How to be Fearless

Ninjas are a good example of fearless. We did this photo shoot a couple nights ago and it was challenging, but so much fun! It's one of those images that I will keep a big print of on my office wall to remind me to Face the Dragon of Fear. Fear is one of those rare emotions that can be either crippling and paralyzing, or fantastically empowering. All it takes for it to be the previous or the latter is a simple switch in your mind. Click. Did you hear it? That's the crazy part - you just have to make a decision in your mind to either face the fear, or cower and avoid. It doesn't take any training or skill to flip that switch and become fearless. (although if you plan to partake in a ninja fight, you should probably have some training). 

The ability to face fear is easier when we have experience - which gives us the confidence to accept the challenge and assume a reasonable chance of success. However, you don't gain experience unless you start facing fears without it first. Funny how that works. I am 45 years old, and it has taken me many years to understand the power of facing my fears. Many of the issues in my life - both personal and in business, have loomed larger and more ominously because I was really avoiding facing a fear. Maybe it was confronting somebody on a delicate issue. Maybe it was asking for help when I felt lost or incapable. Maybe it was starting a new activity that I've always wanted to do, but feared I wouldn't be successful at it. Fear rears its head in many ways.

The happy ending to this fearful story is that we become so incredibly empowered when we face our fears. Stress falls away, miscommunications are minimized, and we can walk with our heads a little higher feeling a sense of empowerment and success. Most fears are, in fact, either imaginary or unfounded. From my own personal experience, I really believe this. At the most, the fear is not as bad as we imagined and we find a way to work through it - and that feels really good.

The fearless ninja in this photo is actually Sensei Brian Sortor, from Sortor Karate in Bend, OR. The other fearless ninjas are his wife, Kristina, and students Ben, Seth, -)

We setup the tarps and a canopy anyway (because if you bring an umbrella it never rains, right?) and got to work lighting the scene. The smoke machine was a challenge to work with. It didn't exactly fill the forest with a gentle fog, like I imagined, but rather it bellowed clouds like a fire-breathing beast. We had to wait for the cloud to blow the right direction and dissipate a little for each shot. We even used a battery powered leaf blower to help coerce the clouds in the right direction. That didn't really work. We also had to worry about somebody seeing the smoke and calling the fire department!


Our setup required 6 lights. We used the Photoflex Triton flash units for the main light on Sensei Brian, and for the backlight deep in the forest. We used Nikon speedlights for a side light on the back right ninja, another light with a Rogue Grid on the front ninjas. We strapped a speedlight to the latern, held by Kristina, and covered it with a warm gel to emulate lantern light. Finally, we put a speedlight behind a large Photoflex LitePanel, on low power. This added a little fill, but mainly served to add a reflection to the swords so they would show up silvery instead of reflecting back the black forest. All of these lights were triggered by my PocketWizard wireless triggers. I used a 14-24mm lens on my D3s to exaggerate the perspective and create the feeling of being in the middle of the action. My vision for this shot was to emulate a movie poster - maybe for an anime film. I knew I would need to process it a little in Photoshop to enhance the surrealism. All of these "ninjas" are amazing athletes, so getting the action and poses I wanted was the easiest part. Timing, composition, and fog were my dragons to deal with! In the end, I love the way the images came out - due in no small part to the power and fearlessness in Sensei Brian's presence. He looks pretty scary in the photos, but he's really a super nice guy ;-)

Products used:

Photoflex Triton Flash systems
Photoflex LitePanel
Rogue Grids
Nikon SB900 & SB800 speedlights
Manfrotto Boom arm & stand
Nikon D3s
Nikon 12-24mm f2.8 lens

My big wall print, and prints for the dojo, need to be the best quality possible, so they will be made by WHCC!

I welcome your comments. Tell me how you've faced a dragon and overcame your fears.