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Lighting Brilliant, World-Class Athletes

Behind the Scenes of an Action Shoot

Lighting Brilliant, World-Class Athletes

All photos by Joâo Carlos

Back in March I had the opportunity to shoot Portuguese Olympic medalist Francis Obikwelu and my good friend and tri-athlete Bruno Brito.

Unfortunately Francis Obikwelu had suffered an injury that left him unable to participate in the 2012 London Summer games. Shortly after the games ended, I was lucky enough to have an entire ten minutes to shoot with him during one of his training sessions.

It’s important to keep your subject happy and show him/her what the results look like to guarantee they are enjoying the images and feel comfortable. 

When photographing world-class athletes, as with any other public figure or celebrity, you usually have very little time to shoot. The logistics in a shoot like this are almost always complicated and this was no different.

Working on location is a challenge too. There is not enough time. There is not enough space. There is not enough light. Adding to the complications, I had confirmation to shoot all the athletes, but I did not have authorizations of all the locations. When I finally secured a great location two of the athletes couldn’t shoot there, but in any situation you must always be flexible and have a plan B and plan C. I try to be prepared for the unexpected but, most of all, be flexible and keep it simple.

For my backup plan, I used a great wall on the side of the building as my background. I love the texture and color; it was exactly what I wanted before I even knew what I wanted.

One way I like to keep things simple is by renting equipment. I’m already familiar with the gear so it’s like owning my own stuff but without having to travel with it, which adds travel expenses and wear and tear. So when I can, I like to rent.

For this shoot I kept my options portable: I used Profoto Pro-B3 1200 AirS with two Pro Heads, one head with Westcott 7' Silver Parabolic and a Profoto Zoom Reflector strobe. I shot directly to SanDisk CF Extreme Pro 64GB cards since they’re super fast and extremely reliable. I prefer to shoot to CF card direct instead of tethering when I can because it keeps my shoot quick and gives me a better flow with my subjects.

Tri-athlete Bruno Brito                       

Lighting set-up

Brito, this time on the track

Lighting set-up

Olympic athlete Francis Obikwelu                      

Lighting set-up




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Joâo Carlos

Joao Carlos' artistic expressions are displayed in his beautiful photography.
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