Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

Learn To Shoot In The Style Of McGillicuddy - 9

Damian McGillicuddy takes you behind the scenes of another one of his shoots to share some of his shooting secrets.

| Portraits and People
Learn To Shoot In The Style Of McGillicuddy - 9: Chris Goodwin

I had such good feedback from my last article that I thought I’d take you to work with me once more!

Sadly no latex clad lovely in this article but a subject just as exciting and powerful in my opinion and another chance for you to observe me on a real shoot.

This was a very exciting shoot for me, not only am I a huge lover of the "noble art" but I’d also had a parcel sent to me, just before this shoot, by the lovely "powers that be" at the mighty OLYMPUS! So I had an E5 back in my hand, magic!

All that was left was for me to pack my trusty Qflash and head out the door!

Location:   A private gym in Cheshire.
Subject:   Chris Goodwin, New holder of the International Masters Lightweight Title.
What was in the bag:   Olympus E5
Olympus 12-60mm f/2.8 to f/4 from the PRO range
1x Qflash fitted with a 36” McGillicuddy multi modifier
1x Qflash fitted with the standard reflector dish and a blue gel
1x Qflash fitted with the "bare bulb" enhancer from the McGillicuddy Portaflex kit
Sekonic 758dr light / flash meter
Camera settings:   Image captured in RAW
ISO 100, f/4 @ 1/20 sec
Focal length 75mm (35mm equivalent)
RAW file processed through Aperture 3.1

So what did I do and why did I do it?

The first thing I do when I arrive on location for a shoot, if it's not been possible to do so before the day, is scout the location, I’m looking for the perfect location that embodies the message of the shoot. While I’m checking angles and looking for depth and narrative to entwine into my imagery I also take my light meter and take many readings.

It's imperative that I know what the ambient light in the location is doing. Until I know it's quantifiable output I can’t decide how, if at all, I am going to use it in my image. It's a matter of following my process and this is the first step, I must have this information before I can move on in my photographic process. I measured the light to an 8th of a second at f/2.8, immediate thought... I could use it as a touch of fill to reveal a little environmental detail. It isn’t powerful enough to fulfill a main lighting roll.

Learn To Shoot In The Style Of McGillicuddy - 9: Height of bare bulb fill

I want the fill on my subject to be "Clean" and free of colour cast from the gym’s lighting so I needed flash to fill my subject. I set up a Qflash with a "bare bulb" enhancer and placed it above me and to camera left, the same side as my "key" was going to come from as to ensure no cross contamination of shadows! This light was metered to f/1.4 and 3/10ths.

Now the task is to throw light on the subject to create direction, depth and dimension. My "Key" was a Qflash married to the McGillicuddy 36 inch multi modifier. It was configured with the inner baffle, an outer diffuser then the strip mask diffuser. This combo converts the modifier into a super soft and smooth "Strip box" to give my a highly controllable "slice" of soft, directional light with the minimum of spill or light contamination in the rest of the scene. You can see in the finished image that the "key" light is really only touching areas of the image I want it to. Good lighting is all about control!

Learn To Shoot In The Style Of McGillicuddy - 9: Lighting set-up

Learn To Shoot In The Style Of McGillicuddy - 9: View from camera position

As you can see from the behind the scene image, the "key" was placed to camera left and hidden behind one of the heavy bags we were intending to use for compositional interest and its "story telling" ability. The light was placed above the subject's eye line and angled down. This ensures that my lighting pattern is a success by "dropping" the nose shadow down and towards the cheek shadow on the opposite cheek from the "key", a beautiful Rembrandt pattern soon appears.

For the ultimate positional control and to extoll the "3D lie" in creating relief within the image the edge of the light was of course "feathered" over our champion boxer. This helps to show his strength, shape and solidity. This light was manipulated to meter at f/4 on the subject. I think it pertinent to mention the Qflash power at this point from memory the unit produced f/4, through this modifier at about 1/16th of its power out put, small and mighty.

This gives me one stop of light over the ambient when considering the aperture as produced by the flash and as I shot this at a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second this "burned up" another stop and a half of the ambient illumination. You can now see how I was effecting how the subject's surroundings recorded in the image, just by simple manipulation of the camera controls.

