'Capturing' The Fight To End Cancer | Featuring Official Campaign Photographer Spencer Wynn

March 12, 2018
Filed Under: Top Stories

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‘Capturing’ The Fight To End Cancer
Featuring Official Campaign Photographer Spencer Wynn


The Fight To End Cancer (FTEC) has become a year round initiative carried out by hundreds of sponsors, volunteers and ambassadors.  FTEC brings together some of the most talented individuals, many of whom are completely out of their element.  CEO’s and top executives take on the role of amateur competitive boxers, while professional photographers hang off the ropes in a completely uncontrolled setting.

Why would so many professionals push themselves so far outside of their comfort zones?  They all have one common goal – to Fight To End Cancer.


A story teller at heart, Spencer Wynn’s career has taken him to extremes. Wynn has lived the stories he tells, using his skills as a visual journalist, designer and photographer.  “ One can only truly tell a story of a people or culture if you have lived with the people or in the culture”.

Spencer Wynn (right) has a moment of downtime with Rebecca Freeman (left), who in addition to lending her services as our official sponsorship photographer, also assists in the official shoot. Spencer mentors hundreds of photographers worldwide with his extensive knowledge. He especially enjoys working with talented artists coming up in the world of photography. [Photo Credit: Chris Small]

Spencer Wynn (right) has a moment of downtime with Rebecca Freeman (left), who in addition to lending her services as our official sponsorship photographer, also assists in the official shoot.  Spencer mentors hundreds of photographers worldwide with his extensive knowledge.  He especially enjoys working with talented artists coming up in the world of photography. [Photo Credit: Chris Small]

Spencer has shared his talents, acting as a professional photographer at the annual Fight To End Cancer, since 2014.  He has been seen on the red carpet, ringside and behind the scenes year after year.  He’s a true hero in the Fight To End Cancer.

The Fight is a black-tie charitable boxing event which raises money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation and will top $1 million this year.  Executives from the business and professional communities in Toronto, with no boxing experience must try out, make the cut and are then selected for the final fight teams.

Training the chosen fighters are Jennifer Huggins, founder of the Fight To End Cancer, and Virgil Barrow who put the fighters through the hardest six months of their lives.  They get them in shape and turn them into sanctioned fighters, by the gala fight event in June.

The annual group campaign photo must be made before the media, print and social media can fully promote the event.

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FTEC2018 - Photo


WORDS FROM SPENCER WYNN

Photographing this year’s campaign shot has an interesting story worth taking a behind the scenes peak at.  The campaign image for 2018 could not have been made without my photo and lighting assistants, ‘Becca and Alisia.

Here is a breakdown of how the final image was created:

Location scouting at the Old Mill Toronto happened months before the shoot.  We wanted to place the fighters on some stairs to get individuals standing and sitting at different heights to avoid the typical soldiers-in-a-line that one often sees.  We found a broad stairway and knew this was the spot!  There was a black wall on the left of the stairs and a light coloured wall to the right covered with framed prints which wasn’t ideal, but I could work with it.

I experimented with lighting methods, photographing friends in positions, during the months between the scouting trip and the shoot setup-day.  These experiments eventually would mimic what I pre-visualized for the campaign shoot.

The afternoon before the shoot day, ‘Becca and Alisia and I met to figure out how we would set up our lighting in a high traffic area.  We needed to be mindful that the Old Mill was a place of business and we did not have the luxury of blocking off the shoot location.

We began  placing the lights and making test exposures with a variety of reflector umbrella sizes and soft boxes.  The base lighting I wanted was going to be dimly lit, with the ambient light providing just enough light to give detail in the shadow areas.

We placed a large six-foot umbrella at a height of about ten feet above the group and ahead of them, arranged across the stairs and limited to only three steps deep, for a specific depth of field.  I did not want strong light over the subjects as this would give too much top light for what I envisioned.  Positioning the top light ahead of the group would assure that women’s dresses and the men’s black tuxedos would be well lit with sharp detail.

I wanted to be subtle with the light this year, so directional light from the right was feathered away from the fighters, just as the top light was feathered away.  By feathering two, four-foot umbrellas, one to the right and another just off the left side of the camera, assured everyone was evenly lit and in the same direction with soft shadows.

I don’t worry about what the light ratios are, it is more by feel and what looks well balanced.  The side light was also powering at a low level, as this was all about subtle light.

I knew we had a good setup, after a few tests with Alisia standing in to test light levels.  We tore down the setup and packed all the gear into a secure room for the night after making a few notes about light positions and camera settings.  The next morning at 6:30 am was when the women boxers would arrive for their hair and makeup and we would return to set up our lighting.

