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The new Nikon D5 is here!!!

True is the statement that the camera does not make the photographer. What the camera does make (at least for me)…is more creative. The features and technology that Nikon is putting into the cameras with each release further raises the bar and affords me the ability to push myself and my creativity to the maximum. The advance of technology and Nikon’s commitment to listening to photographers and anticipating our storytelling needs is unrivaled. For, me that makes working with Nikon gear the best and easiest of decisions. This has been the case ever since I switched over in 2010 and began using the D3 and D3s bodies.

With the announcement of the flagship D5 today at CES in Las Vegas, Nikon set the bar higher yet again.

An expanded ISO range of THREE MILLION. I can’t begin to wrap my head around this one. I do a ton of low light shooting so this will impact me greatly. 20MP, 14FPS, 4K video. All features that will contribute this camera to being an absolute workhorse for me. What features am I most excited about (aside from the ISO capabilities)?! The new AF system and a little feature that allows for adjustments in multiple exposure photography. There really is way too many things for me to elaborate on in this post so we will save that for another time.

 

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BUT WAIT THERES MORE!!!

How about the doozy of an announcement that nobody saw coming. The D500. Essentially the D5 packed into a DX body – essentially creating the first pro DX body. This will allow photographers to make pictures like never before. The integration of the camera into your phone will be a game changer on many levels whether you are a pro, a hobbyist, or a parent who just likes to photograph their kids. The sharing will be faster than anything that you can imagine.

There are also two other exciting products. The new SB-5000 flash which brings Nikon into radio triggered flashes for the first time and the new Nikon KeyMission 360 – a 4K 360 degree wearable action camera. Both of these products I can not wait to get my hands on.

The game is changing my friends. New tools are here at our disposal. Come March, lets get to work and see what you can create!!!

If you are looking to purchase, do yourself a favor and get in touch with the folks at Roberts Camera…when it comes to taking care of pros and amateurs alike, you wont find better service anywhere. They are absolutely my go to store for what I need. They have a wait list for all the new products so get in touch with them today.

Do yourself a favor and check out these new products. For those of you who know me well, know how much of a role music plays with me and how I work. If I were to suggest an album to listen to while you check out these new tools, I would suggest “What a time to be alive” by Drake/Future. If hip hop isnt your scene, let me know and I will dig something else up for you!

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A Decade at the Kentucky Derby

Covering the Kentucky Derby is no easy task. There are countless photographers working to get the position they need to make their picture. Over the last 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from fellow Nikon Ambassador Bill Frakes. Since this is the 10th anniversary of the first time we worked together, we decided to do a joint blog post about covering the Derby, collaboration and life.

Andrew Hancock’s Kentucky Derby Slideshow

 

 

The Interview at the Kentucky Derby

Bill: I was covering a Colt’s game in Indy in 2004 — that was 5 million miles and at least 5 million images ago — and this tall, gangly nervous kid with a subtle Texas accent came up to me on the sideline and introduced himself. He said he really wanted to learn more, he was willing to work very hard at it, and he knew making images needed to be a huge part of his life. Something in his calm manner and determined look resonated with me, so I said okay, let’s stay in touch, and I’ll see if I can help point you in the right direction.

Ten years ago to the day, I brought him to Louisville to work with my team at the Kentucky Derby. Except for not knowing there is a time change between Indy and Louisville and showing up very flustered and a little late, he did a great job that weekend. Working in the first turn, he fired the remote camera that produced a Leading Off in Sports Illustrated. He paid attention, worked very hard, and was unfailingly polite. He earned another chance.

 

Bill Frakes Kentucky Derby Slideshow

 

Andy: Ten years ago, I was fresh out of college and working at a small six-day-a-week newspaper in rural northeast Indiana. I was eager to learn, grow and work. A little over a year into that first job, I was most fortunate when covering a Colts game in Indianapolis during the 2004 season that I would cross paths with one of the very few photographers who I have admired since the beginning, Bill Frakes. Cautious to approach as he was holding court with a handful of photographers around him, he made the time for an introduction and a few brief conversations during the game. I knew that in order for me to start taking strides in my career, I needed to work with and learn from the best and take myself out of my comfort zone. By the end of the game, that opportunity came when I offered my services to assist and learn. Bill suggested I stay in touch, and he would see if I could join his Derby crew. That first trip to Churchill Downs would come that following spring as I was welcomed to Bill’s Sports Illustrated crew to help in his coverage of the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby.

