for a global arts series, prior to London 2012,” he recalls.
“I shot the biggest sponsorship deal in football when Standard Charter took over sponsorship of the Liverpool FC Shirt. And I had the honor of shooting testimonials for England Rugby World Cup winners Martin Corry and Ben Kay.”
Key to Simon’s signature style is his prowess with lighting whilst shooting full-speed action, something even experts in this field often find difficult to achieve. So Simon was the perfect choice to shoot an ad campaign for the Pro-10, and was keen to find out what it could do.
The new flash aims to enable photographers to achieve more in-camera and lessen the need for post-shoot perfecting.
“So I wanted to do something that really said; ‘This is back to photography guys, you can actually do this for real,’” explains the Hertfordshire-born photographer.
“The main sell of the Pro-10 is that it opens up the possibility of capturing extreme speed and detail. So I thought: let’s go for something that’s not been done and could not have been done before without extensive retouching.”
Simon decided to shoot an elite athlete jumping towards the camera at full speed.
“This would have been almost impossible to capture at its purest before the Pro-10,” he says. “When you’re dealing with flash at close range, there’s no autofocus system on the planet that can keep up with it, and I wanted to capture the individual grains of sand that exploded from the pit as the double-Olympian triple jumper Nathan Douglas made his landing.
“On top of that, I wanted to capture the background in the ambient light of the training facility, so it was all about flash duration and not shutter speed. I also required a large depth of field to ensure the image was sharp from tip to toe, which meant we had to have power – and boy, can that pack give us power.”
Simon executed the shot with his Nikon D5 and fixed 35mm lens whilst lying in the sand. He stocked the shoot with smoke machines and reflectors (four Magnum Reflectors and four standard Zoom Reflectors), and positioned a main white light source to the right, backed by a clipping light with a blue gel.
To his left, he used a light with an orange gel buried under the sand, directly behind the action, and another clipping light with orange gel on the left. This was all in addition to the four Pro-10 Studio Generators set to half power.
“When the Pro-10 is firing at high speed, it’s like being in a thunderstorm,” he recalls. “The sound of the flash is so crisp, you know when you return to your screen you’re going to have something that’s pretty damn stunning. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
“I was able to achieve f/22 at 1/200 second and that allowed me to capture the actual ambient light, giving me a much more real picture, as opposed to having to piece the image together.”
Reflecting on the shoot now, Simon has genuine admiration for the Pro-10. “What it’s done for me is give me back my mantle of being a photographer, as opposed to worrying about the technical issues of: ‘Is my flash going to be able to capture this?’
“It’s like having a new creative license. I’ve got some amazing ideas of what I can do next, so things are going to get really exciting.”
This article was originally published in Professional Photography.
For more of Simon’s work, check out his website.