Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen of Ottawa, Ontario shoots some great commercial interiors, but his true passion is people. Environmental portraiture is where he really shines, doing his best to catch an individual’s entire personality in just one frame. Here’s his account of an exciting outdoor photo test he undertook.
Sometimes we take photos just because we can.
I was walking around the Ottawa River with the Canon 200-400mm f/4 L IS 1.4x Extender, testing it for my review on canonrumors.com. With such a long telephoto reach, one that I’m not typically used to, I started looking, and seeing, things in areas I hadn’t before. This included a really cool cliff opposite Ottawa’s Parliament on the Quebec side. It was covered in graffitti, which meant it was also accessible. It gave me the idea to try to take a really cool and unique shot; a portrait from across the river from Ottawa to Hull, Ontario to Quebec — an interprovincial photo shoot.
I went home to brainstorm the logistics of the shoot. I knew the lighting would be contrasty and unflattering during the day (as it is) which would move the shoot closer to dusk and sunset. I had never been to the cliffs either, and since I would be on one side of the river to take the shots, whoever I would send out there would be on their own. That didn’t sit well with me, so I knew I would have to enlist one or two volunteers as assistants as added security. I also knew I wanted to light it, because taking a photo from 1600 feet away isn’t hard enough, I wanted to do something different and make the image pop.
How are we going to light someone that far away? I know my Canon ST-E3-RT system can’t go that far, neither can my Elinchrom Skyports. I had just read about PocketWizard radios new Plus III Transceiver’s, that not only had a “long range” option, but also offered a relay mode to piggy-back the signal from one PocketWizard radio to the next. I did a little Google Map math, and figured the direct line from camera to location (about 1600 feet) was a bit too close to push the max range on a set of transceivers, which is rated at 1600 feet. Adding a relay point on a conveniently placed island would cut that distance in half and should assure us a successful flash trigger.