How to work with Adobe Lightroom’s cloud

Adobe MAX 2017 saw the launch of a whole lot of new features, but most of all, a completely brand new Lightroom CC. Rebranding the non-destructive photo editing app we all know and .. mostly love, to Lightroom Classic, it’s Adobe’s way of bringing photo-editing technology to a 2017 crowd. Basically it’s the Lightroom Mobile app from the iPad applied to the desktop, but better.

If you remember, this summer I wrote a long opinion piece on what I as a photographer needed in Lightroom. Underneath my ‘Far Fetched Requests’, I wrote: “Sync files between desktop apps”. I thought it was never going to happen, but Adobe proved me wrong. With the new Lightroom CC, you can store your files and edits in the cloud, and have it accessible on all your devices! With the photography pack you get 1TB of storage, with additional TB’s available for $9.99/month.

But, that’s where for me, the problem starts. My current archive is just over 8 TB, meaning that at least, it will cost me the 10TB plan at $100 per month for the option of having all my photos accessible in Lightroom on all my devices. That’s just under a grand for a year. A cost I am not yet willing to make, since in just over a year I’ll be reaching the limit of those 10TB, which already is the largest plan Adobe offers for now.

However. The idea of working on-the-go, on my iPad Pro especially, is quite appealing. If you ever used Lightroom on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, you’ll never want to go back. So, how do we make that work? Well:

Syncing to the cloud

I’m not sure if it’s done by design, or a happy coincidence, but there is a way of using both pieces of software that makes things very easy for those with a massive library, who want to work in the cloud as well.

So, as soon as I installed Lightroom CC on my MacBook Pro, all of the Smart Previews that were synced across Lightroom Mobile were already there, still syncing back to Lightroom Classic. So edits that I made on Lightroom CC and Lightroom Mobile would show up in Lightroom Classic. Collections that are set to sync to Lightroom Mobile will automatically be added in Lightroom CC.

Even better, this behaviour is also backwards compatible. Images added in Lightroom CC or Lightroom CC also get added in Lightroom Classic, and not just smart previews, but the original RAW files. Meaning that you can keep a full offline archive, and yet also have the images you desire available on all our devices.

There is a downside to all of this. As soon as you have imported an image, there is an intricate link between them. If you unsync the collection, the individual images will still be up in Adobe’s cloud services, and a small Sync symbol will appear in the top right of the grid view. There is no way to unsync these, except delete them from Lightroom CC. Wait? Delete?

As far as my testing goes, deleting images from the cloud won’t affect local images in Lightroom Classic. Now, beware, this is the current situation, and we don’t know what will happen in the future. So always keep current backups, and monitor the situation!

Working with Lightroom CC

For 90% of shooters, you will be able to do anything. You can do nearly all edits, import your custom presets (though not delete the standard presets), export images.  But there are some missing features. It’s also important to note that Adobe strives only strives for a feature parity for the editing and developing of your photo.

First of all, Presets like Develop presets won’t sync across devices just yet, but Adobe is aware this is a much requested feature and told us to “stay tuned”.  Sharing to Facebook is standard in Lightroom CC, but “Other publishing services are yet to be decided”. So if you use Lightroom for your portfolio through Photoshelter, or update to 500px, you’ll have to wait for now.

Specific things like hardware support and Camera Calibration Profiles are also still missing. So, if you invested in lets say the DVLOP dual Illuminant profiles, you’ll have to wait for now, until Adobe decides to add that feature.

Lightroom CC in action

In Lightroom Mobile, there still are some weird things missing. For example, there is an eraser tool for the Linear Gradient Adjustment, but not a brush, meaning you can delete parts, but not add. A feature that is present in both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic. There are some other annoyances as well. For example, the edit toolbar is slightly different on Lightroom CC, than it is in Lightroom Mobile on the iPad Pro. On the iPad you can’t have multiple panels open at the same time, and the Preset button looks way too similar to the Local Adjustment tool.

Lightroom Mobile editing panel (Left) vs Lightroom CC editing panel (right)

The future

You can compare Lightroom CC to Final Cut Pro X. When the fundamentally different way editing with a magnetic timeline in Final Cut was announced in 2011, many video editors shouted in disbelief of how “Apple could abandon the Pro users” and vowing to switch to other software like Premiere and Avid. The debacle became so big that even Conan did a skit on it on his late night show.  But Apple listened patiently to concerns of their users, and kept improving, adding much-requested features. Something that Adobe has been doing since the launch of the original Lightroom Beta in 2006.

