The Ground-breaking Profoto B1

Yesterday was a very interesting day. I had an opportunity to work with the great people of Right Hand Events and Kaiser Permanente San Diego covering the groundbreaking of a new hospital here in San Diego. Aside from a terrific event with local business and political leaders, I was tasked with capturing a very challenging scene. The actual “shovels in the dirt ground breaking” happened a few minutes before noon – I know, every photographer’s favorite time of day to shoot outside – with backlit subjects and a highly reflective facade above and behind them.

Now in older days I would have brought out an Alien Bee and powered it with a Vagabond battery pack. Unfortunately this setting was the middle of a large parking lot, and I would be unable to ground the battery pack. And 640 watt-seconds was not going to match the harsh sunlight. So I brought out my trusty old Dynalite 800ws pack along with a Dynalite inverter (which doesn’t need to be grounded) and powered a single 4040 head with all 800ws blasting directly from the 7″ reflector. That’s a lot of power, but it was approximately 20′ from my subjects. And did I mention it was almost noon? Knowing the importance of these shots to Kaiser Permanente, I opted for photographic redundancy. I decided to photograph these key moments using two cameras and two lighting setups.

Profoto B1 and Dynalite lighting
Profoto B1 strobes flank a Dynalight pack and head

I added a PocketWizard to my new Nikon Df to trigger my Dynalite pack. A PocketWizard TT5n fired my Nikon D3 mounted on a tripod at a slightly lower angle. Atop the D3 was the Profoto Air Remote, which fired a pair of new Profoto B1s. Their combined 1000 watt-seconds was almost enough to match the sun, even at that distance. With a little adjusting in Lightroom I was able to produce a pretty good image – in the middle of a parking lot in midday sun, with no wires. The example below is from the D3, showing the hard-working ladies of Right Hand Events after successfully executing the groundbreaking. (The key images of the Kaiser Permanente team will need to be approved by their Public Affairs office before they can be shared.)

Right Hand Events' ladies break ground for the new Kaiser Permanente hospital in San Diego
Right Hand Events breaks ground for Kaiser Permanente

The B1s are impressive. Two lights with remotes and chargers fit neatly in a backpack. Their batteries are mounted “in to” the head, so nothing is left dangling and there are truly no cords whatsoever. These units are able to work in TTL mode – although currently only with Canon DSLRs. The Nikon version of their remote won’t be available until late this year. (Note that the strobes themselves are identical, only the remote differs. So even though you can’t purchase a Nikon version of the remote now, you can purchase the B1 strobes – and they will work with the Nikon remote as soon as that is available.) The TTL was impressively accurate in a studio demo with Canon cameras last week. The B1 also has an incredible recycle rate, able to keep up with the Canon shooting at high fps in the studio. Granted that wasn’t full power, but it was impressive nonetheless – and should be of tremendous benefit for anyone shooting action. If you have used these units please feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

If you’re interested, these are now on my birthday list and my Christmas list… ;-)

Sports Memorabilia Galore at Studio J

Referred by a fellow Professional Photographers of America (PPA) member John Grow of Sideline Productions, photographer William Morton spent most of the day today photographing a variety of sports memorabilia for Game Used Universe, an online auction website. Almost all of the items were autographed and/or used by a major league player in a game, so the day became a bit of a history lesson as well as a “Who’s who” in sports. The evolution served as a great test for the workflow process of volume product photography, allowing William to use the Nikon D3 tethered but also test the Live View capability of Nikon Capture Control Pro 2 software. This was very effective for positioning the camera overhead on a boom and being able to focus and shoot down on a jersey without being able to look through the camera. Overall the day was a great success, with multiple views of almost 100 items all captured and archived to DVD in a single day.

Tabletop product photography
Tabletop product photography

Small product photography
Small product photography

Autographed baseball
Autographed baseball