In olden days these Naga warriors in the far north-eastern reaches of India collected heads from fallen opponents and they proudly displayed their trophies above the entrance doors of their bamboo huts.
I’m extremely grateful I wasn’t part of their collection.
I could have asked these guys to smile . . . but that would have been out of character. So I gestured for one to tip his head up and the other to turn his expression down. (Up gives you proud. Down gives you ferocity.) Perhaps both expressions pay tribute to Naga legacy.
I decided not to mess with these guys. I’d get my photos and get outta there fast.
The above image was my strobe lighting setup shot.
My trusty Indian assistant, Pintu, seemed not to be scared.
He nonchalantly held a Manfrotto 680B Monopod onto which was dangling a LumiQuest LTp softbox that was strapped around a Canon 580EX II Speedlite set to normal exposure with no compensation. I triggered this unit with a Pocket Wizard TT5 radio receiver. Though my perseverance was being tested and my neck hairs were standing erect in fear, I tried to exude calmness when choosing manual mode for my Canon 5D Mark II and when placing the overcast sky’s ambient reading at minus two or three f/stops. I wanted deep saturation and a moody effect. On camera I used a Ray Ring Flash for fill that was set to minus 3 stops via my AC3 Zone Controller mounted in the hot shoe of my camera.
The “Holy Grail of Composition” (according to my Bible) is that backgrounds are as important as the subject. Of course, you must work with what you’ve got–and quickly in this case–if you don’t want your head taken.
In front of me were horizontal boards on one side of my shooting venue that I used for the first subject and behind me was a vertical stack of logs for the other guy. Perfect! My shooting time for these two warriors was about ten minutes. Post-production took a bit longer.
At least, I kept my head.
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