141st Running of the Kentucky DerbyThat first year was an eye opening experience for me and put me on a path with much greater aspirations and goals. It challenged me in every way I could imagine. It changed my vision and my trajectory and was a watershed moment in my career. During the past ten years, I’ve continued to work with Bill on various projects and assignments… but one place I kept coming back to each year was Churchill. Over the course of eight Derbies, I sought the chance not only to make some pictures for myself, but more importantly, the chance to learn from one of the greats.

Bill: We’ve been some places since then. Except for his honeymoon with his lovely wife Maria, his first trips out of the country were spent working with me. He never fails to be there when I need him, he’s been a great friend and terrific colleague through it all.

Andy has turned into one of the world’s best photographers. He has an abundance of natural talent and intellect, but I’m pretty happy to be able to say that he earns everything he gets. The man works his tail off with a fierce determination to make the most of any situation.

I often hear folks — art directors, picture editors, agents — say that you need to do personal pictures. Seriously? EVERY picture I make is personal. They all matter, each and every time. Andy gets that too, and it’s a huge reason why he is really good at this.

Andy: Even after I began working as a contributing photographer for Sports Illustrated eight years ago, I kept coming back to assist Bill at the Derby. It is no easy task running a crew of assistants and managing the tremendous operation of a large remote camera setup with cameras positioned all over the track. Each year was new and exciting and every year I would learn something from Bill. The technical knowledge I received was substantial. Equally important was his advice and the insight on the industry — how it was changing, how to prepare and how to succeed. He began to take me under his wing to teach me… and to push me.

Coming back to Churchill each year was much more than coming to assist. I kept coming to work with and help out a mentor, a colleague, a friend. With eyes and ears open, working with Bill made me a better photographer. He refused to let me settle or make a routine picture. He forced me to stay out of my comfort zone and to think ahead and faster than everyone else.

Bill: It’s been huge fun watching him grow. The cross pollination between us reminds me of the way Heinz Kluetmeier — maybe the best there ever was — helped me. Kluet taught me to think, to work, and to turn it up when things get tough. Andy’s got that intensity now too. Outside of our mutual friend Laura Heald, I can’t think of anyone I trust more to always get it done.

One of our mutual bonds, and something we share with Kluet, is love for our daughters. We all have a lot going on professionally, but no conversation starts without stories about the girls. It’s a joy, and pretty sure it helps keep us not only grounded, but moving ahead strongly.

I love looking at his new work, that big silly grin that he gets every time he shows me a new image or wants to bounce an idea for a project off me is one of the things that makes my job/life the best I can possibly imagine.

Andy: After my second Derby, Bill and I were talking as we walked beneath the historic twin spires atop the Churchill Downs grandstand when he gave me a piece of advice that I carry with me on every assignment. We were discussing our editors and image selection. Photographers won’t always agree with editors when it comes to image selection and as we were talking about that, Bill told me a simple and powerful statement. He said that regardless of what an editor picks or doesn’t pick, our job is to create something special, and we will do that.

His advice however also went beyond the technical. A few years ago, my wife Maria and I were talking about the possibility of growing our family. I wanted to hear from friends and colleagues first hand on the challenges that I would face. I was starting to travel a lot and knew that part of my job would increase substantially, which it has. Bill’s love and admiration for his daughter is inspiring. As we were in the work room preparing equipment in 2011, I asked him if it was worth it… balancing fatherhood and work. He quickly stopped what he was doing, turned around and grinned ear to ear. “Absolutely,” he said, ‘Without a doubt.” The only Derby I missed in the last 10 years was 2012… because my wife was pregnant with our first daughter.

Over the years, our conversations became less of the technical variety and more of the personal and philosophical variety as we discussed the changing landscape of our industry. Now, we look at ways to collaborate. We have similar, but visually distinct and different visions and approaches. After the 2014 Derby, Bill and I stayed an extra day to shoot California Chrome at the stables and follow that up with proper coffee and breakfast while we discussed the road we each were on and how to make that road intersect even more often.

