Building Peter Lindbergh's sunbounce cage...would appreciate feedback from pros!

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by james_lin|2, May 30, 2016.

  1. Hi all - I’m a documentary photographer who’s working on a portraits series in which I would like to create portraits in look/style of Peter Lindbergh (via the ones shot in the cage), but also inspired by the work of Fazal Sheikh’s portraits in particular his work in the white tents in Africa. (Will link to a mood board at the end of post) While, I’ve watched numerous videos of Peter Lindbergh’s sun-bounce cage at work through BTS youtube videos - any feedback from regarding the set-up, metering and lighting would be great as I begin testing!

    By the way, I’ve decided to build the sun-bounce cage out of EMT Canopy materials because of the logistics of the grip (from what I can tell so far it is various single/double wind-ups, 12by frames and etc…) and also I can keep the entire cage on set.

    About my gear:

    I’m shooting on 8x10 view camera in B&W (the goal of project is to create 8x10 contact prints for each individual portrait). I’m most likely using a 360mm lens, Ilford FP4, a yellow filter for contrast if need be and have access to a pro darkroom.

    Firstly, from what I can tell, Lindbergh uses a 12x12 double net ( as a backdrop and shoots through at the beach/ocean. What I like about this set-up is that the double net helps create depth/separation from the subject to the background and probably prevents the white sand from completely blowing-out the background. While I understand that the DOF in particular on a 360mm 8x10 in similar lighting conditions will probably result in a DOF of mere inches, it is something I would like to test. However, my issue is that I will not be shooting at the ocean with white sand, but will be shooting on a farm surrounded by grass/trees. Furthermore, for the specific look, I would like an off-white background (aka. not Avedon’s bone white seamless..) such as this image, but also a little lighter.

    My initial solutions:
    1. Use a white fabric backdrop or wall and figure out the distance and size upon set-up of cage and lighting. And also make sure the backdrop is evenly illuminated and not blown out.
    I’m going to test all of this, but any advice or tips would be greatly appreciate as I am now in the process of building the cage. If there is a better/smarter solution, I would appreciate hearing that as well…

    Secondly, I have not shot in this set-up before, but is there any particular way to position the box? I see that Lindbergh places his cage in many positions even with the sun coming through the back. For me, I am looking for more of an even/directionless light (or rather open shade) much like in Fazal and Avedon’s work (In the American West) and I believe I’ll place the box either with the Sun on box/camera right and use duvetyn on the top/left/right of the cage. It’s now summer and I’ll most likely start shooting in full sun from 11 am ~ 4 pm. I can also bounce/feather the light towards the subject and of course use various silks/reflectors/flags for more contrast control. The main question is how to position the box and backdrop? I’m going to test meticulously, but would appreciate any feedback.

    Thirdly, and these are tertiary concerns:

    I will bringing with me 12by full-stop silks, China silks, 18x14 flags for contrast control. I’m thinking out loud here, but I’ll probably might switch the duvetyn for the silks depending on the exposures, lighting control and overall look I want. Any feedback for contrast control such as negative fill, diffusion and etc would be appreciated as well. As for metering, my subjects are light skinned and I’ll probably meter for a zone 6. I’ll expose twice and bracket for the tests (STD processing and N-1). I’ve also attached the following as various mood board inspirations:

    Peter Lindbergh - the technical and refinement of his work.
    His set-up:

    Fazal Sheikh - the look and feel of its documentary work is awe-inspiring for me.


    Avedon - mainly because of it is 8x10 work and also composition and framing.

    I just like this shot of Avedon at the show.

    Irving Penn - mainly because of its composition, framing and refinement. Also, the platinum prints from Penn are break taking and among the greatest I’ve ever seen.

    August Sander - mainly because of the subject matter which is similar to mine.


