Profoto A1 for Winter Portraits in the Swedish “Alps”

April 7, 2018 · 2 comments

In Sweden during winter as a photographer you don’t really need that much light. Overpowering the sun is not a challenge when there is no sun to speak of.

But, on vacation skiing up north on a sunny day with lots of snow, suddenly you will need a lot more power. This year, I only brought my two Profoto A1, but for these portraits I only used one.

Fitting a Nikon D750, two lenses, a Profoto A1, an umbrella and a Manfrotto Nano stand in a small backpack was simple. Lighting a portrait and battling the sun was not so much harder.

High-Speed Sync on a sunny day

Thinking back to when I was restricted to 1/200s and only being able to use ND-filter or my aperture, life has become a lot easier. The resulting portrait above was taken with a 24-70mm/2.8 at 29mm and f/2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/4000 second.

I had my Profoto A1 with a milky white semi-transparent small umbrella very close to the medium sized slalom guy. The effect was probably on max, that is 10 on the display.

Using an umbrella forces me to work quite close to the model for two reasons; one is that the umbrella steals at least one f-stop of light, and the other is that I like relatively large light sources for portraits.

Off-Camera flash “bare bulb”

My second experiment was to remove the umbrella, but to call it “bare bulb” is maybe not quite correct as the bulb is not bare. Zooming the Profoto A1 to the most tele setting, I got a narrow beam of light.

Partially lit portrait

Working with a speedlight or a Profoto A1 without modifiers can be rewarding, especially outdoors. Just by zooming the head from a wide to a narrow beam can change the overall feel a lot.

Still, with HSS, I was able to use aperture 2.8 at ISO200 on this sunny day. Without the umbrella, there was power enough to move the A1 further from the model.

Fake CTO with goggles

Just for fun, I tried using my ski goggles as CTO filter, but that didn’t turn out as good as I hoped. Apparently the manufacturers of goggles don’t calibrate their plastic to the gel filter standards photographers work with. Which is a shame.

Freezing movement + on-camera flash

Using my Profoto A1 as a regular speedlight is something I do a lot. My old Nikon SB-910 is mostly collecting dust nowadays.

On a sunny day like this, having a powerful flash on camera can be very helpful. If you want to see every individual snowflake hanging suspended in the air, for example.

For the two photos above, I had the camera set on M to manually control my exposure. Snow and clear blue sky can sometimes be a bit confusing for TTL and the camera sometimes.

But, the last photo is TTL on my Profoto A1 and A on the camera, and that worked well, I think.

Having used my two Profoto A1 since my review, with or without different light modifiers (here is a test about that), I can say that it is still a very useful piece/s of equipment.

On some assignments, I have relied on only one or both of them. But, most of the times, they work as perfect companions to my B1 or B2. Sometimes as a small fill light, sometimes as rim lights and in a few cases, background lights.

The best thing about them is that I can bring two more light sources including small Manfrotto Nano stands with the weight penalty of less than a Profoto B1 (not including a stand for that).

/Stefan

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Annie April 7, 2018 at 10:56

Great post, Stefan. I also have 2 x A1s and find the portability great. Also, the latest firmware update automatically puts them in HSS whenever the camera SS goes above sync speed. I’m hoping Profoto also adds this feature to the Air Remotes.

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2 Stefan Tell April 13, 2018 at 00:06

Thanks.
They have made me use more light sources again. I had a trend of reducing equipment on-location, but now I can have the cake and eat it too. Or at least carry less weight with me. Manfrotto Nano stands are perfect on a calm day, or indoors.

Sounds like you don’t have a Nikon as I do? Is it Canon that needs this extra step of activating HSS?

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