Lost in time

The session was set up as if it were a girl from the sixties who suddenly finds herself in a current, contemporary and therefore somewhat lost environment. I was interested in highlighting the clothes and the look of those years and contrasting it with modern architecture, of metal and glitter, or dark passages. An urban portrait, with some references to the painting of Edward Hopper. Female characters wrapped in mystery, slow faces waiting for something that never comes…

Lighting diagram 01

I worked outdoors in natural light but it became essential to use flash light to lower the contrast of the scene. I only had two hours of shots because at this time of year, in Barcelona, it gets dark at 7pm and the photos began to be taken from 5pm onwards. The idea was to work with minimal lighting equipment, portable but powerful enough to be able to take the photographs effectively and without surprises.

Godox AD 300 Pro
For this I decided to use the Godox AD300 Pro as I had been told about this flash. It is very compact, at maximum power it allows 320 flashes to be fired, with a recharge speed of 0.01s at its minimum power, up to 1.5 seconds at maximum power. It also introduces the minimum power output control of 1/256, 1/10th of a second increments, and HSS shooting up to 1/8000 of a second which makes it perfect for outdoor portraits.

Godox AD-S85W

As I didn’t want the lighting to be too harsh, I used a parabolic window, also from Godox, the AD-S85W, which turned out to be very effective for the result I was looking for. Its deep parabolic shape is one of its important features. This shape allows you to control precisely where the light falls. The Godox X-Pro radio transceiver also proved to be very useful and no shot was missed during the whole session. From there I was able to easily modify the power of the light needed for each shot.

Godox X-Pro

In terms of colour temperature, the flash responded very effectively without generating colour changes, even though natural light increased its colour temperature over the hours. This allowed the skin tones to remain constant throughout the session.

Returning to the intention of this photo session, the cinematographic treatment of the scenes and the use of light were the main elements that differentiated this series. The empty public places underline the solitude of the character represented. I also sought to accentuate the dramatic effect through the strong contrasts of light and shadow.

Lighting diagram 02

Lighting diagram 03

In Edward Hopper’s paintings, time does not pass. It seems to have stopped, condensed into an eternal wait where female faces wait patiently, wrapped in an enigmatic air. His quiet and expectant figures in public places make an enriching and mysterious solitude grow thanks to those dinners, those colours and that disturbing atmosphere. The characters are contained in this way, in transit scenarios.

Lighting diagram 04

They are urban settings where people are diluted in waiting, in that introspective look that perhaps longs for something that is not going to come back. These spaces, which are beyond the sphere of the family, become journeys through time.

Lighting diagram 01

Lighting diagram 02

Lighting diagram 03

Lighting diagram 04

Lost in time.pdf

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Advertising and risk

A few days ago a friend told me that an article on the German artist Julius Von Bismarck had been published in a supplement of the newspaper El Pais de Espana as a result of his participation in the most recent edition of PhotoEspana. A few days before, a different friend had mentioned a similar article, only in the digital edition of the same newspaper. (You can read the link here). The article also talk of Santiago Sierra, a Spanish artist with whom Von Bismarck collaborated in his NO project. In turn, as I write this post, another friend has just given me another link to an article on the same topic. The reason I mention this, is because last October I talked about Von Bismarck and Sierra, and a few days later I wrote a post about “gobos” and projectors in general.

  Proyector © Marcelo Isarrualde

In that post I praised the political concept of the work of both artists whilst explaining how to build your own “mini image fulgurator” for little money. My surprise came when a month later a prestigious Spanish advertising agency proposed the idea of developing a prototype of the same idea on a larger scale, for an important advertising campaign. I received the surprising news in Montevideo airport, about to return to Spain after having developed a workshop for a strobist technique, and the idea excited e a lot. Upon my return to Barcelona I began to develop a 4×5 format gobo projector that reach a projection of 70 metres and be fire from the flashes of the compact cameras of the event participants.

  Proyector © Marcelo Isarrualde

The complexity of the development was the synchronisation and power. The had to be clearly projected 70 metres from a wall because I would not be close to the “target” like Von Bismarck in his political works.

