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

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.


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


Announcing the Nikon D7200: My thoughts from photographing the Argentina campaign for Nikon

It was the most epic of assignments… and the most challenging. Never have I had so much fun, been so exhausted and so stressed on a shoot in my life. It was a drastic departure from how I typically work.

The challenge came from Nikon to myself and my friend Corey Rich. We were sent to Argentina and forced to travel light – shedding our normal equipment and tools of making photos and video on location. Corey was an amazing travel partner. He always has smile on his face and is a true professional. We bounced ideas off each other and even though I was tasked to shoot stills and he video, we worked seamlessly together to create some amazing shots. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate or travel buddy for this Nikon Campaign.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - Nikon Ambassador Argentina D7200 Photo CampaignThe BEST part about this challenge? The photos had to be perfect right out of the camera. No post production would be allowed. Not even a crop. If I missed the shot, it was gone. We had to deal with whatever the light and the weather gave us and find a way to make it work. Our schedule allowed for no missed opportunities. I had to work through exhaustion and even food poisoning. In Buenos Aires, it was humid and in the 90s as it was summer time in the southern hemisphere. When we arrived in Patagonia, it was cold and incredibly windy. It would rain and then snow. We had to work through all of that and find a way to make the picture.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - Nikon Ambassador Argentina D7200 Photo CampaignTo be a solid photographer, you have to be a great problem solver. Working with prototype cameras would be a challenging variable – let alone the fact that I did not get to put my hands on the D7200 until we were actually in Buenos Aires. Gone were my usual ways of traveling and working on location. Minimal grip, no big lights, no big glass. The tools we had to use would be the same tools that anyone could go to a camera store and get with the camera. For Corey, he had to work without all the typical camera movement equipment he normally has at his disposal which are in invaluable tool for a filmmaker. Gone was the jib, the Movi, the slider and all the camera movement equipment he typically has at his disposal on a video project.

I had to take the tools as they were handed to me and figure out a way to push my creativity to make something special. Corey and I had to essentially work as if we just unpacked the box from the camera and got to work.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - Nikon Ambassador Argentina D7200 Photo CampaignNeedless to say, I was immediately impressed with the camera. I have worked with multiple DX format bodies in the past and still own a D300s and a D7000 although I am used to shooting with the D4s, D810 and the D750. Much to my pleasant surprise, the D7200 immediately felt comfortable in my hands. In fact, I was impressed in how robust its features were. Several of the features I have come to expect in my professional bodies have found their way to this stellar  DX-format camera. (24.2 megapixels, 6 fps, full 1080 HD video at 30, 25 and 24p. Built in wifi and expanded picture controls.) Time and time again I had to remind myself that I was shooting with a prototype DX camera. I pushed the camera to the limits and it held up and allowed me to do what I wanted, creatively. I found the minimalist approach exhilarating. I love a challenge and when I pushed this camera to the limits, it responded exactly the way I needed it to… every… single… time. For me, that is the perfect situation when it comes to making pictures!

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - Nikon Ambassador Argentina D7200 Photo CampaignFortunately working with this camera was very intuitive. It is designed intelligently (Thanks Nikon!) and its performance far surpassed my expectations…and with Nikon, the bar is set pretty high, right?

Here is the link to the Nikon page for the Nikon D7200 if you want to check out the camera.

Over the course of 12 days in Argentina, 8 of which were our shoot days, we worked an average of 19 hours a day to maximize every single opportunity to make a picture. When we weren’t shooting, we were working on our plan and strategy for the next day and what we had to accomplish. With eyes wide open, we took in all the culture of Argentina and worked our best to put what we saw to life in the photos and videos that we were making. Argentina is a stunning country teaming with passion and pride and it was all a blast to photograph.

Tango. Soccer. Patagonia. There is no place like Argentina.. There was a picture to be made around every single corner if you were looking for it. The people were warm and welcoming. It was a trip and an assignment that I will never forget.

Now who wants to join me for an empanada and a glass of malbec?!?!

