Profoto recently challenged me to test their new portable off camera flash on a travel based assignment. The brief was fairly open; I had to travel from point A to point B and shoot a variety of different lighting setups over the course of a day. I was to carry all my own gear and not allowed to use an assistant.
I chose to trial the B2 Location Kit on a canoe trip down the River Wye, here in Wales. I figured such a journey would throw up a variety of problems a photographer might experience in the field and allow me to test some of the key benefits of the B2 - mobility, portability, speed, ease of use, power etc.
Throughout the day I was genuinely impressed at the versatility of the system. A range of different lighting scenarios can be addressed with the aid of a couple of extra accessories. A Boomerang flash bracket allows for mounting one unit directly onto your camera and for off-camera work a Gorillapod and/or a Manfrotto light stand work well in place of an assistant. The Gorillapod was particularly useful for fixing lights in otherwise inaccessible places.
The B2 kit worked well on location. The modifiers are quick to build and break down and the entire kit packs down neatly making it highly portable. However, I like to spend a bit of time shaping a scene using light and I wanted to see how the B2's stacked up in a more controlled environment. We shot the scene below in the middle of the day at an abandoned fishing hut on the banks of the River Wye. I needed an image to round out the series and wanted to give the impression that this was actually the end of the day; the sun setting behind the hut with some friends enjoying a game of cards inside.
I used two B2 units positioned outside the hut windows to illuminate an otherwise dark interior. The rim light (behind the friends) was fitted with a deep silver umbrella and a 1/4 stop CTO gel which added some warmth to the flash mimicking the setting sun. The main light was fitted with a 2x3' softbox which illuminated the faces of the friends but was soft enough not to overpower the rim light behind. See BTS pics below.
All of the lighting gear used on this assignment packed into a single B2 Location Bag, containing 2x B2 Off-Camera Flash heads, an OCF Grid Kit, spare batteries, chargers and a GorillaPod. A large OCF Softbox 2×3′, the smaller OCF Softbox 1,3×1,3′, two OCF Speedrings and an Umbrella Deep Silver were attached to the bag using its straps. I love how much gear you can fit into, and onto, such a small bag!
The B2's are powered with Li-Ion batteries providing around 220 flashes at full power and they re-charge in around an hour. The kit is bundled with a car charger which proved particularly useful whilst working on location.
As I have already said, I was most impressed with the versatility and flexibility of the kit. It's highly portable and powerful enough for location based work as well as small studio based set ups. If you’re looking to invest in one all purpose photography lighting system, the B2 Location Kit is a near perfect solution.
Full Gear List
Many thanks to Dan Rubin for the BTS images, Emma Balch and Marina Rendle for styling the fishing hut, Clare Purcell for production, Aubrey and Clare at Want to Canoe for helping with logistics, Gingenious for the BTS film, Profoto for giving me the opportunity to experiment with their gear and Tom, Wen, Jackson and Holly for being such a smiley bunch of legends to shoot all day!
Super happy to continue my ongoing collaboration with Cereal Magazine, now in it's 3rd year. For Cereal's 10th volume I travelled to California to shoot Big Sur National Park with Cereal's editor and Creative Director, Rosa Park and Rich Stapleton. In this volume my pictures are accompanied by an incredibly touching piece of prose written by Sean Hotchkiss.
I've received a few emails of late from folks interested in the gear I use, so I've put pen to page and listed the contents of my camera bag below. I doubt there will be many surprises here for the more seasoned photographers out there and this is by no means a comprehensive list but it'll give you an insight into my standard setup for the majority of the work I'm doing right now.
Should I write a lighting version of this post? Let me know in the comments below.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
My weapon of choice... 99% of the time.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
My desert island lens. Love, love, love this focal length. If you're just starting out with a DSLR, ditch the kit zoom that was inevitably bundled with your camera body and pick up a 1.8 or 1.4 version of this lens; learn to love the constraints associated with shooting at a fixed focal length. It will make you a better photographer. Fact.
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
Tack sharp between f4-f8 with good colour and contrast. Great lens for landscape work and even some portraiture; it provides an ample stage for your subject, though it's important to step away from the person you're photographing to prevent any distorted limbs!
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
A useful (if a touch boring) zoom lens for shooting a variety of different situations. This second generation is very sharp and even competes with many prime lenses on that front.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Heavy and expensive but super useful and always in my bag. Far reaching and fast, it also delivers dreamy looking portraits.
SanDisk 32GB Extreme Pro Memory Cards
I have a few of these and they work just as well next to an erupting volcano as they do in a -20C blizzard... extreme yo.
Giottos Silk Road YTL Tripod
Light weight carbon fibre tripod. Has a cool Y shaped folding mechanism so that it takes up less space when collapsed.
Kirk Enterprises BH-1 Ball Head
Light weight and silky smooth, Arca-style quick release ball head.
DAY BAG: Domke F-2
Designed so you can get at equipment instantly without having to take the bag from your shoulder, nothing competes with this thing in the field. I also love the low profile look to this bag i.e. it doesn't scream "I'm carrying a shit-load of expensive gear!" I flat-pack this guy in my checked luggage and use the roller below to transfer all my (heavy) gear through the airport. 2 bags are better than 1.
TRANSFER BAG: Think Tank Airport International™ V 2.0 Roller
This is very nearly my favourite piece of equipment on this page. Lenses are heavy! Add in a laptop, batteries, hard drives, camera bodies and it won't be long before your body starts to complain if you load it all on your shoulders. Aside from it's solid design and plethora of security features I simply love the mobility this thing gives me through an airport. Once you experience wheeling a heavy bag vs carrying one, there really is no going back.
As I state above, I flat-pack a Domke into my checked luggage and decant gear from my Airport International into my Domke once I reach my destination. The roller then stays in my hotel room, locked and secured (via it's built in cable) to a solid object; thus securing all the gear I don't require out on location each day.
Random (unpublished) snaps from Formentera, Spain