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Photographer Jeffery Salter started his career as a photojournalist, shooting old-fashioned 35mm film. He covered everything from violent social upheaval in Haiti and the tragic Pan Am airliner crash in Lockerbie, Scotland, to glamorous fashion shows in New York, Milan and Paris. When he made the transition from newspapers to magazine work, he switched over to medium format, and began shooting portraits and perfecting his uniquely stylized lighting techniques.
Salter was one of the first photographers to upgrade to an IQ260 digital back after its release. Within three months of using it, he had three magazine cover shots published. His most recent one was captured in the bright, white Florida sun and featured international soccer star, Mario Balotelli. Following, in his own words, is Salter’s experience working with the IQ260 on a Sports Illustrated cover shoot.
"As a visual artist, it’s my philosophy to begin with an end image in mind. I can tell by my real world experience that Phase One and its team of designers have produced a digital back of the highest quality with an eye for details. My goal as a photographer is to produce memorable and iconic images, images that resonate in the viewer’s mind for a long time. Just as a writer shapes a verbal narrative by using words as tools, as a photographer, I shape my visual narrative by using cameras, lenses, f-stops, shutter speeds and lighting techniques as tools to create compelling and beautiful images. Without a doubt, the IQ260 gave me the look I wanted to achieve in my photographs and was an invaluable tool for crafting the images as I envisioned them from the beginning.
From a technical point of view, my new IQ260 brought me a wonderful 13 stops of dynamic range. I started setting up for the shoot at 7 a.m. because you want everything to be ready when you work with a high profile subject. Mario Balotelli is an international soccer star, a striker for AC Milan. He’s a great athlete who also plays classical piano and has met with the Pope, and yet he is only 23-years-old. He was surprisingly relaxed, approachable and a pleasure to work with. The shoot was scheduled to start at a cool and comfortable 9 a.m., before the day’s heat sank in. At that time the light is absolutely beautiful, perfectly soft and diffused by clouds, a giant soft-box with low contrast. For a photographer, that time of day is usually a walk in the park, you simply add a bit of shiny board or a reflector and you are golden.
The Pressure Was On
However, the shoot didn’t start until a sweltering 11 a.m. and by then the sun had arched higher in the sky blanketing everything with harsh rays, backlighting the pool and highlighting the palm trees in the background—in essence, a mash-up of harsh contrasts. My walk in the park was short lived. I faced blue water in a white pool, green palm leaves all gleaming from the sun, and an athlete with dark skin who was completely backlit. The pressure was on. It’s important in my style of imagery to be able to control the contrast and fine-tune my lighting. Fortunately, the IQ260 easily captured the details in the scene, and not just details, but the richness of those details.
A combination of syncing the strobes at a high shutter speed of 1/1600s, to bring down the highlights, as well as a key light set at f/5.6 on Mario to open up the shadows (a Profoto flash head, 7B power pack and Profoto 5ft silver umbrella) gave me the shallow depth of field, allowing the focus to be on Mario and it painted the scene in the light values that I wanted. I was able put the highlights where I wanted by adding a strobe head to the left and slightly behind, fitted with a magnum reflector.
This image was intended to run across two pages, a landscape or horizontal spread, inside the magazine. When Brad Smith, director of photography at Sports Illustrated, returned to the New York City office, he suggested that the image should be cropped into a vertical and used as the cover. Having the IQ260 producing 60 MP raw digital file, which when exported out from Capture One Pro 7 to a 346 MB TIFF (16-bit), gave my client the quality to publish the image without limitations. And that gave me my third published national magazine cover shot with an IQ260
Cover Images Must Scream Out
Sports Illustrated is one of most prestigious magazines in the world. It’s a weekly, and therefore the deadline for images is very tight, and every one of their cover shots is highly scrutinized before released for publication. An SI cover must scream out from the newsstands which are already crowded with other magazine covers.
From a subjective point of view, the dynamic range, 1/1600s flash sync speed, wi-fi connectivity and big file sizes, gave me total peace of mind while on the job. This was a high-pressure shoot. Only two other international soccer stars have ever graced the cover of the magazine to date, and they were Pelé and Diego Maradona. The magazine’s director of photography, Brad Smith, had taken a late flight from New York City the night before, and was on the set, watching the images on an iPad. The features built into the IQ260 allowed me to put my energy where I really wanted it to go to the artistic side of the work. On major shoots like this one, you usually don’t get hours and hours to engage with a high profile subject. I only had 45 minutes with Mario, and I needed to complete two set-ups. When he arrived on set I didn’t have time to worry about f-stops and dynamic range. I had to run a tight ship with the best photo assistants and the best gear set up to create a knockout image.
Once the stage was set and the details were taken care of, the interaction would just be between Mario and me. Having the mental clarity to concentrate on getting Mario to relax and give the world a look, a gesture, a moment, or a window into his soul, was what I needed. Luckily, I had that clarity because I trusted my equipment and knew that I simply had to press the shutter and my IQ260 would do the rest. The peace of mind that comes with knowing that the technical needs are being met allows me, or any other photographer, to get into the zone where we can create a great and iconic image that will be seen throughout the world. And that’s what working with the IQ260 did.
IQ260 Bottom Line
According to photographer Jeffery Salter, the IQ260 delivered a lot during his Mario Balotelli cover shoot including:
- A dynamic range which made the extreme contrast setting doable.
- A 1/1600s flash sync that allowed him to control ambient light.
- A 60 megapixel file which enabled the SI art director to crop the image from horizontal to vertical and turn it into a cover.
- Consistent tethering via capture One Pro 7.