For now, Lightroom Classic isn’t going anywhere, and even got some new features and a much-appreciated speed boost. But know that the Cloud is the future, and one day that will be the only way of doing things. But I’m confident that after Adobe has updated their software and plans for those final 10%, and we made the jump, we’ll look back and laugh at how we ever could live without it.

The Lightroom CC plan with 1TB is available for €12,09 per month, the Creative Cloud Photography (including Photoshop) with 1TB is available for €24,19 per month. For those just using Lightroom Mobile, you can now subscribe for €4,99 for 100GB per month.

The Drive for Perfection

This morning on Twitter I had a caffeine inducted twitter exchange with Rob Yeo, a talented designer. We talked about hobbies and work and the balance when your passion is your work. As you know, I’ve been shooting since 2004, and never stopped. And this year I’m celebrating my 5th anniversary of being a full-time professional photographer. Each year, I’m reaching new heights, goals and whatnot.

Campaign image for Agentschap Wegen & Verkeer

Starting with a Sony Mavica .. oh god, not this origin story again. What is this, Spider-Man? Who cares about your stupid floppy-disks. Agreed, lets put it different. Each step I took towards my goals of bringing bread on the table by creating, I always was already thinking about the next step. How can I ramp this up, and go bigger. Not just something like more megapixels, bigger sensors and more powerful lamps, but also how to optimise things. How to make things more efficient.

However, we can quote Gretzky’s famous quote about “skating where the puck is going to be” all we want, and frame up motivational speeches attributed to Walt Disney “If you can dream it, you can do it”. That speech was written by Tom Fitzgerald for Horizons at EPCOT. Great guy, met him once. Terrific. Great. Huge. Hm. I wonder how my ADHD and Autism reacts to my second Flat White of the day.

So, where am I going with this? Well, coffee. It’s the perfect example of how my brain works. Or Tea. Or whatever comes into my visor. If I learn something new, I want to know everything of it. I want to master the skills and get the most of what I have. My girlfriend has this espresso machine, which I adopted. In the meanwhile, I have asked coffee masters, observed them doing their craft, and even got some one-on-one sessions on how to get the best out of it.

In my opinion my cappuccinos are already better than most places they serve coffee. But, they are a far cry from the ones served by master baristas on their La Marzoccos.  It’s the same with photography. I have been improving both skills and gear over the years, and this way, I know I have reached a certain level of photography, and being able to create special things. But I know there also is a long way up to the top.

Shot for Stad Hasselt

I can do a headshot, but I’m no Peter Hurley yet. I know my way around lights, but I still have a lot to go until I can get the amazing quality Joe McNally delivers each and every time. I feather my light and try to create a cinematic theatrical quality to my photos, but I’m not Annie Leibovitz yet.

But I aspire to be. 

Portrait in the Scottish Highlands.

I talked about this before, but the moment in 2012 when I went to Shanghai on a press trip and met Chase Jarvis changed my life. He told me to dive in, and use my fears as energy, which I not only did, I managed to use the momentum from the contacts to launch a career based on being different. I don’t do your typical photography, I’m my own category and type. Being different, and seeing things different make that I create different things.

Paul Smith for Modemuseum Hasselt

In these past years I have been in amazing places, worked for the companies that influenced my youth, but most of all, met so many brilliant people that just like me will never settle with the status quo.

I’m not Peter, Joe, Annie or Chase. I’m Kris, and I will always keep being Kris, and Kris will never stop learning, improving and creating. 

The quest for more pixels

A few weeks ago I was in Brussels for a shoot with one of my clients, Agentschap Wegen & Verkeer; the regulatory agency for roads in Flanders. There they showed me the plans for an exhibition booth replicating a road, including grass and a traffic sign. The background however was to be a picture of a road, and I was the one to create that photo. Alright!

Original concept with the final image composited in.

With the short briefing and a few stipulations, I started to plan and do research. Find a nice road, the right time, and most importantly, have it be of a good enough quality to print.

