Be black. Be jeweled.
This is Russian model, Tanya, studded with faux diamonds glued to her skin that perfectly matched her outfit designed by the makeup artist/stylist/fashion designer, Hilde Marie Johansen, who is sitting next to me in the setup shot below.
Tanya is tall and my ceiling was low. So she had to sit in a chair to keep her highly feathered collar from rising above my backdrop. I used a pillow to cushion my knees, which positioned my point of view slightly lower than her gaze and augmented the effect when she tilted her chin down and lifted her eyes to penetrate mine. This eye gaze complimented her wild, flying eyebrows fashioned from blackbird feathers astutely applied by Hilde.
Dark and moody was my theme with just a hint of glow.
So how did I create such a mysterious image in a room so blasted with non-focused fluorescent light?
In my hotel room, cum mini-studio, I used a half roll of white seamless paper for a background, which was positioned just off frame on the left in this setup shot above. At a meter and a half wide this roll of paper pretty much limits me to upper body compositions but that keeps me focused in close to reveal the body art designs for this series.
Trying to sneak a full-width roll of background paper through the hotel lobby would have drawn too much attention. Besides it wouldn’t have fit in the elevator anyway. My short seamless roll was supported by two light stands with a makeshift Manfrotto monopod spanning between, which was jury-rigged using a couple of swivel adapters attached to the stands.
To illuminate the background, I used a Canon 430EX II in a 24-inch gridded soft box on the floor just behind the model and I powered it down about three stops, which rendered the white paper a very dark grey while still creating a hint of separation. I didn’t need a soft box for this background light but it was already rigged up. The grid wasn’t necessary but didn’t hurt either. Note that my grids appear very rigid. That’s because I couldn’t find fabric grids in Bangkok so I spent a day making my own from interlocked black cardboard strips taped together. I’m handy with an Exacto knife. I had to make sure I cut the strips along the joint lines of the flooring so I didn’t leave any telltale signs of destruction in my path. No, my grids don’t fold up for easy transport but they indeed do the trick when trying to narrow the swath of light emanating from the soft boxes.
My walls and ceiling are painted white and the room is small. Without the tightly focused light from the grids the space would start to function as a giant ambient reflector that would wash out my desired dramatic lighting effects.
I used a Canon 580EX II Speedlite mounted into a 16×16-inch gridded soft box as the key light on Tanya’s face. This small box was moved in close to create a tight circle of soft light. You can see it boomed out to the left above and positioned next to my bed, which was flipped against the wall to create more shooting space. The vertical gobo was put there to shield the bright light from the soft box that was reflecting in a shiny, metallic fabric that I had first thought I’d use as a backdrop. But the reflections were too fussy so I switched to the simpler, dark grey background effect that didn’t compete with Tanya’s shiny diamonds.
The fill light on her face came from yet another gridded soft box supported by a short backlight stand sitting on the counter behind my fridge (filled with Chang beer) on the right. A blue plastic container propped up the soft box, which was too top-heavy for such a small stand.
Improvisation was the rule of the day.
You can see that I had a ring flash (which I frequently use for shadowless fill) that was mounted around the lens but it wasn’t needed for this shot. All flash units were triggered with Pocket Wizard TT5 radios.
For security reasons, after each shoot I must break down all this gear to keep the housekeepers from spotting all my expensive photo equipment.
Once again In post-production Photoshop I used the “Dynamic Skin Softener” filter in the Nik Color Efex Pro collection, then I applied the Nik “Glamour Glow” filter for an even more moody effect.
To create mirror reflections for a future shoot, I’m now trying to figure out a diversion so I can sneak a huge 4×8-foot sheet of glossy black Plexiglas through the lobby and up to my room without being noticed.
Don’t know how I’m gonna get rid of all this stuff when I check out.
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