David Guy Maynard on Packing Light
“I use a lot of big gear in the studio,” says David Guy Maynard. “There’s no question about that. Big monoblocks, the works. But when you go out on location, you generally don’t have a power supply.” This is evident in the video promo (above) from his upcoming DVD. Entitled Location Lighting with Speedlites: Smaller Gear, Bigger Results, Maynard is all about great results from less gear.
“We were out on an island shooting for the DVD. There’s no electricity available there. So then you’re looking at big power packs with huge battery backup systems. I generally have an assistant or two with me, but it’s a lot of gear. I often work on location, and it’s difficult and expensive to take multiple cases. Over the last several years I’ve been trying to minimize what I take, still get the results I want, but have a lot less to carry, set-up and maintain. There are techniques you can use to get the same results to make it look like you shot it in a $50,000 studio, but you do it with a decent size bag and a little imagination.”
Maynard’s DVD, due in early 2010, runs for one hour, and promises to explore his evolving philosophy of shooting with lighter gear, planning an entire shoot, running from one to three light setups, the choosing and use of modifiers and other gear, off-camera lighting techniques and dealing with difficult sunlight conditions.
“Most photographers I meet are, by nature, techno junkies and gadget freaks,” says Maynard. “It’s just who we are. When I started in photography as a kid with no money, I got used to using whatever was at my disposal, like my dad’s shoplight and the reflectors from car windows to protect your dashboard. When I went pro, I got spoiled by all the great, large gear. For the past five years I’ve done more and more location work. I travel a lot. Working with less gear is a matter of convenience and necessity. I simply can’t afford to stress my back lugging heavy gear around. Because of this, I constantly try new tricks and pieces of equipment to make my location rig smaller. A lot of stuff gets tossed aside because it doesn’t hold up. In the last three years I’ve really honed what’s in my travel photo bag. It’s now a small fraction of what I used to carry, and I’m actually getting better photos than I used to.”
Among the smaller gear Maynard is packing these days include the Canon Speedlight 580EX. “It works perfectly with the PocketWizard’s HyperSync technology. A speedlight is a speedlight. It’s how you control them that makes the biggest difference. I carry five speedlights now of different makes and models. It’s rare to see me shooting with just one light.” He also carries the LumiQuest Snoot and assorted lightweight stands, among other goodies in his bag.
Maynard relies on PocketWizard technology to fire all his location lights. A MiniTT1 and three FlexTT5 units enable him to fire up to four lights at a time. “I like to use a lot of odd-ball lighting setups. The TT1 and the TT5 are reliable,” he reports. “They’ll go off every time, and they’ll go off in whatever way I want them to. I like that. I still have Plus IIs and I use those for certain things, but they’re getting less attention now that I’m using the Mini and Flex set-up. They work with the Plus IIs, so if I want to throw a Plus II in for a background light, I can dial that in for less light on Manual setting. This means I can be out in a park and running five lights with no electricity. I can do hair lighting, backlighting, effects lighting under furniture, around walls, or whatever. Any lighting situation that would’ve taken you two hours to set up in the studio, you can do on location with a five minute set-up time. Things have changed, and for the better. I would’ve never dreamt of doing anything remotely close to this ten years ago.”
Thanks to Maynard’s advocacy of smaller and better gear, the word is spreading. “I’m happy to say I’m part of pushing that trend. I recommend this gear to someone, or I say, ‘here’s how you can get that big studio shot,’ and that makes them happy. They realize it’s a shot they might not have gotten otherwise out on location. It’s becoming more popular. I’ve seen guys who always used to go out with all the big gear, and now they’re using less and lighter equipment, and they’re getting the shots they want.” Although still a self-professed fan of big studio gear, “I love having that flexibility, but the ability on location has changed.”
Never afraid to experiment, Maynard mixes the two worlds now and then. “Sometimes in the studio I’ll run big lights as primary, and I’ll pull out one or two speedlights and throw them in the background as a hair light. I’ll mix the studio lights and speedlights with no problem.”
Inspired by his older brother, Maynard has been shooting since he was eleven. He’s shot as a serious hobbiest and twelve years ago started taking paying assignments. Six years ago he went pro full-time. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Shutterbug, Popular Photography, Digital Photo Pro, PDN, Business Traveler, and many more.
2010 promises to be a big year for Maynard. Along with the DVD’s release, a secret project is in the works. He has been collaborating with a manufacturer to create some innovative new lighting products, of which he will say nothing except that he’s been shooting with the prototypes. “The shots I’ve been getting are unreal,” he reports. We can look forward to seeing Maynard get more with less for some time to come.