Sports pro Terry Donnelly reveals how he captured his iconic Spiderman shot on the streets of New York using the ultra-portable and powerful Rotolight AEOS
Terry Donnelly has had a great passion and air for photography from a young age, but it wasn’t until 2006 when he first became involved in photography in a commercial capacity. He started his journey in the construction industry shooting everything from site excavations to finished development brochures for developers, investors and architects. Since then Terry has worked for a number of high-profile clients and has had his work exhibited in more than 25 countries.
He particularly enjoys shooting environmental portraiture and sports photography, and during the past two years, Rotolight lighting has become a staple part of his kit. ‘The ability to shoot High Speed Sync flash or continuous light from a single portable unit makes them very flexible, either in a studio or out on location,’ he says. It was clear from the start that Rotolight had a lot to offer Terry and his style of photography. ‘From the very first use I was struck by the sheer quality of light and the ease of use. I always have a NEO 2 in my kitbag and will use an AEOS and Anova PRO 2 when more power is needed.’
Shooting with a continuous light source allows Terry to see how the light falls on his subject. Terry explains, ‘In essence I can see the shot before I take it, unlike flash photography. This allows me to work faster, with more confidence that what I am getting in camera is exactly what I envisaged for the shot.’ Terry continues, ‘Time is our most valuable asset, and working with the Rotolight system allows me to make my time more productive without the need to continually be reviewing every shot after it has been taken, as is common with flash photography. Continuous light also allows my subjects’ eyes to adjust to the light they are in and gives a more natural-looking image.’
This is where the Rotolight lighting kit really came into its own on Terry’s recent trip to NYC when time was limited. A friend of Terry’s asked if he’d be interested in photographing a local cosplayer, Elisha Taylor, who lived in Brooklyn. Without a plan in mind and the view of working organically in their urban surroundings, Terry and his friends, along with Elisha, met up and started shooting. He explains, ‘I try to not have any preconceived ideas as I like the work to be spontaneous and fresh. So equipped with my Sony A9 and a Rotolight AEOS fitted with a grid, we set about making some pictures.’
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of taking a shot, Terry is methodical. With his Sony A9 set to manual mode, he typically exposes the scene for the ambient light before bringing in his chosen light source to illuminate his subject. The combination of the continuous light source and Terry’s Sony A9 with its EVF enabled him to set the desired power of the light quickly. ‘The ability to see the exact picture I am about to take before I take it is such an advantage. I can work really fast and adjust my light levels in an instant to get the look I want. For this shoot I fitted a grid to the AEOS to direct the light forward to give me a greater level of control over the light, and place it exactly where I wanted it to be on my cosplayer and reduce spill to the environment.’
Benefits of the AEOS
For Terry, the speedy nature of working with continuous, portable lights when shooting under time constraints is paramount to his impromptu way of working. ‘The AEOS is small enough to be handheld yet still has enough output power but does not require a softbox to soften it, which when out on location is a huge benefit,’ says Terry. He continues, ‘I can also change the colour temperature of light output digitally on the back of the AEOS to balance with the colour of the light in the ambient environment. And of course being battery operated, the AEOS can be used anywhere without worrying about mains power.’
Owing to poor weather conditions on the day, the shoot was cut short, so Terry and Elisha arranged to meet up early another morning to continue their shoot. ‘This time it was just Elisha and me, and I was really benefiting from the portability of the Rotolight AEOS which enabled me to work alone quickly and within a small footprint of space – which was hugely beneficial, especially with so many members of the public around. To shoot alone like this with traditional strobes fitted with softboxes would have been very problematic and time-consuming.’
It’s clear to see that Terry’s background is founded within architectural photography. Using his expertise of working in urban environments, making use of low angles and his cinematic style, he has captured a visually striking portrait using the portable Rotolight AEOS on the streets of New York.
About the AEOS
The Rotolight AEOS is an ultra-portable location LED weighing just 1.4kg and under one inch thick. The AEOS can last for more than two hours on a single 95Wh battery and has built-in handles to easily follow a moving subject or light at any angle while out on location. AEOS is the best of both worlds: a flicker-free, powerful continuous light with high Speed Sync flash functionality, in a portable yet powerful package.
Terry Donnelly is a freelance photographer from Liverpool and shoots sports, editorial, PR and promotions for clients such as the BBC, ESPN, Sky, IHG, Armada and several newspaper publications, to name a few. Terry is also a Rotolight ‘Master of Light’, a Sony Europe Imaging Ambassador, and Fotospeed Ambassador.