Even though Bill and I were on different teams this year, our goals were still the same… to make a special picture not only for our client, but for ourselves. I would be taking all the notes I have made over the past decade in working with Bill and putting them to practice for myself and the New York Times.

141st Running of the Kentucky Derby

141st Running of the Kentucky Derby – Photograph by Bill Frakes

My editor for the assignment, Jeff Furticella, is one editor that I have more respect for than most. He has been in the trenches as a photographer and also worked as an SI assistant for Bill at the Derby in 2006. He has great vision in what he looks for in a photograph and how to select the best photo to tell the story. He and I were also teammates at the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2006. Our team leader? Bill Frakes. Our team editor? The fabulous James Colton.

Looking back at this past Derby, I know that the best photos I made are the photos Jeff selected for the paper and for the online gallery. I can look back and know I was able to follow Bill’s advice and know that I succeeded in creating something special both for the NYT and for myself. This year will go down as a year just as memorable as my first one ten years ago. My favorite image this year was from a new position that had never before been attempted in 141 years as I mounted a camera to a light pole near the finish line.

While it was my favorite, it was not selected for print. For that, Jeff would select an image made from the outside of turn one as American Pharoah would start to move outside to keep pace with the leaders.

Ten years ago during that first Derby with Bill, I was triggering a set of remote cameras on the outside of turn one. The frame that would tell the story that year of 50-1 long shot Giacomo winning the race would come from those cameras. A wide shot showing Giacomo making his first move around the outside of turn one with the iconic spires in the background. It ran as a Leading Off. It was the most exciting thing I had ever been a part of in my career at that point. This year was as equally as exciting.

That first year I was working for Bill and this year, I was working alongside him. Both I feel are defining moments in my career.

Bill: This past weekend, we were crawling around in the catwalks and on the roof of venerable Churchill Downs figuring out together the best way to do something different. Most everybody else had left a long time before, and we were standing high over the Downs talking about the best ways to cover the race on Saturday and about future projects.

One of the things I do is think ahead. Last year, Andy pointed out an angle he thought we should try this year — at the time we didn’t know we would be working for different organizations. When we talked a few weeks before this year’s race Andy mentioned that he was going to put a camera on the light stand, and that he was going to work on getting permission. I casually told him I’d already been in touch with the track and we were good to go – I already had it cleared.

We couldn’t have done this the same way without help from Darren Rogers and Keith Kleine at Churchill.

Our friends at Nikon helped out hugely as well.

Andy used 18 Nikon cameras and lenses. I used 28 of each. I’ve been to the Derby 31 times.

Every single year someone from Nikon Professional Services has done something to help me.

This year, I was on my way to the barns on Sunday and stopped for coffee.

The NYT sports section was open on a table.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - Kentucky Derby 2015

It made me smile.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - Nikon Ambassador
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A conclave of talent and three days I wont forget

In 2013, a dream of assembling a small group of elite Nikon shooters began to take shape. The idea was spearheaded by Mike Corrado with the tremendous backing of the incredibly talented Nikon Professional Services staff, of Nikon USA chief Toru Iwaoka and everyone at the mothership in Melville, NY. With that, the Nikon Ambassador program was born.

I still have trouble convincing myself that this isn’t all some sort of silly dream. I was fortunate enough to get a call and an invitation to join the program at its inception. Among those original 16 photographers were icons who I looked up to since I was a kid when I would often find myself at my grandparents house spending hours looking through Sports Illustrated, TIME and National Geographic. In doing so at that early age I became familiar with the power of storytelling through photography thanks to the work of Joe McNally, Bill Frakes and Dave Black. As I grew older, I was also moved by the work of Ami Vitale and Corey Rich. As I began to pursue portrait photography, I found myself floored by the work of Sandro. In the program’s second year, the roster grew to include three more stellar shooters.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - Nikon AmbassadorEarlier this year, Mike Corrado began to put things in motion to bring all (or as many as possible) of the Ambassadors together for a summit in New York. It truly was a conclave of incredible talent and a vast undertaking for Nikon to pull off in order to bring us together. We came from all over the country and the world to New York for true photo fellowship. I couldn’t believe I was in the same room with everyone and hear stories be told by Sandro, Joe McNally, Bill Frakes, Dave Black, Ami Vitale, Ron Magill, Corey Rich, Lucas Gilman, Robin Layton, Blair Bunting, Dixie Dixon, Cliff Mautner, Tamara Lackey, Jerry Ghionis, Moose Peterson and Bambi Cantrell. While very disappointed that James Balog and Vincent Versace couldn’t join us this time around, I sure hope that the full roster will be able to assemble for the next summit…it cant get here soon enough!

