On Location with Rick Friedman
What happens when you take 16 working pro photographers, a ton of lighting gear, one location lighting expert, and stuff them all into the biggest barn you’ve ever seen? The place really lights up.
LPA recently sponsored and hosted a location lighting workshop for members of ASMP New England with Boston-based photographer Rick Friedman. Rick’s got the energy dial set to maximum pretty much all the time which is definitely part of his success as both a photojournalist and photo educator. He’s also got a bag full of PocketWizard radios which he puts to work in all his lighting work – both with speedlights as well as with studio lights.
Starting in the PocketWizard Studio, Rick reviewed his work with an emphasis on “how I did that,” which encompassed the types of lights, gels, modifiers and gobos used to create interesting images of interesting people in interesting (and some less-than-interesting) places. Such is the life of an editorial photographer. With these preliminaries covered, we relocated to one of the more magnificent places in Vermont – Shelburne Farms, and more specifically, the Breeding Barn – one of the largest barns in the world. (Writer’s comment: This was a purely selfish suggestion to use this location as I’ve been looking for a way to spend a couple days photographing it for a while, and now I would have some help to light the place up).
Marshall Webb, an avid photographer and descendent of the family who built the property, stopped by to give a brief history of the property and quickly became the subject of a paparazzi-style shooting frenzy. He willingly volunteered to come by later and model for a large scale portrait where we would also be lighting a good portion of the barn.
Much of the day was spent using speedlights with PocketWizard FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 radios in a variety of different lighting situations using Rick’s and LPA’s arsenal of lights, modifiers and gobo’s. This was a great hands-on opportunity for those that did not have extensive experience using radio to trigger their lighting as well as a great way to experiment with new lighting tricks that you might not try on a paid assignment.
As the day slid into late afternoon, the group began focusing on the portrait session with Marshall. The plan was to position Marshall outside the barn at sunset and light both Marshall and the entire north end of the barn from the inside. Normally, a shot like this would require considerable planning and coordination. This shot would be done from start to finish in two hours with the gear on hand – a very mixed bag of lights and radios.
The group divided responsibility between lighting the inside of the barn and lighting Marshall on a hill a couple hundred feet away. Lighting included speedlights and studio lights (Dynalights, Elinchrom and Einstein’s). Triggering was done primarily with PocketWizard radios with a couple lights being triggered optically due to a lack of connector cables for the Plus II’s being used (yes, a little planning would have helped). In total, there were roughly a dozen lights being used.
Once Marshall arrived and the shooting began, it became a game of “pass-the-PocketWizard” so everyone could get their turn triggering the set-up. Marshall was incredibly patient as all sixteen participants and Rick set about to make their shot. (Writer’s note: Fortunately I had set my own MiniTT1 to the same channel and boosted the lights to get some behind the scenes photos from the inside.)
Day Two concentrated on the use of bigger lights as well as mixing big lights with speedlights. The group broke into two and did a couple elaborate set-ups that used multiple lights. A breakaway group disappeared to try and overpower the sun with HyperSync using an Einstein E640 and the PowerMC2.
For a workshop finale, a group portrait was pulled together with everyone climbing onto some hay wagons with their speedlight to light themselves. This would be a simple task if everyone shot Canon or Nikon or everyone had a Plus II, but with a mix of gear it becomes a bit more complex. The PockWizard tech’s on hand got everyone set to receive a standard trigger from the triggering MultiMAX and the shot was accomplished and out came the Long Trail beer to celebrate.
Rick’s a great instructor with boundless energy and his assistant, Keiko Hiromi, is someone you would love to have helping out on a shoot. If you get a chance to attend one of their workshops, go.
Thanks to Natalie Stultz, Andy Duback, Raj Chawla and Carolyn Bates for their organizational efforts to make the workshop happen. Special thanks to Marshall Webb and Shelburne Farms for use of their barn for the workshop. Extra special thanks to Rick Friedman and Keiko Hiromi. Finally, thanks to ASMP New England for their support.
For a gallery of images from the workshop, check out the PocketWizard Smugmug gallery here.
If you’re interested in attending one of Rick Friedman’s workshops, you’ll find more info here.