There is a LOT going on in this picture, despite it being a very calm moment with Rob “The Hurricane” Peacock. For me, this was a picture that was a couple of months in the planning, but was so worth it.
The basics: 6 Speedlights involved, plus some ambient. All of this was in one frame. That’s what I was most pumped about. Let me give you the backstory.
If you don’t know by know, I am a very big fan of Flash photography, and make it a point of checking out the work of people like Zack Arias, David Hobby (The Strobist), and Joe McNally. Joe’s been someone who I have looked up to for a very long time. I always tell the story of running home with take out, excited to sit and watch McNally’s “The Speed of Light” DVD as it came in the mail the day prior. That’s kinda where my core is, really.. I love being able to ‘figure out’ a shot.
My buddy Keith Winn came to me a few months back and asked me if I were interested in a a shoot with a trick pool player – Rob “The Hurricane” Peacock. He’s a photographer as well and wondered whether we could do a picture of him doing one of his tricks. Initially, he thought that we’d fake repeating flash by using a on camera unit and firing off 40 frames with the ball at different spots and just merge them in Photoshop.
We sat at a chinese food place near work eating and I said “The people who i’d love to show this picture to aren’t going to give a damn about whether I did this with 40 images and Photoshop. The question isnt whether we can do it with 40 pictures, but whether we can do it in one.”
I wanted to make a ‘scene’ with the trick shot – not necessarily just strobe the ball in flight. In the end, I wanted it to have a little bit of context. Keith took me to a location with “The Hurricane” showing me an old room where he practices the shots. I thought to myself “This is where I will make my stand with the shot”
The next couple of weeks I’d lay in bed thinking of how I could strobe the ball through the shot and not overexpose the felt. I’d also sit and think about how to be able to render a scene of it all using repeating flash. I’d make notes and scribble, do flash tests in the garage, and just think about colors and such, getting ready for the shot.
Finally, we sat at 845PM on a Thursday, coffee in hand to figure it out. My buddy Dave Rogers came out to serve as another VAL for the shoot and off we went with it. Halfway through the setup process, we thought we’d pull out a camera and make a quick video about it (Keep in mind, this is handheld with a 1.4, so the focus is just crap.. but it gets the point across):
About 5 hours into the shoot, we finally got all of the moving pieces into play to get some good frames. David and Keith were absolutely stellar here as they served as the ultimate VAL (Voice Actuated Lightstands – a cool way to say assistants). One of the biggest things that can help a photographer is the ability to step back and readjust if something isnt working – something that I constantly struggle with. I get very “dog with a bone” about things and sometimes don’t change as often as I should. David and Keith offered suggestions along the way that really did bring a lot more to the image – from the cleanup of the second table to the actual lighting of the lights in the scene.. these things wouldve gone unnoticed had it not been for their Collaboration. I’m very grateful.
As I was going back through the shoot, I was marking images as ‘rejected’ in Lightroom very quickly. As I was advancing really fast.. I noticed that all of the rejects I was marking provided a really cool “Warts and All” Flipbook of how each light came into play and let you see the process unfold – as well as see some ideas we tried and bailed on after a bit (Yes, we tried throwing strobes into the lights above the table):
What -I- like about the shot:
- In order for us to shoot Repeating Flash, all of the flashes had to repeat. Stroboscopic is hard because the more you flash an area, the hotter it gets, the more overexposed it gets. To counteract this, we pulled/snooted stuff back, added diffusion to some flashes.. things like that.. I wanted to render the whole scene, despite the strobo going on.
- Rob’s shot goes from where he is, bounces on the opposite rail, then FLIES BACK over the balls to hit the 8 ball in. In order for you to see that, the balls were set on the table to show that this was one of the only ways for him to make the shot. He was blocked on both ends by both the balls, and banking wouldve been hard with the balls blocking. So, from a trick shot it makes sense, but from a pool part it makes sense too.
- Flashing Rob 30x in the face didnt make sense on the shot, and wouldnt let us get him in focus. So, we dragged shutter -past- the strobing part, then remotely fired the final snooted strobe that was lighting him right before the shutter closed.
- Light gets painted into the lights by starting off with the lights -on- during the exposure, then immediately turning them off… paints the lights, but doesnt have the exposure burn into the scene.
A big thanks to Keith and Dave for collaborating with me on the shot! An even bigger thanks goes out to Rob “The Hurricane” Peacock who sat through of 5 hours of having a strobe flash him right in the face while he tried to make a supremely complex shot. The fact that he got it in several times during this onslaught is a miracle in of itself!
What I like the most? That I had a very specific vision on how I wanted this shot to look.. and through keeping my eyes and ears open, was able to get it to its final conclusion.. 🙂