Before this inaugural summit of Ambassadors, many of us had never met face to face. We come from different photographic disciplines and specialties and are spread across the country. However, we are all familiar with each others names and work. The mutual respect and admiration was already established. However, everything truly began to go from extraordinary to truly special as new friendships began to be formed with one another almost immediately. Stories were shared, photos were shown, ideas were exchanged, thoughts were challenged, camaraderie was fostered and bread was broken. To say a great time was had by all was an understatement.

One evening, we each had five minutes (give or take 20) to show some of our work and talk about who we are to a crowd of several hundred Nikon employees. The last time I was that nervous, felt that humble and unworthy was when I was a student at the Eddie Adams Workshop. As intimidating as EAW was, this summit was equally as daunting for me. It was also wildly inspiring, just as EAW was for me as a student in 2006.

When my time came to take the stage and present, fortunately, just as when my wife gave birth to our daughter, I didn’t pass out or throw up like I was certain that I would!

We are beyond blessed to get to do what we each do for a living. To share what we know and our vision with people all around the world is incredible. However, I know I speak on behalf of all my fellow ambassadors in saying that we are able to do all that we do thanks in large part to all the tremendous support we receive from NPS led by the fearless Mark Suban. Along with Mark and the aforementioned Mike Corrado we are supported by Melissa DiBartolo, Scott Diussa, Mark Kettenhofen, Andy Dunaway, JC Carey, Chad McNeeley, Brien Aho, Ron Taniwaki, Sara Wood, Carissa Mitchell, Angie Salazar, Kris Bosworth, Lindsay Silverman, Stephen Heiner and so many more at NPS and Nikon. I cant thank everyone enough for all that you do to not only support me and my fellow Ambassadors but everyone who picks up a Nikon camera and looks to share their vision and tell their story!

I tried to sleep on my flight home yesterday from LaGuardia to Chicago but I couldn’t. I tried to get a good nights sleep in my own bed last night but I couldn’t. I was awake at 4 a.m. and restless as I was still trying to process all that transpired in New York. Today I am setting goals bigger than I already had previously and eager for opportunities to collaborate with fellow Ambassadors not only on work projects but also in opportunities to make impacts on anyone who picks up a camera to tell their story and record their history.

If you are not familiar with the Nikon Ambassador program, please do yourself a favor and go check it out!!!!

http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Learn-And-Explore/Nikon-Ambassadors/index.page

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - Nikon AmbassadorTo my fellow Ambassadors, thanks for inspiring myself and millions upon millions of others. Keep kicking ass, sharing your vision, telling stories that need to be told, capturing moments for those who will cherish them forever. Travel safe and I hope we all cross paths often until the next summit!

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - G - Team Ambassador
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Andrew Hancock joins forces with G-Technology to be their new G-TEAM Ambassador

