Clickin’ the trick with ELB 500 TTL


Speak with any action sports photographer and you’re likely to find that their love of the sport started long before they picked up a camera.

For Seattle-based photographer Paris Gore, his passion for action photography evolved into a career shooting mountain biking for clients such as Dakine, Red Bull and BMW, among others. He started with a photo class in high school and then and didn’t look back from there.

The Project

For a recent assignment, Gore was tasked with shooting an action photo. While the company might request which color clothing to use, Gore is given “a lot of creative freedom” to shoot and produce these campaigns on his own.

He reached out to well-known rider, Graham “Aggy” Agassiz one of the most stylish freestyle riders.

Both have worked on numerous occasions and know each other on a personal level. “We’re good buddies; our vibes are good. We’ll snowboard and fish together, too. It’s not that I just see him on this random shoot.”

Before setting up the shot, Gore and Aggy discussed the types of jumps that would work best. “Aggy told me that a left-handed jump would be good for him, so that’s what we decided to do.”

The Location

The location they chose, outside of Bellingham, Washington, was a gorgeous, mossy area with trees that seemed perfect for the photoshoot.

However, wooded locations that lack sunlight require shooting at high ISOs with the potential for noisy, flat images. “When I have the opportunity to use lights, I like to use them,” he says. “I can shoot better quality images at low ISO. And the lights help bring out details and colour, which is especially important when shooting clothing.”

“The lights help bring out details and colour.”

The Gear

His lighting gear, the new 500Ws Elinchrom ELB 500 TTLs, is extremely compact and lightweight, especially the little heads. Imagine, Gore was able to fit three sets, along with modifiers and lightstands, into a single Shimoda bag, which allowed him to easily bring the gear to the shoot (and have room to transport a fog machine with a generator).

“The ELB 500 TTL is fast, light, powerful and can be used for multiple purposes.”

The ELB 500 TTL

The Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL is fast, light, powerful and can be used for multiple purposes, he explains.

“That they’re lightweight is key but they’re pretty outdoor proof, too. They’re well-sealed so you can take them out in the elements and know they’re going to be reliable.”

When they reached the location, Gore started building the lighting by first shooting the jump with no lights.

He then added a single ELB 500 TTL, with a bare bulb and sports reflector, for fill on the right side of the frame to make sure it matched the ambient light and wasn’t too blown out.

Once that was dialed in, Gore got out his tree-climbing gear and scaled a large tree to mount a second ELB 500 overhead.

The Setup

The light, equipped with the Rotalux Octabox 100cm and external diffuser, was mounted on a lightstand. He rigged the light with lashes and tie-downs so it would hang like a triangle, with the lower end of the triangle at the bottom of the stand, which he tied tightly around the tree (you can see the set up in the video).

“Five years ago,” Gore says, “you’d never be able to do this because the lights were so heavy and the triggers were so bad. But with the Skyport system and its Transmitter PRO and being able to adjust power output remotely, you can rig lights in new places.”

“Five years ago you’d never be able to do this because the lights were so heavy.”

Once the overhead and fill lights were tested, a third ELB 500 with a bare bulb and the small reflector bundled with the kit was added as a rim light. With the ability to manage 4 groups and a choice of 20 frequencies, multiple light setups with the ELB 500’s are seamless.

While the ELB 500’s offer TTL (and the option to quickly tweak the TTL setting manually), Gore opted to manually dial in the settings. The backlight was set almost at full power while the other two were about 1-1 ½ stops lower (the ELB 500s can be set up or down over 7 full stops or in 1/10th of a stop increments).

Gore never ran out of battery power during the shoot since the ELB 500 can output up to 400 flashes at full power on a single charge.

Capturing the perfect shot of Aggy as he “clicked his trick,” required precise timing, a fast shutter speed and a short flash duration (the ELB 500’s were set to Action Mode, with flash durations as fast as 1/20,000th of a second).

Thanks to Gore’s experience as a rider and a photographer and the responsiveness of the ELB 500’s he nailed shot after shot. “You can see it in the image his leg is fully extended. I know what looks good and I knew where he would click his trick [the full extension].”

Quality and accuracy of light are also crucial. And the ELB 500’s delivered on both of those requirements. “I wanted to bring that pop of light,” Gore explains, but without the obvious “flash” look.

“I wanted to bring that pop of light but without the obvious flash look.”

Gore shot mostly at 70mm with a shutter speed of 1/2000th second, f/4.5, ISO 640.

While Gore may not rig an overhead light from a tree for every shoot, he sees a great future for the Elinchrom ELB 500’s in his work. “I will definitely keep using the ELB 500’s. They’re a great lightweight option with more than enough power for most shoots in the woods. They put out a nice quality of light and are super easy to use.”

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