how i got the shot: Carly Johann Cover

Triathlete Magazine January 2016

Carly Johann is a rookie professional as well as a fitness model. I photographed Carly in the studio doing some fake running (see below) but I reserved enough time to shoot at a previously scouted location in San Diego before sunset. 

I found my spot, made a mark for Carly to hit and set up my lights.  I used Profoto B1 lights so I could take advantage of the high speed sync. This recent miracle has improved motion photography for the better (if only they could improve the wattage). When shooting a moving subject, it's difficult to freeze the action with strobes while syncing at the maximum shutter speed (Nikon usually 1/200", Canon 1/160") .

I learned the hard way when I photographed Apolo Ohno for a cover long before. It was a similar situation shooting him running across the frame. If you thought Apolo was quick on skates, you should have seen him run for me.  He had his hands in blade formation and only had one speed - wicked fast. It was hard to find a suitable image that didn't have blur in it!

For Carly, I was able to shoot at 1/1000" at f5.6, ISO 400. This gave me enough ambient for the sunset sky while freezing the action. I chose a white beauty dish for the key light directly in front of her and used heads with reflectors for the rim and fill. I set my power output on the strobes to match the ambient so no key shifting.

Being an experienced fitness model, Carly easily hit her mark in stride and responded quickly to my hand and posture adjustments. That is usually the deal maker or breaker for a shoot like this. I learned to shoot wide for these to maximize the depth of field on a moving subject. This allows me to retain sharpness while I pan the camera (pre-focused). The large file size with the 36mp Nikon D810 easily allowed us to crop without loss as you can see with the image I posted. SEE LIGHTING DIAGRAM BELOW

If I remember correctly the studio shot was used inside the magazine. I've included the unretouched, straight out of Lightroom version here:

If I were to crop for print it would be slightly above the knees. This would be identical to a Women's Running Magazine cover.  I used 4 lights with umbrellas for an even blue background. The rim lights had medium strip softboxes with grids. The grids focus the light on the subject while reducing the bounce on the ceiling and floor. They're also ideal for minimizing flare in the camera lens. I used a medium octabank as the key light, with an intentional Rembrandt lighting pattern. The fill was my usual 7' octabank.

For these shots, I back  the model up close to the seamless.  I show them the mark I need them to hit and the stride I need at that exact moment. For every time they run towards me, I only get one frame and one chance to get it all right. It's a strength in numbers game but I have yet to meet a subject who likes the numbers to add up.

I've included the lighting diagrams below for each setup. They're hardly accurate or pretty. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about this shoot or anything else on my blog, please feel free to reach out!

Lighting Diagram of location shoot for cover image

Lighting Diagram of studio shoot