For the synchronisation I counted on the support of Bach Import who lent me an Omnicell slave unit that proved more effective than the range of the Wein units. The slave unit was connected to a PocketWizard transmitter which transmitted the signal to a receiver connected to the flash. I did the first tests on the street with a Bowens flash and I came up with the idea of improvising a symbol/sign that I could design on a black adhesive, and then cut it by hand and stick it on a 4×5 glass plate.

  Adhesive plate with the word NINI

  Bowens bayonet top

  Projection on the street

Another problem to solve in the tests was the flash power – for this I used a TravelPak from Bowens.
  Travel Pak

My Bowens flashes are 750W/S and I needed to see if projection of the symbol was sharp at a long distance, and if not, estimate the necessary power of the flash for that distance. I decided to ask the studio ‘BarcelonaStudios’ to lend me a hand by testing their Elinchrom gobo projector with a generator on the door of their studios.

  At the door of BarcelonaStudios

With the timing, power, and the projection issues resolved, it was only necessary to find a solution of recharging the flash quick enough, as many simultaneous shots were going to be fired with the compact cameras of the participants. To solve this issue I went to some other generous colleagues, this time the people of Top Studios, and they allowed me to test with some equipment by Profoto. I developed a provisional adapter from Bowens to Profoto and got to work.

  Bowens to Profoto Adapter

The Profoto’s recharge time was very fast and the projection at different distances worked perfectly.

  At Top Studios

Using a 4×5 plate projector, the next matter at hand was the choosing of the right lens. It would need to have an image circle for that format, and be able to focus. I built the box with a device to move the plane of the plate and the lens that worked best for the invention was a Fujinon W 5.6/125 large format lens, with a fixed extension tube.

The entire invention took a week of design and testing, and when the prototype was finished the client decided that they didn’t want to take a chance on it. The planned campaign was very shocking and fun, but every venture has its risks. Now my Fulgorito (Little Fulgurator) will be at home for another occasion – but for those of you who are in Madrid, I recommend as I did last October that you do not miss seeing the real “Image Fulgurator” by Von Bismarck, and to meet him and Sierra.

  Original version Image Fulgurator 2008

Advertising and Risk.pdf

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This image was also shot in the Strobist workshop I gave in Montevideo last November. It was the height of summer and I wanted to achieve a summery look which at the same time had a vintage feel as the building we were shooting in was from the 1930’s.

Off camera flash Model Paola Risso

We did the the session at the Yatch Club Uruguayo, a classic and emblematic example of the architecture that prevailed in 1930’s Uruguay. It was built by two architects, Jorge Herrán and Luis Crespi.

Strobist   © Diego Castiglioni

The location allowed for shooting exteriors, interiors and also on the clubs impressive balconies with their panoramic views. We shot on three different sets but the photo I liked the most of all was shot on the third floor balcony, having to mix natural ambient light with flash. This is the photo which I explain further on.


On the web I found a book, written by Joann Biondi, which features a photograph of the famous photographer and model Bunny Yeager on the cover. It gave me the idea for this post, recreate the cover as an homage to this famous photographer. Yeager began as a model and upon retiring switched to photography. In 1954 she met Bettie Page and took most of the photographs of her that year.

Strobist   Strobist

Bunny Yeager and Irving Klaw helped to make Page famous through their photos for Playboy. Although Bunny used various formats, one of her favourite cameras was the legendary Crown Graphic, the superior model to the Speed Graphic used by Weegee.

Strobist   Betty Page

Today its difficult to imagine shooting people with a large format camera, forcing the model to stay put, focusing, the plate, etc,etc. The Speed Graphic doesn’t have all the tilt/shift features of a full view camera and is thus more portable, earning it the name, “field camera”.

Super Graphic

On to the important stuff, the lighting. I chose the big yellow balcony initially as it allowed a lot of freedom to play with contrast against the blue sky even though I ended up going for a closer shot.

Marcelo Isarrualde   Marcelo Isarrualde

The first step was to measure the ambient light and choose the combination of shutter speed and f stop I wanted to use. The sun was strong so I opted for the fastest shutter speed possible, allowing me to open up the aperture and reduce the need for huge amounts of flash. I wanted to create an effect of concentrated light on the model but instead of putting the zoom of the flash in the tele position, I chose to use it in the wide position and mount a parabolic reflector with a honeycomb grid from Bowens.

