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Lighting Magic: Tyler Stableford and the Elinchrom ELB 1200 and ELB 400

Lighting Magic: Tyler Stableford and the Elinchrom ELB 1200 and ELB 400

An edgy motorcycle fashion shoot in metro Denver may seem like a far cry from the outdoor and adventure settings that have fueled award-winning director and photographer Tyler Stableford’s career over the past couple of decades. But this Canon Explorer of Light was excited to move out of his comfort zone when asked by Canon to design a campaign showcasing the new Canon EOS R mirrorless camera’s capabilities.

Stableford - whose career grew out of his passion for climbing—explained: “We discussed numerous projects with Canon, including outdoor sports like climbing or desert motorcross riding. But we all gravitated toward urban motorcycling. Importantly, I think this concept has more resonance with wedding, fashion and lifestyle photographers who may be considering the EOS R camera.”

Prior to this project, Colorado-based Stableford has shot campaigns for clothing companies such as Wrangler, but those were less fashion shoots than lifestyle shoots with an outdoors, Western flare. “I have not shot a lot of urban fashion before,” Stableford explained, “and that’s exactly what excited me about this shoot. I discussed the project with my coworkers and together we all agreed that creating a motorcycle fashion shoot would be the most visually compelling campaign” for the EOS R.

© Tyler Stableford
© Tyler Stableford

In preparation, Stableford and his team “spent a lot of pre-production time looking at images of motorcycles and the fashion behind all types of motorcycle culture.” In addition to exploring Herb Ritts’ work, they also looked to the music and film industry for images of Bruce Springsteen and James Dean. The goal was to “combine classic styling, timelessness and a modern edge for this shoot, which was not easy,” Stableford explained. Critical to the concept were the motorcyles, of course. Fortunately, one of the models owned a Ducati, which was perfect for the shoot. But as they searched and searched for a “dark, hip, urban motorcycle” for the second bike, time started running out. As luck would have it, the producer found “a perfect-looking Triumph bike parked on the street while shopping for other props. She waited for the owner and asked if we could rent the bike for our shoot. We knew the exact look we wanted and didn’t want to compromise!”

Stableford’s no-compromise approach to finding the right motorcyles also applied to lighting. He had a clear vision of how he wanted to illuminate the shoot. “I am attracted to the look of dynamic back lighting, with high key backgrounds, lens flare and a great model.” For Stableford, this type of lighting “creates a really captivating image,” although, he admits, “I don’t always succeed when attempting to capture these kinds of scenes as they can be incredibly challenging. Sometimes the harsh, high-altitude sun can wash out an image or create hard shadows. But when I can balance the natural light along with a properly strobed image, the results are magical!”

Creating Magical Light with the Elinchrom ELB 1200 and ELB 400

Creating Magical Light with the Elinchrom ELB 1200 and ELB 400

© Tyler Stableford

For lighting gear, Stableford didn’t have to look any farther than his standard kit: the Elinchrom ELB 1200 and the ELB 400. As a photographer, it’s critical to be prepared for any—and all—possibilities, both practical and creative. That means having the gear you need on hand at all times. For Stableford, that translates to bringing two sets of lights: the Hi-Sync ELB 1200 and the HS ELB 400. And while he might opt for only the lighter weight ELB 400 if he’s hiking to a remote location, you can generally find both of these highly portable lights with him on every shoot.

In addition to his Elinchroms, Stableford was equipped with Canon’s new mirrorless camera, the EOS R. The two new RF lenses—a 50mm f/1.2L USM and a 28-70mm f/2L USM—allowed him to shoot wide open to achieve high shutter speeds and a shallow depth of field during the day. But shooting wide open in broad daylight could have been a problem were it not for the ELB 1200’s hi-sync feature, which allowed Stableford to forego ND filters and shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/1250th sec at f/1.2, ISO 100, balancing daylight and the output from the ELB 1200.

Paired with the ELB 1200, the Indirect Litemotiv is his go-to diffuser. “I really like that big Indirect Litemotiv when the subject is backlit with the sun to create a dreamy, high key look. It mimics beautiful daylight and that’s a real bonus for me when shooting fashion with blown-out backgrounds. It creates a soft, pleasing light that doesn’t look strobed.” Additionally, when photographing women he positions the soft box for “more of a beauty light scenario” to reduce shadows. For men, on the other hand, he often moves the light slightly to the side “to create more angular and masculine forms with the shadows.”

While he used the 1200 as a larger key light or fill light, the ELB 400 with a 7” reflector and honeycomb grid was the perfect solution for adding a “little bit of edge and hair light.” When the sun was high in the sky midday, Stableford enlisted the ELB 400 to help create flare by positioning it to the upper left of the model, showing just how creative one can be with these lights.

Stableford used similar setups for the night shots overlooking the city of Denver. The Elinchrom ELB 1200 and the large, Indirect Litemotiv Octa “mimicked the subtle glow from the urban skyline,” he points out. The ELB 400 was paired with a 7-inch reflector and small honeycomb grid for “edge light and hair light to mimic light coming in from the other side,” he explains.

© Tyler Stableford

While Stableford often prefers the ELB 1200’s power and hi-sync capabilities for overcoming the sun during his daytime shoots and the ELB 400’s more modest power output for low light shooting, each assignment brings with it different challenges. For Stableford, sometimes the best solution lies in combining both of these capable tools to achieve his creative goals.

For More of Tyler’s work follow him on:

Instagram: @tylerstableford
Facebook: @tylerstablefordproductions
Twitter: @tylerstableford
Visit His Website:

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