I had this idea for a shoot maybe 6 months ago and hadn't quite figured out the location or who the model would be so I was putting it off until I had enough free time to give it a good shot. A few months ago I was doing some head shots for my buddy Bodie who is a stuntman and long time practitioner of various martial arts including Wushu. During conversation I casually mentioned the idea, he loved it and was keen as beans! Skip forward to last week and I finally manage to organise a time to meet Bodie and go try out a few test shots at this spot I had found. The idea was simple, I wanted a series of forms (kata) to appear in the image but also wanted to drag the shutter to emphasise show the fluidity and dynamic nature of the art. Originally I wanted to shoot this in a dark studio with a black background but decided I would get a more natural shot if I shot outside. Plus I predominantly shoot on locations so as the saying goes stick to what you know! But seeing as this shoot was going to be at night in the middle of a park - it was going to push me creatively to overcome some of the issues I knew I would inevitably face.
We met up at the location (for those of you interested its in the Botanical gardens in Wellington) and headed for a spot that a friend had told me about but on the way we came across this cool little herb garden with brick flooring and a fairly good open area that looked just right for shooting in. So one of the things I wanted to achieve in the final image is to have the blurring going on in between each pose/form in the kata, this would be fairly easy to do if I were using a black backdrop in a dimly lit room but because I had decided I wanted to shoot on location I was going to have to come up with a different solution. We worked through the various poses that Bodie would do and I set up the lighting system I was going to use. I had planned to use a sb900 flash shooting through an umbrella to light Bodie but didnt want much of the light to spill onto the background so decided to go with my Lumiquest softbox instead. This is a great little softbox which attaches to the flash head with velcro in seconds, its also super portable as it folds flat and fits nicely in one of the pockets of my camera bag. Oh and did I mention that it does a great job of softening the light from the flash?
I set the shutter speed to 10seconds to give enough time to capture everything in one shot and the iso was 640 - just enough to let some of the background ambient leak in (especially the starry night sky). During the exposure I manually fired the flash at the start middle and end of the forms Bodie was demonstrating, in between each flash I used a torch with a gobo fitted to it to paint a bit of light onto him as he moved. This gives the nice blurred transitions between the frozen poses. I had asked Bodie to bring along a couple of different clothing options and I photographed him in both his silks and the more traditional orange monk outfit. You can see final images of both of them below but in the end I think the orange monk clothes worked the best.
Check it out and please tell me what you think!