Marcelo Isarrualde  © Diego Castiglioni

Using a Fomex adaptor I can attach any of my Bowens equipment to the Yongnuo 560 flashes I usually use. I also use Godox PB820 batteries and the indispensable PocketWizards to assure there wont be any problems with flash sync.

Strobist   © Diego Castiglioni

Off camera flash  Adaptador Fomex for Bowens

The light this reflector gives is hard and very direct, by moving it further from the model it gets harder and starts to look like sunlight, which on that day was very hard as there were very few clouds.

Off camera flash   Off camera flash

The final touch was given in post production, changing the overall tone of the image to give a vintage feel like in the previous post.

Marcelo Isarrualde © Marcelo Isarrualde

Lighting diagram  Lighting diagram


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All reproduction is prohibited without the written consent of the author.

Vintage look

Whilst giving a Stobist workshop in Montevideo, I was lucky enough to be given permission to shoot in Teatro Solís, a major point of reference within the dramatic arts world of Uruguay. The idea for the shoot was that the images have a certain air of bygone times, of old portraits, a classic feel. Like my own memories of that beautiful city.

Strobist © Marcelo Isarrualde Modelo Graciana Duarte

I began the session in exterior with the sun disappearing behind the clouds fairly frequently, thus the light was somewhat unreliable. The colonnades of the theatre are very impressive and the checkered tile floor also. First, I had to decide what part I wanted the natural light to play in the setup. So before turning on the flash I took a few shots to evaluate the ambient light.

Strobist test © Marcelo Isarrualde   Strobist test © Marcelo Isarrualde Maq. Betina Gasberg

For the first shots the hard afternoon sun was still shining in, so was unable to use a very wide aperture. My cameras flash sync is at 1/250 and I was using manual flashes which didn’t allow for high shutter speeds. I set the flash facing outwards toward the column and so it wouldn’t be too prominent a source, I aimed to match the tone of the column in the foreground with those in the back, in the shade.
The light changed suddenly and I was forced to make adjustments to the setup. It had clouded over so the direction I was shooting in and the direction of the flash.

Strobist © Marcelo Isarrualde  © Irina Raffo

The natural light had lost any kind of direction due to the clouds acting as a huge diffuser, also lowering the contrast and saturation all round. I decided to switch the flash to a more frontal direction, coming from camera, so as to help fill in the ambient light without generating volume in the face of the model. I also placed a reflector below to fill in the shadows under her chin.

Strobist © Lucía Coppola

Even though this shot was only made a few columns to the right of the photos with hard sun, the end result was quite different. As the sun was less intense, it allowed me to widen the aperture and achieve less depth of field.

Strobist © Marcelo Isarrualde  Hair stylist Mariana Mendizabal

For me, the photo most interesting was made in the foyer of the theatre. There was alot of light entering from the facade of the building into the big hall, acting as a heavy backlight from where I wanted to shoot from. I raised the ISO to 400 and setup on tripod. The flash I used was a Yongnuo 560 with Godox PB820 battery.

Strobist  © Irina Raffo

Lighting diagram  Lighting diagram

Vintage look.pdf

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Steinberg, Miró, Haring and friends

Some photographic works are truly difficult to perform in the digital era, and one of them are reproductions of works of art. The color fidelity should be high and reaching them is a task of high precision throughout all phases of the assignment. But let’s first talk about lighting, which is what this blog is about. When photographing a work of art – or anything else – our main concern in terms of lighting is its brightness, color and contrast.
Saul Steinberg 1971  Saúl SteinbergSteinberg, Miro, Haring and friends.pdf

I often take reproductions of works of art for A34 Gallery Barcelona, besides working for other clients on this issue, as when I made reproductions of the work of my dear friend Yamandú Canosa for the Suñol Foundation or when I worked for CCCB photographing Pegaso cars.