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Spencer (left) and Alisia DeMelo (right) discuss the details of the shoot

Spencer (left) and Alisia DeMelo (right) discuss the details of the shoot. [Photo Credit: Chris Small]

The next morning, one thing I wanted to do was to cover the carpeted steps to eliminate the pattern in the carpet, as this would be a distraction.  We did this by locking down the camera and tripod in position and taking photos of the empty stairs.  Each time, we moved a 10’ x 20’ dark grey drop sheet down the steps and onto the floor ahead of the bottom step.  Combining the stair images would create one composite image of the stairway, with one large grey drop sheet on which the boxers would eventually appear.

We were ready to shoot, after the last of the men had their turn in the hair and makeup chair.  The lighting was fine-tuned and ready by this time.  It takes much longer arranging people in a pleasing way than it takes to shoot the actual photos!  I would say about 20 minutes and many test shots were made before I was happy with where everyone was positioned!

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The 2018 Fight Team arrived at 6:30 am to get their hair and make up done before the official campaign shoot. [Photo Credit: Chris Small]

The 2018 Fight Team arrived at 6:30 am to get their hair and make up done before the official campaign shoot. [Photo Credit: Chris Small]

The final piece of the lighting puzzle would now take place.  A flash unit attached to a light stand had a grid over the light in order to narrowly focus the light directly on one specific person at a time.  We began on the left and went up the side and over, each person photographed was lit and focused on separately, without moving the camera position.  This assured me that the stairs would not move in the frame between pictures and the empty stair series would also drop into position perfectly.

The gridded flash unit had to be positioned at the same angle as the large side lighting umbrellas so highlight and shadows were all in the same direction.  This made the final composite image appear as only one light lit the scene evenly from left to right.

The heavy work began on the computer, after the photography was finished and the car re-packed.

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A true behind the scenes look at the Fight To End Cancer photo shoot, and this all fits into the back of Spencer's car! [Photo Credit: Chris Small]

A true behind the scenes look at the Fight To End Cancer photo shoot, and this all fits into the back of Spencer’s car! [Photo Credit: Chris Small]

I borrowed a Fujifilm GFX 50S medium format camera from Fuji Canada’s head office for the shoot.  I was shooting raw images and used Iridient Developer to process and output 16-bit TIFFs, in-camera.  Each file was almost 300 megabytes – this was going to tax my computer for sure!

After all the images were processed using the same settings, I began to layer images to combine everyone in the frame.  Beginning with the boxers closest to the camera, I worked from front to back to make sure no part of one person was being overlapped improperly.  You would not want to have an elbow of someone at the back look like it was growing out of someone in the front!

It took close to seven hours to layer and fine-tune the final composite image.  My personal style, as with my video settings, is to shoot quite flat looking.  Once the image was composited, it looked very dull, which I what I wanted.  I like to work this way as it means I have kept all the dynamic range quite broad and the detail would be very fine.

The next step in the enhancing process was to bring the image back into Photoshop and begin to pull out the highlights and darken the shadows.  I did not sharpen the image in Photoshop, as this was done in Iridient developer.  I was only concerned with tonal range in photoshop.

I was not quite finished once I was happy with the final image.  I am a huge fan of Exposure 3 by Aliens Skin.  It was in Alien Skin that I applied a film simulation which has colour profiles that faithfully represent particular films, from before digital cameras were used.

Happy with the toning of the image, it was time to push back from my desk and reflect back on another successful campaign shoot.

A huge thank you to all of the photographers, hair & make-up artists, assistance crew & FTEC’s Planning Committee, for  all their hard work in executing such an inspiring and stunning campaign.

Official Campaign Photographer: Spencer Wynn | Photographer Assistant: Rebecca Freeman | Photographer Assistant: Alisia DeMelo
Campaign Photographer: Virgil Barrow Photography
Official FTEC Videographer: Arnold Caylacyan
Behind The Scenes: Vincent Dayrit | Chris Small
Hair and Makeup Artists: Monique Lewis | Monika Iskra | Tharshana Kailayapillai | Kenlyn Alexander
Shoot Location: The Old Mill, Toronto
Wardrobe By: TIP TOP Tailors | Kimurawear

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MEET THE FTEC2018 FIGHT TEAM

Help the #FTEC2018 Fight Team reach their goal of $1 million dollars before their June 2nd Fight Night!  Use the link below to get to know the individual team members better and support them in their Fight To End Cancer!

Defeat Is NOT An Option


Sponsor A Fighter  Tickets & Event Info

Media Contact:
Jennifer Huggins
Executive Director
Phone: +1.416.666.9314
Email address: jennifer@fighttoendcancer.com

Important Dates:
–> Official Media Day: Thurs. May 24, 2018 6pm – 8pm | Kasa Moto and Rooftop Lounge Request Media Access
–> 2018 Charity Boxing Gala: Sat. June 2, 2017 5pm – 11 pm | Old Mill Toronto Request Media Access

Fight For Adrian

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