Small Flashes for Big Job

UPDATE, June 13th, 2014: I can say now what I couldn't say in 2010. Strobist reader Karel Donk was, in fact, the anonymous man behind the "Fake Chuck Westfall" blog.

Well, this is just neat.

What would you do if someone called to ask you to shoot your President's official portrait on a few days' notice?

(I'd try to figure out which one of my buds was trying to pwn me, is what I'd do…)

But that's exactly what happened to Strobist reader Karel Donk, who lives in the small South American country of Suriname. So Karel grabbed his speedlights Strobist gel kit and got to work.

Afterwards, he posted about it on his blog -- including BTS pics and lighting diagram.

What a cool thing to happen. Congrats, Karel.



Brand new to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos

Comments are closed. Question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist


Blogger Tim Skipper Photography said...

It was a very good article. I can only imagine how nervous it would make you to take a portrait that would be critiqued by the entire nation.

September 16, 2010 10:11 PM  
Blogger kcmckell said...

It takes huge....confidence to put a specular on your country's leader's bald pate.
Great product and excellent article.

September 16, 2010 10:30 PM  
Blogger Surly said...

That's so cool. It's pretty awesome that he can pull off flare on a Presidential portrait! I also love the comment about using Cactus V4's instead of the Canon stuff!

September 16, 2010 11:15 PM  
Blogger Nionyn said...

Very, very cool.

Really liked the detailed and well written insight into your thought process throughout the whole business, Karel.
I also really like the final photo, and would be willing to bet that you'll get more surprise phone calls of this nature in future. :-)

Thanks for another very worthwhile post, David, and congratulations to you, Karel.

September 16, 2010 11:59 PM  
Blogger Edward Carlile Photography said...

That was a real good read.
Thank you for bringing this story to us all.

September 17, 2010 12:10 AM  
Blogger Edward Carlile Photography said...

An excellent read.
Thank you for the post.

September 17, 2010 12:11 AM  
Blogger R said...

+1 on the gutsy lighting! But it really works. I love the vibrancy of the background. Kudos.

(minor nitpick - the wrinkles on the right sleeve)

September 17, 2010 12:21 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I felt butterflies for him as I read the story. Thanks for the link and the shared wisdom Dave!! G'day from Brisbane Australia.

September 17, 2010 12:23 AM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Excellent article. It shows that you don't really need "bells and whistles" stuff to get the job done. Simple setup yet very effective. My hat's off to Karel.

September 17, 2010 12:39 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

Love the comparison at the end of past and present Presidential portraits. Mr.Donk really knocked it out of the park here.

September 17, 2010 12:48 AM  
Blogger Alex Gardner said...

Hells belles! You've done well and what an honour!

Congrats Karel!

September 17, 2010 1:45 AM  
Blogger said...

Whoa, that's a very good job without a very big studio :) thanks for sharing it!

September 17, 2010 2:40 AM  
Blogger Anders said...

Well, he pulled it of in style - that is brilliant! Love the colours so much, that I've just ordered a set of gels - wanted them for a long time, but the starting price if i buy them in Denmark is about 20 quit for 10 filters - thanks for the link to rosco's - absolutly affordable..


September 17, 2010 4:17 AM  
Blogger Wibo said...

Pretty cool.. though I'm a little uncomfortable saying it. Bouterse has a violent history, just to much evidence...

I do think he might have a good plan for his country.

Anyway, it's not about politics here, so, awesome asignment, dude! Great to read what you used and stuff, makes a lot of budget-strobists happy ;)

September 17, 2010 7:16 AM  
Blogger Eric Duminil said...

Wow. Great read and picture!

The Cactus V4 system is an interesting choice for such a high-level shoot.

September 17, 2010 8:29 AM  
Blogger -FD- said...

Love that fact that he shot these with Cactus V4's! And many thanks to Karel for the great write-up.

Canon - wake up! Here is a guy shooting a presidental portrait and he opts for V4's over the too expensive ST-E2 because they are easier and more reliable.

September 17, 2010 8:33 AM  
Blogger davidheadley said...

Nice article and portrait. I really like how he though about the symbolism, story and message he wanted to convey with color, composition and light. Thanks for sharing the pointer to the article and his work.

September 17, 2010 8:35 AM  
OpenID wetzelphoto said...

I was going to say the same thing about the Specular highlight. It turned out absolutely great though. It was a great choice to use the "hair light".