Learn To Shoot In The Style Of McGillicuddy - 9: Gel on backlight

My third Qflash was fitted with its standard quantum dish shaped reflector. Over this I fitted a simple 1/2 cut CTB (blue) lighting gel to cool the output of that Qflash and give the accent light a cool, gritty feel. This light was placed outside of the training area and positioned to subtly back light Chris and the heavy bags through the mesh fence, creating further separation other than the differential focus already constructed within the image. It's the choice of focal length of lens, that slightly compresses perspective and helps with the subject isolation in this way.

Learn To Shoot In The Style Of McGillicuddy - 9: Shoot overview

The over all view "behind the scenes" will give you a clearer idea of where the lights were positioned to create the image presented today, I’ve "ringed" the lights in red so you can identify them a little more clearly.

On a job like this it's very important to me that it's done as quickly and as easily as possible, with minimum drama, whilst not compromising the final image quality. The client doesn’t want to be kept hanging around waiting for me and a crew to install tonnes of kit! It may surprise you that we turned up on site with just one Think Tank rolling case, it was more than enough to carry all the kit (and then some) that was required to shoot this image. It’s very important to have the right tools to do the job, and sometimes there is just no substitute for this. That is why I select all my equipment very carefully, it adds to the ease and success of my shoots.

The E5’s ability to give me 2nd or rear curtain sync, along with a little practice, enabled me to shoot this at a 20th of a second, hand held, and still be confident that the image would be beautifully crisp. The 2nd curtain sync trips the flash at the end of the shutter movement so the flash is "overlaid" on the image created by the slower shutter speed gathering the ambient light... bonus for us oldies!

Once more a dramatic image is created from a simple four light setup, lets not forget the roll the ambient plays, by approaching the image light by light it is quite simple to take a shot one step beyond the ordinary.

The challenge for me in the shoot was to convince Chris I had HIS image as my main consideration. It's not in my interest not to make my clients look as fabulous as possible. I have to first gain their trust and confidence and then explain that the way the camera sees is not the same as the human eye and the way I may ask them, to stand, turn, lean, tip there head etc may feel plain weird. I always tell them the more awkward they feel the better the image will be... a little reverse psychology never hurts!

As you can see, Chris was posed to give a feeling of strength, capability and a self assured indifference. I always find it easier to create an image if I focus on the picture conveying a specific narrative, and that's it - job effectively done!

What about post production?

I am an advocate of less is more but all good images should be professionally "polished", I believe it's part of what we are being paid for. My post production work is always done to enhance not save.

So a tweak of contrast, the retouching out of stray hairs and blemishes, but not too much, after all he is a hardened pro. There's a tiny bit of "burning in" and the necessary sharpening every digital file requires. OnOne’s "edges to black" beautifully finishes the job off.

In the full length shot everything is virtually identical, sure I’ve moved Chris round and slightly changed my shooting angle to recompose, but it's all virtually lit the same. It only changes at the post production stage. Once here, we simply desaturated the image a little, slightly cooled the colour temperature of the image and added a textured "grungy" overlay to the image which I selectively erased to leave Chris in all his Championship winning glory.

Learn To Shoot In The Style Of McGillicuddy - 9: Chris Goodwin

Until next time,


You can read the other parts to Damian's guide here:

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pulsar69 Avatar
pulsar69 19 1.6k 6 United Kingdom
28 Nov 2011 2:10PM
lovely work and like the composition and choice of background , however the flash technique has left him looking a little like he has just been cut and pasted from another shot ? maybe a little too much light from behind for me, but I am not expert in studio shots !
antonye Avatar
antonye 14 United Kingdom
28 Nov 2011 6:24PM
Usually like your work, but that is awful! I agree with pulsar69, he looks like a cut-out.
nsutcliffe Avatar
nsutcliffe 17 90 United Kingdom
30 Nov 2011 8:30AM
I think you have achieved the '3D lie' that you were after and he really does stand out. It does look a little like he has been cut-and-pasted though!

Thanks again for (virtually) taking us with you on this shoot: very interesting to see how it all fits together.

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