My idea came not only to show off a road that popped with beautiful weather, but also show the people doing their job. The agency is so diverse in what they do, that I wanted to show people doing their jobs in a cinematic way. More a cover for Vogue than your typical road works picture. So, I created a sketch. Or as one of my clients so nicely put it, a nice children’s drawing. 😂

Concept staging sketch.

A few practical things immediately popped into my head. The print size would be 6 meters wide and 2.5 meters high. The print density would be 125 DPI, which meant I had to create a picture capable of filling 29528 x 12303 pixels, or a 363 megapixel image. A very far cry from the 20.8 megapixel my Nikon D5 holds. Even the brand new D850 (which wasn’t available yet at the time of the shoot) wouldn’t be nearly enough with its 45.7 megapixel, so the choice quickly went to the Hasselblad H6D-100C.

With the highest medium format megapixel sensor on the market at our disposal, we still hadn’t enough resolution to deliver the quality that I wanted it to. Though the Hasselblad files have enough quality to be nearly doubled in size, I knew that I wanted to do this correct, and create something special. Meaning, we were going to do a panorama, giving us enough flexibility in post to create a commercial grade image that can be used for years to come. This would be the best way for the picture to get the native resolution required. I’m a man who likes to do things as practical as possible, so the idea of having to composite every single thing required a lot of extra planning to get all the elements we needed for a final. Since most of my photos never leave Lightroom, I’ve chosen to share my entire process, including the retouching in Photoshop.

A few other factors we had to consider are the complicated Belgian weather, and the fact that we did not hire professional models, but real life agency employees, doing what they do best, which isn’t posing for pictures. So, timing had to be somewhere near the daily operating hours. So a sunset shoot was out of the question.

With most of the week before the deadline of Monday being predicted with nothing but rainstorms, a byproduct of the hurricanes on the other side of the globe, we settled on Friday to create the image. The location was also settled: the E313, one of Belgium’s most important highways, which was partly closed down near Hasselt for extensive refurbishing. An ideal location, especially if you try to imagine the shitstorm we would create if we were to close down an actual highway for a photoshoot.

So, we had our location, people, and after scouring the depot, we whole lot of props, ranging from traffic cones to a full blown signalisation truck. You can be professional all you want, but these kind of assignments take you back to when you were a kid playing with toy trucks of LEGO and Playmobil. These toys are just a bit bigger and more expensive.

After setting up the basecamp, trucks and props, it was time to pose the models to coincide with the sketch. After everything was as we wanted, I created a base panorama. Shooting a series of images with the trucks and props in the exact postion, it would become our base layer of the photo. Everything else became an element that had to be cut out and positioned on the layer, interacting with the props. A positive thing of shooting everyone separately, is that we had a lot more control of the lights, bringing them in closer and getting a better and more consistent quality of light. The main light on each subject was a Profoto B2 in a huge umbrella with diffusion panel, with a CTO gelled B2 shooting through the new Magnum Reflector from the back, giving them a warm edge, to coincide with the sunset feeling I was creating later on.

Individual lit portrait, ready for compositing.

Another reason we had to completely cut them out was the fact that the clouds were starting to get really dramatic. So dramatic we had to halt shooting for fifteen minutes because of falling rain. Those moments you wish you were shooting on a beach in Ibiza or something. Ah well.

Individual lit portrait, ready for compositing.

After an hour of shooting individual shots and elements, we wrapped, and it was time to pack up and return the Hasselblad. But not before I took several panoramas of a gorgeous cloudy sunset for later compositing.

The crew!

First up was merging the base layer of the panorama, so we could have a single layer to work on. Next up was placing all of the individual shot portraits on the base layers and masking out the backgrounds. Normally, it would be quite easy to just feather the backgrounds, since everything was locked off, but since the weather changed dramatically during shots from dramatic clouds, to apocalyptic clouds to slightly blueish sky, not to mention the dry and wet pavement, it was easier to just cut them out, keeping the parts where they interact in the mask.

All the additional elements on the base-layer.

Because of how we lit the scene and elements, all that was left to do was some slight color correction, sky replacement and some detail clean-up. That’s it.

Final Campaign image for Agentschap Wegen & Verkeer

The final file came out at 28836×15072 pixels, which has a roomy 434 megapixel, which is perfectly sized for printing with the additional artwork. So with the right preparation, work we managed to create an image that we can reproduce 1:1, which meant a happy client and a proud photographer.

