Hawaiian photographer Quincy Dein reached out to us to share his use of Profoto gear. What follows are his words.
When I set out on this project, my goal was to capture windsurfing and kiteboarding in a new and dynamic way. I wanted a fresh look, something different than blue water, sun, and waves. For inspiration, I looked to the snow and skate industries which have a long history of using studio strobes to light up the action.
After significant research and experimentation, I settled on the Profoto Pro-B2 1200 pack as my weapon of choice. The pack is amazingly powerful, consistent, and reliable. The short flash duration at full power is critical for freezing the action. With the new LiFe batteries, the pack seems to run forever. I find myself getting 250+ images at full power. The LiFe batteries also shave a couple pounds off the total weight of the pack; I really notice the difference after switching from the lead acid batteries.
The biggest challenge for the night action project has been finding the right locations and conditions. There are a number of variables that need to be balanced: wind, water depth, background, and light placement. Windsurfing and kiteboarding both require wind in the 15-25mph range for high performance maneuvers. Unfortunately, the wind on Maui has a tendency to become significantly more gusty and unpredictable after sunset. On a standard day, the wind will blow 15-25mph from 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM and slowly diminish after dark. The window of opportunity for the peak action moments is very slim, and there is no time for retakes or second chances.
I use both the Profoto Standard Zoom Reflector and Magnum Reflector depending on the location. Because it can be hard to predict exactly where the athlete will perform their maneuvers, I tend to zoom the reflectors out for a wider spread of light. My flash to subject distance is usually around 10-15 feet.
Before I start shooting, I have the athlete or an assistant stand in the water where the action will be going down to dial in my exposure. The first step is to expose for the background and ambient light. It is important to remember that the flash lights up the subject, and the shutter speed adjust the background. My goal is usually to under expose the background by 1-2 stops. Typical shutter speed ranges between 1/200 to 1/50 of a second depending on the amount of ambient light. My ISO usually starts around 100 when the sunset is very bright, and slowly increases to 320 as the light fades from the sky.
Shooting at full power, 1200w, I typically find myself shooting between f/7.1 and f/9. The flash is responsible for lighting up the athlete and freezing the action. Once I set the aperture and flash power, I usually to leave it fixed and only adjust the shutter speed to brighten or darken the background depending on the ambient light.
The final challenge of shooting strobed action is anticipating the exact moment to fire the shutter. I always have the athletes walk me through all their maneuvers beforehand so I can anticipate the perfect moment.
In conclusion, there are many essential elements that combine to make a successful shoot. The trick is to focus your energy on all the variables that you can directly control. With the right gear, preparation, talent, and knowledge, you can drastically boost your chances of success.
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