Off camera flash


Raluy Legacy Circus

More than fifteen years ago I made a book with Circo Raluy and since then a story of friendship has begun that continues to this day. During their visit to Barcelona a few months ago, I worked with them on a wide range of photographs. I had to photograph the show, but also portray the artists and photograph some of the numbers in good light.

Raluy Circus in Barcelona

I decided to bring plenty of lighting equipment to cover all the lighting needs since I only had a couple of hours for everything. I started by setting up two wide and soft light sources. One of them was a Profoto XL silver deep umbrella with a front diffuser. The other accessory was an octagonal window of 150 cm in diameter. Profoto softboxes have a very deep shape and a recessed front edge for precise control of the reflection contour. It also has double-layer diffusers and a highly reflective silver interior that helps minimize light loss due to bounce.
I placed the two Profoto D2 flashes on either side of the artist so that the line connecting them passed through the middle of the body. This is a cross-lighting set that leaves dark areas and outlines the subject, in this case the athlete’s body. Both lights were set at the same power and the only thing left to do was to wait for the moment of maximum tension.
The D2 was chosen because of its extremely high speed, capable of reaching 1/63,000 of a second. In this assignment he became a key player as some of the show’s numbers were fast-paced action and he had to freeze the movements.

Juggling with fire in the Raluy Circus

Then I made a series of portraits with the background of the curtain of the access to the runway. For the background I used two Profoto B2 flashes, one on each side of the entrance. As the main light I placed the octagonal window to the left of the character and diminished the contrast with the umbrella with diffuser from the right side of the camera. This secondary light, the umbrella light, was two EV below the main light.

Although the circus has light sockets for plugging in flashes, they are not easily accessible. I used a pair of extension cords for the two D2 flashes but when I looked for more sockets, I couldn’t find them. This is where the B2s became indispensable. Its light weight, quick assembly and small but long-lasting battery helped me to be more efficient in a quick way.

Kerry Raluy and partner Kerry Raluy and Jean Christophe

In some cases, when I wanted a more intimate portrait, I turned off the background flashes and only kept the main light and the fill light, or secondary light.

I left for the end, the most difficult numbers to photograph and they were those in which it was necessary to freeze the movement. For this, the D2s are the best option and I was disappointed. The photograph of the couple hanging from canvases was not that difficult to freeze, but the Swider Raluy sisters did move very fast down the runway. In both situations I repeated the initial lighting scheme by placing the two flashes on either side of the camera in an extreme lateral position, i.e., each at a 90-degree angle to the flash/subject/camera axis.

Acrobatics at Raluy Circus Kerry Raluy and Jean Christophe

The difference was that for the photo of the girls I changed the two large accessories for two narrow windows of 30×180 cms. These elongated windows produce perfect contour lights. They can also be used to create long, perfectly even highlights with soft edges which is what I was looking to achieve on the day of this shoot. In this way, I managed to outline the silhouettes of the bodies with greater contrast.

It was a very intense two hours, with many changes, but the right equipment made the job easier.

Swider Sisters at Raluy Circus Emily y Niedziela Raluy Swider

Lighting scheme at Raluy Circus Lighting scheme


All rights reserved. © Marcelo Isarrualde
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