Rising before the chickens

No doubt about it, I'm not a morning person. Dragging my carcass out of a nice warm bed when all is dark and quiet is just not my idea of a good time. However if I can figure out a way to get the photos that I want, sleep is optional. When I got the assignment to do a portrait of triathlete Colleen Cooke, I immediately saw her at dawn. Mostly because those kind of events start at or near first light. That and it would look cool. Right? So when I talked to her about my idea she was totally in. Yeay!

We got to the location, a local reservoir at 5:30am and it was cold and perfectly still. There was a light fog over the water and we had very clear skies. Lovely! I had in my head the pose and the look that I wanted but wasn't sure exactly how I was going to light her. I had plan "A", a simple scheme, and plan "B" that was more complicated, already figured out it was all depending on where I was going to put her and what her bicycle looked like. I set up plan "A" and my first test shot told me that was exactly what I wanted.

Colleene Cooke


This shot was technically easy, I guess, two strobes and ambient light. I had one Nikon SB-800 on a short stand firing into a small Chimera SuperPro softbox pointing up at her just out of the frame and it's exposure was set to about 3 stops under "normal" to act as a fill light. I didn't want the bicycle to be totally silhouetted. I then had my assistant hold a boom with another Nikon SB-800 with a ZootSnoot to focus the light onto her face. The strobe in the softbox was triggered by a PocketWizard and the other was triggered by it's internal slave. I was lying on the beach with my Gitzo 320 tripod as far down as it would go. My camera was my trusty Nikon D200 at ISO100, daylight white balance and my Nikon AF-S 17-35 f/2.8 was set to 20mm @ f/5.6 and the exposure was 1/3rd sec.   

5 minutes after we wrapped up the shoot and got Colleene dry and warm again, the sun popped over the horizon and everything in the sky flattened out. I hate getting up early but if it's for something like that … I'm there dude!

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