The first thing that struck me about London was it's energy at night: Taxi lights, night buses, hurtling police cars... the smell of Jack Daniels and perfume mixed with sweat.
I took these pictures from the top of my night bus home after an evening in London's financial district. I almost didn't - I was cosy in my downstairs seat and tired after a long evening photographing glowing skyscrapers. Nevertheless I eventually coaxed myself upstairs to the top deck. God knows what my fellow passengers thought.
My shutter speed was five or six seconds. I had no idea what to expect. So I let serendipity, the bus and the rhythm of the dark streets take control...
To create the background bokeh for my Electric City shoot I once again reached for my power drill and wood saw. The plan involved building a 4ft x 4ft wooden frame and suspending six-hundred glass beads with black sewing thread. Lit from behind, the beads would create beautiful circles of confusion, reminscent of a city at night.
Sure, similar effects can be created digitally, but I had no appetite for cutting out faces and isolating tricky bits of hair. Post-production is always so much easier when most of the image has already been captured in-camera. There is also a certain organic unpredictability that can be very hard to recreate digitally.
Building the frame was admittedly a rather time consuming process. In total one-hundred threads were suspended between two-hundred nails. Each thread was spaced 1cm apart, hooked around a nail on one side and tightened by nut and bolt on the other. Initially I had tried gaffer tape to hold everything in place but it simply wasn't strong enough; the weight of the beads proved too much.
Models: Emily Garner and Fran Turner
For this shoot I riffed on the idea of "glass" and how it can be used to bend light. I imagined the girls within an electric metropolis, awash with light and energy. The colourful field of bokeh behind the models is actually a practical effect; it was shot in-camera using nearly six-hundred glass beads. Reflections and light blurs were added later using nighttime scenes of London shot by myself.
Models: Marcel & Cesar @ Premier
Styling: Suzie Street & Nickque Patterson
Makeup: Marcio Abraao
Photo Assistants: Stacey Hatfield & Alexandra Watson
Shot last March in Little Venice, London, and published in L'Altro Uomo - a mens fashion, art and lifestyle book. Thank you everyone for your hard work!
The hardback book can be purchased online and from selected stores. A digital version is available too.
For a long time I have wanted to own an Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa. As one of the best beauty reflectors on the market, it's punchy light picks out bone structure and body contours while still maintaining enough wrap-around to avoid unpleasant shadows. The octagonal shape also ensures that round catchlights are reflected in the eyes. It essentially acts like a very large beauty dish, only lighter and far more portable - the whole thing can be collapsed like an umbrella when not in use.
The only problem? Rotalux Octas can only be used on Elinchrom and Profoto lights. I own Bowens... That wasn't going to stop me though! Defiant, I decided to dust off my power drill and embark on my own conversion.
I owe a huge thanks to fellow photographer Lloyd Stretton, who blazed a trail with his own conversion. His experience gave me the confidence to lay down £200 and tear apart my new Octa with a power drill!
DISCLAIMER: Modifying your Octa will invalidate its warranty. You do this at your own risk. I am not responsible for any damage or financial loss that may result!
The octa is attached to the light via a metal speedring. It's a really fine piece of engineering.
A central adapter ring is sandwiched between two identical pieces of metal. This ring mounts the Octa onto the light. Eight spring-loaded sockets circle the outside and accept the metal ribs that give the octa it's shape. All this is held together by sixteen rivets.
What we want to do is replace the inner Elinchrom adapter ring with one that can be fixed onto a Bowens light. Pictured below is a Bowens S-fit adapter I bought from my local Calumet store.
First of all though we need to crack open the speedring, and this means removing the rivets. Although each one is 4mm in diameter, I recommend using a power drill with a slightly larger bit.
The idea is to drill into the rivet just enough to sever the connection between its shaft and end-plug. A counter-punch and hammer can then be used to knock out the rivet completely. In practice one may want to drill down further and create some give.
Should it go well, one is rewarded with a fresh, clean hole.
That's the easy part.
The hard part is machining the Bowens S-fit adapter ring so that it sits comfortably within the metal enclosure. The inner Elinchrom ring is 128mm in diameter; the S-fit ring on the other hand is 139mm. Fortunately I found a metal workshop nearby that agreed to sand-down the excess metal.
The inner Elinchrom ring is pretty chunky though and there is a good chance its replacement will be thinner. In this case the internal locking clamp may fail to bite. Mounting and detatching the octa can be very difficult if the inner ring is too slack. The solution however is relatively straight forward: File down the internal clamping piece until it does its job.
Finally, we use sixteen 20mm M4 "Slotted Pan Head Machine Screws with Nuts and Washers" to replace the rivets.
A thick, heat-resistant translucent disc comes with the Deep Octa. It's purpose is to block the intense, unflattering glare of the flash bulb. The "Translucide Deflector", as it is called, normally attaches to Elinchrom lights with a specially designed extension rod that plugs into the body. However our Bowens doesn't have the necessary fitting. We will have to improvise.
In this case I borrowed a trick from my beauty dish, which operates under a similar principle. Using a simple system of springs, key rings and 1mm galvanised garden wire - not to mention a little drilling - I was able to suspend the deflector exactly where I wanted it. The springs keep the deflector taut and allow easy assembly - one simply has to stretch the spring a little to hook on the wire. The key rings are an additional convenience, again aiding assembly. Likewise, everything can be dismantled painlessly. The springs remain on the metal ribs.
Stylist: Alexis Knox
Makeup: Marcio Abraao
Stylist Assistant: Kathryn Duncan
UPDATE 6 July 2011: Added more photos and included link to Raff's new website.
Every shoot I try and do something different. Of course, nothing is ever truly original or new - everything has been done before in some shape or form. For musician and singer Raff (Aztec Records), whose debut EP is out 5th August, I decided to experiment with video projectors.
I had considered projecting patterns using a traditional theatre spot, but these lights are big, hot and cumbersome to use. Cutting out metal gobos didn't exactly appeal to me either...
Video projectors are quite weak compared to daylight and camera flash. So not only did I have to blackout the studio, I also had to dim my strobes using ND gels.
Another gotcha I encountered involves the way DLP projectors produce their image. Each colour channel is actually projected one after another in a rapid cycle. Although our eyes blend these together, the camera does not not quite see things the same way. Depending on where you catch the cycle and the camera's shutter speed, the visuals are liable to take on a different colour cast with every exposure. The longer the shutter stays open, the more consistent the results.
Many more photos to come!
Earlier this week I photographed contemporary dancer Kevin Keti.
The post-production work in these pictures is very precise. Pore by pore, the skin has been painstakingly rebuilt in order to convey an impression of uncanny health and fitness. This is a favourite illusion of mine; no matter where the eye lands the photo looks real and credible as if straight out of the camera.
Thanks to makeup artist Thom Ticklemouse.