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.

Vonwong slow shutter vs fast watefall

 

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.

Michael demski warrior waterfall von wong

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!!

DSC 0439 Edit

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?

DSC 0565 Edit

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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  • Pingback: Warrior in the falls | Benjamin "Von Wong" | Montreal Photographer

  • http://www.facebook.com/allenangphotography Allen Ang

    Awesome work! Good work! but the height’s kinda scary for me!! Hah! Nevertheless, very inspiring. making full use of the 400mm! Looking forward to seeing more of you work!

  • http://www.furnarius.net Ramón Casares

    The shot where he is standing still giving the camera his back is simply beautiful! Congratulations!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amhanson Adam Hanson

    Excellent location! Kind of wish in some of the photos, I could see the sword in his other hand as the angle seems to be coming straight at the camera so you can’t really see the blade or make out what it is.

  • David

    Those waterfall shots remind me of ‘Prince of Persia’. Nice work (like always)!!! I would love to see you expand more with this and possibly shoot some sword fighting shots in front of that waterfall! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lqphotography Luis Quezada

    Great location and perfect time of the year. Great work and thank you for sharing!

  • Daniel Ashton

    Love the shots! Great work by Michael staying so still in the water!

  • Peter Nop

    These are amazing, what made it more great was shooting around this time of year with the vibrant colors of the autumn.

  • Tibs

    Love reading your blogs and looking at your work! :)

  • http://www.pugtails.net Shay

    Amazing images as usual. I am always in awe of your work.

  • http://facebook.com/atouchofgoldphotography Valentine A Braten

    Great photography. Great action shots and a fantastic waterfall to add to the shots. It’s always a pleasure to see your work.

  • http://gravatar.com/marekw Marek

    Wow – that looks amazing! For me the winner is levitation shoot. I wonder how it would look like if you use Brenizer method to get more space around Michael. Epic (as usually :P).

  • http://www.500px.com/vivanova Violeta

    Now that takes real guts! The levitation shot is absolutely stunning. I really love how you post behind the scenes, so that we can all see the talent and hard work needed for a photo.

    The bracelets are also fantastic and I’d love to have one, though it’s a really long way to Finland…

  • Dave Crawford

    Ben – Love the frozen shot in the falls. Keep up the great work and the BTS videos!

  • http://www.clickudos.com rohit kothari

    wow amazing shot mus say model has caliber to stand in that freezing water

  • http://www.jayyfinlaysonphotography.co.uk Jayy Finlayson

    Seriously amazing at this!!!! Brilliant as always Ben

  • Hansel

    He looks like you a bit ! :P

  • ammar haq

    for a second i though the model was von when i first saw the pictures on Facebook

  • http://www.facebook.com/AndrewKufahl Andrew Kufahl

    Well done. Great planning and execution. Keep it up!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andreas.kancelar Andreas Kancelar

    your work made me change my approach to photography. It made me think more about my shots as well as generating ideas for specific projects instead of only taking random shots of random things. I thank you for that and can’t wait for a new update from your blog. Cheers from Croatia !

  • https://www.facebook.com/ihab.mokayed.page?fref=ts Ihab Mokayed

    I would love a t-shirt of von wong, it’s just awesome! But a bracelet is okay I guess, hahaa!

  • Luc Villeneuve

    When I will be old, I will sell this VonWong bracelet and get retired! Very good work.

  • Martina Havlickova-Solej

    Levitation picture is awesome!

  • Tricia Bird

    Wow! What a shoot!! I have taken pics of these falls as they are just around the corner but never had them turn out like that. I’ve shared your page to show some more locals just how amazing the over 125 waterfalls in our area are! Thanks for visiting!

  • http://www.catenatravel.com CatenaTravel

    It’s amazing how creativity and a camera can make the impossible look possible!!

  • http://gravatar.com/fioramagazine fioramagazine

    I shared it! I really love how his headshot turned out, he has very striking features!
    Love the post really awesome to follow your creative flow and how you work :)
    Keep it up!

