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Tornado warnings. 60 mile-per-hour winds. Rain. Lightning. Generally, when you hear these weather alerts, the last thing you are thinking about is going out to shoot. But time and again I have learned the hard way, that if you don't give it a try, you may miss a great shot.
Recently, I had a shoot with Mike Deavours, an indoor league football player for the Colorado Ice. On the day of the shoot, tornadoes had been spotted to the east and at the location, 60 mile-per-hour winds were being recorded. Knowing Mike was a big guy, I figured the wind wouldn't knock him over. But putting up lightstands and softboxes didn't sound so good.
When I arrived at the field, I discovered that the weatherman had it right. Strong winds were blowing over player benches , and a trash can blew across the field. But we also had dramatic, dark cloudy skies and no rain. Mike and I seemed to find the madness even more humorous and inspiring. He was up for shooting as long as I was. I wanted to use strip banks on his sides, and a small softbox as the main light. I set up one small softbox and it was instantly flattened by the wind.
Plan B: Sometimes your lighting is the result of environmental conditions, not creative ones. I decided to still go for two side strip lights and one main light, but all of them hard-edged lights with standard reflectors. I weighed down the stands with 20 pounds of sand, put the Elinchrom heads on and crossed my fingers. Instantly, a stand blew over. More sand. I use Elinchrom Rangers, and they are perfect for this type of use or abuse. I knew the packs would perform flawlessly, and despite getting knocked to the ground, the Freelite A heads worked without a hitch.
The wind was getting stronger, so we needed to get this shot fast. We worked through a number of poses, shooting a few frames of each and then moving on to the next. This wasn't the shoot to hang around and bat the breeze. The winds were getting stronger and the clouds more ominous. The Rangers kept popping light, and Mike liked showing his "angry football look" for the shots. I'm convinced the weather made his angry look appear even more angry! After an hour of shooting, we were finished. I thought the image above best captured the mood of the day. We pumped up the drama in post production by adding contrast and vignetting to the image.
Next time Colorado is expecting more tornadoes, I'll be packing my photo gear.
For more information go to www.tombolphoto.com