First of all, I must apologise for my absence, myself and my lovely former-girlfriend were just married and things have been a little hectic! So, without further ado…
Having a chat with Stephen Revere, editor of 10 Magazine, always brings about ideas of epic proportions; the man just has a way about him. It is always an experience in lighting the fire to have a conversation with Stephen. A couple of months ago lunch with Stephen was no exception.
We had just attended a coffee roasting facility’s opening ceremony that didn’t serve coffee, and were having a chat over the buffet lunch about possibilities for upcoming projects with the magazine. One of these was the September cover, an issue about ‘bang’ (room) culture in Korea. He planned to cover all of the different rooms available for hourly rent here in Korea; saunas, karaoke, Play Station, PC, and DVD rooms were all part of his grand scheme. We forgot about this idea for a while, until I contacted Steve one day out of the blue, and the shoot was planned and shot within days.
The idea was based around the ‘room’ culture that is so widespread here in Korea. People have very little personal space here and will often make their way, together with friends or family, to a little hired space where they can let loose and enjoy the things they love to do. I really wanted to portray the fun and colourful aspect of this culture as well as I could, and I decided that a funky lady, some colourful outfits, and the neon-adorned streets of Seoul were the things I needed to pull off my ideas. I also knew that I wanted to challenge myself technically both on location and in processing.
I sat down to nut out some ideas and came up with a couple that might just work. The first was taking a nice microphone out into the streets and having our model sing away to the camera, surrounded by neon. The second was to have the model turn into some kind of magician and have floating icons of the different kinds of rooms all around her. Now I had some basic thoughts and concepts.
The next thing to do was to procure a model. I had been in contact with Nikelola on ModelMayhem in the past, but we never did work out a time when we could both come together for a shoot. However, I remembered her style, and it was perfect for what I wanted to do. She was glad to come out on the days I suggested, and so we organised a time and place to meet for the shoot.
We set ourselves up in the middle of the street in Jongno, Seoul, for the shoot. I knew that I wanted to keep her very separate from the background for these shots as I may need to cut her out or add extra neon in the background later. Also, I wanted to get quite a bit of separation so as it would be easy to see Nikelola’s amazing hair. To this effect, I had two speedlights set up at 45 degree angles behind her to provide rim lights. Then I wanted to go for a nice even ‘beauty’ light on the front, so I set up a clam-shell using the Westcott 28” softbox and a shoot-thru umbrella in front of the model. Ideally I wanted to shoot at around f/5.6 to make sure things would be in focus, as I knew the model would be moving a little. I managed to get this using two full power speedlights in the main lights, and an ISO of 200. However, this caused quite a few issues during the shoot, and I learned a lot about what not to do next time.
This is the original of the shot at the top of the page. Here you can see the flashes in the background and the softbox in the top-left corner. Below us there is a shoot-through umbrella. This was the setup for all of the shots on this shoot.
Nikelola stepped up to the plate once the lighting was done, took hold of the mic, and stole the show! We shot frame after frame of her singing various pop-ditties from our kindergarten days, such as “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Sesame Street,” and “Twinkle, Twinkle”. People stopped to stare, dodged us in their cars, and gave all manner of confused expressions as we worked through our first concept.
After shooting through quite a few frames trying to get some good expressions and the right light on Nikelola, I discovered a few problems that I really should have worked out both in my head before we began shooting and during the shoot. However, I discovered them afterward, and to save myself the embarrassment and the aggravation of those around me, I decided keep my game face on and continue with another idea.
These problems were basically related to decisions that I made before the shoot; the idea of shooting at f/5.6 was really unnecessary in the end, I could have done it at f/2.8 and saved myself the shutter time and the flash power. This was my next problem, my flashes were at full power. Not wanting to ruin the fluid emotions coming from the model I continuously shot away, knowing that my flashes weren’t keeping up. I really didn’t want to wait the 5 or 6 seconds for a full power recycle. This meant that a lot of frames were wasted. Shooting at f/5.6 also gave me too much depth of field for the effect I was working towards. I really would have liked some big bokeh-balls in the background. We live and learn.
So we moved onto the second concept, which was much more stationary and I could afford to take the 6 second recycle time. Personally, my favourites came out of this section of the shoot, but the cover was chosen as one of the earlier shots.
I will run through the processing of these shots in the next entry on the blog.