A behind the scenes look and thoughts on my recent Icarus themed shoot

I was taking part in a weekly photo comp last year, it was nothing big just a group of friends who took it in turns to set a theme for a shoot on a weekly basis. One of the themes that popped up was gravity. I got thinking about gravity and wanted to try and tell a story with the image instead. I got inspired by old stories and greek mythology and thought it could be fun to shoot an image with an Icarus theme, after all he did try to overcome gravity but you just cant beat the laws of physics!

Anyway stuff happened, I got busy and never got around to shooting my image for the gravity theme. Skip forward to the new year, a friend had found me some convincing feather angel wings and another friend was free and super keen to be involved so with his help I kicked my butt into action, picked a day and off we went.  

I knew I wanted some light coloured rocks to help tie the image to its greek/mediterranean influence. Wellington is pretty rugged coastline, exposed to the elements most of Wellington's south coast tends to be black sharp jagged rocks. Luckily around the miramar peninsular you get these warm coloured smooth sandstone rocks which just happened to be a perfect fit for the shoot. After a bit of scouting around trying to find a quiet sheltered spot (it was blowing a pretty strong northerly!) we found an area I thought could work well, it had all the elements I wanted, nice big rock for the model to lie on surrounded by clear water with a sandy bottom. The light refracts through the water much better with a sandy bottom and the sand reflect some of the light back giving it a nice turquoise blue colour which also helps add to the mediterranean feel. I thought it would be fun to show a behind the scenes shot of the model testing the location and helping me figure out my angle and what I wanted to include in the final shot. So below is a shot of Dave the model catching some rays, which also gives you some idea of how bright the overall scene was!

The model Dave testing the location out

The model Dave testing the location out

The one thing you can't see in any of the shots is how incredibly windy it was, we got lucky with a spot behind a huge rock but the wind was still a concern and I almost called the shoot off. I was lucky to have two amazing friends as assistants for the shoot and they are exceptional photographers themselves. Both Dan and Jenn convinced me to crack on and get the job done, so a massive thanks to them, I literally couldn't have done it without you guys! Take the time to go check them out!

A test shot showing the lighting setup and Dan the VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand)

A test shot showing the lighting setup and Dan the VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand)

So its pretty obvious the overall scene was bright. I knew I wanted to use flash to over power sun as it would give me the desired look I wanted. From experience I know I could get away with using only 2 flashes providing I could get my shutter speed up over 1/2000s. This is where the Fuji X100s kicks butt! The X100s has a fixed lens and a leaf shutter system, the beauty of this is it allows you to fire a flash at full power sync'd up to its maximum shutterspeed (1/4000s) WITHOUT needing to use a hypersync flash system. Combining this with the X100s inbuilt 3-stop ND filter means i can severely cut the amount of light from a scene and still shoot at a wide aperture. In the end I wanted to preserve some detail in the rocks and water so chose to shoot at f4. In post production I pulled the images into Photoshop and blended a couple of shots together to make the wings bigger. Then I tweaked the contrast a little and added a touch of grain. In the final colour grade I wanted to reference the early renaissance greek mythology painters so I went with a slightly yellower palate with deep shadows and muted tones. This final image is below, please click for a slightly larger version!