The Awakening
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Friday, January 11, 2013
By Big Ben

I am excited to bring another behind the scenes look into the depths of my imagination and provided detailed educational resources to how I accomplished the concept I had painted in my mind.  Feel free to read this post in its entirety or simply scroll down if you want jump straight to the video.

The concept of this shoot came from the inner workings of my imagination some time ago in dream.  I realize this sounds cliche, but each of us knows how amazing and terrifying our dreams can be.  Nonetheless, I was fortunate to remember this particular dream out of all the ones I commonly forget. I had the desire to write it down in my consciousness so I could further develop it in to a complete concept.
Months later, the well-known actress Amy Savannah was itching to shoot with me again and I thought what a great fit she would be with her near copper skin and healthy dark full-head of hair.
We bounced some tear sheets back and forth and decided on the final look we were after. There were plenty examples to ingest for inspiration as "big hair flying through the air" is no original concept, especially in the beauty and fashion niches of the industry and photographic medium.  I wanted an organic look with surreal and an edgy appeal, but still remain soft and innocent.

Amy wanted some simple shots in front of a white seamless backdrop, so we set to shooting that first by undertaking a simple 3 light setup with a Clam Shell key light and a strip box added as a kicker/rim light.  The backdrop was independently lit (as all white seamless should be) with a single Nikon flash clamped to the ceiling where it was aimed and feathered at the white paper. 

Although the lighting and technical aspect of this setup is rather simple and considered "Studio Lighting 101", the timing of pressing the shutter at the right moment was a challenge.  As you can see in the video, Amy had to throw her head back many takes until we were able to freeze her hair in just the right place.  Rather than deal with pushing the limits of the camera's dynamic autofocus and relying on its searching capabilities, I simply had Amy stand in her end or "Two" position where I would grab focus and use the AF-Lock feature to hold it while she bent down to her starting or "One" position.  I'd give a count and then she move to Two where I would hopefully fire off a frame at the right moment.

I am not a big fan of using AF-Lock or implementing a two-finger shutter release workflow.- Some photographers disable the feature of pressing the shutter button half way down to initiate focus and use a thumb to grab focus with a separate button.  For me, the less finger moving I'm required to do the better.  However, the AF-Lock feature can be a life saver to hold focus when your subject is going to be moving around and returning to the exact spot where you locked focus.  Now if your shooting a sporting event, or theme in a non-studio environment where exact positions can't be precise or controlled, it's better to shoot with Dynamic Auto Focus with a spray-and-pray approach and hope to capture a frame in perfect focus.

Now that we captured some "safe shots", we could turn to our challenge of shooting the primary theme.  I had setup the Basement Studio with each set on opposite sides of the room for an efficient transition.  Rather than using the run the mill seamless background paper or the horrific muslins of the old-time film shooters of the 1980's, I opted to building my own set flats.  These work great and are the perfect addition to any studio whether you have an actual studio or you're like me and shooting out of your garage or basement.  A great set of videos for learning to build set flats can be found by following THIS YOUTUBE LINK.  I am no carpenter and I absolutely loath working with wood.  If I can build these, so can you!
Set or Stage Flats are actual walls, allowing you to hang props from them, have your subjects interact with them, or even maneuver them in to shapes that resemble rooms.  They are re-paintable and I am constantly browsing the hardware stores for mis-tints and returns of paint as they will sell them really cheap. 
Currently the are painted a warm grey with a dark grey accent for a distressed faux look. 

I mocked up a room setting by placing two if the 4x8 foot flats together where I safely clamped and weighted them down with sandbags.  The last thing you want is for them to fall over onto your client.  Can anyone say wrongful death lawsuit?  I used a rug to mock a carpeted floor.  You can also head to your local carpet distributor and inquire about remnants or clearance rolls if you wish.  I added an end table with some books and a bottle. 
As for the lanterns, I suspended them using 6lb test fishing line, which I then could easily clone out in Photoshop.  Rather than spending all my days butchering the lanterns in Photoshop in efforts of achieving the lumination effect, I simply removed the bulbs from them and precariously dropped in a couple old Nikon flashes.  I admit I did tint the color of the lanterns' glow in post, however I realized I could have also done this in practicality by adding some gels to the flashes prior to dropping them in the lanterns.




I feel this was a very successful shoot in regards of bringing the original concept from idea to print. 
I have to give special thanks to all those who helped make this one come to life.  Any true photographer will tell you that they cannot be successful on their own. The people and talent they collaborate with will directly influence the outcome of the concept.

I would like to personally thank:
Amy Savannah  (Model)
Vanessa Rodriguez (Hair Design)
Denise Christensen/DC Makeup (Makeup Artist)
Young Master Kyle Calder (Video Camera and Assistant)
Christina Blickfeldt (Prop Master)

Scroll down for more Images!


Leave a comment:
Gerico Canlapan - Hi Big Ben,

Great inspiring job.
what was the flash trigger you used for the Cuadra and your speed light?
LUIZ PADILHA - Maravilhoso este tutorial , gosto muito deste tipo de fotografia, vou fazer tentar imita-lo no meu studio.Parabens lindo mesmo e muito criativo .
admin'-- - Hello
Brian Comeault - He Ben,

I stumbled upon your site when I was doing some lighting research. I really love this shoot and am going to use it as inspiration on a shoot in the near future. I'm wondering if you could help me design a lighting diagram. My equipment bag consists of 2 shoot through / reflective 33" umbrellas, a 24" softbox, a 12x48" striplight (homemade) and three flashes. An sb-700, a yn560ii, and an sb50 which only shoots 1/1 power when off camera. Could I achieve a similar feel with that equipment? Thanks in advance Ben.
Rome - Very nice work love the video
Byron Bueno - Hey Ben,

I just came across your interesting site and whoa! I can tell you have such an awesome work man! Photography is my hobby and I'm so inspired from photographers who can really create art like yourself. You can see I'm a big fan of yours now.

Well done!

I will surely subscribe from your videos.

~Byron. |.