    Guys - thank you so much for reading! I understand it’s overdrawn, probably over thought out, but mainly I’m trying to see if I covered all my bases and feedback/suggestions from experience is invaluable. I haven’t shot an elaborate set-up like this and also have my hands full from producing the tests, shoots and just normal working life.
  2. Apart from Peter Lindbergh, you mention a bunch of different photographers you want to use an inspiration,.
    But I think you're consequently making things way over complicated for you, as they all use different technical approaches, and distilling a specific 'style' out of it that will/might fit what you're after becomes nigh to impossible
    From the mirage of photographers you mention I would like to focus on two, whose (technical) approach I have been studying/trying to analyze for some time now.
    With regards to Peter Lindbergh, and his use of a 'lighttent' it should be noted that in the pictures you quote he also very often uses (what I think are) huge HMI lights (and at times flash units) as additional light sources as 'frontal' lights, as eg is shown in many of his "Deauville' beach pictures
    I tried asking him during meets at some exhibitions of his work I visited a few years ago in Germany, but understandably he was not very much inclined to give away his trade secrets.
    The Irving Penn pictures you quote are from his "Worlds in a Small Room' series, and the technique differs completely of that of Peter Lindbergh.
    I am a long time owner of a copy of the book, and the simplicity with which the pictures were shot, respectively taken in New Guinea and Morocco, is quite humbling considering the vast array of technical options we nowadays have at our disposal, and think we can't do without.
    The series were shot over a long period, starting in 1948 in Cuzco, Peru, and during the 50's and 60's next to the two locations already mentioned, also in eg Nepal, Paris, New York, Crete, Nahomey, under supervision of Conde Nast Publications for Vogue.
    In the introduction he mentions that his aim is 'dealing with the person himself, away from the accidentals of his daily life' and to distill an image 'the cold light of day would put it onto film'.

    The latter was also defining in his technical approach, all pictures were shot with daylight only, possible (and preferably) in a old fashioned (northern light) daylight studio (or whatever building he could transform into resembling to that), and eg in the two pictures you show in his portable daylight studio, as described (and illustrated) here .
    As you can see his lighting was all (northern light) daylight with at times 'just' a reflection screen, on a Rolleiflex medium format camera, with his B&W shots on, as far as I have been able to research, Kodak Tri-X.
    The latter may be of some importance to you, since the characteristics of Tri-X are significantly different from those of FP4, more grainy (but that will probably hardly be noticeable on large format) but, especially in daylight more contrasty (I was a long time fan of Tri-x in my filmshooting days, covering well over 25 years) and consequently delivery deeper shadow without supressing the highlights in the process, but yet still with a wide tonal reach.
    Of course, the pictures are the result of his mastery of his superior technique, both of photography, and of printing mastery, so just getting hold of the materials he used won't automatically result in the same level of results.
    So I think that you should decide first on what technique you want to limit yourself to, and based on that choice go ahead, for better and worse, and shoot.
    Based on that you can pick the elements/results you like, and continue to use, while making adjustments on the aspects which in introspect didn't work out the way you wanted.
    A bit more work, but considering the investment you're planning to make in tent, equipment used (even if you only rent the large format camera, the total expense of camera. film and processing/printing will be considerable) IMO well worth the extra effort.

    And even if you're final shots will be on film, I would not hesitate to do your initial testing on digital first, just to see how a thought up (sorry if that's not correct, not a native English speaker) lighting set up or back ground rendering works out.

    My two cents, HTH
  3. Three orfour books you should own because photos tjat are printed are very different from ephemeral evanescent online
    August Sanders "This Century"

    Irving Penn "Worlds in a Small Room"

    Richard Avedon "In The American West"

    Laura Wilson's book about working with R. Avedon on "In The American West"

    I can tell you this about the pure white background in R. Avedon's "American West" project: they were created in the
    darkroom by using a thin coat of red Lipstick on the negatives when they were printed.

    You can get the scrim material Lindberg uses from any cinema supply house: it is essentially a 1 stop Matthews Studio
    Equipment 8x8 or 12x12 scrim. Greg Gorman uses it this kind of cage or tent as well. The key to the lighting is the equally
    large bounce panel outside the tent. You adjuct the amount of light by changing the angle of this reflector.
  4. Actually the black "cage" for negative lighting can be a way smaller. The only problem is the contrast between a person in that cage and the background. You should use a net lowering contrast by certain stops and longer lens of narrow depth of field or shoot towards the backgrounds that are in shade. You can see it on Lindbergh's setup. This type of setup was (still is?) vastly used by tv stations during making interviews outside.

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