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Studio shooting with Ironman champion Sebastian Kienle with the challange to create a specific theme for the three parts of Triathlon: Cycling, Swimming (without water) and running.


The Making-Of Men´s Health - Triathlon Editorial Shooting with Sebastian Kienle - 2016

The editor of Men ́s Health Magazine is an old friend of mine and somewhen year he told me he would love to see my lightpainting­works in his magazine. I was totally amazed when he came up with this idea. So he was only waiting for the matching project and called me, when this one came on his table: a shooting about triathlon. Biking, Running, Swimming. Openers and double pages for each discipline were on the clients wishlist. He called me and said "Listen, I have the ironman champion Sebastian Kienle on hold for a shooting, let me see when we can arrange the shooting as his schedule is quiet packed...“


As I was a pro bike­trials rider myself back in the days, this directly triggered my ambitions to create some wicked new stuff and helped aswell during the shoot, as it turned out the ironman champ was a fan of my past career too. So meanwhile I got connected with the art buyer of the magazine and I came up with my first sketched ideas ­ the so called mockups ­ a pdf illustrating what the pictures will contain in combination with a selection of toys and what kind of lightstrokes they create so the art buying got an idea of each shootingscene and I could more or less stipulate what kind of styles I wanted to shoot. The date came up 3 months later, so the magazine rented a studio in Stuttgart where I arrived together with my assistant the day before the shooting. We had a huge studiospace with high ceiling and lots of black fabrics to get it real dark in there on daytime.


When Sebstian Kienle arrived early in the morning he had tons of gear with him ­his brandnew carbon­bike looked ace and as he ́s a pro athlete he came up with a bag full of sponsor­clothings too, so the staff of the magazine could make a first choice together with the stylist .After this he went to the make­up artist so we were ready to start at about 09:30am.  I decided to start with the biking theme to get the things going as this appeared to be the easiest for me myself to get into the theme. His Scott triathlon bike was made of dark grey carbon with yellow neon stickers and looked beautiful for itself. Besides getting a straight shot of the sports theme for the magazine, the visibility of the sponsors names had also to be positioned and readable within each picture. As weapons of choice I took the pixelstick for lightpainting the background patterns.

The only thing which came on top was a handheld flash which I shot from the lower front. I also ordered upfront LED caps for the wheels so the spinning of wheels could become more visible as Sebastian was pedaling on a stand­roll for indoor trainings.

The make­up artist came up with a special water­spray so he was looking like in full sweaty action and in full speed. First we did go threw the process with studiolights being switched on so the athlete knew exactly what to expect in the darkness.



The preparation of the setup was pretty simple, a pixelstick pattern I created upfront and a little makeup/waterspray for the athlete and the ground. As he had to pedal on the stand­rolls, it was clear that a little retouching work would come on top after the shooting. While Sebastian was pedaling he had a huge box covered with black molten fabrics besides him on the opposite side of my tripod ­ for the case of losing balance on his bike the box became his invisible helper in the darkness next to his handlebar. This box left me a tiny gap of 20cm to walk behind him with the pixelstick. So I started from the front side, in one hand the stick in the other one the flash. The pattern I prepared for the stick had a fade of strip lines from bright blue to strong blue and some fades to black in the vertical to create more volume of its final look. So once I passed with the stick I placed myself left sided in front of hime with about 2m distance to flash him in his pedaling action, so his movements became frozen. The flash had a diffusor on top so there could ́t appear overkill reflections. The second biking action was more defficult than I thought in the beginning. Sebastian had to click into his pedals before speeding up from a curve and biking towards me. I placed a permanent light on the final destination­point which was outside of the shooting­field so he was able not to crash into the tripod by accident. A month earlier I ordered 5 different lasercutted plexiglas blades which I modified with adapters to fit on stroboscopic torches. Once I got them I was able to do several test shootings at my home studio so I knew upfront what kind of strokes

At the shooting I used the one cutted like a plus sign, on a fast stroboscope blinking mode. I was walking with the blade towards the cyclist

while my assistant flashed into the darkness to freeze his movement. We went threw this process about 10 times to get the right shot and as I already knew that some of the blade­shapes had to be added to the final composition, I was shooting a separate series of blades­only­movements after the bike action was finished, again from the same perspective.



Shooting in a pool­location was ́t an option to get the ironman champ in his swimming action. So a dryland action workaround was the only solution.

Again I used the big box covered with black molten fabrics. The box was about 1,2m high, 2 meters long and had 1m depth. I placed the model on the boxes edge so his right leg and arm were kinda hanging free in the air to imitate crawling moves. The black fiber­optic brush on a torch in combination with a led torch which I covered with blue color­foil on 7 of the 8 bulps and a handheld flash were the three major tools for this shot. First I used the LED torch to create the blue shiny look on his swimsuit by scanning his body with the lamp without putting the lightbulps into the lens. In a second step I used the same light to create some blue swooshs that were facing into the camera. Keeping those ones simple and minimalistic was the major challenge to leave enough space for the brush action. In the next step I was jumping around like a voodoo priest with the brush in my hand, shaking around his body and head before i swapped over to do the final flash. As it ́s hard for a model to keep in the exactly same action position, I used this „failure“ to create moving action, so he could slightly move his position during the 30 seconds exposuretime. By freezing his face and hand within the first step and the last flash, I was able to imitate the doubleexposure­look of shoveling hands and head movement like in real crawling action.


The third part was the easiest one ­ catching Sebastian in his running action in combination with the circle blade on strobe mode. He only had to run towards the camera doing a little jump while i was flashing him from the left side before I stepped into the picture for doing the blade moves. After five shots everything was captured perfectly and the whole team was happy with the results. Some more additional work came with the add­on series of portrait-shots and exercise workouts (which were plain photo­studio works without lightpainting) but after 7 hours everything was save and I was done with the shooting.

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