As we enter a very different, 2020 version of Halloween upcoming, I hark back to Halloween pictures past with the blog below. Fun memories and an amazing shoot day.
And, teasing this, as we are about to launch Chapter Three of The Pointe Shoe Mysteries on Adorama TV. A Halloween edition! What dastardly deed might occur in the world of ballet, as we celebrate this spooky holiday?
But, back to the blog at hand, or, previously in hand. A while ago, I was beset with notions of Halloween and how to express them visually. Those ruminations took shape as our team in the studio, particularly the amazing Lynn DelMastro, who does actively live in fear of what my imagination might trigger in terms of production difficulties, started to construct real time stuff to express my fanciful photo conjuring. Witness below, a blank room. Which of course Lynn found. And then, what it became, after some mural painting, propping, and lighting.
I don’t know why the folks at Nikon and the Photo Plus Expo administration listened to me back then when I came to them with Halloween ideas. For someone such as myself, raised up on comic books and the dark fantasies of Mordor, the notion of distressed trick or treaters, of small children poised on the verge of fantastical disaster and mayhem was completely normal. I was somewhat nonplussed then, when most people I tried to explain my ideas to would listen politely, tilt their head, look at me and say, “Sounds cool. You’re a sick bastard.”
PPE, the photo extravaganza, happened that year on Halloween. So, why not create some spooky, fun pics to advertise it? Doing these snaps immediately combined a lot of things I love. Being on location. Struggling my way through complex lighting scenarios. Being with a crew of talented people. Body painting people into other worldly wonders. And mostly, letting my imagination out for a healthy romp.
In this scenario, I conjured a little girl, reading a scary story by flashlight, long after she should have gone to sleep. Her wall is a wonderfully innocent mural of leafy woodlands, filled with faeries and other mild mannered creatures of the forest. Except for one, who seems to be coming alive, literally out of the woodwork, a malevolent creature, one with mischief and more on her mind. She is freaking out the other faeries, who would warn the little girl….if only they could.
The key to a job like this is preparation, and the assemblage of a bunch of amazing skill sets. The empty room had to first be illustrated with a vibrant, richly done mural. Dana Heffern, a terrific painter, worked in this room for eight days prior to the shot, creating the dreamy woodlands. A truly brilliant body painter, Anastasia Durasova, combined with hair stylist Jerome Cultrera transformed the lovely Tanya Sinkevica into the creature living in the wall.
When I scouted the empty room seen at the beginning of this blog, I noticed there was a shimmer on the wall, coming from high sunlight banking off the backyard pool, creating an upward cast, gleam through the window onto the wall. Hmmmm….how could I recreate that? I gave it a stab by firing three Profoto Acutes into a 6×6 Lastolite silver reflector, angled up from the backyard into the window. The prop stylist, Katherine Hammond, draped a sheer over the glass. I took my D810 into incandescent white balance. Boom. We had moonlight, glinting off the waters.
The D810, which was the vehicle of choice for me at that time, has/had incredible resolution. But, all those millions of pixels combine to make a stern taskmaster of a sensor, one that shows every flaw, and every undone, incomplete part of your picture in stunning detail. Hence, the light had to be right. It ended up being a combination of five SB 910 speedlights, mixed in as accents with three 2400ws Acutes, one B4, and two B1’s. Each light had a job to do, in a specific area of the photo. Then they all had to mesh into something plausible.
The process of doing this is slow and steady. Put up a light you think you need. See what it does. Modify or ratio it, up or down. Where are the dead spots? Fill those in, but with a governed, controlled light that doesn’t blow away the look and feel of the light you have already painstakingly created. I sometimes think about the physician’s creed when putting up a light into an already existing grid. “First, do no harm.” Then I think of the photographer’s prayer. “Please don’t let me f%#@* this up.” This is like building blocks. They are independent pieces, but they all rely on and react to each other.
For the forest idea below, the light was just as carefully controlled, except, it wasn’t a bedroom, it was a forest. The below is about 12,000ws of light, sprayed across a spooky forest, where two trick or treaters have unwittingly stumbled into. Mommy told you not to go into the woods! They say the trees in there come alive at night!