The Red Dzao hill tribe is one of the few in which the women don’t chew beetle nut, which stains ones mouth and lips red. They get their name from the scarlet color of their headdress and not from the color of their teeth.
Maybe that’s why Red Dzao ladies of North Vietnam smile more than other hill tribes in neighboring countries. I did notice, however, than many have one golden tooth up front. Perhaps that’s a sign of beauty or maybe wealth.
Their headdresses sit high, exposing their shaved foreheads and eyebrows.
Backgrounds are important for these tribal portraits and I typically search for an architectural element that hints at the building style of their dwellings. In this case it was a bamboo gate in a fence that surrounded the young lady’s house. But the top of the gate intersected her head when she was standing so we brought out a bench for her to sit. You can see the shadows of my strobe units and her seat that were cast by by the midday sun, which I underexposed a couple of stops to allow more sculptural and dramatic light from the flash units.
Once again my Vietnamese assistant, Tien, held a Manfrotto 680B monopod with an attached Canon 580EX II in a LumiQuest LTp softbox. The sun was coming from the left and illuminated the top of her headdress. To camera left on a light stand was a Canon 430EX II with a Harbor Digital 1/8th-inch grid modifier that illuminated the fringe at the back of her headdress and the bamboo beyond. Using Pocket Wizard TT5 radios and the AC3 Zone Controller this unit was powered one f/stop lower than the softbox. On camera was a Ray Ring Flash set three f/stops down for just a bit of fill.
Click the photos below for info about some of the gear I used for images in this blog post.