How to shoot a Spartan

August 05, 2012

I’ve shared a few photos from this series already – but I really wanted to take some time to share the story behind one of my favorites, and for the photographers out there, a little bit about how it was shot, and what the lighting for the shoot was.

The goal for this shoot was to take local Spartan Race elite, Andrew Hostetler, and get him some great photos to use in his application for the elite entry of (the aptly named) Epic Racing Arena. We wanted trail running, portraits, mountain and outdoors and heavy things being carried.

Primarily, I was shooting with my Canon 7D body, and a combination of 70-200 f/4 and the new 40mm f/2.8 lens. The photo I’m going to be sharing here was shot on the super sharp, relatively bargain priced 70-200 f/4, which you can pick up for around $500 and is a STEAL, if you ask me! I was shooting with available lighting – this means I was using the light available too me, which was a combination of the sun, filtered through the trees, and up to three Canon 580 EXII speedlites. This was not a time to try and shoot with with nothing but the ambient sunlight – it was coming through some heavy tree cover, which would have left a dabbled, spotty lighting pattern that would have sucked.

This is the shot we’ll be talking about today – we’ll cover how it was setup and how it was lit.

Andrew carrying a stone

Canon 7D, 70-200 f/4 L @ ISO400 f/4 1/250s 75mm

This particular photo was shot later in the day – we’d already been up the mountain and down the mountain, and we were thinking of wrapping up for the day – I realized we hadn’t really lifted any “heavy sh*t” yet, and whats more Spartan Race than picking up heavy things for no real reason? Andrew found a handy rock, picked it up and hefted it to his shoulder – where I promptly made him wait while I get the lights setup :) As you can see, he was already dirty – no makeup needed here! After a little guidance to get his pose right, and get more of his arm in the shot, we took a few frames.

Lighting diagram

Lighting diagram

This was a relatively simple one to light -

Camera position was at a good distance from Andrew – I wanted to make sure he was nice and sharp, but the background trees were blurred and pretty.

My main light was a single 580 EXII in a Westcott Apollo Orb – a 43″ roundish softbox. This was positioned just in front of Andrew, pointing backwards of him a little – I wanted to catch him with the rim of the light, not the full on panel. I love this modifier – it’s big, but collapses down to a nice size, and can take one, two or three speedlites easily if I need more power.

My secondary light was a 580 EXII, Totally bare, no modifiers – I wanted the back/side lighting to be hard and harsh.

All the speedlites were shot on ETTL – I had +1 compensation for some of the shots, but this, with it’s wide open aperture, didn’t need it. I was triggering my main light using a 24′ ETTL cable from Flashzebra. The second light was triggered with the built in wireless system – line of site was no issue here. Personally, I love ETTL – it saves a lot of time, especially when you’re setting up on a trail full of hikers and spectators, or fighting off mosquitoes!

Note: I think it’s interesting that you can tell, so easily, how different a modified speedlite (in the Orb) is, compared to the unmodified speedlite (the rim) – both on the same power. The harder, edgier, brighter lights on the side with the rock give this that gritty feel that was part of our remit, while the main subject of the photo, Andrew, is lit nice and evenly from the big Orb.

So, there you have it – a bit of a how-to lighting diagrammed, behind the scenes of what ended up being a really neat shoot that got some great end results – huge thanks to Andrew for helping me out, and good luck to him on his application to Epic racing!

More photos:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151020754653872.456157.106747678871&type=1

RT2photo.com: http://www.rt2photo.com/Sports/Portraits/Andrew-Hostetler/



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