Suspending a Nikon D4 over a swimming pool with blacklights

By on August 27, 2012

A couple weeks back, I let leak on my Facebook fan page as well as Instagram (@vonwong) that I was going to be doing a crazy photoshoot involving an indoor swimming pool, black lights, a Kessler Crane Pocket Jib as well as an Ikan Monitor… and this is the result!

Just a small note before u guys all run off to check out the BTS video featured on my Youtube Channel… that this is actually the first full length BTS video I’ve attempted to do myself so any feedback you’ve got on the actual video montage aspect of things, please leave a comment below and let me know how I did! I’ve kinda decided that I wanted to teach myself video editing as the worlds of photo and video are getting closer and closer together…

Anyways I’ll stop babbling now and let you guys enjoy the BTS Video:

 

This was a very challenging photoshoot for us to actually perform and I’m actually quite happy that we managed to make everything happen! We had a whole deal of problems that we actually had to solve from the get go… but as I like to put it: Sounds impossible, Let’s do it. 

 

How the concept came about:

 

The initial concept came through when I was sitting at a coffee shop with fellow makeup artist Jessica Spoor where we were brainstorming how to come up with something unique that involved photography and bodypaint.  Somewhere along the way, the idea to merge blacklights and photography came to light (pun intended) and I said: Well wait a second… why not do this underwater. From there, we simply had to develop a concept and make it happen.

For those that are curious, these are what the preliminary sketches kinda looked like.

 

So… you wanted to suspend a camera over the water?

Yep! That’s right! We really wanted to be able to suspend our camera directly over the water to get that unique 90 degree perspective. The only logical solution to that use a small portable pocket jib. We were working in extremely tight conditions so after shopping around on the internet for the best solid yet compact design we stumbled upon the Kessler Crane Pocket Jib. It would give us over 7 feet of height at full extension, was solid, and affordable. It also happens to be quite portable and easy to setup which was a great bonus! Thanks to some awesome tutorials online by a fellow called Preston Kanak I learned how to setup and operate the thing in a record 6 minutes. That being said… definitely need some more practice on it before I’d call myself competent!

Why the monitor? Why not a laptop?

Well we needed to find a way to be able to see what the camera was seeing and although a tethered laptop could have definitely solved our problems for photo, we actually also wanted to be able to shoot video and the only other option was to have a monitor combined with a trigger. I noticed the IKAN monitors while visiting Vistek ProFusion 2012 over in Toronto a couple months back and was quite impressed with the build quality so I asked them if they’d be so kind as to ship me one of their more recent models for me to play around with. They sent me the IKAN D5 as well as an impressive ultra-high capacity battery and 6″ articulating arm. As I mentioned in the video, the one function I found particularly useful was peaking which lower end monitors don’t offer!

Where does one find an indoors swimming pool?

Finding an indoor swimming pool is quite a challenge. Finding an indoor swimming pool that will allow you to set up thousands of dollars of gear, throw bodypainted models into the water, and swim around for an entire day is even more rare. I initially began hunting for a swimming pool discretely by sending out a couple private messages here and there to people I knew that lived in condos and apartments that had a swimming pool. Unfortunately, I realized quite quickly that there was no way in **** that I was going to be able to convince anyone to let me contaminate their swimming pool so I began pleading to my fans for a solution. Despite the 11,000 followers on facebook, nothing really hit so I started browsing through profiles of friends that had actually shot underwater in the past and that’s when I stumbled in on my first Model Crapuleuse Damoiselle and her photographer Denis Bussiere. Not only did he have an indoor swimming pool, he was more than happy to allow us to play in it for the time required! Not only was he enthusiastic about it, he communicated extremely well throughout the entire prep process and served as an amazing reference for shooting underwater. He’s started a small business over here in Montreal and comes up with some pretty interesting stuff with the props that he has such as mermaid tails and pirates… check out more of his stuff here: http://www.modelmayhem.com/1961453

 

Wait, why an indoor swimming pool?

For any of you who have played with blacklights in the past, you’ll notice that having ambient light bleeding in can really kill the super cool glowy effect of a blacklight so having a totally dark room was an absolute necessity. Initially, I was planning on covering all the windows with simple garbage bags but my dad reminded me that I had a bunch of random vapor barrier aluminum foil that I had used on a previous shoot that would cover up the windows even more efficiently!

OK so tell me about the blacklights!