And here it is on full display!

Review: Kingston MobileLite Duo 3C

Card readers are boring. We can all agree to that. It’s just the one extra chain that stands between your camera and your computer. Who ever uses a USB cable? With every camera a different connector, at least the cards are .. yeah .. nevermind. My D5 shoots XQD, Hasselblad and my Df got for SD Cards, my GoPro and Phantom shoots Micro SD. And for those things, Kingston just created something to finally get rid of those SD adapter cards that are not just flimsy, but ugly as fuck as well.

Enter the gorgeous MobileLite Duo 3C.

A small Micro SD card-reader that is made for 2017, meaning that it’s suitable for all of your devices, those that offer USB-A, and your latest devices that offer USB-C. And this card reader does just that, and at USB 3.1 speeds! It has plugs on both ends, meaning you can just choose which ever USB end you need. Pretty nifty!

With a gorgeous and robust aluminium design, it’s a tiny device that you can attach to a keychain, put in your wallet or where ever you want. While shooting the Toro Nagashi shoot, it was easy to ingest all the behind-the-scenes video footage from various sources, like GoPro’s and a drone, on my girlfriend’s MacBook after the shoot. Everything goes fast and easy. Just like you want it.

The only downside, if we need to mention one, is that after a lot of file-transfers, it gets rather warm to touch.

The MobileLite Duo 3C costs €24.99, which feels like a steal with a device that is this well made!

I can’t wait for Kingston to come up with more USB-C card readers, especially if they are all so robust and high quality as this one!

Specs

  • Dual Interface: works with older and newer systems thanks to the USB-A and USB-C interfaces.
  • Compact: The lightweight storage solution that’s easy to throw in a pocket or backpack.
  • Rugged Portability: Thanks to the metal casing you can bring it wherever your adventure takes you.
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) Support1: Download photos and videos quickly to share online.
  • Dimensions: 43mm x 18mm x 11mm
  • Supported Card Formats: microSD/microSDHC, UHS-I/microSDXC UHS-I
  • Operating Temperature: 0°C to 60°C
  • Storage Temperature: -20°C to 70°C
  • Warranty: 2-year warranty with free technical support

Behind the roads

I’ve recently gotten the fun assignment of shooting the Annual Report of Flemish road regulator Agentschap Wegen & Verkeer. Consisting of eleven locations, we traveled 1001 kilometres all over Flanders to portrait the people that make sure that the road you drive is ice-free,  the tunnels you drive through are in optimal condition, or control over 300 traffic lights with a single supercomputer. A whole lot of manpower for something that you’ll probably never encounter in person. A view of the people and the projects they work on. And a whole lot of orange High-Viz.

Technical details: a mix of reflectors, speedlights with shoot-through umbrellas and Lastolite Ezyboxes. Shot on the Nikon D5 of course.

And a few behind the scenes photo’s:

What I’m looking for in Lightroom. 

Lightroom is my bread & butter. Every image with whatever camera I shoot gets imported, be it a Nikon D5, an iPhone 7 Plus, or even a UAV, a GoPro or a Hasselblad. I have amassed over a quarter of a million images now, with most of them containing their individual information like GPS coordinates, tags and edits. It’s great, but it’s not very mobile. All of them reside on a 16 TB Promise Pegasus 2 R6, driven by my Mac Pro.

When I’m shooting at an event or festival, I have to start a new library on my MacBook Pro, edit on the go, and import that library later on into my main library.

Through Symlinks and Dropbox I have managed to keep my import, develop and export presets in sync between my desktop devices. But those don’t sync back to mobile or whatever. Especially with the updated Lightroom Mobile app, I can do a lot of work on my iPad Pro, faster than my Mac Pro can follow!

So, what’s new?

After apps like Affinity Photo have shown that you can have desktop class applications on iOS, Lightroom Mobile has been updated with a much more effective way of editing, with a persistent sidebar with sliders. The only thing that frustrated me to no end, is that you can have only one pane open, a behaviour that is completely opposing the way we work on desktop. In fact, I wouldn’t mind some of the app logic syncing back to the desktop Lightroom. The design is simple and clear, and the white lines in the sliders show you exactly how far you are from the base values, something that is very valuable in values like White Balance.

