Standing fast, SSgt Matthew Chase is vigilant as he guards an imposing top secretfacility…or at least that’s what I would have thought with my first glance at this photo. In reality, we’re on the Andrews AFB flight line just before 6 pm on a Saturday after drill!
Being a Reservist gives me access to some awesome people and amazing backdrops, which I’m very fortunate to have at my disposal. SSgt Chase and SrA Ryan Mathsen (below) are great troops who agreed to stick around with me for a couple of hours after we finished our work day to do this shoot. I’m incrediblygratefulto them for donating their time and going the extra mile to acquire weapons.
For this shoot I brought out my two Alien Bees 1600WS strobes and attached them to my new Vagabond II battery pack. I went”bare bulb” with the flash heads since there was a slight crosswind coming off of the runway, and I still don’t have sand bags yet.
The first light in this photo is positioned camera right and about 50 degrees off axis to created that dramatic shadow on SSgt Chase’s face. The second light is positioned far off camera left to kiss the underside of the KC-135, but still with enough fill light to keep thescenemoody. I underexposed the frame by -2 stops to create a dark and dramatic feel. I also did just a hair of retouching in Photoshop todesaturatethe colors and throw some blue into the frame.
In the second shot, I wanted to create a tight portrait frame with the jet in the background and the subject closer to the camera, but I knew this was going to be tricky…and it was. The positioning took a couple of tries and I went through a number of different exposure levels until I came to around -1 1/3 stops. I picked a point off in the distance for SrA Mathsen to stare at intently, and then positioned my first light around 30 degrees off the camera’s axis to capture the detail of his uniform and gear. I moved the second light closer to the jet to create a hot spot forseparationbetween the background and foreground, which in part made the light fall off a lot faster on the jet.
I HAD toincorporatethe other two weapons they brought along for the last shot… the M-249 and a sweet shotgun! This shot was initially tough to frame because I wanted to include the building, plane, and troops. I switched from my CZ 16-80mm to my Tamron 70-200mm to compress the frame and get all those different elements in there nice and tight. I positioned my two lights just off to their right since the strobes had to be further away to keep out of the shot.
I want to send a BIG THANKS out to SSgt Matthew Chase and SrA Ryan Mathsen for being killer subjects. In the next 5-10 years, I hope that I can shoot this type of ‘military photography’ full time as a freelancer and they’ve helped me immensely to get one step closer to that goal!