Playing in Waterfalls at 9 degrees with an asian superhero

By on October 16, 2012

Since I still had my Nikon D4 and 400mm f/2.8G both graciously loaned to me by Nikon Professional Services, I figured that I’d have to make the most of it so I threw together another shoot with someone I had collaborated with in the past: Michael Demski, one of my flour dancers.

A fan of mine introduced me to a magnificent location over in Hamilton by the name of Albion Falls so I figured: why not combine the two! A couple days after my rooftop adventures with the 400mm f2.8, I booked Michael Demski and told him to bring weapons as well as whatever loose and flowy epic clothing he happened to have lying around. Waterfalls, asians (or half asian in our case) and swords inevitably tell a pretty amazing story without requiring much explanation.

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Albion Falls’s resident Pumpkin!
Although the 9 degree weather should have made this shoot impossible, Michael, with his experience as a dancer, martial artist and actor had no problems looking awesome despite the challenging and freezing weather conditions.

The first thing we did when arriving at the location was to scout out where we could actually go as well as how we could safely get to the various locations that we wanted to reach. Since I had a 400mm f2.8 (and absolutely wanted to use it) I had to get reaaaally far away to be able to get the shot framed like I wanted. This meant scaling the closest mountain with my 6 kg of camera gear.

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My vantage point

 

This brought us a bunch of challenges. For one, communication. We hadn’t planned on shooting through a ravine and didn’t have any walkie-talkies with us… thankfully though, I had brought along my Sennheiser G3 mic that served as a great one-way communication device. This meant that I could whisper instructions in my interns ear as I telescoped in with my 400mm f2.8 to interpret her reaction. Though not the greatest method of communication (and resulting in many an incomprehensible and frustrating series of hand gestures) things ended up working quite fine.

The second failure was that our Skyport triggers wouldn’t trigger consistently across the great expanse so despite having dragged the gear up the ridiculously steep hill, we ended up having to shoot ambient.

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Experiencing Skyport malfunctions courtesy of Photagonist. Communicating via Sennheiser G3

 

From there, I essentially had two options – for me to try and freeze a moment (pun intended) in time by boosting my shutter speed up extremely high (and compensating with the D4′s jaw-dropping high-ISO performance) … or to attempt to combine a longer shutter speed with a static pose to get a nice creamy water effect.

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Shutter speed of 1/10th of a second vs. Shutter Speed of 1/1600th of a second. (ISO800 in the right if you’re curious!)

 

Personally, I really liked the creamy look so I took a couple different variants of Michael staying absolutely still in the freezing water. He was an absolute trooper in staying nearly a 100% still as I relayed instructions to him through my temporary avatar/intern.

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Small camera tip for those of you who want ever try out the long lens + frozen model combination.

Set your camera on Continuous shooting mode at nothing slower than 1/10th of a shutter speed and shoot in small little bursts each time you’re satisfied with a pose, you’ll maximize your chance of getting an image in which your model is completely still!

Though it would have been great fun to play with some more poses, I felt that I really needed to wrap Michael up in something nice and warm so we called a break and decided to transition to another waterfall. In the meantime, we got Michael a gigantic hot chocolate with some whipped cream to heat him back up.

Less than an hour later, Michael was back on his feet performing magic tricks. He was feeling so lightheaded after being frozen in the waterfall that he was able to harness his amazing asian mindpowers and begin levitating. No photoshop!!

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Ok no but seriously, there wasn’t any photoshop, just Michael’s absolutely stunning jumping abilities. Curious to see the jump at 11 fps (right to left, asian manga style!)? Check it:

Montage

By the time we made it to the waterfall, Michael was pumped up and ready to enter the water but unfortunately there wasn’t much of a waterfall left… so we settled for shooting a far more calm and meditative shot… that required to be 2 feet from the edge of a nice 41 meter high waterfall.

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I had Basia and Ajay, two of my assistants toss leaves from behind the trees not too far away from the death drop towards Michael in hopes of creating some motion blur… the results weren’t as spectacular as I had hoped but I still like the final result!

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So I’m sure that by now all of you are wondering: OK so why would anyone go out in the freezing cold, freeze even more by entering a waterfall, fall headfirst into the floor jumping around and risk his life by staying on the edge of a cliff to model for YOU?

Well, Michael is beginning his career soon as an actor (check out his demo reel here: here!) and he needed a head shot. I told him that I’d shoot it if he accepted to model for me.

The beautiful headshot in question?

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Hope you enjoyed this weeks blog post and thanks all for your comments and sharing!

PS. If you’ve reched the end of this blog post and are still reading, I’d like to offer you the chance to win a Von Wong bracelet! Simply share the post, leave a comment (on my blog) and I’ll draw your name from the list and have it shipped off!

Winners announced next week :)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/michelle.tovey Michelle Tovey

    awesome- love the shots while he was in mount albion waterfall and then while he was levating- REALLY GREAT now ive seen others and now am a new fan of your work:) hope you enjoyed some of Hamilton and come back for some more!

  • http://martybugs.net/blog martybugs

    Awesome results from this shoot!

  • Publuis

    Love the levitation image. Amazing athlete to not only get so high, but to do so while appearing so relaxed.

    Are you now wishing you had a set of Pocket Wizards to trigger that strobe from such a far distance? the images with ambient were great. So it’d be interesting to see how you’d change them using the strobe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.mason.52438 Anthony Mason

    Great images thanks for sharing…