When I was asked to do the team photo and portraits for the 2016 Pagosa Springs High School soccer team I knew I wanted to do something unique and a little different from the previous couple of times that I worked with them. I pulled some inspiration from their last season and the way that it ended. You can read about that game and the extreme conditions here: A Cold Conclusion.
I have a lot of random things and pieces of equipment in my bag of tricks/closet of gear. I actually had a party/effects snow machine and a small fog machine that were begging to be used for something. These portraits and the concept of the photo being done in a snow storm were the perfect thing.
Finding a location that we could run those effects machines and that I could also control the light was a small challenge, but we were able to gain access to a school district building that used to be the bus garage and is now being used to store grounds equipment and theater props. It presented a few challenges when I arrived to begin setting things up. Perhaps the largest of those challenges was a tractor that I actually had to push across the garage and out of the way. Another was that there were no brooms and I wasn't able to sweep the dirt out of the way. I ended up using some buckets to hold my seamless background down on the ground rather than tapping it down with gaffers tape.
In the time between pushing a large, green John Deere tractor further than I thought I could and the team showing up, I was able to get my lighting gear set. Below is a rough diagram for those interested:
The key light of the setup was an 84" umbrella with diffusion to camera left and in front of the subjects to get a softer, feathered light. The the subjects' rear and camera right I put up a similar 60" umbrella with diffusion as my "kicker" light. I wanted it to be softer and more "atmospheric" than the small strip boxes that normally use for edge lights with athletes. To finish off the lighting I added a 22" beauty dish with an orange gel to the camera left and behind the subjects. I wanted it to supplement the key light and add a bit of color to mimic the sun slightly breaking through clouds of a storm. A cooler white balance would balance out the image and make it look much more like a cold winter day.
Once the lighting was set I enlisted the help of one of the student team managers to add some haze/smoke to the scene to catch and change the quality of the light. I had one of the coaches run the small snow machine from a ladder to top off the image. Below is a time lapse of the shoot showing the lighting setup and all of the other equipment I worked around to create the photos.
Once I shot all of the smaller groups of players for the composite image I tested the lights again, made slight adjustments, and then shot all of the players individually. Below is one of those test shots straight out of camera except for some slight sharpening and color profiling for web.
Once I shot all of the players it was a matter of adjusting the white balance and "color grading" the images in Photoshop to achieve the colder, stormy look that I envisioned. Most of the look is done by shifting the shadows on the color balance to include more cyan and adding a bit of yellow and red to the highlights to balance it. Below are a few of those finished images: