Keith Ladzinski is no stranger to the power of off-camera lighting. In fact, he credits his flash savvy, honed through
his stint as a skateboarding photographer,
with helping his images stand out among his
landscape and action-sports peers.
Always looking to push the envelope,
Ladzinski had the idea to mount Speedlights
to an aerial platform several years before he
actually had a chance to realize the vision, in the
fall of 2015. It was only when Nikon presented
him with the then-new radio-controlled SB-5000
AF Speedlight that Ladzinski’s mind returned to
his earlier aerial musings.
From a technical standpoint, it was the perfect
time to attempt a drone-lighting shoot, Ladzinski
says. Drone technology had matured to the point
of not needing an unwieldy helicopter for aerial
lighting. Meanwhile, the SB-5000 Speedlights
brought radio control into the Nikon flash family,
allowing them to be triggered without being in
line-of-sight of a transmitter, like optical systems
require. At just shy of a pound, the SB-5000s were
also lightweight enough that the team could mount
two to a drone without sending it hurtling toward the
Earth (a battery-powered monolight, for example,
would weigh about six pounds). “That weight
difference is substantial when you’re bolting them
onto a drone,” Ladzinski says.
With the technology in place, Ladzinski set out
to pull off a one-of-a-kind shoot photographing a
pair of climbers as they descended France’s Verdon
Gorge, also known as Europe’s Grand Canyon. The
climbers would also be photographed highlining, the
mountaineering equivalent of a tightrope walk (only
cooler). Here’s how he pulled it off.
Keith Ladzinski on using a drone to light a Verdon Gorge climb.
by GREG SCOBLETE