Week 3 – flames, gynmastics & water

By on May 29, 2012

Hey guys! It’s been a little while since our last update, sorry for the delay! The problem with not having time to blog in between blog posts is that the longer I wait, the more there is to say… and the longer it takes to write them. Consequently, the blog posts that I write stretch over multiple days! Things have been quite hectic and we’ve done so much driving over the last few days that we honestly haven’t managed to find much time to sit down and write! Picking up from where we left off last time following our late night escapade with Andrey Das, we had to get prepped up and ready for the next morning 18/19 to give a free workshop to all those who helped contribute to the project. If you are a contributor and want a copy of the workshop, we’ll send you a copy by email the minute it’s ready!

We made our way to a gymnasium at 8AM to be at Draveuil to give the largest workshop I had ever given – over 10 people participated! People from all corners of Paris showed up even people from Switzerland and Berlin showed up! Thanks to the amazing organization of Nicolas Vallet from Strobi.fr, we were given the privilege to work with some gymnasts from Team France (Equipe de France). The purpose of the workshop was to create some sort of a love triangle with people floating about in surreal positions and thanks to some awesome talent, trials and error by our gymnasts and some gorgeous hair done by the talented Virginie B.G we managed to get some pretty interesting results in the AM. I explained camera settings, lighting setups, workflow, equipment in addition to general management tips on set, posing the models, etc… The result?

Lightroom

In the afternoon, we then split up into some small mini groups and each participant was encouraged to take some time to develop their own concept and photo and interact with the models. During this time, I waltzed around and surveyed the situation and tried my best to offer tips and tricks wherever I could. Régis Matthey took a pretty neat backstage shot on his blog of the action:

2012 05 18 tumbling 46

The day went by quite smoothly until it was time to leave and one of our dear participants decided to lock his keys inside his trunk! After a good hour of waiting around, we finally got a tow truck in to come and try to open up the car. Although we managed to lower the windows a good foot and a half, the volkswagen he had was completely electronic and wouldn’t respond to anything physical. After another hour of hard work, we had to surrender and he tow truck took the volkswagen to the garage. The only option was to wait a couple days for UPS to deliver a replacement key. Moral of the story? Don’t lock your keys in the trunk of an electronic german car!

The next day, 8:30 AM, we put together a nice little photoshop workshop for our participants to work on the images from the previous day. I started with a quick overview of Lightroom and showcased not only the basic tools but also showcased the nifty Lightroom Preset System by the SLRLounge. I then proceeded to do a quick overview of the basic tools of photoshop – layers, masks, curves as well as various selection methods. I thought that the workshop would be quite boring as I really tried to stick with the basics but after I started talking, I would somehow go on and on with little details and customizations that I had developed throughout the years. The idea was to explain as much technical details as possible rather than actually finalize an image so I don’t really have a final image for you guys but to give you an idea, here’s a draft:

Lightroom 1

Similar to my workshop on day one, the afternoon was reserved for the various participants to edit their own images (or mine) if they wanted. Somehow, the day flew by lightning fast and by the time we actually wrapped up to leave it was already 7:30 PM.

To read up on how the workshop was from the perspective of Regis Matthey , check out his blog: http://regismatthey.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/paris-ville-des-lumieres-5-jours-dechange-photographique/

We ended the evening with a great supper which involved unlimited drinks and belgium pizzas in the heart of downtown paris with the entire team – a great conclusion to an amazing two days with our Sponsors from Lovinpix.com

The next day, we picked up our entire mobile house of luggage that was scattered around in Byclown Photograph‘s humble studio, ran off to have lunch over at Alexandre Guy’s, a fellow photographer and fan we had never met before,and then headed off to see Virginie B.G ,the hairstylist from our workshop. She bluntly told me two days before that my hair was so terribly hideous that she would not allow me to leave Paris without giving me a nice haircut and some real baguette. Things got mildly out of hand as Virginie went wild but all things considered I did indeed come out of there with a very clean, very nice hair cut.

IMG 0211

Following that, we headed over to downtown Paris to perform yet another photoshoot with Pyrotechnician Andrey Das. I felt that in the previous shoot we hadn’t really pushed ourselves to the limit of what could be achieved so we took to the streets with a couple intrepid strobists and friends. Of course, it had to rain but that didn’t detour our determined group from finding the perfect shoot location. It took us a couple hours of trudging in the rain before we finally found the perfect location for our fire shoot… a church situated right next to a fire station. Not one to be easily deterred, we courageously went straight up to the fire station and asked if we could take some photographs in front of the church – they agreed. We carefully omitted the fact that we were going to be spitting massive balls of fire and swinging about ropes of flames… details :P I was extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to play around with a D800 thanks to fellow fan and photographer Daniel Hurturbise.

Although the last photo I did of DAS turned out to be quite epic, I wasn’t quite satisfied with it and wanted to do something a even more surreal and dramatic… and more technically difficult. Blending fire, multiple exposures and off camera flashes seemed to fit the bill so we went for an epic flaming angel concept. Once again, the challenge was to come up with an awesome shot without photoshop. I was quite frustrated to learn that the best take which you can see in the final image below had an UMBRELLA in the shot. Dangers of shooting wide, and in the rain so I did clean the image in photoshop but the flames are entirely untouched. I’ll be throwing this up on facebook later tonight but for you loyal readers, here’s a peak into the final result.