At the moment, some missing features include the Spot Removal, the Red Eye Correction (not that I ever used that one), Upright and color labels. But with Adobe updating their suite of applications constantly, I’m sure we can expect those. Just like we saw the addition of Sharpening and Noise Reduction in this update.

So, what’s my workflow? 

First of all, I create Collection for each projects that need to be culled and edited, and sync those with Lightroom Mobile. I have a lot of Smart Collections as well for reoccurring clients and projects, but those don’t sync over unfortunately. I open Lightroom Mobile on my iPad Pro, and there I can Enable Offline Editing. This means I can edit all the smart previews wherever I am, and do full RAW edits just as I can on desktop. With my Apple Pencil, I can work very quickly, and even can do local adjustment brushes.

Another missing thing is the syncing and saving of presets on Mobile. Especially with the Preset button being one of the most prominent buttons in the app. The workaround I use is to apply my custom made presets to every image in the collection on my desktop. This means that every of those edits sync to Lightroom Mobile, making further adjustments a breeze.

To cull a selection, it’s the exact same as I would do on desktop, but faster. I move the arrows on my Smart Keyboard (a whole lot of Smart going on, don’t you agree?), and press P/U/X and 1-5 to select a flag and star rating. You can easily filter items as well. The only difference is that on my iPad Pro doesn’t ever stutter or needs loading: all that data is just there. Very impressive! (I do miss the Speed Flagging option of just swiping up or down, but with a Magic Keyboard, it’s every bit as fast)

It has even come so far in the past days that I prefer to cull and edit on my iPad Pro, even if I’m at home. This is a total game changer. 

But there is one thing that makes it all difficult and hard for me:

File Management

In my pocket is my second most used camera of the moment. And I’m jealous of my girlfriend and friends. Everything they create gets imported in iCloud Photo Library. Pictures and edits show up on all their devices, and for €9.99 they get 2TB storage in the cloud. I however have to create a bandwidth eating contraption with exports, imports, uploads and downloads to get iPhone images in my Lightroom (with Hazel filtering out any files without the word iPhone in its meta), and exported JPG versions in my iCloud Photo Library (minus anything with the word iPhone in its meta).

But, that is just a jerryrigged semi-automated way of working. Also, it seems that many iOS applications have issues with an image library of over 250.000 pictures. Go figure.

It would be much more interesting to have a robust Lightroom Cloud platform. Imagine having all your presets and data synced over Lightroom Creative Cloud.

Ideally, it would have the option of hosting all your files on local storage, a Master Library. When on the go, you can import images on local drives on a Notebook, having them sync over external or internal network. Just like all of your edits.

Pictures shot on either signed in device would be added to your master library (renamed and sorted to your preference). It would generate smart previews (DNG) for all pictures taken, making those available on request on all devices. Like iCloud and Google Photos. At the moment, you can only sync one desktop library to the Creative Cloud.

You could shoot an event, import on your notebook, edit and instantly share those images to Instagram on your phone, and make final edits later at home on your master library, without having to move files and drives all over the place. Laptop stolen? All your RAW files are already in the cloud. Or perhaps you haven’t transferred all your RAW files, but at least you still have your Smart Previews, which are still good enough for most uses.

But Kris, why not just use Photos for all your photos? 

Well, first of all, all of my photos in their original format occupy around 10 TB, way over the largest 2 TB iCloud storage plan. Also, despite Photos.app getting a significant update for High Sierra, it still can’t soar to the level of Lightroom. Heck, not even to the level of Aperture 3. It’s still not a ‘real’ editing app like Lightroom has become. In fact, 99% of my images never even touch Photoshop.

So, what would need to happen for me to be a happy camper:

Feasible requests: 

Sync settings between desktop apps

With Adobe’s Creative Cloud, you can already host smart previews to mobile. Extend this syncing between desktop en notebooks, first of all with presets and settings. There already is a robust cloud storage platform active. It would just need an update of the desktop app.

Sync settings & presets to mobile apps

If you already have your own workflow on point with your own presets, it’s rather frustrating not to be able to access them. Especially when you’re working on a series of photos. There is a workaround applying your preset to all, and sync that to mobile.

