Several months have passed since I started using EF-X500 flashes. In the meantime, with the birth of my firstborn Brando, I was not able to test them in the way I wanted to.
Now I have started to shoot again, developing a personal project. I have portrayed some of the most representative people of a small hidden valley in the Liguria region of Italy.
This valley between the hills and mountains, called Val Fontanabuona, is a small treasure chest that has housed some of the most important handicrafts and industrial activities in the past, such as those related to the extraction of slate.
Today the valley is undergoing a huge economic crisis but some people continue to fight for it because they feel this land is their own and do not want to abandon their birth place. In these shots, made with an EF-X500 as a controller, and one or two EF-X500s as sources of illumination, I tried to depict the work of some of these characters.
Firstly, there is Emilio, 82, who came down with us in a quarry that today is managed by his children and showed us how they cut off the slides from a single block of stone, with a hammer and chisel. For Emilio, I decided to shoot with "naked" flashes, to have a tough light that would speak of the harshness of that difficult and dangerous environment.
Then, husband and wife Hoang and Antonella who work in a small studio carving beautiful marble objects and other materials. For them, I shot with an EF-X500 on my left and at 45 degrees in a Cactus CB-60 portable softbox with grids to isolate the light as we snapped the studio of the two sculptors, simulating the light of a photographic studio. A second EF-X500 was used with a Rogue grid as a reflector on the hair to detach subjects from the background.
Ezio, on the other hand, is a carpenter-artist: he creates objects of furniture and liturgical use in religious processions by hand, carving wood from all over the world. To photograph Ezio, I used three different light schemes.
In the horizontal shot, I shot with just one EF-X500 on my right through a large translucent Profoto umbrella in order to have a very soft and natural light. For the snapshot where he check the planarity of his piece, holding it in front of my eyes, I used a small translucent folding Cactus C-451 umbrella which my EF-X500 was behind, lighting up both Ezio and part of the background with the tools.
For the third shot I wanted the tools to be highlighted, as if they were struck by the light of a lamp. Ezio is lit with the same umbrella, while the background is lit by a second EF-X500 with a Rogue grid.
Massimo is a craftsman of iron. To illuminate him, I used my EF-X500 in a Cactus CB-60 softbox without a grid, held to my right and at 45 degrees so that the light could hit both him and part of the railing that he had made, while a second EF-X500 with a red gelatin filter illuminated the background and highlighted the curls of wrought iron pieces behind him.
For all these shots, my EF-X500s were supported by Manfrotto Nanopole tripods with an Manfrotto Snap Tilthead with hotshoe attachment: robust and lightweight material, ideal for sets like these.
For these shots I've always worked by controlling the flash power in manual right from the camera menu because I wanted to have full control of my light.
Working in spaces which are often narrow, you can use small and handy lights like the EF-X500s which has been a real advantage. These craftsmen are not used to being photographed and it's essential to mount the set in no time, to avoid making them feel too "on a photo set".
These first shots of the artisans of Valfontanabuona are just a small beginning. I believe in the potential of this small valley and its inhabitants, and I will not stop photographing it with the help of my discrete light companions, the EF-X500s!
Max De Martino professionally deals with images since 1990, as live image director for the projection on maxi-screen during the European tour of the italian singer Eros Ramazzotti.
He was cameraman during interviews with Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and afterwards he dealt with video direction during the tours of Pino Daniele, Antonello Venditti and Vasco Rossi.
As web pioneer he followed in 1996 the internet column of the Apple review "Applicando". For almost ten years he coordinated a company with 120 shops as Sales Manager.
He has been photographing for 26 years. He worked for press campaigns such as Fastweb and Pininfarina and shot several portraits of italian and foreign authors. His photos have been chosen to illustrate several reviews and books of important writers such as Wilbur Smith. He is a member of the Association for Professional Photographers "Tau Visual" and shares its code of conduct and behavioural mood. He works in and outside Italy dealing with private and foreign clients interacting with them with a fluent English.
He created and has been coordinating for 14 years the website devoted to Tiziano Terzani and in 2006 edited the book "Dentro di noi, parlano i lettori di Tiziano Terzani" published by Tea, Longanesi Group. He collaborates with several NGOs like Bambini Nel Deserto and L'Albero Della Vita and holds base and advanced photography courses. One of the projects that satisfied him more, was a course held for old people between 75 and 94 years of age. Thanks to this work he received the patronage from Regione Lombardia, from the Provincia di Milano and from all the interested districts and six exhibitions have been set up.
As soon as he can he catches a train or an airplane, takes his bicycle, his car or his old motorcycle BMW GS and travels. He visited 27 countries and in June 2008 he was the first western photographer having a solo exhibition in Iraq, Kurdistan Region. Later on the exhibition "No Ears" has been given to the University of Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan Capital), where it is still exposed.