For those that know me, you know how dedicated and passionate I am about making pictures – whether they be of the still or motion variety. I love capturing moments in a fraction of a second and in motion over several seconds. I love seeing the world come to life on paper or a screen through my lens. Those that know me also know that I work with the equipment and the people that I trust. My success and livelihood is attached to every piece of equipment that I own from the camera to the computer and then to the archive. For the last generation, their moments were all saved and stored in 3-ring binders and in filing cabinets. Now they reside in stacks of hard drives.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - G - Team AmbassadorI have used most every brand of hard drive in my career. I have also had hard drives fail on me over the years. The first external hard drive I ever purchased was for a 12 inch mac book pro back in 2004. It was a G-Technology drive.  At the time it had blazing fast Firewire 400 connectivity. Over the years I have had far too many drives fail on me. However, the one drive that still plugs away is that very first G-Tech drive. Looking at that very first purchase through all the drives and all the brands I have purchased over the last 10 years I began to see more and more G-TECH drives appearing in my collection. The reason for that? I trust them.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - G - Team AmbassadorThat notion is paramount for my business. I need speed and I need to work with equipment I can trust. When it comes to storage, that notion is paramount. You never know when you will need an image much the same way you never knew when you would need something off an old roll of film in the filing cabinet. My body of work is in constant development and I need it all to be secure and safe. For those and other reasons, I am beyond blessed and honored to be added to the insanely talented roster of photographers and videographers that make up the  G-TEAM Ambassador program. I am incredibly humbled and fortunate to be associated with such a fantastic collection of visionaries and to be associated with the absolute best storage company in the world with G-Technology!

Please spend some time at the G-TEAM site and get to know this stellar roster of creatives!!! (My profile is there too if you want to check it out.)

Check out what G-Technology is all about here – http://www.g-technology.com/

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull Glacier
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The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull Glacier

Last month when I was preparing for my shoot in Iceland, I was presented with an amazing opportunity — to take a prototype unit from Profoto (Profoto B2 Off Camera Flash) to Iceland for an honest field test. No parameters, no restrictions. Just make a picture.

By in large, I make my living on the road and on location. I have always gravitated towards the challenge of finding a location and owning it by how I compose the scene both in the viewfinder and with light. To me, intelligent use of light is equally as powerful as the scene, and together they are both paramount when it comes to telling a story visually. I gravitate towards location work because I find it to be much more challenging than working in a studio where everything is controlled. I enjoy the challenge of battling the elements, ambient light and a whole host of variables that present themselves on a location shoot. All of those things must be dealt with decisively and effectively to make the shoot a success. Perhaps more importantly, I feel that working on location, whether it is in a stadium or on top of a glacier, is incredibly powerful in telling the story of who I am photographing. I do this by putting them in their element. And I will go anywhere to make that happen — wherever that may be.

Often times, I am traveling with a significant amount of lighting equipment. It is heavy, bulky and can be a challenge logistically to get into remote locations. My goal is always to be as fluid and adaptable as possible with location lighting in order to allow myself the freedom to go virtually anywhere in the world to make a portrait. I have to take the best equipment possible with me and that can be a challenge when I need to travel light. But it is also unacceptable to sacrifice quality by taking products that I can’t trust and don’t allow me the flexibility I need to go anywhere and adapt to what the location gives me.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierUp until now, what that has meant is lugging my Profoto Pro-B4 Air packs with me along with a host of modifiers. Don’t get me wrong, this is my go-to kit for a reason — it is the best for what I do. Not only do I expect that, but my clients deserve that. That being said, I have yet to find an ultralight solution that offers me the power, versatility and speed I demand out of my equipment. But why does speed matter? On location, I sometimes have only a matter of minutes when everything comes together to make that crucial picture my client needs. When working outdoors, this can mean pulling everything and running to a different spot to react to what the light, weather or background is giving us at a moment’s notice.

That lack of having an ultralight solution at my disposal changed last month when I was given an early introduction to a prototype unit of the new Profoto B2, a super-portable, multi-head solution with 250W of power, fast recycle time and motion freezing flash durations of 1/1,000-second at full power and 1/15,000-second at low power. The generator (with battery attached) and two flash heads weigh a combined 5.2 pounds!!! I was grinning ear-to-ear when I first laid eyes on the unit and learned of its remarkable features. I knew immediately that this would change how I work and what I bring on location. I mentioned to the great Profoto folks that I would be traveling to Iceland for a project only a few short weeks later and that this would be the perfect solution for me. Profoto was gracious enough to allow me to put the B2 through an honest, real-world field test.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierWhile I have worked with the Profoto B1 units and am a big fan of their features, I am a sucker for anything that allows me to work faster and more efficiently on location. Personally, I don’t often bring a B1 unit outdoors on location. This is primarily due to the weight of having a monolight and a big modifier atop a light stand on location. You can’t predict what will happen with wind, the terrain and the weather. My goal is to keep the weight atop the light stand as minimally as possible, and this means using strobe heads and pack combinations. This also allows me to put the light in trickier situations or allow an assistant to become a mobile light stand and have the strobe on the end of a boom that can be held and moved freely to follow the subject. The B2 offers me exactly that while preserving key features that have made the B1 the game changer it has been.

