On The Beach with Gary Phillips

Gary PhillipsIn Hawaii, we are blessed to be able to shoot all year.  At Phillips Photography, beach portraits are by far the most popular type of portraiture that we do. Whether it’s engagement sessions, high school senior portraits or wedding formals, everyone wants to be on the beach (and who can blame them).

However, for a photographer, the beach presents some pretty significant challenges. The environment itself is pretty harsh. Sand gets into everything, as does the splash and spray from the salt water.  Those wonderful tradewinds often blow stands over, sandbags or not. Then there are the lighting conditions.  Most beaches are wide open with very little open shade (I love to place my subject in open shade & add some reflected sunlight from a very large reflector). The sun is very bright and the shadows are harsh and contrasty.

set-upWith that scene set… enter Quantum Instruments and the very reasons why I choose them.  First, they are very tough and stand up extremely well to the harsh conditions of the beach.  I’ve had my Qflashes take a dive into the sand several times and never skip a beat (I don’t recommend this type of abuse, but it happens).   The power that I get from the Qflash easily fills the shadows created by the harsh sun, even after diffusion.  My most common setup (seen below) is a Qflash T5d-R with a FreeXWire FW7Q attached and powered by a Turbo SC on a stand.  I control the Qflash wirelessly with the Quantum Pilot so that I don’t have to keep going back to the stand for adjustments (Pocket Wizards work very well in this situation also). I also have an X5d-R when I need some extra power.

Finished PortraitI’m a big fan of large light sources, so I put a warming gel (to match the warm color of the sun) into the Quantum Wide Angle Diffuser on the Qflash (to better fill the entire 45″ Westscott) and then put that inside of a Westscott 45″ Halo-Mono.  This creates a very powerful, yet soft light that is capable of competing with the sun.  Sunset portraits are one of our specialties and very frequently requested.  Quantum lets me put the sun at my subjects’ back and shoot directly into it, balancing it perfectly to achieve a very natural, pleasing light.  I prefer to shoot all manual with my T5d-R, but I have to admit that I’m intrigued by the HSS that pilot offers in conjunction with the Trio.

Large GroupAnother great thing about the Qflash system is that 1 light can be modified in a variety of different ways depending on the subject.  The same set up easily illuminates a family of 10.






Finished PortraitWe often photograph high school seniors who are vacationing in the Islands. They’re seeking a unique portrait unlike others in their class in “Iowa” (or wherever they may be from).  A Phillips Photography beach portrait session powered by Qflash fits the bill perfectly!

Power, quality (both in product construction and light output), and reliability are the main reason why I choose Quantum.  Sure, it’s a bit more of an initial investment, but when it just has to work and has to work well, then the investment more than pays for itself.


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