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer - NFL Combine

NFL Combine 2014

Last year I was tasked with covering a press conference for the New York Times. Not the most exciting assignment on the surface as I am sure you can imagine. However, this was no ordinary press conference. The incredibly talented Jeffrey Furticella, sports photo editor at The New York Times, sent me to the NFL Combine with the need to create a compelling photograph of the Michael Sam press conference. This would be the first public meeting with Sam and the media after his announcement that he was gay and had the potential to be the first openly gay professional football player to play in the NFL.

The scene was an absolute circus. Photographers and journalists spread about the building trying to anticipate which entrance Sam would find his way through. Sports writers, photographers and cameramen densely packed around the podium where Same would make his first public statement in advance of his workouts at the combine.

In a situation like this, I knew I had to find a way to escape from making the picture that everyone else would make. Photographers rushed to the back of the room to get in position to get a clear shot of Sam at the podium while also in a position to capture a wide angle shot showing the scene – which would be the photo that would ultimately tell the story. In anticipating what would happen, I decided to run a trick play of my own. Instead of rushing to the back to get a spot, I went the opposite direction.

Behind Sam was a large backdrop screen. I wanted to show what the event was like for Sam, with cameras, microphones and lights all pointed towards him. An intimidating situation for anyone. To get the shot, I placed my camera on top of a monopod with a ball head on top to angle my 14-24mm lens down at the podium from behind. I set the intervalometer on the back of my camera to take a picture every few seconds. I triggered the camera and then raised it using the monopod to get a view looking over the background and showing the scene for the circus that it was.

Andrew Hancock - Advertising photographer - Shadow Hoops

Shooting With Remotes – Expanding Your View

Did you enjoy my recent Nikon Behind the Scenes video featuring remote camera photography? If you did and are looking to dig a little deeper into remote camera photography and it’s various applications into my work, go check out this article on the Nikon Learn & Explore website.

While you are there, spend some time looking around. The site is a great resource for those looking to continuously learn and refine their craft and abilities in photography!


Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer

An Explosion of Light and Color


Last night was something special. Finding… and photographing the aurora is not easy. It is best visible in pretty brutal environments. It is hard on the body and on the gear. It was -6C and windy. We had not eaten since lunch and were out until 3 a.m. when fingers and camera batteries were finally frozen.

Looking back at images from the Hotel Budir, our base camp for the first half of this trip, I am still at a loss for words to adequately describe the magic that transpired overhead last night. When I started work for this book project last year, I often have thought about what it would be like photographing this portion of the book. I knew the images would have to be epic to make the book. Anything less simply wont do and would be incredibly disappointing to me.

The past two weeks I have been very stressed trying to anticipate weather models, aurora forecasts and plan to put myself in the best position. The past three days have had me researching last minute flights to Greenland, Norway and Finland to make sure this trip isn’t wasted. Coming back without the images I need was not an option for me.

Last night, my stomach sank. We finally got our clearing in the skies…then I checked the aurora forecast. We got a forecast of 0-2. That is bad. A very quiet/minimal forecast is exactly what I didn’t want or need. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I texted my wife because I just had to vent. However, I would still push myself to make the best of the situation and set up four cameras in different locations to at least make some sort of pretty picture. While it wouldn’t make the book, I would at least push myself to make an image I was happy with.

Then out of nowhere beginning at 7 p.m. – only 30 minutes past sunset – the skies began to dance. Soon enough that dance turned into an explosion of light and color unlike anything I had ever seen. I was sprinting back and forth between four cameras, constantly altering compositions, exposures and moving cameras from location to location and kept the pace for 8 hours straight.

Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer

When it was all said and done, around 5,000 ultra high resolution Nikon NEF files were backed up on a pair of G-Technology G-DRIVEev units. We shot non stop from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. Last night, my work horses were the Nikon D810 (two of them), the D4s and a D750 which was allowing me to upload photos via wifi transfer from the camera to my iPhone. Exposures ranged from 3 seconds to 30 seconds with apertures from f2 to f4 and an ISO range as low as 400 at some points and as high as 2500.

Remarkable. Ethereal. Inspiring. Breathtaking. Exhilarating.


Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer Andrew Hancock - Commercial and Advertising photographer