Isarrualde Photography Gallery  A34
Many works are framed and glass becomes the main problem. We must avoid seeing the resulting reflections and it is therefore necessary to pause on the concept of “families of angles that produce a direct reflection”.

Isarrualde Photography Direct Reflection

The picture above shows a direct reflection. Here, reflected on the glass, we see the direct reflection produced by the light boxes that I used to take the picture. In this sense it is very important that from the position of the camera we won’t see any direct reflection of the light sources used to take the picture.

Family of Angles

Isarrualde Photography

Any light located outside the family of angles that produces direct reflections of the light source, will be well placed to start the job. It is important to position the camera away from the subject because if we have to place the camera close to the artwork, the family of angles that produces direct reflections will be higher and will force us to put the light in a grazing angle with the artwork and the frame shadows will be bigger.

Isarrualde Photography

Another essential aspect is that the same amount of light should reach the surface of the artwork. In this regard it is important that the light source is located further from the work so that the light is distributed evenly. The law of “inverse square of the distance” reminds us that at further distance there will be less light and we should avoid degraded light on the subject. On the other hand, diffuse reflections become brighter as the light approaches the reflecting surface. We should try to have distances a and b on the following image be as similar as possible. In the excellent book by Hunter, Biver and Faqua you can see this theme developed to a greater extent.

Isarrualde Photography

If we’re working on drawings with no relief, I prefer to work with bigger light boxes so that the shadows casted by the frame would be soft and low contrast. Otherwise if the frame is very deep the shadows will be very notorious and if the light we use is hard, there will be no transition between light and dark areas on the work and it will be more difficult to tweak in post production. An important detail when artworks have a glass is to place in the plane of the camera a black velvet cloth to ensure that all the reflections from the room that could appear on the glass will be absorbed.

Isarrualde Photography

Sometimes we may be lucky and artworks don’t have any frames with glass. If on top of that they were done on matte paper we just need to set the light well. Two symmetric lights, equidistant from the work and at the same angle of incidence, will be enough. In my case, for these works, I normally use Wafer light boxes and Bowens flashes.

Torres-García Joaquín Torres García

I remember a few years ago I did a report on the exhibition of the works of Keith Haring at the Whitney Museum in New York, where I could not illuminate the work and only had one hour for the assignment. The artworks were very well lit but several of them were made on glossy canvas. Sometimes you cannot do what you know you should do and you have to solve the problem with whatever scarce resources you have in hand. In this case I chose to get away from the artworks and look for shooting angles that would avoid direct reflections, although it was not possible for all the artworks.

Whitney-Museum Whitney Museum © Marcelo Isarrualde
Keith-Haring Keith Haring © Marcelo Isarrualde

Color management in the digital age

Color management in the reproduction of artworks is a fundamental issue and in the digital age it is not easy. Firstly, you should know what light sources you will be going to work with and generate a profile for the sensor of the camera and those lights. At the time I was lucky that my friend Hugo Rodriguez prepared it for my equipment when I had to make some very difficult reproductions of the work of Joan Miró. Part of the red and blue tones of his works were outside the reproducible color range in a printing press and we had to know what decisions to make about the color management.

Hugo Rodriguez With Hugo Rodriguez

This type of work involves shooting a “bracketing” of exposures, revealing the raw file with the developed profile and with a linear response curve. In these circumstances we also have to make a white balance and evaluate the best resulting histogram for the development. We should also compare the values of the Gretag Macbeth Color Checker CGI card with the real card photographed bearing in mind that both should be in the same color space. The purpose of the color representation in the development program of the raw files is also very important, as well as choosing the histogram more shifted to the right, as it will ensure solving the noise level in the black textures, a greater tonal separation in highlights and a greater dynamic range. Choosing the right histogram is very well developed in the last book of Hugo, Digital Capture and Raw Revealed.

Isarrualde Photography Gretag Macbeth Card

We should also assess the values in a space of Lab color when the photography is converted from RGB to CMYK, etc, etc. This whole issue goes beyond the aim of this lighting blog. Hugo explains it brilliantly in his various articles on the subject, among which the article on the color chart IT8 he developed for the laboratories EGM in Barcelona, where he also tells how he did the profile of my equipment.

