Out there in the rainy morning mist, my first instinct was to pop some light. I definitely needed a bit of contrast, but had to be careful because of the white nature of the gown. Between the attire and the background, I was dealing with a pretty monochromatic situation.
So I put up a beauty dish in what I’ve heard Greg Heisler refer to as “standard, regulation beauty dish position.” It was up and over the model, fairly steeply, to camera right. And it did its standard, regulation job. Nice light, mostly collecting around her head and shoulders and then fading down the length of her gown.
But, China being China, where rules are rules, we were pretty much stuck right where we were. Couldn’t really move around. We had permissions, but had already attracted a crowd, along with security personnel, and some of them were, well, wondering about all this.
Especially after I asked Steven, an excellent shooter/assistant who had volunteered for the day, to bring two speed lights running on SU-4 mode on a stand into the lake outside the NCPA. That was cause for consternation for all at hand, but it did give a tiny extra bit of frosting to the gown, if only in these few frames. Funny, Steven, after spending the day in the rain, and getting into the lake, never volunteered again. Last we saw him. Go figure.
We stayed right where we were, in the rain, for at least three hours. I got intrigued by the model’s makeup, and the exquisite nature of her face relative to the outfit, so I killed the Elinchrom and put up a tri-flash bracket into a large (150cm) shoot through umbrella, an incredibly cheap one I had found in Wukesong. I positioned this right close to me and the model, just by my right shoulder, and pulled out fast glass.
Shot this at 1/4000th @ f1.4, with a 35mm Nikkor. Which is a big reason I occasionally defer to small flash over bigâ€”the facility of high speed sync, relative to limiting DOF. It’s handy, in a word, and the light is nice, and well, when you’re stuck in the rain in the same spot for a bit, might as well give your client two different looks at the same outfit.
Same rules applied when we went inside, this time working a wide approach, achieving a bit of drama, and then coming in with small lights and an 85mm to mask the fact that both shots were made from spots about 15 feet away from each other.
We ended the day with a quick set with the lovely Bella, who, in the grand tradition of fashion models, texted like crazy in between shots:-)
I have an acquaintance who’s a big time guy in the oil industry, and he has likened what I do as a location shooter to being a wildcatter in the oil bidness. And, he’s pretty much right. Locations are like looking for oil. You just keep drilling through them till you find something, and hopefully, don’t leave till the well’s dry. Trust me, some are dry right from the get go, and that’s a tough day. But there are some locations I’ve been back to repeatedly, literally for ten years or more, and I still can’t find the end of them.
Thanks go out to all the models, hair and makeup, my stalwart client, who obtained all these permissions, and especially to Bo Tao, the designer of these gowns. He has taken inflections from traditional Chinese paintings, and created gowns that are living, breathing works of art. I was astounded at his talent.