Christoph Jorda and his team pit themselves against the elements and gravity. Suspended 25 meters above an isolated, raging waterfall on a centimeter-thick highline, the team capture some adrenaline-fuelled images.
Christoph Jorda grew up just 30 minutes from the Alps. No surprise, then, that having one of the wonders of nature right on his doorstep meant that from an early age Christoph was passionate about outdoor sports like skiing, mountain biking, and climbing.
Photography also ran in the family, and it wasn’t long before Christoph himself picked up a camera. From that moment, it was inevitable that the insatiable appetite for the great outdoors and the love of photography would coalesce into a career that’s seen Christoph create some extraordinary images in some of the most beautiful, rugged and often inhospitable locations around the world.
To put the Profoto B1X to the test, Christoph wanted to do something different, something that would push the B1X to its limits and create an indelible image. It was a happy coincidence, then, that Christoph and a group of friends were about to embark on a trip to a narrow gorge just below a lake, about 30 km inside Austria from the German border.
“Every year we do a highline, it’s a sort of passion of ours, so it worked out perfectly to do it with the Profoto B1X.”
This kind of shoot presents many challenges. First up, getting to the location was a 40-minute hike through the woods with 50 kg in each of the backpacks, so it helped that the three B1X units they carried were incredibly light for such a powerful flash. Once at the location, setting up the highline proved difficult. “The quality of the rock was quite poor, and for safety reasons, we couldn’t shoot at the location I had in mind. It took us 12 hours to find another spot and drill the bolts into the rock to get the line secured. By that time, it was too late to shoot, so we had to camp overnight beneath the stars.”
The next day revealed that they had indeed found the perfect location. From the Little Plansee, a section of a large lake high above, a waterfall cascades 238 meters down a rocky gorge into the River Lech. The area of the waterfall the team had selected, the Stuibenfälle, saw the highline positioned 25 meters above a small plunge pool below.
Here is where Christoph would capture his first image, shooting upwards towards the dynamic polyester line stretched high across the chasm from below the plunge pool waterline, with the camera protected in a watertight plastic outer shell.
With one B1X placed close to camera firing down into the water to light the rocks below the surface and the other halfway up the waterfall hidden behind rocks, pushing light into Jakob as he walked across the wire; they were ready to go.
It’s a heart-stopping moment as Jakob inches himself along the centimeter thick line, pulse racing, the roar of the white water filling his ears, arms outstretched knowing that one false move could spell disaster; but Jakob is flawless, and they get the shot.
The first thing that struck Christoph was that the flash fired consistently, even though one of the Profoto B1X units was more than 80 meters away obscured by rock and surrounded by water. The other thing that struck him was the sheer power the B1X could generate. “Being able to shoot at high shutter speeds in the middle of the day provides me with endless possibilities.”
Next, the team moved above the waterfall. First, Christoph shot Jakob walking on the line away from camera towards the bright sun. As a result, Jakob was pretty much in silhouette, so one B1X with a soft light was placed behind him to bring light and definition to his back.
Then he shot highline enthusiast Karin Doblander from a high angle above the line, looking down past the rocky outcrop towards the water below. Karin is a cool customer on the highline; not only did she walk it, at one point she decided to take a break and lay down on it.
As she walked, Christoph’s assistant held one B1X with a Magnum Reflector at the end of the line she was moving towards, punching light onto her to separate her from the background. “The sun was still pretty high in the sky, but the B1X easily overpowers it allowing her to stand out from the muted background tones.”
For the master image, Christoph needed a dark and moody feeling; so to pass the time while it was still too bright, he decided to shoot some portraits of Karin, Frans, and Jakob. He wanted to create a dream-like quality with pin-sharp focus on the eyes and the rest of the image falling away out of focus.
To achieve this effect, he placed a Profoto B1X – each with a Zoom Reflector mounted on the flash head – on either side of each team member. With an 85 mm lens on the camera at an f-stop of 1.4, this meant Christoph could shoot with a super-fast shutter speed. The result was surprisingly intense, almost forcing the viewer to make eye contact with the subject.
Finally, the light began to subside, and the team had to move quickly to capture the image Christoph had envisioned.
With the camera on a tripod below the waterfall, he needed three Profoto B1X flashes to shape the exact light he was looking to achieve. One was hidden behind rocks about halfway up the waterfall just beneath the line. The role of this flash was to illuminate Jacob, who would be the next to walk.
The team positioned the other two on top of the waterfall, looking down. The first B1X brought detail and definition to the rock face and movement to the water thundering down it; the second separated Jakob from the background.
A long exposure synchronized on the second shutter allowed Christoph to capture beautiful movement in the water while Jakob was frozen pin-sharp mid-line, elegantly framed by the rocks and the cascading waterfall behind him. It’s almost like he’s floating in mid-air. Christoph was delighted with the result, “The Profoto B1X allowed me to capture the image I wanted without compromise.”
It’s an image that’s both epic and dramatic, the perfect marriage of sportsman and the great outdoors – quintessentially Christoph Jorda.
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