‘Not very likely to happen’ requests:

Create a Publish / Sync with Photos.app

It would be quite amazing to have all edited pictures show up in Photos.app. Sync photos (as in: import new pictures from Photos.app, and send new pictures from Lightroom to Photos.app).

Far Fetched requests:

Sync files between desktop apps

A very interesting part of this that there are no limits of storing pictures in Creative Cloud!

“Despite including at least 20GB of storage in the Photography plan, syncing images to LR Mobile does not consume online storage. In other words, there is no storage limitation associated with LR mobile. The actual 20GB storage is used for other CC services like syncing settings, sharing files through CC, etc. So there would not be a need to increase this storage when working with LR Mobile.”

So, in theory, you could upload every smart preview your massive Lightroom library, and just access all that information wherever you have WiFi. The only thing left to do is access that information among other catalogs and have a way to transfer RAWs to your Master Library.

Become a core service

What would solve a lot of issues is that all mobile photos would be saved in Lightroom instead of the standard camera roll. This would mean other apps would also be able to tap into Lightroom, offering loads of potential to smart albums, tags and ratings. Something that is very different in Photos, which only offers Favourites. Also importing directly to Lightroom from an SD card would be quite handy.

But this would be a decision that both Apple and Google have to make to include on their mobile OS-es, and Adobe has to jump on as well.

Then again, Affinity is working on a “Digital Asset Manager” .. so we’ll see how that goes. And you can’t underestimate how Lightroom is amazing at handling RAW files. Because that was the reason I switched from Aperture 3 to Lightroom 5: image quality. But whatever comes next for me, it has to work hard, work on mobile and make my images look pretty damn good.

Defining a university college

These are the assignments that I love to sink my teeth in. Multi-day shooting a campaign at a high pace. When I got the call from Kenneth, of former Modemuseum fame, to come in for a meeting at the PXL university college in Hasselt, I was intrigued.

Giving me a huge folder of magazines, the briefing was clear:

“We want you to re-shoot these, but with your style, and showing the craziness that is this massive school. You can show that people have fun here, it can be edgy, a tad silly, as long as the feeling is there.

Say no more! In total we shot 28 different study courses, spread over eight departments, in four days. For each course, we shot three campaign images, always using real students, in a school setting.

Before we started shooting, I made some rules to create and maintain a certain style. First of all, no smart- or whiteboards and use as little laptops as possible. Since every course all get lessons on a laptop and use smart boards, there would be nothing that separates a music student from a business student, apart from the style of their clothes perhaps.

I insisted on using as many props as possible in a setting that would look natural. This again wasn’t the easiest of choices, because it’s easy to give a music student a guitar or keyboard, but where is the difference between someone studying fiscal management and someone studying to be a translator?

Another rule was that we would have a consistent feeling of light as well, meaning we would light everything with strobes. In total I used six Nikon SB-700 speed lights. I used a mix of a Walimex 180cm umbrella, two Lastilite 24″ Ezyboxes and small shoot through umbrellas, depending on the shot.

Camera wise, I used my trusted Nikon D5 and a Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 and the Sigma Art 85mm f/1.4. A few shots were made with the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 G

There are ‘some’ images that I want to talk to about specifically here, so, let’s go!

PXL Healthcare

PXL Healthcare. This doll was creepy! It doesn’t only give out vitals and measures CPR, it even moves, breathes and makes noises. Very Doctor Who like. Lit with the massive umbrella.
PXL Healthcare. This baby was just eight days old!
PXL Healthcare. Nailing the focus on a moving baby’s foot isn’t easy.
PXL Healthcare. The interaction between a disabled person and an assistant can be shown in many ways. Helping her out of the wheelchair wasn’t a strong image, so we opted for this post. The bedight is also lit with a strobe and a warm gel.
PXL Healthcare. Real life pregnancy. Notice the blackboard in the background to show it’s still an educational setting. We flashed from the left, and reflected from the right. The hallway was also lit by a single flash.
PXL Healthcare. I never laughed as much as I did during this ‘delivery’. To get the correct angle I was laying on the ground, with the entire staff and fellow students around me. The ‘baby’ came out with a mixture of laughter and simulated screams. I almost had tears of laughter during this moment. I wish every shoot could be so much fun.

