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Guest post: Capt. Blake Sellers for Rolling Stone by Chip Kalback

7/05/2015 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

I got the email from Rolling Stone about a week before my wedding, asking if I could photograph some portraits of a nuclear missileer; the person who takes direct orders from the President of the United States to launch irreversible nuclear missiles capable of reaching the other side of the planet in 30 minutes or less. 
Of course I gladly accepted the assignment!
Rolling Stone explained that the shoot would be for their first ever long form online feature, for a story about Air Force officers at America’s nuke sites working 24 hour shifts in antique underground capsules. 
Capt. Blake Sellers spoke with Rolling Stone about his experience during his time as a nuclear missileer, so I knew the images I was shooting had to portray his feeling about the job. I wanted to show Capt. Sellers in a solitary state, so I kept the composition and lighting pretty loose while centering him in the frame throughout most of the shoot.
We worked through a number of different ideas, with my favorite from the shoot being a shot of Capt. Sellers yelling at the top of his lungs, in a wide open space with what looked like mushroom clouds behind him.
As far as lighting went I knew I wanted to only use one light. The sun was setting and sometimes getting into using two, three, or four lights means you’re spending a lot of time adjusting flash levels and moving light stands instead of just shooting. I was working alone so I prioritized golden hour light over adding a bunch of flashes to the shoot. 
My choice of flash for this was a Paul C. Buff Alienbees B800, with a 46” Photek Softlighter II. I’ve been using Paul C. Buff’s Einstein flash as much as possible lately, but since I knew I’d be working in the sun I wanted to be able to shoot faster than the Canon 5D III’s native sync speed of 1/200th. This is possible in a number of ways, but I prefer to use PocketWizard’s HyperSync feature when I’m shooting with strobes. The downside is that the Einstein and HyperSync don’t seem to play very nicely with each other aside from the Einstein being at full power, whereas the B800 will pop with HyperSync at any power level.
Given what I knew I was using for gear, I also knew I wanted to keep it at a fairly shallow depth of field, putting the emphasis on the subject. I decided on f/4 at ISO100, since I knew that would give me enough sharpness on the subject and a bit in front/behind him relative to our distance from each other, but would also fall out of focus nicely elsewhere. I wanted to underexpose the ambient a bit too so I wouldn’t blow out the sky or the clouds happening behind him, as well as for the sake of not making things look too bright or cheery given the subject matter. All of these factors combined meant I was sitting somewhere around the 1/250 - 1/400 range for my shutter speed, hence the need to use PocketWizard’s HyperSync feature. 
For reference, here’s a shot straight out of my camera with zero editing, along with that same shot edited/cropped for delivery to Rolling Stone. Shot with a Canon 5D III & Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2 ZE lens >>> 1/250 at f/4 ISO 100.
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Thanks a ton for sharing Chip Kalback

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