What do you do when your only key light is non-functional and you only have a few minutes to set up? You think fast. I had a shoot a few months ago where we were interviewing the president of fairly large bank conglomerate. He was visiting the area and had very limited time to give us on camera. We had to wait around for a while to figure out if he would even agree to doing the interview that day, and we also had to wait to see where we would be able to shoot his interview.Â He had some doubts about doing the interview that day. For us, it was imperative that the interview happen. After convincing him that today would be a fine day for the interview, and then deciding on a spot do it, we started to set up.Â We had two 1×1 LED panels and a SkyLux + RapidBox soft light. Pulling out the equipment,Â I noticed the ballast for the SkyLux unit was not in the case where it should have been. *Assume nothing. Trust no one.*
This may not be the most ideal lighting kit for the airborne shooter, but theÂ Litepanels Sola 4 Traveler Kit™Â definitely packs a healthy punch for its size, weight and power consumption.
I seem to have been doing a lot of talking-head interviews since I was thrown into the world of documentaries with New York Doll. I’m really curious to know how many I’ve done to date. Here are a couple of BTS shots of some recent ones. Sorry, I don’t have any frame grabs from these to show.
I was up in Oregon a couple of weeks ago shooting a little mini doc piece about a senior missionary couple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The couple called their Â journal, “Serving in the Valley of Volcanos,” because the region they were in (circa Bend, OR) is surrounded by volcanos and buttes. I wasn’t able to take too many pictures because of run-and-gun nature of the shoot, but I was able to steal a few here and there. We shot with our usual setup of 2 5Ds, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 16-35mm, 2 Litepanels 1×1, GlideCam, GoPro, etc. These photos don’t tell much about the shoot, but here they are anyway.
Back in March, I had the chilling opportunity to shoot a documentary in Alaska. It was cold (understatement). If you missed my post about it, click here to read about it. We went back for a follow up shoot in September and it wasn’t as cold. Daytime highs were in the low 30s, so technically, it was still freezing. But it was a welcome cold compared to the -30s I was in last time. I had to trade one discomfort for another, though. If you haven’t gathered this about me already, I’m not the outdoor/woodsy guy. Camping? Hunting? No. But on this trip, I got to be involved with both. I can’t say it necessarily grew on me, but it became tolerable. LOLÂ Most of my fears about moose hunting and being eaten or mauled by bears melted away after a day. Sticking close to the guys with the rifles helped.
Looking for the ideal portable lighting kit? TheÂ Litepanels Sola ENG Flight KitÂ may be it. Iâ€™ve had the opportunity over the last few weeks to use the Litepanels Sola ENG Flight Kit on a few different projects: a series of interviews, a documentary in Alaska, a commercial spot, and a music video. These little lights were Â designed as on-board camera lights, but this kit attempts to make them a little more than that. As such, I took them on a few shoots and used them as â€œconventionalâ€ lights, so keep that in mind as I review this kit.
I don’t even know where to start. Right now I am in the comfort of my hotel room in Fairbanks, AK feeling very grateful to be warm, alive, and connected to the internet. I’m only five days into the shoot, but I can say that the worst is over. Â I hope. I am shooting a documentary up here for a few weeks and the first thing we covered was the preparation and departure of Vern Stickman and his epic run down the frozen Yukon river to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Vern’s son committed suicide a few years ago and, expectedly, has devastated his family’s life. As part of his own healing process, he has decided to do this run from his home in Tanana to “nearby” villages to speak to the youth about suicide prevention and healthy living choices.
This week I’ve been in St. Petersburg, Russia because this is the home of Rembrandt’s paiting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. We have been shooting a documentary about Henri Nouwen and his very interesting relationship with this painting. We were granted the rare opportunity to shoot the actual painting as it hangs in the Hermitage Museum. It’s really amazing to stand in front of it, even more so to work “with” it. As with many of my projects recently, we shot it with the Canon 5D Mark II. Â It was a very overcast day so we didn’t have much light coming from the windows, nor are the gallery lights very bright. Â We brought in a small light kit to supplement the exposure a little, but I found myself having to have to use a higher ISO than I wanted. Â At 1250 ISO, the images were a bit noisy, but not too bad. Â For some shots that didn’t require much movement, I went down to 640 ISO and dragged my shutter a bit down to 1/30th of a sec.
I’m currently in Philadelphia working on a documentary project where Rembrandt’s work holds an important role in the storyline. We thought it would be a good idea to move a little away from how we’ve been normally shooting talking-head interviews and try to go for a more… Rembrandt feel. Now, “Rembrandt lighting” is a pretty standard and classic lighting approach when it comes to lighting people but I tend to always light from the opposite side of the face that the camera is favoring. As I studied Rembrandt’s portraits more closely, I noticed that he almost always lights his subjects from the same side as the viewer (er… camera?). So it was a bit of a change for me, but that’s what is called for. Â I also tend to use a varying amount of back light or edge light on my interviews, but again, Rembrandt almost always has a lack of this. Â His backgrounds are also very often a nondescript texture rather than a specific location or domestic backdrop. Â His paintings tend to lean towards the warm side of the palette as well.
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