Jay P. Morgan: Lighting an F-16 and its Pilot

In this recent Slanted Lens post, Jay P. Morgan had a photo-shoot out at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona to get shots of fighter pilot Josh “Chunk” Moffet with his F-16. In this video, you’ll see how his lighting techniques served to compress the dynamic range for fantastic results.

The first obstacle we had to deal with was the plane facing the direction opposite of what I wanted and not being able to move it. In choosing the best angle to photograph the F-16 in this position, it would have had me looking into the sun. I needed to light the shadow side of the jet with 400 watt strobes. Not an easy task. Oh yeah, did I mention it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside?

This is our first image with just the ambient light. My plan was to set three strobe heads to light the jet fighter and one head to light the pilot.

The first head would be dedicated be to lighting our fighter pilot. I used radio slaves for the the heads. The light was comprised of a FlexFlash 400W head with a small OctoDome attached. Here is our image with the first light.

The next light was a TritonFlash aimed at the tail section. The head was positioned on camera left.

The third light was a FlexFlash 400W strobe with a hard reflector attached and aimed at the wing or mid-section. This head was placed on camera right.

Here’s what the setup looked like around the pilot.

The fourth light was another FlexFlash 400W with a hard reflector. It was placed camera right and lit the nose of the fighter. I tilted it up slightly to keep some of the light off the ground.

Here is our lighting diagram.

I moved to the front of the jet and took some additional shots. These turned out great when I applied a Nik effect on them afterward. I took the image and added dark contrast and used subtraction points to remove 70% of the effect from the pilot’s face and body. I then added straight contrast and desaturated the image.

This was a great shoot. I loved the location and the subject matter. It’s not that easy to light a large object with smaller strobes, but it’s very doable.

To see more of Jay P. Morgan's work, visit his Pro Showcase page.

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