IT8 card  Art work by Joan Miró with IT8

Steinberg, Miro, Haring and friends.pdf

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Testing my DIY batteries

Last summer I wanted to try the two batteries I had designed for my 32CT3 Metz flashes. They are old flashes, but very good, compact and they have the ideal height to get very close to the optical axis when I want to use them in the Terry Richardson’s style with the CB mini RC strip from Custom Brackets.

Isarrualde off-camera flash

We went to the swimming area of the Barcelona Forum, with the model, makeup artist and my assistant, when we met with an enthusiastic kid who wanted to help. The lighting kit was very basic, the point was to use a single reporter flash through a translucent umbrella and have a second flash as a fill light if necessary.

Isarrualde off-camera flash  Isarrualde off-camera flash

The ambient light was low but very nice because the sun had already set and the sky had become a large diffuser. When we used the flash the nature of the light became quite evident so I decided to change the direction of the light and its intensity. I used a 1/4 CTO gel to give a mild warm dominance so that later when I neutralized the skin during the development of the raw file, I would get a bluer tone in the water and sky.

Isarrualde off-camera flash  Isarrualde off-camera flash Model Patricia Fregine

In the above examples the use of flash brought a loss of volume in the figure, and some candidness. What to do then? During the post production I could overexpose the image shot without flash and thus “washing” the skin tones, or keep the character given by the use of the reporter flash. As we saw in a previous post, when Terry Richardson made the Pirelli 2010 calendar, he preferred the flash hit, which is already part of his style. The important thing is to know what will happen in any decision we make. I could overexpose the shot with natural light or shoot the flash with a ratio +1. In this case, I chose to use the flash.

Isarrualde off-camera flash

In fashion or beauty sessions, the makeup and styling are essential. A good makeup and styling can be 50% of a session. And without an assistant, the sessions would not be what they can be.

Isarrualde off-camera flash   Make Up Poise and Beauty

Isarrualde off-camera flash

The DIY batteries

The DIY batteries worked fine, but the flashes got a bit overheated. The Metz 32 CT3 flashes are excellent flashes but in the days there were not designed for use with external batteries nor to have them at full load at all times, or to expect an extremely quick recharge. If the session allows the flashes to “rest” every so often, its effectiveness is surprising.

The battery circuit was very simple as shown in my first post, but by having the batteries tested I was worried about the flashes overheating. Luckily I then got the advice of Vicente Rosset, an expert in flashes and the invaluable help of Cristóbal Martínez from Bach Import who enthusiastically helped me improve the battery performance by adding a diode to the circuit which allowed to reduce the voltage of the batteries.

Isarrualde off-camera flash

Isarrualde off-camera flash

The Pocket Wizard were essential in the session as outdoor infrared sympathy cells are not effective. Another handy accessory was the WizardBrackets strip, ideal for holding the radio receivers.

Isarrualde off-camera flash

Lighting diagram  Lighting diagram

Testing my DIY batteries.pdf

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Any partial or total reproduction is forbidden without the written consent of the author.

Strobist kit 5

By its name, the idea of this blog is to explain how to light a scene when we remove the flash shoe of the camera. But sometimes it is desirable that the flash is – if not in the shoe – at least close to the camera. The use of arms to separate the flash of the camera to give some volume to photographed reason comes from afar, like the use of cables to separate further.

Strobonar  Futuramic Strobonar

But what should we do when we want the lighting to be very flat and direct, and we don’t have a ring flash? In these cases the idea is to get the flash as close as possible to the optical axis to minimize the projected shadow. Terry Richardson took many photographs at the beginning of his career with a small film camera Yashica T4 and he used it to photograph countless celebrities and models that he would position standing by a white wall. This camera has the built-in flash slightly away from the optical axis, but when shooting from a distance and the body of the model is perpendicular to the optical axis, the shadows effect on the wall is minimized.

Yashica-T4  Yashica T4

He eventually went on to shoot with a DSLR digital camera and there the problem arose. How to position the flash off the optical axis? Then, came the solution with the strip CB mini RC Custom Brackets!

