The Hero Image

"I realized, okay, let’s supplement the fill light with a continuous light source, the Litepanels 1×1 LED light," explains Rich. "While I do a lot of work with strobes, the beauty of continuous lighting for still photographers is that you can see it in real time. You’re not guessing how much power you want to output through your strobe, then you fire the strobe, then you look at the back of the camera…. The feedback is immediate because you can see it with your eye in real time when using continuous lights.

"And in a big space like a CrossFit gym," he continues, "sometimes continuous lighting works really well for filling in background illumination by actually bringing up the entire room’s exposure. I really brought the 1x1s, and actually a whole kit of Litepanels, so that I could shape the light in the background. For example, I was lighting the subject most commonly with Profotos, and oftentimes, I was working with relatively low exposures and slower shutter speeds so that I could bring in the ambient light of the window. Lighting the background with continuous allowed me to bring the entire environment up into a matching daylight exposure versus when you’re in a gymnasium and it’s just a lot of hanging halogen lights or fluorescent tubes, and it just doesn’t look very good. So the reason they were on set was to make my Litepanels the ‘house lights.’ But, then, having them there gave me the ability to switch gears and start working with them as my main light source, as well."

In order to capture the decisive moment, Rich would "machine-gun" sequences using the rapid-fire capabilities of his Nikon D800 and D4 full-frame DSLRs while Lafountain powered through repetitions. "I’m doing bursts of images," Rich says, "and I’m doing that for the simple reason that I’m handholding."

For the composition, the idea was to showcase the build and strength of the CrossFit athlete. Generally, shooting from below is a good way to give your subject a towering presence for an overall feeling of power and strength in a composition. Rich tried this approach, as you can see in a couple of the first outtakes where Lafountain occupies the majority of the foreground of the frame. While still successful, the framing of the American flag as Lafountain’s backdrop ended up accomplishing the same concept in a much less hackneyed fashion. Rich says that he tried several focal lengths and a number of compositions before deciding on the versatility of a 24-70mm zoom lens. The final shot was captured close to the 70mm focal distance.

Rich shoots the majority of his work on manual settings, and here you can see how even the slightest change in composition and exposure can have a profound effect on the final image. "This is a classic controlled environment, right?" asks Rich. "I’m setting up the lights, there’s window light pouring in, but nothing is changing.
The idea of being in an automated mode sure doesn’t make sense—you’re setting yourself up because the camera will get fooled every time I make a subtle adjustment."

"I really like the capability of a zoom," he says. "Zooms today, both telephoto zooms and wide-angle zooms, they’re just so razor-sharp. And to have that flexibility, to shoot at 83mm or 76mm versus locked into those prime lenses, it’s quite nice in a situation like this, where I’m making subtle adjustments, really paying attention to the edges and trying to make sure that I’m cleaning up the background relative to where I’m positioning the subject. The bottom line is that a zoom gives you an incredible amount of flexibility, and you’re not compromising sharpness or speed. Certainly, there’s a difference between an ƒ/1.4 lens and an ƒ/2.8 lens, but that ƒ/2.8 lens is still pretty darn fast, and it’s remarkable that they’re sharp wide open."

Leave a Reply