PXL Education

PXL Education. Lit with a massive umbrella on top, a subtle backlight behind the trampoline,  and a strobe all the way in the back lighting up the back wall. I laid on the mat, waiting for the exact moment. Because the flashes were giving full power in the back, I could only shoot one frame per jump. But the students did great!
PXL Education. Sometimes you can look for a shot all you want, but when a real moment happens, you just aim and click. Next shot!
PXL Education. We raided the storage room for anything that would look visually interesting, in this case, these globes.

PXL Business

PXL Business. The inclusion of the headsets indicate that they’re translators.
PXL Business. The briefing for this shot was Jerry Maguire. Followed by blank stares. I should’ve known better than to talk about a movie that came out the same year as they were born. Anyhow, the quote “Show me the money” did ring a bell.
PXL Business. Student interaction for me was the most important thing for me. Meaning that everyone looks like they’re having fun.
PXL Business. The sun shining through the windows is completely fake. A warm gelled flash on a long tripod outside the window, and a big umbrella in the front. Easy.
PXL Business. A scanner, and a red gelled flash.
PXL Business. For once I really did want the beamer to be on, as it gave a nice practical light to add a bit of extra color to the room.

PXL Music

PXL Music. I love pretty lights and vintage hardware. So I put this guy behind the mixing desk. Lit his face with an overhead gridded softbox, and a pink gelled flash left. Drag the shutter, move the camera, and boom.
PXL Music. I love shooting musicians.
PXL Music. They had their own light contraption made from some light bulbs in the mixing room. The light had character, so I kept it there.
PXL Music. Just get the class together, let them talk and have fun, and in the meanwhile just shoot. I attached a flash on a magic arm in one of the cool lighting fixtures.

PXL IT

PXL IT. A bunch of clever geeks, all together in a building. I never felt so much at home. Completely gelling an otherwise boring white room with strobes, I managed to get a very cool shot of this robot.
PXL IT. The computer on the left had red LED’s in it. So why not emulate that with a red gelled light. A pink gelled light gave color the the wall, with a splash of white light coming through a softbox.
PXL IT. It can’t all be technology, so we got another collaboration picture. Lit with a small umbrella as a main light, and a bare flash in the back left to pop some extra light on the board and use is as a bounce.

PXL Media & Tourism

PXL Media & Tourism. This isn’t an outside location, that’s their wallpaper. Crazy.
PXL Media & Tourism. With the massive heat from the day earlier passed, I added splash of gelled sunlight in the back. The practical LED light didn’t gave a lot of light compared to my flashes, but it looks cool.  Extra detail: none of these students ever used this exact gear, so I had to coach them.
PXL Media & Tourism. What a great colourful jacket!

PXL Tech

PXL Tech. It was raining during this shot, but nothing a CTO gelled light can’t fix.
PXL Tech. With a rim light in the back, we isolate our great subject here, and a softbox gives a soft even light, which makes it look like all the light comes from practical sources.
PXL Tech. A green gel gives a splash of color to an otherwise colourless image, plus it really offsets the red part.
PXL Tech. Switching my white balace to incandescent, and slapping a CTO to the main light, turns everything blue, giving it all a very high-tech feeling to an otherwise boring technical installation.
PXL Tech. CTO gel. What else.
PXL Tech. These students weren’t part of the original plan, but when we saw them take samples, they got shanghaied into service. While they were about to re-do their sample taking, we found this tiny frog. Change of plans again. But I love how this came out.
PXL Tech. Shoutout to this girl with a BB-8 tattoo! And to the CTO gelled flashes of course.
PXL Tech. When their professor told me they had a DNA viewer or something that emitted blue and orange light, I immediately used it. And of course added a CTO and CTB gel to some flashes, adding a whole lot of extra drama.
PXL Tech. Just having a lot of fun in the lab.
PXL Tech. Liquid. Nitrogen. 🙌🏻.

Profoto B2: First impressions

Exactly a year ago, I held the freshly released Nikon D5 in my hands for the first time. It was a whole step up from semi-professional gear like a D800 or a Df to something that had no compromises. It enabled me to stop troubleshooting limitations, and just go and get the shot. (Not that I ever truly stopped problem solving).

2′ Gridded Octa camera right, Blue Gell illuminating the bridge.