  • Petra Aylesworth

    The things a man does to get a head shot taken by Von Wong. =)

  • Matrox

    Fantastic photos, good job! :)

    I was shooting today local ceremony with Nikkor AF 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 and this was amazing experience, but shooting with 400mm f/2.8 must be outstanding! :)

    Also, I would like to ask you – Basia is from Poland?

    • http://www.vonwong.com Ben

      yep basia is from poland indeed :)

  • Pingback: Asian Superhero in Waterfalls with 400mm | Fstoppers

  • Matt Z

    Love your work. You always are able to create awesome images even in the toughest(cold, distant, communication) scenarios. Keep it up!!

    Love that your subject was able to “levitate” for you, also.

  • http://twitter.com/IAM_THE_KGB K. G. Brown (@IAM_THE_KGB)

    And he’s a CANADIAN!!!!!

  • Tiana

    Great work, Ben! I love that meditation image… the colors, composition, everything.

  • http://jerrychen.photo@gmail.com Jerry Chen

    I love this set! I love all of your behind the scenes shots! :D Gotta love climbing hills to get the perfect shoot! I am really inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm that you have to achieve your vision. Love following you— also would love a free bracelet!

  • http://Www.Angeliphoto.com Angel

    Thats awesome!! Von Wong. I’m pretty sure I’m not the first one saying this, but your photo shoots always inspire me to come up with a photo shoot weekly =]. If you ever are by the Bay Area in California I’d really like to meet the mind behind all these photo shoots. By the way I’d totally wear one of your bracelets =]

  • http://www.facebook.com/brenda.kusan Brenda Kusan

    Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you, and Micheal, for showcasing a side of Hamilton so many people never see. Thank you for sharing your art.

  • http://www.yairhaim.com Yair Haim

    AMAZING! I wish I could get my hands on 400mm f/2.8 ;-)

  • http://blog.alexisfam.com alexisfam

    awesome concept and the levitation is way too cool. asian superhero has some mad skillz :D

  • http://www.marcilford.net Marc

    Simply epic! Kind of reminded me of Pai Mei training Beatrix Kiddo scene :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/renaud.lafreniere Renaud Lafrenière

    I really love your work Ben, always very inspiring and creative! Simply love it. I would love one day to collaborate with you or assist you in one of your crazy adventures! I would proudly wear that bracelet :D Continue your amazing work!

  • Samantha Banks

    Killin’ it, Ben!

  • http://www.darkshicreations.com Lotus

    Always finding more things about your work that I love Ben. Gonna have to remember this about the modeling for headshots.

  • Roxie

    Amazing work!! Incredible! I would proudly display any one of these pieces in my home!!

  • http://Www.michaelwillems.ca Michael Willems

    Skyport – that’s why I stick with pocket wizards, always. Funny btw, I just shot an engagement shoot there. And nudes recently also.

    Mike

  • http://www.trimoodphotography.com christine moody

    brilliant work and a perfect model performing the most amazing poses.

  • Marsha Green

    Loved this from the get-go! Thank you so much! (And I’m not ashamed to say that I’m looking forward to that bracelet!)

  • Kirstyn

    These are all amazing, but I love the one where the water is frozen in time and the model is all super-crazy-awesome-ninja man! So cool!!

  • BT

    This is amazing! I’m so glad Framed featured you so that I could be introduced to yet another amazing photographer. Beautiful shots!

  • http://gravatar.com/joshuachung Joshua Chung

    Great work!

  • http://matthewkunce.wordpress.com Matthew Kunce

    Amazing shots! I love watching your videos. You and the photographs you make are stunning and inspirational. Thank you for sharing with the world.

  • http://www.dakotaimagery.com Karen Ruby

    Love your work! It was wonderful to see how you created the images. Will start following you based on this post!

  • 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…

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