Custom-Bracket--Mini-RC  Custom Brackets


As shown in the above image with this strip the flash torch stays very close to the lens and shadows are minimized.

Terry-Richardson-Fashion-Week-Berlin  Terry Richardson Fashion Week Berlin

The pictures Richardson took of Lady Gaga for the Supreme brand in 2010 are proof of this, as we see on the cover of the excellent French magazine Photo.

Photo-magazine-Lady-Gaga-Terry-Richardson-Supreme   Lady Gaga by Terry Richardson

Lady-Gaga-Terry-Richardson  Behind the scenes

Regarding those made for the famous Pirelli calendar 2010, these pictures reveal how this technique works outdoors. As can be seen, he set the exposure to the available light at the location while the front is filled up with the flash. This gives a great shine to the body of the model and eliminates shadows caused by sunlight.

Terry-Richardson-Pirelli  Pirelli calendar

There are other systems that allow speedlights to move from the hot shoe of the camera with great flexibility. One of these arms combined with a strip is the Manfrotto 233B which in this example is positioned to a shooting of macrophotography combining two Nikon R1 macro flashes with one of the standard SB series.

Manfrotto-233B  Manfrotto 233B

Also the option of the Olympus bracket FL BKM03 is very interesting, like the Ray Flash Rotator model.
Olympus-FL-BKMo3-bracket  Olympus FL BKM03

RayFlash-Rotator  Ray Flash Rotator

The option of Pro Media Gear with the Boomerang model is very robust. Boomerang de Pro Media Gear

Pro-Media-Gear-BB-Grip  Boomerang de Pro Media Gear

Finally it is worth highlighting the catalog from Really Right Stuff with a huge variety of photographic accessories including the WPF-QR strip bracket specially relevant for this post.

RRS-WPFQR-02  Really Right Stuff WPF-QR

This bracket keeps the speedlight aligned with the optical axis but with a noticeable parallax. I have used it, with a flash standing in front of a light box OctoDome mini Photoflex and has worked nice on a project I’m doing of circus portraits .

Octodome-mini Photoflex  WPF-QR with softbox Octodome mini


Strobist kit 5.pdf

Any partial or full reproduction is prohibited without the written consent of the author. All rights reserved. © Marcelo Isarrualde

Strobist kit 4

What to do with the equipment of compact studio flashes that I usually use ? Well, leave it for the sessions when I need more power , a more rapid recharge, continues light , when I have means of transport or for sessions where the weight is not an issue. A Strobist equipment and an equipment of studio flashes are not incompatible, they are just different solutions for different situations.

Bracket-EP-Designs EP Design

But luckily there are accessories to optimize the equipments that I have at my disposal ! Many mount manufacturers work to make it possible to use the full range of accessories of studio lighting with hotshoe-mounted external flashes . I have a Bowens equipment, and with an adapter from Fomex I can use my flashes Metz 32 CT3 and Yongnuo 560 with all my Bowens accessories !


Fomex Fomex adapter

To do this I use an aluminum frame that I made many years ago. This way I can double the power by placing two Metz flashes together. The possibilities of adapting a particular accessory to an external hotshoe flash are many. For example , the Mola Beauty Dish …and they alrady have their adapter ! I used these fantastic reflectors a few days ago and the result is amazing . Shortly I ‘ll post an entry about them.

Mola-Lumi-bracket Mola Lumi

It is worth noting that the models of hotshoe flashes that doesn’t have the torch covered work very well for all these accessories. The accessories that are directional, as is the case of those emitting a harsh and direct light – like the snoot, honeycombs , etc., – work very well with any external hotshoe flash. But when we want a multidirectional lighting is preferable to use flashes with an uncovered head.

 Kacey-adapter © elv0000

The Quantum flashes, the 120J model from Sunpak or some flashes from Norman allow the light to radiate in a wider beam than conventional hotshoe flashes, whose light beam is narrower .

Sunpak-120J  Quantum-trio

In any case, it is useful to have adapters that allow the use of high-end accessories for studio flashes together with our Strobist kit.

Flash-bracket  Kacey bracket    © Pentode

What to do if we need even more power ? We can use multiple adapters that allow us to work with multiple flashes at the same time , togehter with an umbrella , a diffuser or a light box!

