“Princess of Persia”
In my last post I wrote about how I was able to prepare for my Genlux editorial weeks in advance. I met with the set designer, we went back and forth deciding on the right props, Stephen and I scoured model submissions looking for the perfect model, etc, etc. For the first of two Harper’s Bazaar Arabia shoots that I did in Dubai, I had no clue who, what or where we were going to be shooting. So now you can see how sometimes I get a lot of lead time to really prep a shoot. And sometimes, I don’t get any time at all to prep. And it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, I still have the same responsibility to produce great images for my client. With this Harper’s shoot, I met with Sally Matthews, the fashion editor, the day before we worked together. I met her at her office and she showed me a few mood boards, which she emailed to me later so I could have them to refer to in the evening before the shoot. In her office, she showed me the models she was deciding between, some of the clothing and she pulled up the location on the internet. Sally procured the Banyan Tree Al-Wabi for our location. The Banyan Tree is a brand new 5 star luxury resort located about 45 minutes outside of Dubai and we were the first official fashion shoot to take place there. From the website I could see the place was gorgeous! But most of the pictures showed the rooms, and most of the shots were taken at night. There were no real good pictures of the outdoor area in the day time, the area that I would be shooting in. I knew that I would have to really scout out the location once I got there and banking on the hope that make up and hair would take a few hours, I could use that time to plot out a shot list while combing the grounds for “photogenic” areas to shoot in.
And….I was right. That’s exactly what happened. While Dennie Pasion was busy transforming our gorgeous model Alexandra Blacha, Sally, David, Nash Haq (my assistant for the day) and myself jumped in a golf cart and took off to scour the enormous property of the Banyan Tree while Sally and I plotted out a shot list. Joanna Huang, the marketing communications manager for the Banyan Tree, drove us throughout the 100 hectares of property in a golf cart, stopping to show us the gazelle pen and a few camels meandering leisurely on the land. I have to admit, the sky was a little bleak looking. I mean, I know, we’re in the desert. I got it. But my mind was a little preoccupied with that endless sky, endless white sky, actually. I made mental notes of possibly dropping in soft clouds in post, warming up the tones with the white balance, and using the muted sand tones as a color theme while traipsing in and out of buildings looking for that perfect angle, that perfect shot! I spent a good 2 hours in that golf cart in the morning, almost falling out a few times. Joanna is one wild golf cart driver! She has that cart mastered like a pro! Of course, as I mentioned in a previous post about my trip to Dubai, I was operating on very few hours of sleep and had had a stressful week the week before I started shooting the editorials so I wasn’t in the best shape to begin with. However, none of that matters when you have to nail a shoot, especially for a client like Harper’s Bazaar! I was really grateful to be asked to shoot for the magazine and Sally was just so sweet, I really wanted to do a great job! So finding the best locations was very important.
The natural surroundings of the resort were incredible, despite the endless sky and I wanted to take advantage of the natural light. I vetoed using any strobe or artificial light. I decided the best bet was to use reflectors and backlight to really enunciate the environment of the desert. You should all know by now how I’m not a fan of using strobe light outdoors. I just don’t like the look of it. Sometimes it’s necessary and sometimes I like using it when I can control my shutter speed like when using a camera with a leaf shutter. But for this shoot, I had no use for it. Nash Haq was my first assistant on this shoot. Nash was in my advanced class the week before (the first shot on his website was taken at my workshop, it looks rad!) and he and I really clicked. In fact, we clicked so well, he graciously delayed his flight back home to Pakistan so he could assist for me on the first two editorials I had scheduled the week following the workshops. Nash and David both assisted me on this shoot, with David also shooting the video for you guys. So they were both out there in the hot desert, holding reflectors, getting sand all over them, strapping camera bags to their shoulders so the sand wouldn’t get any where near the lenses, uploading images and doing everything that assistants do so that the photographers that hire them can get that shot! Nash did a great job and I can’t thank him enough for A: staying on and assisting me in Dubai and B: just for being a good friend, period!
I chose Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir as the song to go with all the golf cart scenes in the video.. that song kept ringing in my ears the whole time we were racing through the desert in that golf cart…it was pretty hilarious, just careening through miles of gorgeous desert scenes and natural wildlife at arm’s reach. After Denie was finished with Alexandra, Sally and I decided to start with the camel shot and move in a strategic pattern across the desert grounds, ending on the sand dunes at magic hour. I shot 10 looks for 8 pages in about 5 hours, give or take an hour. The clothes were off the charts! I have to give Sally a bit of a shout out here and admit that she was one of my favorite fashion editors I’ve worked with, to date. With her sexy, husky voice and her tall, gorgeous, languid looks, it was her eye for fashion that captured my heart. Her taste is impeccable and she was as laid back, and chill as they all seem to be saying about me! Hahaha…maybe that’s why we all clicked! Sally was a real pleasure to work for. Can I just say I wish they all were like Sally!
And Dennie Pasion. Another rock star on set! Her make up and hair styling was about as perfect as you can get. Dennie’s career as a make up artist is long and epic and it shows in her work. Her and I also clicked, which is strange to have so much intuitive bonding on a shoot where we all come together from different parts of the globe, strangers to one another until the day we find ourselves in some remote desert resort to shoot an editorial. I love these moments and it’s what I live for. The collaboration is a high like no other. It’s ultimately why I have been addicted to shooting fashion since Day One. And Dennie is so sweet, she blogged about me and the shoot on the Bareface blog. “Hollywood Meets Arabia”! Very kind words, guys! Thanks!! And last but not least, did I mention our other rock star: The Camel!! I openly admitted on the video that animals can be tough to work with. But this guy was a natural star and I’m sure Hollywood would be calling if he didn’t live so far away. He seemed to “pose” with every direction I gave the model, which kind of blew my mind to be honest. I’d tell Alexandra to look to her right and sure enough, the camel would look in the same direction! This camel had it going on! Maybe he was a retired Animal Actor, living in Dubai now, being given the rock star treatment he truly deserves!
Technical information from the shoot is the following: I shot at high shutter speeds, up to 1/5000 sec sometimes. I used a 50 mm 1.4, an 85 1.4, and a 24 mm 2.8. All Nikon. On a Nikon. Of course. My ISO varied as well. Sometimes it was at 200 sometimes it was up at 1600. It was bright out there, folks! My aperture was anywhere from f6.3 to f10. The whole shoot was shot with natural light and reflectors. I brought the images home to L.A. where Tyler Mitchell, my first assistant, did the retouching. Because as it turns out, he not only rocks my photo shoot world as a great first, he also does incredible retouching. The kid’s destined for quite a future. He also edited the video you’re about to watch. I don’t think there isn’t anything Tyler can’t do and do well. He’s become invaluable to me and I’m getting quite used to having him around. Talk about chill. Him and I are pretty laid back and laugh at the same things. It’s going to be ridiculous if I ever have to find a replacement. Eh..……he knows it, too! ; )
So I’m off to Orlando this Thursday to speak at SNAP! Orlando about the business of fashion photography. I will also be exhibiting a few pieces from my Boys Collection. ZINK Magazine recently did an article about me and the body of work that is aptly title, “The Boys Collection”. If you live in Florida, it’s really worth coming to Orlando to check out all the events and shows. Lionel Deluy and Douglas Kirkland are also showing their work there as well. Douglas Kirkland is speaking after I speak on Saturday, and honestly, I really urge you to come and hear him speak. This man, his work and his career are legendary!! See you all soon!