About two years back, I had been asked by a light performer by the name of Philipe Blanchet if I’d be interested in taking some photos of him for his business cards. He actually happens to work for a fancy lighting company by the name of Fusion Lumiere and they were more than happy to sponsor us some blacklights in exchange for the rights to use the photos on their website. The last shoot that we did together, things were a lot more simple since we were shooting on the surface but then we were even trying to blend blacklights, flashes and lightpainting together!! It was ridiculously challenging! If you guys are curious, I’ve uploaded the old BTS video onto my channel too for you guys to check out!! Here’s the link:

For those of you who are thinking: But I have no contacts who have blacklights?! Well, they only cost about 20$ on amazon.com or if you’re really just wanting to rent them, check out any special effects stage companies out there. There are a bunch of video lighting companies that will own blacklights that you can rent out quite easily!

 

 

 

Hm, and how did you do the makeup? It’s super cool!

Well, unfortunately Jessica, the original makeup artist with whom I had initially began the concept with ended up getting herself a paid shoot two weeks before our shoot date so I had to hunt down a replacement makeup artist. Thankfully, Philipe Blanchet also happened to have an extremely talented girlfriend by the name of Jacynthe Tremblay who also happens to be a SFX Makeup Artist! We did a bunch of tests earlier on and decided that we wanted to play with some really cool scaly type patterns on our models so she came up with the idea of using one of those awesome plastic fruit wraps to airbrush on (kinda like these but in harder plastic) and a combination of awesome talent, airbrush and brushstrokes did the job!

 

Oh speaking of makeup, why were you getting painted too?

ahhhh… well the idea was to glow in the dark also while getting shot in the Behind the Scenes so since my good friend Alliebee Henna had come to assist, we thought it’d be fun to experiment with a simple bionic arm design (kinda like in my highlighter video!)… but unfortunately we learned the hard way that not all paint glows properly in the dark… so I remained sadly just as dark as everyone else.

Note to self: Test Paint in Black Light first! (and so should you!)

Back on subject. How’d you make those awesome medusa tentacles of death?

Actually my stylist for the shoot Manuelle Lessard designed the awesome tentacles in a ridiculously short time! We scavenged a bunch of white cloth through facebook friends and others to come up with the cloth necessary to make the arm and waist bands for our photoshoot. You can actually see the pieces of cloth slowly unthreading as the shoot went on… Turns out it’s actually quite hard to swim in those rags!! Not only did she help design the dresses, she also came up with a brilliant solution to thread ribbons into the hair of our models! They definitely didn’t look the most sexy with the lights on…but with the lights off, all the magic happened!

 

 

What about that fancy D4 you came up with? Why the D4?

Well, quite simply the Nikon D4 is the best performing low light camera there is out there. It can actually shoot up to a mind-blowing 204,800 ISO  where the footage looks quite crappy but still… that’s absolutely insane! I think that the photos that we achieved here would have been completely impossible if we had any other camera system. When I asked NPS to send me a D4 they were unfortunately all booked out but thankfully, once again, through the power of facebook and my amazing fans, Michael had the kindness to offer me his D4 a mere two days before the photoshoot. So a HUGE thank you to Michael for lending me his D4. He’s been using it to shoot a bunch of his concert work so take the time to head over to his website and check out what he does: http://www.thoriumphoto.com/

 

Alright dude, that’s an insane setup. How’d you gather all the people to come help out?

I suppose one thing just led to another. I really needed a mindblowingly awesome rigger to help me setup the blacklights and a very good buddy of mine by the name of Guillaume Briand was extremely gracious to provide me with a whole bunch of amazing solutions to make this shoot possible. I needed some video coverage so I invited Eric Sanchez who helped me shoot my last “Indestructible hard drive” video review, and long time assistant Nadia Zheng to come help out. For models, I found them through facebook and I contacted Esthel for her unique look to come model as well as Mich for his godly 6-pack. And for additional assistants I had Nancy Patry, Kaleena Jay and Jerome Labrecque who did an amazing job helping out. And finally Jo Gorsky on scuba whom you may have seen in the past as the model I lit on fire,  as well as Monique Guilbault who was on set to help cover some BTS photography! So in general… a bunch of photographers who all dropped in to help out and hang out for an amazing day.

Check out some of the BTS coverage:

That looks great dude, now show me those photos!!

Alright guys… here it is! I really hope you enjoyed the photos… and if you did, please share this post with your friends! If you have any questions, leave a comment anywhere and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

Before showing you the images, I just wanted to once again thank ALL OF THOSE who participated in this project… without whom these shots just wouldn’t be possible so… check out what they do, they’re awesome.

 

Credits:

Gear: