Epic 30 Second Portraits with the Profoto B2 & OCF Beauty Dish - Laser Cats

As anyone who's been to WPPI can tell you, it's pretty insane. Between the Classes, Expo Booths, Parties, Socials, After Parties, Dinners, and well...everything else that Las Vegas can throw at you, seeing everyone / everything you want too is next to impossible, let alone keeping your professional schedule in check! This yeah was no different, however, this time, I was on a mission. I decided to start a new photo project digging back into an old one for inspiration.  One of my favorites of all time, Film Noir.

As I began casting for this project, a lot of friends from the industry had expressed interest in being a part of it, and we all felt that WPPI was a great time and location to make it happen....no pressure right? Well, I started the planning phase pulling in my local friends to help me scout for locations and readying them to be assistants...as well as completely overloading my car with an insane amount of gear. I figured it was better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Besides, I had the room in my new car! 

Well, what's one of the first things that any working professional in the photography industry will tell you? It's Murphy's Law; Anything that can go wrong, will. So plan for it! I found the perfect location for the shoot. An old speakeasy mob bar that looked incredible and had everything I needed....except permission from the owner! (even the staff were excited for this project) So in a last ditch effort, I planned on using a Whiskey Bar in the MGM, but there was a poker tournament going on, and we weren't allowed to disrupt it...so...option 3 came to mind. Instead of pulling everyone in for one large crazy shoot, i'd find them one by one and shoot individual dramatic shots around the hotel and convention center! But, just like mentioned before, everything will go wrong! Once the trade show started, we all realized that scheduling was going to be insane even on a one on one basis...so a project reboot needed to happen.

Struggling, I met my friend, fellow photographer, and Profoto employee, Chris Fain, for a drink and started discussing the struggles and options ahead of me. After several drinks, and MANY MANY ideas, nothing was sticking against the wall. What we did agree on, was that I needed to borrow his new OCF Beauty Dish to work with on my B2 lights regardless of what direction I took.

So, Chris gave me his new travel Beauty Dish (Which is AMAZING by the way) and off I went! We got up early the next morning and started setting up the OCF Beauty Dish on a single B2 light, (which took less than 2 minutes), threw it on a Manfrotto Light Stand Extension, and with the help of my friends Bryan Dockett, Enrique Malfavon, and Darcy Evans acting as my Talking Light Stands, we hit the show floor to start our hunt for the roaming Pro-Photog still not knowing exactly what I was going to shoot. 

I Knew the Noir theme wasn't going to happen, I also knew that everyone I did manage to find was going to have VERY little time...so no matter what, The shots had to be quick! Using the Profoto TTL Air Controller for my Nikon D800 I decided to  "meter" my subjects faces on the fly using the TTL mode then flipping the lights back to Manual to maintain the settings. Everyones skin tones were different, everyone was in different ambient light, and crowds. Let me tell you, metering with the TTL method was incredibly fast! It literally took me no more than 30-60 seconds to get all the shots i needed with everyone I found! 

How do you do that? Well as detailed in the Profoto blog above, Using the Air Remote TTL-N set on TTL mode, I filled my frame with my subjects face. Yep. the ENTIRE frame, and fired a test shot. For all of my shots, my "Talking Light Stands held the light a few feet away from my subjects at about a 45 degree angle and we tried to keep this as consistent as possible throughout both days of shooting. I also had my D800 with 85mm f/1.4 G set to ISO 100, F8, and a shutter speed of 1/200 for EVERYONE! Once my camera and the controller adjusted my power on the fly, I flipped it back to Manual mode, and then framed my two poses. One looking into the light, and one looking directly into the camera.

Now, how did we come up with the idea for the double exposure? Well that credit goes to David Valentine! Long time Trade show friend, he was "lucky" enough to be the first person I encountered on the show floor and was relatively easily convinced to step in front of the camera.  We had already spoken about the theme issues and ideas, so at the time, we were more or less just playing with the light setup and posing/settings in the show floor. All it took was David to nail a perfectly cheesy pose to remind me of those amazing 80's style glamor portraits...and a dream was born!  I was going to bring the 80's back....but if the internet has taught me anything...is that if you put some lasers and a cat in it....well...it was bound to be legendary! So into action we leapt, scouring the show floor for familiar faces and even anyone who was just brave enough to step in front of the lens. Over the course of 2 days, we managed to shoot about 30 Portraits and as you can see from the screen-grab in the slide show below, with no effort, ALL of the exposures were consistent and nailed throughout! (My love affair with my Profoto Lights grow stronger every time I use them!)

With all these raws in hand, the next step was to blend them together and build a Photoshop Template file to start creating the masterpiece...but...I was due in Chicago a few days after this show to shoot C2E2 for Reed Expos. Basically, I had NO time, so I called used my "Phone a Friend" ....literally...and called Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch to have him build the template in Photoshop for me to start merging in my glamor models! I remember saying something along the lines of "One theme, two words - LASER CATS!" and well, that was all it took! He was on board with this dream project and was just as excited as I was haha. It only took him a few days (Since he was traveling also) but what he sent me was MAGIC! 

From here I simply had to place all my photos into the document, scale them, and mask away.  Lets face it, everyone was so beautiful no retouching was required! I was so excited about this I ended staying up until about 3 or 4 in the morning finishing everyone shots and sending them copies to proof and give me a finale approval to post! I went to bed and well...woke up to a barrage of love! So much so that people had already started to share! (sorry for the delay on writing this hahah) So here we are! I'm a day or so behind with the blog post but the end result is still the same! The Laser Cat Phenomena is out there and i've already gotten several Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls about others wanting to have their portraits done this way also! Next up is for me to do my own self portraits though!  I need to join in the fun!

Before rambling any further I have to thank each and every person who was gracious enough to step in front of the camera for this CLEARLY insane and goofy project! While there's to many to name here, just know that I love you all! And thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I can't wait to see you all again and do something even crazier next year! (Prepare yourselves for PPE folks! haha)
Special Thanks to Enrique for capturing all of these awesome BTS photos for the project, and to Chris Fain & Profoto for lending me the gear to run around the show and capture these with! I owe you sirs!

Now, feast your eyes on the all the Laser Cat Glory!!!

If you'd like to see these images on Facebook with the "models" tagged and comments! Please head over to David J. Crewe Photography on Facebook and like / share this post as much as you can! I'd love to keep the Laser Cat Photo Theme running all 2016!!!

I also hope you've enjoyed the images and this story even half as much as I did creating them! 

When A Plan Comes Together - A Profoto B2 Review

Like the Great John "Hannibal" Smith said "I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!"

Prepping for my trip to WPPI in Las Vegas, I began speaking with the incredible Fashion Photographer, Clay Cook, about trying to put together a quick shoot during our down time while in the desert, (If we had any). Once we managed to meet and settle into the Trade-show Routine, the real action began! Within 24 hours, we had managed to line up an incredible local model Nanako Hawley, a stunning parachute dress from Lindsay Adler's Dream Shoot Rentals, and, thanks to the awesome Chris Fain, a brand new Profoto B2 Off Camera Flash System!!!

We were initially looking to borrow some portable power packs or speed-lights to use the existing modifiers we already had with us, so when Chris and the Profoto USA Team offered up the new B2 system my jaw was literally on the floor! Working with Phlearn, I was already familiar with the D1 system, so to be among the first to demo the new system was insanely exciting for me! 

I've been interested in the B1 system for quite some time, but I was hesitant due to the weight and size of the lights.  Given most of my environmental portraiture has been shot with a VERY small crew, a smaller size & weight was very intriguing. My only worry was the attached battery pack and a reduced 250w/s power. I was concerned that the lower power wouldn't be able to compete against the natural power of the sun in the Nevada Desert....but we were very giddy to try them out none the less.

Leaving the MGM Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, it was a perfect sunny day with a 70 degree temperature...but as we neared Red Rock Canyon, we could see a low and THICK cloud cover that looked like some "weather" was on the way.  There were a few breaks so we felt like if we moved in to the back of the canyon we'd be safe...well...funny story....the further in we got, the crazier the weather became!

The cloud cover turned to rain, which became heavy rain, and then hail...and then HOLY CRAP that's a LOT of hail, and just when it looked like we were done...oh then it started to snow....in the middle of a Thunder Storm!  Yeah....honestly...it was pretty epic! Other than the fact that it was practically freezing.

And then came the snow!

We started fast and furious with Clay lining things up first.  Since I had lined this all up predominately for him to shoot, I wanted to make sure that he got the shots he wanted! So with his assistant Jacob manning the lights, I went to work keeping the dress up and in motion! Clay spent his first few shots figuring out the system till he found a decent light level but once we got the right settings and figured out how to change everything, (it really was a super easy system) the storm had rolled right on top of us and the miles of visibility we had moments ago was reduced to just a few meters! So, after attempting to get as many shots as we could in a brief moment...we did what any proper professional would...and called the shoot! There was no sense in putting our model, and the gear through such crazy elements.  

Frozen Nanako

Cold, soaked, and pretty much all of us covered in mud and barely able to feel our fingers...we headed back to the car and prayed we had enough that we could composite a backplate together with one of the shots once we got home.  Nanako was an incredible trooper though....actually scratch that...as far as the modeling world is concerned, Nanako was a Navy Seal!  Shivering, shaking, and clearly in pain, as soon as the cameras were up she was rock solid and nailing everything we asked of her.  I was pretty much in awe. 

As we headed out of Red Rocks, good fortune was upon us, in one of the very last "checkpoints" we came across an area that was dry, untouched by the storm, and was in fact...pretty warm with the sun still shining! At that moment we called an audible and decided to try for a second set of images! 

BTS By Clay Cook

While Nanako fixed her hair and re-applied her make up, (as the first round had been completely soaked off in the storm), Clay, Jacob and I walked into the brush to find a good scene, and more importantly....hang our jackets, hats, and pretty much everything else out to dry! In this moment...I saw Clay's eyes come alive! The fast pace of the 1st set seemed to be out of sheer "lets fight this weather", but now, the juices were flowing!  We had the time, and the warmer temperatures to nail our shots...or so we thought at least!

The Profoto B2 kit was pretty impressive, and I can honestly say I fell in love pretty much immediately! They are incredibly small and light weight compared to the B1 systems, while still able to use each and every modifier designed for it's larger brethren. While the battery pack looks large, it's surprisingly light weight. In fact, the actual battery component of the controller was just a little larger than an iPhone6+!!!  Cables and all, it was a much more portable and comfortable system than my own Strobe and Portable Power packs.  Clay having shot first, found that with even just one light, we barely needed more than 1/2 power to balance out the daylight, and now that we were out of the elements, we could take the time to navigate the controls on the system which were pretty awesome! In fact, we even found that the system could handle high speed sync from BOTH of our cameras! (Clay shot Canon, I shot Nikon).  With both of us shooting off of the same light, taking turns shooting actual images and BTS...not once did we get a miss-fire! Color me amazed!

After we figured out the nuances of the B2 controllers, and had just about nailed the shots we wanted...the storm rolled in on us just as quick as before!  So clearly it was time to call it a day, head back to town and most importantly....warm up & return all the gear!  I can honestly say, the thought of having my Vagabond Mini in that environment, let alone the studio strobes...actually terrifies me! Not only are the Profoto B2 lights an amazing, lightweight, and surprisingly powerful (for their w/s), on location light system, but they are pretty much the best system of lights i've ever worked with on an environmental portrait session!  You can count on me ordering a set of these lights in the very near future.

My only worry on the final steps was the battery life.  Between Clay and Myself we fired approximately 200-300 shots with the light on about 1/2 it's power. At the end of the shoot, we were left with just under 1/2 a battery charge.  Leaving me worrying that with a 2 light setup at a higher output...well...you'll get a lot less from it.  If we had more time with the lights we would have figured out how much capacity they really had, but on the plus side, even if the batteries don't hold a huge charge...they are so small and light weight, packing spares is a very easy and lightweight thing to do! So the pro tip here, is always be prepared!  When ordering a kit, make sure to always have a spare battery ready to roll! I mean, even in a perfect world, you never know when a shoot will run long.

BTS of my shot by Clay Cook

And here finally, we have my final image from this crazy last minute shoot in the middle of unexplainable weather in the desert! 

I love it when a plan comes together!  Model: Nanako Hawley, Dress: Lindsay Adler & Dream Shoot Rentals, Assistants: Clay Cook & Jacob Roberts, Photographer: David J. Crewe

The second image from the series with Nanako and the incredible B2 system at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada!

Once again a very special thank you to Lindsay Adler for the access to her amazing wardrobe for the shoot, and to Chris Fain and the incredible Profoto USA team who were more than happy to let Clay and myself use these brand new lights to shoot this last minute concept in the desert, to Jacob Roberts for being one of the best talking light stands in the business, and especially to Nanako for toughing through the worst of the cold for us to nail these incredible shots!  

For a VERY special Behind the Scenes look, check out Clay's First Person Shooter video below! 

A special behind the scenes look into this shoot with Nanako Hawley in Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas during WPPI. Used here is the new Profoto B2 system. Photography: Clay Cook Wardrobe: Dream Shoot Rentals Model: Nanako Hawley Assistant: Jacob Roberts, David Crewe Special Thanks to Chris Fain with Profoto, Lindsay Adler with Dream Shoot Rentals & David Crewe with Phlearn for all the help and assistance with making this shoot happen.