Strobist Photos of the Year, 2007 -- 1st Place Winner

I happened upon the 2007 First Place SPOY Winner moments after it dropped into the Strobist Flickr Pool. My first thoughts were that the lighting was some of the most elegant I had ever seen. But clearly, it was one of those photos done with big flahes, using gobs of watt-seconds shot through giant silks in a huge studio.

When I learned that the entire thing was lit with two, bare speedlights, I was floored. So, too, were many of you according to your comments:


"Beautiful. I would have thought for sure that there were more lights involved if I hadn't read your description and tried to picture it in my head."

"No stands? No umbrellas? Not much hardware of any kind? That's some BRAINS, that's what that is."

"Beautifully simplistic method to a VERY sophisticated result."

"... awesomelicious!"

"... uberamazing."

"This is so rad it hurts."


(See the 1st-place winner and judges' comments after the jump.)

First Place: 300SL, By Ken Brown

First place goes to California-based photographer Ken Brown, for his stunning shot of a classic Mercedes 300SL.

It's an amazing shot. The lighting is built around the idea that two bare speedlights placed on the front seats, pointing up, illuminate the interior and the undersides of the gull-wing doors. The doors are then reflected everywhere to define the edges of the body of the car. You can see the entire lighting setup here.

And lest you think we were the only ones who liked Ken's photo, American Photo did, too. You can also see a video of Ken's "walk-and-pop" speedlight-in-a-soft-box lighting technique, here.

Chase Said:
I dig on this for several reasons.

First, for it's innovation and vision - deciding how to shoot this, perspective, concept, etc. This shot will be relevant forever, and for a variety of reasons -- photographically, visually, historically. Very solid.

Second, for it's execution -  technically it's very sound.

Third--and arguably most importantly--it has that indescribable special sauce. Survey a hundred people flipping thru a magazine or clicking across thumbnails, large or small, and I'm banking that nearly everyone will pause to look at this shot. For a myriad of reasons--known or unknown to each viewer--people WILL pause and examine this image. I guarantee it.

And that, my friends, is one thing that all good pictures should seek to achieve.

I Say:

I think my initial reaction to seeing this photo was to want to show it to everyone in the room, which is about the best thing I can say about a photo. The very idea that a car could be so beautifully lit with two, bare speedlights pushes the boundaries of what is possible with small-flash lighting techniques.

I was already familiar with the idea that lighting a highly specular object was really an exercise in lighting its surroundings.

But this is a fantastic example of a thinking photographer doing more with less.


Congratulations, Ken, on the photo. If you would be so kind as to choose your favorite prize from the list below and stick it into a comment on your photo's Flickr page, it will greatly help to speed the process of distributing prizes to the five winners after they have been announced.

Thanks again to the following sponsors for contributing such great prizes:

• An AlienBees ABR800 Ringflash, courtesy AlienBees.

• A pair of Pocket Wizard Plus II's courtesy the MAC Group, facilitated by Midwest Photo Exchange.

Elinchrom D-Lite 2 Kit, courtesy Elinchrom and facilitated by The Flash Centre.

• Two Nikon SB-800 Speedlights, courtesy Nikon USA.

• A Canon Powershot G9 Digital Camera, courtesy Canon USA, facilitated by Midwest Photo Exchange.


Discussion, including details on the judging process and the honorable mention (6-10) photos, here.


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