Robert Snow Freezing Liquid Water
With family on the same part of land since 1849, Robert Snow is a fifth generation Floridian. With roots that deep, it’s no wonder he’s drawn to all things water which the coast of Florida can offer. A native of the Tampa area, Snow got involved with photography while in high school. Through a teacher, he found the Southeast College of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida. Before graduation, he began assisting. “That’s really what helped,” he says. “That really started to open my eyes to this world of advertising, photography, and editorial photography. It was pretty exciting.”
After assisting for six years he went pro full-time, although he still assists a few older friends when he’s available. Known for his extreme sports photography and lifestyle work, Snow shoots almost exclusively on location, traveling the world from his Orlando base. He’s often found in the water or on a beach, capturing impressive images of young athletes, or people living the sporting life.
Snow credits his time as a surfer with getting him interested in chronicling life outdoors. He also had a few professional surfer friends, who helped influence him. He cites surfing as possibly the most difficult sport to shoot because of the near-impossibility of lining up where in the ocean a surfer will eventually be. Staging a golfing shot, for example, is infinitely easier because you can control the positioning of the athlete. “The experience of shooting surfers has made me a better photographer when I photograph other sports,” he says.
Shooting mainly with a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, Snow also has a Canon EOS 7D. “I have all Canon lenses,” he says. “I have the 15mm, 20mm, 28mm, 50mm, and 100mm prime and the 600mm prime, and then I have the zoom lenses as well.”
For a recent series of surfing images captured in a wave pool, Snow relied on the PocketWizard FlexTT5 as his transmitter. “I had read the TT5 was the best transmitter to shoot from the long distance, so I brought it in,” he says. “We did a little bit of testing beforehand. We were able to get the 7D to sync at a 1/320th of a second. We didn’t spend a ton of time syncing it in. It was kind of right before the shoot, so we didn’t have a lot of time, but I was happy with that, because it was going to be night for most of the shooting and I knew we’d be able to stop action with the frustration from the strobes with that shutter speed. They worked great. Since that shoot, I’ve picked up the MiniTT1 and I’ve been doing some other stuff with it. It’s blown me away.”
Since that time, Snow has expanded his knowledge of what PocketWizards can do. “When I first was testing this in my home, I didn’t even understand how they worked. I was trying to figure it out. I was able to sync within my house with a Profoto Pro-7b up to a 1/400th of a second, and then when I went beyond a 1/400th of a second, I was still seeing the strobe. I wasn’t seeing the dark line on the top or the bottom, but it looked like it was about a quarter of the power that it was below a 1/400th of a second, a 1/400th or below. I was able to crank the camera up to a 1/2000th of a second and still see the strobe at about the quarter of the power it was at, at a 1/400th of a second. It was blowing me away, and I was thinking of the possibilities with pro‑trained sports you could do. We’ve definitely got some things in the works to really maximize the TT5 and the TT1.”
Snow reports his units continue to perform in the humidity and extreme conditions he puts them through. “Yes, they’ve been holding up pretty well. It’s nice to have them, because a lot of times we’ll rent the Profoto Pro-B2 or the new Pro-B3 packs, which have the PocketWizards built in. When you can travel with your transmitters and you can get those battery‑powered packs out on location, it ends up saving you a little bit of money on your total rental, because you don’t have to rent a ton of PocketWizards to go with each pack. That’s been nice. They’ve been pretty heavy‑duty.”
The wave pool video, which has been getting Snow a lot of attention, started with an idea. Seeing other shooters building water housings for Canon flashes or different strobes, he noticed they were using PocketWizards. An assistant would swim out into the water at night, and the guessing would begin in hopes the shooter would be able to take advantage of a small window of light. It seemed to Snow a significant effort with a low chance of getting a very good photo.
While attending a party at a wave pool, he thought, “With the right surfers, this could be a great wave. I think I could light this place up and use it as if it were a studio with some location packs, like with the Profoto packs.” The first time he tried, he went without assistants and ran several Profoto Pro-3B packs. He got two images he thought had potential, and fueled him to continue, this time with professional surfers.
Snow uses a Sekonic L-358 light meter. “It’s got the built-in PocketWizard transmitter. I’ve had the same light meter since I watched some demo at my college and the rep threw it across the commercial studio on the concrete floor, and then asked one of the students to pick it up. He picked it up and said, ‘Take a light reading.’ He took a light reading, and it was still working. I’ve had my 358 ever since then.”
In the future, Snow plans on some shooting in the Everglades. He also has jobs for Red Bull and Cobra-PUMA Golf happening. No matter what, expect to see some high speed action frozen across a variety of sports. Robert Snow is set to capture motion wherever he can.
Written by Ron Egatz