I was going to wait a couple of weeks before writing about my Olympic Media Summit experience, but I figured since there is so much buzz on the internet about the athlete portrait sessions, I'd do a short writeup now.(not to mention the fact that I have received literally tons of questions over the last 2 days about this shoot.)
Venue/Purpose - Media from all over were invited to the Hilton Anatole Dallas over a three day period in May to take photos, interview, and get to know our upcoming Olympic Athletes.
My Role - Myself and Jim Cowsert were contracted by US Presswire and USA Today to take portraits of select athletes for feature stories that will be run by USA Today and other outlets leading up to the Olympics.
Photo Setup - There were 3 ballrooms setup - 1 for Sports Illustrated, 1 for photojournalists(About 12 stations), and 1 for USA Today(My room).
Gameplan - Jim set up a 10x10 station in the photojournalist room to photograph all the athletes that came by over the three day period. My assignment was to focus on about 10 pre-selected athletes who had specific times to shoot with me. As athletes got done shooting in the PJ room, they would come by and shoot with me.(If they had time or if I wasn't photographing one of my specified athletes.) These are some of the shots you see here as I cannot show the others as of yet since their stories have not run as of today. I knew I had about 20-30 minutes with my featured shoots and anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes with the others.
I was kind of jealous as Jim got to photograph just about all of the athletes. LOL! He did a fantastic job!
Both Jim and I and our lighting tech Darryl Briggs(who helped with the setups, behind the scenes shots, etc...) all came in a day before to setup the room and test out the lighting, etc...(For a shoot this important, we wanted to make sure we had everything in place for the next day.) Here's how my room looked when we were all setup...
Set Info - A big thanks to Profoto for sending me a few additional lights to use as we setup 3 sets. My assignment was to get a couple of standard uniform shots as well as some casual lifestyle shots. With this in mind, we setup a gray seamless for the standard shots....This is also great as magazines, websites, etc... like to take images and cut them out and post process how they see fit and seamless works great for such things.(See photo of Two time Shooting Gold Medalist Kim Rhode below as an example. My wonderful graphic designer Jennifer cut her out from the gray seamless and put her on another background to illustrate.)
The second set just came to me the night before the shoot as I was discussing wanting to do something really cool and dramatic, yet very quick to setup and move around. Darryl and I threw around some ideas and came up with lighting the US Flag in a dramatic way and really showing off our athletes in a "tough, rugged. pose."
Everyone has seen the standard athlete holding up a flag photo and so we wanted it to be DIFFERENT and so we figured we would light from only one side.(More on that later.) Here is a cool shot of Taekwando Olympians Diana and Steven Lopez in front of the flag.
The third set is what I called my "fun" set... I used a ringlight and red, gold, and blue fabrics to get some funky, yet cool catchlights and it was an instant hit! In fact, everyone loved the flag and ring light sets soo much, we even had a few athletes come back to the room later in the day so they could get their photo taken by me on the sets! (The lead in to this post is with USA Soccer's Alex Morgan and USA Shooting's Corey Cogdell.)
For my feature shoots, I also found a little pool area right outside of my room, so I used it to take some casual and fun natural light shots of the athletes. (Here is a mix of indoor/outdoor I did with Gold Medalist Swimmer Dana Vollmer.)
Lighting SETUP -
Set 1 - I used 4 Profoto D1 Air Strobes. 1 with a 4x6 softbox and 2 with 1x6 striplights, and1 background accent light. I also used a stand up reflector for fill.(The below shots with Gold Medalists Gymnast Nastia Liukin and Volleyball Player Phil Dalhausser used this setup.)
Set 2 - 2 Profoto D1 Air Strobes with grids. 1 to light the flag and 1 to light the athlete.(We brought in another light with a another grid if we had 2 athletes in the shots like Diana and Steven.) Here's one of USA Boxer Raushee Warren and our basic setup for this set.
Set 3 - 1 Ringlight, 2 Profoto D1 Air Strobes with 1x6 stipboxes for accent lights. (USA Gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Jonathan Horton). See, it works with guys too!
Another critical piece to this puzzle was the Profoto D1 Air remote and the Custom Register Settings function on my Canon 5D Mark III. Since I had 3 sets going.(All with different sets of strobes and camera settings), I simply used channel 5 on the air remote to fire the strobes and setting 1 on my camera when we used the seamless set. For the flag set, it was channel 6 on the Air remote and setting 2 on the camera and so forth for the last set. This ensured that we could shoot at a super high pace and not have to worry about adjusting lights, etc... Not to mention, with the Air Remote, I can and did adjust the power remotely on occasion to account for lighter and darker skin tones, etc...
The pace was definitely fast and furious for both us and the athletes as I looked at some of their schedules for the day and they were lucky to get a chance to grab a quick bite to eat during the summit! I totally understood that with some athletes, they would only have time for a couple of shots, so we had to make them count! We had a great time with everyone and I have no doubt that our athletes will do America proud in a few weeks!
If anyone has any further questions about setups, the summit, or anything I forgot, just leave a comment and I'll respond soon. I'll also be posting lots of cool behind the scenes shots and fun athlete interviews closer to the Olympic Games in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned to my blog or like me on facebook.