Das fire angel von wong

The shot took about two hour to make which by then brought us to approximately 2 AM and rather than head home, we decided to toy around with the remaining fuel. Everyone took a spit except Erwan who was busy wrapping up the artist interview with Das. Turns out that we really didn’t need to concern ourselves much with the Paris authorities since throughout the night 3 firetrucks and a police car drove by without so much as slowing down. On my end, I went a little crazy spitting fire in the middle of the streets of Paris, photo courtesy of Olivier Marchand who had the privilege to shoot this shot on a Nikon system =P

Fireball von wong

By the time the interview wrapped up and all of us got a chance to flame up, tidy up and be ready to leave it was already 4 AM… We took a nice group shot to wrap up the evening and headed off to stay over at Daniels for a couple hours…

Strobi das von wong

Three hours later, we were up and packing all over again to catch a ferry from Calais to Dover. The drive went smoothly despite our lack of sleep (actually Erwan did all the driving while I dozed like a baby in the car) and we managed to get to Surrey, UK on time to meet up with Valgas Moore, a friend of Erwan’s (and now mine!) who served as an awesome second video & assistant for the next two days. We settled in at a nice posh indian restaurant and stuffed ourselves as we waited to meet the famous Dave Reynolds & team from the Underwater Realm.

They showed up around 9 PM and we made our way together towards Rich Maskey‘s 800 year old home where we were going to spend the night. Upon arriving, Dave and I sat around the living room table and began casually planning the one shot we were really looking to achieve – an underwater behind the scenes photograph worthy of a two page magazine spread. The sketch?

Finder

By the time we were ready for the bed it was well past midnight… with the alarm set for 5 AM. Unfortunately, we could only have the deep diving pool from 7 AM to 4 PM which meant a really really early morning.

One would have thought that with so little sleep the morning would have been tough on us but the prospect of shooting underwater with tens of thousands of gear of fancy equipment with a team of awesome talent got us out of the house lightning fast.
IMG 3284

Shooting underwater was an massive challenge for both Erwan and me. Things move a lot slower underwater and things as simple as communication, standing still and composition all get extremely complicated. For example, changing batteries would take over 20-30 minutes to open the case, switch out the cards, re-pressurize, etc… !

That being said, we still managed, despite the challenges to get some amazing shots out of the whole setup. Thanks to a nice big window and some strategic sunlight streaming in we caught some pretty amazing practice stills of the models/actors that came in for the test shoot. For now, the shots will have to remain a bit private as we sort out what can be released and what’s got to be kept!

By the time the whole crew was prepped and ready by the amazing makeup/hair artist Danny Marie Elias we were pretty much setup underwater with some underwater home brewed Kino’s, tripod, underwater 5d MK II and a chain of strobes rigged to fire from camera, to surface, over to a Linkstar 500 Watt strobe I had on the surface of the water.

Rather than do a complex composite that we had originally planned we instead had everyone drop into the water simultaneously and had them perform a predetermined set of actions. After about 6 tries, we got out of there completely thrilled with the results. I was extremely surprised to know that we had actually managed to come up with an amazing image without requiring separate compositing. (shot coming up soon!)

Although I would have liked a good 3-4 more tries to perfect small details, our time was up and we had to call it a day. Exhausted, we wrapped up, went grocery shopping and prepped an amazing bbq at the end of the IMG 0233

The rest of the evening was spent socializing, sharing stories and reviewing images… by which time we crashed to be ready for yet another 5 AM wakeup call.

The next day we decided to take things a little different where priority was given to the actual video shoot. I hid in the background shooting behind the scene video footage while struggling to get my surface strobes to trigger. Despite rigging up a tupperware box with two strobes tied to a string to follow me around underwater with Rich Maskey and Mark Andrew Ruddick, the strobes weren’t reliable enough to be used consistently.

Erwan and I took turns taking shots underwater while Valgas spent the time on the surface capturing some awesome behind the scenes video and stills… we still haven’t had a chance to go through them so that’ll be coming soon!

Alright that’s it for now guys… we’re currently driving from Toulouse to Burgos for the last leg of our trip, update you guys soon with news on our shoot with Natasha Baker and our little escapade in Toulouse… :)

PS. 2140 words in this blog post!!

  • http://www.williamsphotography.co.nz Warren Williams

    Wow, you’ve been busy. Looks like some amazing workshops, and so much patience to pull off those shots. They look awesome!

  • http://oli4-photography.500px.com/ Oli4

    Très bon article Ben ! Un plaisir de te lire et de revivre quelques moments de cette aventure parisienne. Bon, le gymnase était à DRAVEIL, je viens de SAARBRÜCKEN !

    Concerning the “moral of the story”… I just can agree : NEVER let you keys in the trunk of any modern car !!!

  • http://regismatthey.wordpress.com Rgs_

    Awesome, great to read your point of view of the story ! It was french pizza though and you didn’t mention the swiss raclette at Niko’s place ;)

    • http://www.vonwong.com Ben

      ahhh so much has happened… jai raté plein de détails :( !

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