I have played with mirrors on a few occasions in my career, starting off with an experiment for Sports Illustrated featuring Ozzie Smith, the St. Louis all star shortstop, back in 1985-86 or so. Dallied with them here and there for Nat Geo and other clients over time. But, I had never built a set out of large mirrors (gulp) out in the desert, where the sand and the high winds live. It was nerve wracking, I tell ya.
The construction out there in the middle of nowhere consisted of a 10′ square of mirrored surface as the floor, two 5×10′ movable “wing” mirrors, and four 2×7′ individual, movable mirrors. Add flash, talent and a lot of windex, and you have multiple reflections, or, even endless reflections. After, of course, sorting out endless problems. Many thanks to Sin City Scenic, who built the set and didn’t run screaming away from me when I suggested the notion of bringing large, reflective, fragile surfaces out onto a dry lake bed in trucks.
And many thanks to Nikon USA and the creative team there, who gave a green light for this ambitious effort. Shot entirely with the D810 camera, which brings phenomenal resolution to the table, the notions in my head actually became pictures out in the desert. But I had a big case of the jitters. There’s a big difference between building a miniature set and playing with three 1×1′ mirrors and a brace of 6″ plastic Power Rangers in my garage and actually shipping a couple tons of set design out onto a dry lake bed and having real, athletic talent jumping around on it all day. I definitely had numerous conversations with St. Jude leading up to our shoot days.
The light in the picture above is not the sun. It’s a Profoto 2400ws Acute. The sun is in that general direction, hidden behind one of our mirrors. Given the brightness of the desert, the light brought to bear out here was pure power–2400ws power packs, running off of gennys, or B4 battery units, which deliver a wallop of mobile lighting oomph. It was also mostly just one light. You don’t want to get too fancy out there with multiple light sources. First off, you are mimicking a single source–the sun–most of the time. Secondly, you find out quite rapidly just how highly reflective mirrors are on an adventure like this. Stray lights, cars, tripods, crew members–all have to be carefully monitored or they will end up in the shot.
Above, our splendid talent, Dasha and Manu, check out the mirrored surface, which they are about to jump around on.
Arranging the mirrors such as they are above, with a Profoto beauty dish as a singular light source, resulted in a simple set of reflections and gesture.
Or, if you off kilter them and play the angles, you can end up with multiple, leaping Dasha’s, seen below.
And then there was the occasion of creating another sun. There’s only one light source in nature, but we flew in the face of that and just let it happen.
If there ever was a subject worthy of two suns, it just might Claudia. Originally from Lima, currently living in Italy and Miami, she is a magnet for the camera, especially attired in a classic Brazilian samba outfit.
Above, Claudia faces off with four mirrors, and the sun, and the 2400ws flash blast. I’m hiding in between the reflections. Which what I was doing for the duration of the shoot, which only lasted for a small piece of one day followed by an all day shoot. Setup and breakdown was a big job, and time consuming. When I did get behind the camera, I had to hit it hard.
Claudia also turned into the mirrors that were facing off each other, and the color was wonderful in its repetition. The lighting here is just a raw Profoto B4, with no light shaper. Unadorned, no gels, just unvarnished, fierce light, like the desert sun. The mirrors gave the light some unpredictable bounces, which were fun to discover.
Thanks are always in order after a big shoot like this, as projects like this are very much a team effort. First off, to Nikon, who had faith in this idea. And to Lynn, in my studio, who found Sin City Scenic and nurtured the production aspects of making this happen. Adam Silversmith, as always, was our Vegas coordinator, and wrangled our wonderful talent. Michael Forsch was our man in top hat and tails. Tala Marie was resplendent as the showgirl in white. The talented athletes Dasha Shemiakina and Manu Kiza leaped about the mirrors. Claudia Marie was amazing in feathers.
Cameras and lenses were pretty straight up here, tried and true. D810, 14-24mm f2.8, 24-70 f2.8, and 70-200 f2.8. All workhorse, dependable, incredibly sharp lenses, the exact trio that always goes with me on assignment.
I riffed on the Nikon slogan when proposing this, calling the project, “I am endlessly reflected.” Thanks again to the folks in Melville for having faith in a picture idea! More tk….