If I am going to invest in a product, I have to be able to trust it completely. In order to know if the B2 could stand up to my expectations, I sought out two scenarios for a portrait. With the help of Chris Lund, a professional photographer and guide in Iceland, we began to research our options. My requirements were that we needed to work remotely to get our shot. I wanted to be in the elements and we needed to hike to location. My initial draw was do have the photos involve ice. After all, Iceland is the land of fire and ice and the glaciers in this amazing country are simply breathtaking. My initial hope was to accomplish two shots at the Vatnajökull Glacier and to do one shot in an ice cave under the glacier and another one on top of the glacier. Two different scenarios, two different times of day, two completely different backgrounds.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierMy good friend Brad Rogers was also along on the trip and he was willing to serve as model for me if we ran into any difficulty sourcing locally. Having that as a backup was key in planning as I knew I always had a Plan B. The main reason of the trip was to photograph the Aurora Borealis for my Night Light book project, so while I was working on the other elements of the trip, Chris was working to arrange access to the locations for the portraits. We arrived in Iceland and headed out to the first ice cave, where we did an initial test shot with Brad. I was able to get a feel for how the product would react on location, what my recycle time was and how quickly I could unpack, setup and start shooting. We didn’t want to waste any time on the upcoming two shoots when we had our mountain guides.

The challenge in all of this? The weather. It was brutal this trip. We were weathered in at various hotels on three different occasions. The insane winds and whiteout conditions caused accidents, shut down roads and knocked out power. We knew our dates for the portraits but had no idea what the weather would be. The only thing I knew was that we would have to deal with it and make the picture regardless of what ever Mother Nature threw at us — and throw she did. Of the two weeks I was in Iceland, I can recall only two days the wind wasn’t blowing like hell. When it wasn’t blowing driving sheets of rain, it was blowing sand — black volcanic sand. There was good that came out of the difficult conditions. I like a proper challenge and I really was curious to see how the B2 would perform in the elements. Additionally, the windows to shoot the two portraits were the two last shoot days of the trip.

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Another big challenge with where I wanted to shoot was tourists. The ice caves are only open a few months out of the year and each summer they are changed as the glacier retreats and melts. Trying to shoot around the tourists would be a challenge and the mountain guides that take people under and above the ice have crazy schedules with not much downtime or availability for freelance work. We could have joined a tour but that simply was not an ideal scenario. Armed with that information, Chris was able to arrange for an ice guide to take us to a cave before dawn one morning. The second shoot would also have to be coordinated around the schedule of a mountain and ice guide that Chris was able to source for us — so we could get on top of the glacier and a further back and more inside the giant crevasses of ancient ice.

Both trips involved a hike. For the ice caves, we had to hike over several kilometers of rocky and icy terrain back to the cave while the wind blew a near constant stream of lava dust into our faces. The second trip was a bit more technical as we trekked out onto the glacier with crampons and ice axes to find the right location. In both locations, we shot for less than 15 minutes. The rest of the time was spent hiking to location and surveying on the spot to find the best spot for the portraits. Once that was done, I committed to those locations, unpacked the gear out of the backpack and was set up and shooting within five minutes!

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierThe new kit also features a series of ultra-light modifiers with a new lightweight and super-quick speed ring. No expense was spared in the design of the modifiers. You get exactly what you expect out of anything with Profoto on the name — complete control over your light and what you do with it.

To trigger the units, I used my Profoto Air Remote TTL-N and while I did not have a situation where I wanted or needed to shoot with high speed sync, the unit is capable of providing that for when it is needed — a major boost to what this package delivers!