Umbrella-tri Umbrella tri

Tri-bracket Tri bracket

Skylite Mc Nally Joe McNally Skylite Kit

Or four flashes in one adapter and two Jackrabbit II batteries from Dynalite !

Four-bracket © Paul Peregrine

Compact batteries

When we talk about studio flashes we tend to think about more than 500 W / s … And if we have a very compact and lightweight flash, 500 W /s , with a separate battery?

Freelander-500-battery Jinbei Freelander 500

Freelander-500-umbrella Jinbei Freelander 500

Or even better, if the reflector can be removed and it turns out to have a Bowens S bayonet !

Godox-EX600 Godox EX600

Godox-EX-reflector Godox EX series

Kit Strobist 4.pdf

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The staged portrait

The School of Photography of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia had invited me to do an illumination workshop applied to the staged portrait, ie, a portrait in the context of a set. The workshop was about understanding the importance of a staged space, a set, as a support to the character wanted in a portrait.

Marcelo Isarrualde

We had to make a portrait not only around a decorated space but also with an adequate lighting, and a characterization of the personage. I thought it would be interesting to take a picture on the idea of the linear perspective. Photography obeys its laws and it seemed amusing to distortion the perspective a bit. This was not a new idea, Vincenzo Scamozzi had already developed it in the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, a work by Andrea Palladio to build up – on stage and behind the proscenium – the spectacular view of the five ways of Thebes.

Teatro-Olimpico-Vicenza © Marco Ferrari

In the twentieth century Maurits Cornelis Escher also played with the perspective and optical illusion, as did Futurists like Tullio Crali, with dizzying perspectives that glorified speed and movement. More recently, the building Turning Torso by Santiago Calatrava in Malmö, Sweden, turns 90 degrees from the bottom to the top, forming an almost unreal aspect.

Escher Stairs © Escher

Tullio-Crali Incuneandosi nell’abitato © Tullio Crali

Turning-Torso © Marcelo Isarrualde

The idea was to create a space of infinity and a costume for the character that was easily confused with the decor, to act as a camouflage and that way pass more or less unnoticed by the eye. Hence, create a visual game of the idea of the portraits as description of the figure or character of a person.

The perspective

Let’s start with the idea of the linear perspective as a simulation of the visible that – mathematically ordered – can include the volumetric effect of objects on a flat surface, or two dimensions.

Two-point-perspective-by-bigdogsleeping © Big Dog Sleeping

I always liked that the chess checkerboard was a recurrent resource to understand the perspective. We all know that the frame is square formed cells, white and black, alternated. So I thought the set should have a recognizable pattern … What better than a trihedral painted as a chess board!

Marcelo Isarrualde

And now … How would a small cube in the chess board painted trihedral be seen if it was painted as a chessboard as well? The optical effect would be disturbing, so I put the following example which is funnier, and we can rest our eyes a litte bit.

Marcelo Isarrualde

Just the distortion of the perspective missing …

Marcelo Isarrualde

The set was then built, not of three planes formed of three squares, but … two trapezoids and a diamond!



And the suit? An oil painting of Paul Cezanne reminded me of the Harlequin costume and with that the problem was solved.

Cezanne-Harlequin Arlequin by Paul Cezanne

The illumination

It was important that there were no shadows to confuse even more the support of the subject in the set. For this we used three large soft boxes by Hensel, the biggest one placed above the set and the other two on each side of the camera, all with equal intensity.

Marcelo Isarrualde

Marcelo Isarrualde

Then there was only the “acting” of the character left … And to shoot the picture!

Jordi-Vidal-1 © Jordi Vidal

The photosensitive material

We used a Hasselblad camera with an extreme wide angle to further exaggerate the perspective and also a beautiful Nikon F2A with a 24 mm lens, both with EPP100 Kodak film. The photographs with the Hasselblad were developed with a “cross process” like it was a negative film , with C-41 chemicals. This way the contrast of the colors became greater, generating a negative image on a transparent base. Today this technique has become synonymous with the Lomography movement, inspired by another analog jewel such as the Cosina CX-1. The EPP that was used with the Nikon was developed with the standard E-6 process for color reversal films.