Just a few months back, while looking into getting a more robust and powerful flash system, I walked into a Profoto booth at Photo Days, checking what they had to offer. I knew of the powerful B1, but it was seeing the B2 in action that I was convinced that this was the system that not only matched my way of working, it had plenty of power in a very well-built housing. Using it for the first time for a few days now, it has that exact same feeling of when I first started to use the Nikon D5. The images in this post all were shot in the last three days.

Since I already have an established way of shooting with off-camera flash, I plundered the shops for the following items to get me started.

  • Profoto B2 Location Kit (2 Heads)
  • Profoto Air Remote TTL-N
  • Profoto OCF Speedring (2x)
  • Profoto OCF Softbox 2′ Octa & Softgrid
  • Profoto OCF Softbox 1’x3′ & Softgrid
  • Profoto OCF Color Gel Starter kit
  • Profoto B2 3m Extension cable

Coming in a very handy bag, I have a full professional photo studio with me, without exceeding the size of my current Pelican 1510 speedlight-kit, housing 6 SB-700, 3 tripods and a whole lot of accessories.

As soon as you get it out of the bag, it’s obvious how everything connects. After figuring out which button does what (I mean, I am not about to read a manual, am I?), I managed to get it all working without a hitch.

2′ Gridded Octa camera right, Blue Gell illuminating the bridge.

The only confusing moment is that you don’t get direct feedback back from your lights to the remote. For example, if the power of the head on the pack reads 5.0, and you’ll add a stop on the remote, it will just show up +1.0, but on the pack it will update to 6.0. Just like if you enable a model light on the pack, you’ll have to repeat the action on the remote before you can switch it off from the remote. But  as soon as you’re comfortable with that logic, the AirTTL remote is a work of magic with a range of 300 meter! In fact, I wish there was a $99 Profoto slave unit talking to my Nikon speedlights, so I could use them to fill out a scene in the background and detail lights.

On to the pack and the heads.

What Profoto calls the B2 Off-Camera Flash is the module housing all the controls for two heads. So, the battery? Well, no: to add extra confusion is that the pack also houses a removable battery. But, you can charge that one while shooting, which is great. You can connect two B2 heads to a single pack, which with an extension cable can offer great possibilities.

The light that comes from the B2’s is just plain amazing. Even without a head you get very nice results, but the OCF series of light modifiers is just amazing. I mean, I love my 180cm Walimex umbrella, but the small light coming from that small 2′ Octa is just gorgeous. Put a light on a monopod, or even just a tripod and have an assistant hold it, and you can work quicker than before thanks to full TTL capabilities on a studio flash. Switch over to manual mode, and the flash freezes your settings, so everything stays exactly the same. Magic again!

Talking about freezing, the flash has the option for more power, or freezing items in the sky. (So it has a shorter flash duration). Just as it has High-Speed Sync. 🙌🏻

Woodworked Sam Ponette. Flash freezing all wood chips and sawdust.

The Profoto B2 Location Kit comes with the epic B2 Location bag. Do you remember those free crappy backpacks your first DSLR came in? Yeah, forget it. The B2 Location Bag houses two heads, the pack, two batteries, chargers, and then you have so many pouches and straps that my entire kit I bought fits in there. Even the extension cable, color gels and whatnot. It’s one of the finest designed bags I ever encountered, feeling more like a bag an SAS soldier would carry on a mission than a free bag that came with a flash. Miles away from that plastic pouch coming with Nikon Speedlights. Also a great shoutout to the designers that added elastic straps on the side of the OCF Softbox pouches, which perfectly fits the pouch that holds their Softgrid. That Softgrid also attaches with velcro by folding it over the edges. It’s all very high quality.

All by all, I can already tell that it won’t end with these two heads. But for now, lets see which adventures lay ahead for this amazing gear!

Thomas. Gridded Octa on a pole. TTL.

Baywatch

Some people stand in the darkness
Afraid to step into the light.

Who doesn’t remember Pamela Anderson who as C.J. Parker kept the Californian beaches safe? Well. Basically that’s all I remember. The red bathing suits and slow-motion video.

But, for the new movie by Paramount Pictures I was hired to capture another creative brand activation by Production Pirates. Involving a high-speed camera, some fans and a treadmill, it gives cinema goers the experience of reliving their nineties nostalgia. And gives their friends a great Instagram Stories moment.