To make it all happen, I packed my kit so that I would be able to travel as lightweight and mobile as possible. It all packed into a single standard backpack. The location kit I assembled for this trip included the following:

B2 kit (one pack and two heads)
Spare battery
Extension cable
2-ft Octa softbox with grid
Barn door
Honeycomb grids
Two Manfrotto nano light stand with detachable center
Air TTL-N remote

I also kept my camera kit lightweight as well. One Nikon D810 with the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens and the Nikon D750 with the Nikkor 20mm f1.8 lens. I decided against the long glass for these two portraits because I wanted to be close to my subjects but also allow as much of the surrounding environment as possible into the composition to tell the story of the terrain.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull Glacier

For our first portrait, we photographed Oskar Arason, a mountaineer, guide and active member of the Hofn search-and-rescue team. The initial shot I composed was a hero shot with Oskar standing in front of mountain peaks and the glacier during the blue hour before sunrise. When doing my test photos with Brad, I began with just the 2-ft Octa and grid to control then light and allow the background to underexpose and become powerful. I then added the second strobe to illuminate the foreground to show the ruggedness of the terrain which was once itself covered by the glacier in the background. When I pulled Brad and brought Oskar into the frame I had Brad move the second strobe head to a position near and perpendicular to Oskar from my position and illuminate side and lower body while also spilling down onto the lights in a more controlled manner creating a sliver of light on the glacial rocks.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierNext, we quickly moved to a tunnel that the elements had carved into the upper portion of the glacier directly above one of the cave entrances. This location was especially challenging for me. I was staring into the elevated tunnel that caught and accelerated the wind right into my face, the lens and the lights. For that portrait, I used both strobe heads. The key light used to illuminate Oskar full body and the front of the tunnel was again the 2-ft Octa. The other strobe head was used with no modifier and positioned close to and below the tunnel in order to add an extra dimension of light from below.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierThe next evening after that night’s storm cleared, we were back on the road and headed to our afternoon meeting and shoot atop the Svínafellsjökull outlet glacier with ice and mountain guide Víðir Pétursson. As a guide and as a search-and-rescue team member, I wanted to show an element of the difficult terrain for those who not only explore but also are called upon for life-saving search-and-rescue operations on the glacier. Our location is the same glacial tongue of Vatnajökull where parts of the movies “Batman Begins” and “Interstellar” were filmed. For this location and due to the time spent getting to and from location, our window to shoot was even smaller. Fortunately, we had no tourists to worry about. Once we found the spot for the portraits, the light started to disappear fast. I quickly unloaded the kit and handed the key light to Chris so he could again act as a light stand and use the center column of the Manfrotto Nano stand as a boom so we could position the light right where we would need it — or as best as we could given the wind sweeping down the glacier. It was no easy task for Chris. From the time the lights were unpacked and exposure was dialed in, we had around 5-10 minutes worth of sunlight left before we would lose our background. In situations like this, I tend to hammer pretty heavy on the trigger so I can make the most of the moment when I have it. For me, that is the biggest drawback of using speedlights in such a situation. The B2 handled the situation even better than I expected. The flashes triggered every time and consistently in output.

Needless to say, I was incredibly impressed with the B2. Will it become part of my location kit? Damn straight. I wish it had a little more power so that I could have more flexibility in even the brightest ambient light situations, but the high speed sync feature gives me the latitude so that I can use it in situations where I am having to battle substantial ambient light.

If you are interested, the highlight features and specs of the Profoto B2 are:

250Ws (adjustable over 9 stops and adjustable in 1/10 f-stop increments)
2 fully asymmetrical outlets
LED modeling lights
TTL and High Speed Sync
Recycle to full power in 1.35 seconds
AirTTL allows for wireless operation up to 1,000 feet away
215 full power flashes on a full charge
Total weight of 5.2 pounds (generator and two heads)
Longest flash duration is 1/1,000s and shortest flash duration of 1/15,000s

To learn more about the B2, check it out on the Profoto site here.

Thanks also to my friend Diana Robinson who joined us on the adventure and was kind enough to take some great behind-the-scenes photos!!!

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierAndrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierAndrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierAndrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierAndrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull GlacierAndrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - The Profoto B2 Iceland Field Test at the Vatnajökull Glacier