September 17, 2010 10:35 AM  
Blogger Nikica said...

Great work Karel, personally, I think that this guy that took the picture of Obama can learn from you! Your photo is sooo different, yet serious and classy, congrats!Keep up the good work!
Greetings from Croatia :-)

September 17, 2010 11:09 AM  
Blogger Rob E said...

You hit a home run on this one, Karel. I love the thought you put into it and the result... all using relatively simple techniques. It takes real clarity of vision to do that!

September 17, 2010 1:00 PM  
Blogger Jrossphotography said...

Great Picture, but...imho...and I really hate to be negetive, I find the top of his head to be a little hot, and I rarely use a hair light on someone without hair as to not to bring attention to the lack thereof. Although, I was never called upon to photograph the President, so kudos!

September 17, 2010 1:30 PM  
Blogger John said...

Your photo pops off the page in comparison to the other presidential portraits. Bold & confident. Great job!

September 17, 2010 1:48 PM  
Blogger Simon Fuller said...

I think the hair light would have been better positioned as a rim but great effort either way.. Just a little hot on the head IMHO. I would have pooped my pants with worry so well done. It looks outstanding when you compare it to the other portraits.

September 17, 2010 1:53 PM  
Blogger James Kiffmeyer said...

Excellent work, love the "star" effect you got with the yellow light. Perfect.

September 17, 2010 2:27 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

Thank you for sharing this link, I truly enjoyed reading the article.

September 17, 2010 4:16 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

Thank you for sharing this link, I truly enjoyed reading the article.

September 17, 2010 4:18 PM  
Blogger david said...

Hi, I agree with the comment how this photo compares to those of other leaders. This one just pops off the page. I am impressed and envious but also hopeful! Thanks for all the info about how the shot was set up. Dave

September 17, 2010 6:28 PM  
Blogger Karel Donk said...

Hi everyone, thanks for all the comments, both positive and negative. It's interesting to hear from everyone about how they look at a photo. I appreciate it a lot.
Also thanks to David for posting this on his blog, it's given me a lot of exposure. :)
A lot of what I've learned about off-camera lighting is from the information on this website, so I'm happy to be able to share it with you again.

September 18, 2010 12:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

It's true that the image pops but for me a hot spot on bold head is a big no-no especially when it's a formal style portrait.

September 18, 2010 12:09 PM  
Blogger TK said...

This is another proof that the quality of photography works is not necessary related to the cost of photo equipments. I have been doing portrait works with similar equipments for years. I think the photo image might have a stronger impact if the subject eyes were on a golden ratio point. And, it is my personal taste that I prefer a rim light over a hair light. Here is a sample:

September 18, 2010 3:43 PM  
OpenID 101flavours said...

Nice job, Karel!
I like the lighting :D

September 19, 2010 1:29 AM  
Blogger Balmore said...

I can see the headline now:


Great photo and post.


September 19, 2010 5:55 AM  
Blogger Dan Fermon said...

Thank you guys for the post and congratulations for your result, Karel. Great work, great picture!

September 19, 2010 9:06 AM  
Blogger Dan Fermon said...

Congratulations for the job and for the picture Karel. Thank you David for sharing this nice story with us!

September 19, 2010 9:08 AM  
Blogger MeruWarrior said...

Great job, Karel. and hopefilly the first of many more.

I love the thematic lighting. Well thought out and beautifully executed...

I've only just started to experiment with off-cam lighting and am having a blast :)

September 20, 2010 10:18 AM  
Blogger MeruWarrior said...

Superb job. I love the thematic lighting. Well thought-out and beautifully executed...

September 20, 2010 10:39 AM  
Blogger Anel said...

I love his courage to do what he did, I wouldn't have the guts to be honest.. I'd probably use a softbox on one side, a reflector on teh other and a hair light. really going safe.. i'm still not sure if that yellow light works for me or not, i get the whole star on the flag thing but i'm just not sure... it's a great photo no doubt though!

September 20, 2010 4:40 PM  
Blogger Charlbury said...

I'd like to see what this image looks like as a really large print. I would guess that this type of shot would get a lot of press use and a lot of formal use in administrative buildings and government departments where it may be printed as a pretty large image.

What would the highlights and hot spot on the bald head look like when printed large size?

Seeing the image on the web like this, it looks great, I love it, but larger in print I'm not sure about.

September 23, 2010 8:56 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home