Above: This was probably my favorite from the gym shoot, and while it was fairly easy to make, the athlete (his name was Reeth) who had to do pull up after pull up until I got it just like I wanted it, had it a lot tougher than I did by a long shot.

Above: Here’s the production shot (photo by Brad Moore—click for a larger view), and although there are two strobes in the shot (one to my left, as noted in the image, and one behind Reeth, we turned that back one off for this shot after I didn’t like how it looked).

The one strobe we did use is a flash head connected to a Ranger RX, but to make the light punchier, we removed the front diffuser (you can see it hanging from the bottom of the softbox). We did leave the inner diffuser still on the inside of the softbox, so while it wasn’t a bare flash bulb, it was pretty darn close.

Above: Here’s why I felt bad for Reeth—he had to do pull ups and then hold himself there while I fired off shot after shot. After I took a few shots and looked at them on my LCD, I felt like Reeth wasn’t doing it exactly right, so I asked him to step aside for a moment, and I jumped up there and did a few reps to show him what I was looking for. I started by just hanging on the bar, and then I looked at Reeth and said, “Watch….and learn,” and then I….then I…. (ah heck, even I can’t keep this up this charade with a straight face). Hey, I had ya there for a minute though, right? No? No? Rats!

Camera Settings
The shot was taken with a Nikon D3s at f/9 at 1/80 of a second. The shutter speed isn’t very fast—what froze the powder was the flash—-I just had to time my shot to when his hand hit the bar, which was much easier than actually being the guy on the bar. My ISO is 200, and since I was using strobes, I was in Manual mode. I shot this with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (seen above) out at 200mm.

Post Processing
I wish I had an exciting story about the post processing, but sadly I don’t. In Camera Raw (well, Lightroom’s Develop Module) I added some contrast (using the Tone Curve) and I added quite a bit of Clarity as well. Then I opened the image in Photoshop and sharpened it quite a bit, using the Unsharp Mask with these settings: Amount 100, Radius 1.5, Threshold 0. This type of shot, where every detail can be really crisp, can really handle a lot of sharpening, so I wasn’t shy about pouring it on. That’s pretty much it.

Above: Here’s another shot of Mo (the stair runner from yesterday)—suspending himself from two rings. I went for a really dark dramatic look, because if I didn’t you’d see those darn wooden stairs behind him, and all that other distracting stuff.

Above: Here’s the production photo (by Brad Moore) and you can see where I positioned the lights—-on either side of Mo, facing each other diagonally. Once Mo pulled himself up on the rings, they would start to rotate, so once he was facing that strobe without a softbox (just a reflector and a spot grid), I would take the shot, and after a few tries I got the shot you just saw previously.

Camera Settings
I started by underexposing the ambient room light by a few stops so it was really dark, then I would light Mo with just the flash. Again, I got lucky that I got shots of him from different angles without me moving my position as Mo slowly rotated on the rings. Of course, since he was rotating, each frame looked different, both from a lighting perspective and a posing one as well. Some looked good (like the one above) and some stunk, but hey—I only needed one good one, right?

Same lighting and camera set-up. Same f/stop, ISO, and all, but the shutter speed was 1/125 of a second. Why the shutter speed change? My finger probably accidentally hit the control dial on the camera at one point or another.

Keeping it Simple Rocks
I hate to say—I loved having such a simple and portable rig for this gym shoot. Just two very small battery packs (an Elinchrom Ranger RX, and a Ranger Quadra), with just two small flash heads total. We used just one small softbox and a reflector and a Grid—that’s all we used for the entire shoot, and that’s why I was able to get 8 or 9 different looks done, in different parts of the gym, with different people, in just a few short hours.

I hope to post a few more images from the shoot, and some behind-the-scenes production shots as well for you all on Friday. In the meantime, don’t miss Guest Blog Wednesday, and Pimpy Thursday here, and then I’ll see you on Friday.

About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.

29 Comments

  1. Awesome shots, Scott!!!

    And thanks, Brad for all the production/bts shots :)

    – Brandon

    PS: Take that Ken ;)

  2. Fantastic shots both of them. The runner in the earlier post and the hand one above in this one.

    I really like post work for the runners. Create a great feel, definitely.

    Thanks for sharing the info on the tech specs as always. For the exact exposure as you needed, how much trial shots do you generally take before the actual shoot, for eg. the last one of Mo suspending.

    Thanks in advance.

  3. Scott is always simple genius)

  4. excellent shots! thanks for sharing :)

  5. Great shots Scott! It shows how simplicity can pay off. :-)

  6. Great shots Scott. I agree that keeping it simple rocks. I have tried complex lighting and the best looking shots were always the simple ones…usually with one light.

  7. Scott

    Thanks so much for the behind the scenes look. For a rank armature like myself it is really helpful to understand the thinking and set up behind the great shots. I enjoy the production shots by Brad as well. That is what I like about your books so much, is the one on one teaching you receive.

    You Rock
    Upde

  8. Scott,

    Would two SB-700 triggered wirelessly work the same as the Quadra Ranger packs? I thought 2 flashes are much, much lighter to carry than the battery packs and heads. Would it limit the quality of light, power output and recycling time if you use SB flashes instead of the Quadra Rangers?

    Thanks for posting these behind-the-scene images, they’re really helpful in understanding your lighting technique.

    Awesome work, as usual.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your behind the scenes, it helps the newbies (me =D) a lot!

  10. Super shots, Scott. I especially love yesterday’s stair climbing shot and toda’s hand hitting the chin-up bar. I’m curious why it was necessary to have your model actually complete a chin-up each take when you were only interested in capturing his one forearm and wrist. I understand how you’d want the flexed tendons and muscles, but could he not just have hung from the bar?
    Can’t wait to see the completed images with text and all.

    Trev J.

  11. Great series of images, Scott. As much as I like seeing the final product, including Brad’s shots of the set-ups really helps to clarify how everything is positioned in the scene. This works much better than a diagram. Please include these in any future books!!

    If you have any photos of your lighting/camera gear packed up and ready for transport, can you put one of those up on Friday? I think that some people would like to see just how portable all of your gear is when you go on assignment. Of course, all I can see in my mind’s eye is you walking to the car with nothing in your hands, and Brad carrying about 150 lbs. of bags right behind you! :D

    And you can’t convince me that the last two pictures aren’t of Matt! Come on, look at those abs! :D :D

    –John

  12. Most lighting sessions that I have seen offered are for people who shoot models. Can you point me toward any classes for people who need help with product photography? I’ve just started doing that for my company, and could use help.

  13. I would love to see the same shot but of Dave Cross grabbing a Wacom tablet pen and the chalk flying off of it.

  14. Scott, from the photos I’ve seen I think you should put down the camera and join these guys on the exercise mat. Pushing the shutter button ain’t doin’ it for ya, dude.

  15. Great lighting job to catch that chalk dust flying.

  16. Hey Scott

    Add the Chalked Hand to your portfolio. Beautiful.

  17. Why did you shoot at 80th of second since all the exposure is coming from the strobes? Wouldn’t it been better just to shoot at 200th or 250th and make sure you got the sharpest shot possible especially shooting with a 70-200 lens? inquiring minds want to know :)

    • Arnold:

      I cant speak for Scott, but i’d say this. Normally, I cant get sync to be pretty accurate at around 250th.. 200 maybe but I wouldnt push 250.

      That gives a window from 80-200. How much of a difference would there have been between these two? I’d say negligible.. but that’s just me.

      Given that – and I really mean this in the nicest way possible… Did you see a problem with the sharpness or mood of the image? Was there something glaring in the image that immediately necessitated your recommendation?

      Id go out on a limb and say that sometimes, you can ask a photographer why they chose X or why.. and there’s a probability that they’re going to ask “you know.. it seemed like a good idea at the time”.

      And that’s ok.. unless the shot totally failed. Which I dont think happened.

      Constructively,
      RC

      :)

  18. Great grip shot with the powdery cloud. Wonderful. Well done.

  19. Very cool shots Scott and really awesome way you and Brad are showing us how did you do it.
    I really enjoy reading and understanding shots with portable strobe lights like ranger, quadra, small flashes (SB900). That’s why I have all Joe Mcnally’s book and I love it!
    But Scott, I think you’re the guy in the case of teaching when you writes a book. You really know how to show us and I guess you are the best in the world!
    How about write a book about lights? I would love it and I bet that would sell like all your other books.
    Thank you so much and I hope you keep writing, blogging, teaching as always…
    Cheers!

  20. Hi Mr Kelby,

    Just wanted to ask, What do you think of the Cameras like the sony nex etc. You know, the point-and-shoot/slr hybrids?

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