Marcelo Isarrualde

Marcelo Isarrualde

Today this process can be simulated by manipulating the contrast, brightness, saturation and curves in Photoshop, but without the unpredictability of the images of the traditional cross-process.

Esquema de iluminación Lighting diagram

The staged portrait.pdf

Any reproduction, in parts or in whole, is forbidden without the written consent of the author.

All rights reserved. © Marcelo Isarrualde

Pegaso automobiles

The Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona inaugurated an exhibition on the iconic cars Pegasus. The curator, the artist Francesc Torres, had contacted me about making to the catalog.

Pegaso Z-102 Spider Rabassada (1953)

Like Josep Ramoneda says in the exhibition catalog: “…. It was probably also this power of fascination of the car that attracted Francesc Torres and made him convince us – the CCCB- of the interest to rebuild this rare burst of beauty in the sinister political and cultural universe during Franco’s rule. “


It was a very interesting challenge because Francesc did not want the photographic treatment of the cars to be like an advertising image, instead he wanted each car to be treated as a work of art, almost like a living sculpture. They needed three or four photos of each car, one long shot, always from the same perspective and three detailed pictures that gave us some clues about the car’s anatomy.

Pegaso Z-102 Spider Pedralbes (1954)

The operational problems were many. On one hand, only authorized staff could touch the cars, clean them and position them for each shot. On the other hand, we could not take pictures outside of the premises of the museum. Neither could we have access to the showroom to take pictures since the carpenters and electricians worked to place pallets and lighting in the room that was needed for the exposition. As can be seen in the picture above … The session had to be performed in a typical rental tent for weddings and other events!

We had to put black interior curtains that covered the ceiling and the walls, to that way be able to control the reflections from the cars.
On the wooden floor of the tent we placed a white vinyl floor, seamless, 6 meters wide and 12 meters long, to have a single continuous surface where the cars could slide. On the wall in the back a very thin gray fabric was placed, stiffened and stuck on a wooden frame that was 3 meters by 6 meters.

How to illuminate these cars?

All the bodies of the cars shone very much and the finishes were very different, but what really conditioned the work and how to illuminate the cars was the need to photograph 4 cars per day, each of them with one long shot and three more additional detailed photos.

  Pegaso Z-103 Berlineta Touring (1956)

For the long shot image we decided to use a large light box by Bowens that had the same size as the car and we placed it very close to the frame. All cars were to have the same position to the camera´s perspective and this way an uniform illumination was achieved. We used two Wafer 200 light boxes– of 1.40 x 2.00 mts. By putting them together horizontal, one next to the other, and position them in the structure of a Wafer Bank … They turned into a light box of 1.40 x 4.00 mts. !

I thought about putting a canopy in front of the light boxes – a diffusing surface – of 6.00 x 6.00 mts – to generate softer borders and gradients of the direct reflections of light on the body of the car, but the height of the tent did not allow it. To model the details I had two Wafer Strip 140 windows and another Wafer 200, which together with the Wafer Bank allowed me to shape the reflections effectively and fast. More than the subtlety in the treatment of the light, it was about trying to find a set of functional illumination.


The reflections from the light sources would have a defined edge, hence once chosen the point of view from which we would make the photo of each detail, we had to move the Wafer Strip until the reflections were good and putted the attention on the forms of each car.

  Pegaso Z-102 Spyder Touring (1953)

Sometimes the details were not in the shape of the vehicle but in some detail of manufacturing such as the more than 1000 rivets that Giorgio Giorda had placed on the body of the cars that made the prototype Rabassada, the first official race car form Pegasus.

  Prototype Spider Rabassada, exact replica

The choice of a white floor helped to make so many photos per day, because its color and the glossy shine reflected the light bouncing from Wafer Bank in the floor and reduced the overall contrast of the shot. In turn I used large black cloth on the white ground to mark up til where I wanted the reflections to be seen in the car.

Finally, … Now we only needed to take the cars away again and dismantle the improvised studio in the tent!

  Lighting diagram

Pegaso automobiles.pdf

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