One of my favorite things to do, when I'm able to, is to do pro bono work for local charities that need the help. There's something special, in a way, about not being paid: the "client" is usually a lot more flexible in their expectations and they allow you more leeway in your creative process. So when I got a chance to do some marketing material for a half-marathon that benefited local emergency services, I took it. A couple of years ago, my childhood best friend was a co-founder of a local race, the Hero Half Marathon, with the goal of all proceeds going to support our local fire department. The current mission statement of the race is "The Hero Half Marathon is a fundraising race and community event hosted by The Spark Foundation in partnership with Fayetteville Firefighters’ IAFF – Local 2866. Race proceeds benefit organizations that meet important community needs, increase fitness opportunities for the community, and make Fayetteville and Arkansas a great place to live, work, and play." They support local schools, the Arkansas Special Olympics, the Muscular Dystrophy Association Arkansas, scholarships for children of local firefighers, and more. Last year they donated around $20,000. That's something I can stand behind. So when I got asked to do some promo photos for the event, of course, I said yes.
This past year, I did a second round of photos for the organization. I came equipped with all kinds of things: multiple lights, stands, modifiers, reflectors, etc. But what I realized is that I didn't need any of that, and I took out just one light that I often forget about: the ring light. Generally, people either love or hate these lights, mostly because of the unique circular catch light and/or the generally flat lighting they give off. But I decided not to use it like ring lights are generally used. I didn't shoot through the light, as is common, but instead just used it as I would any other constant light, off to the sides, to create better shadows.
Instead of taking all of the other strobes, battery packs, stands, softboxes, and all of that, just putting the one ring light on a stand was really freeing. I got practice mixing that light with the golden light of the sunset and the lights on the fire trucks, and having that simplicity freed me up to interact with my non-model subjects a little more genuinely and with less stress.