Hi there,

it’s been nearly 1 year since I have posted my last article here. During that period, lots of things happened in my life: I shot many weddings and commercials, I was the official photographer for a Mauritian movie (to be released later in 2014), I took my first holidays in 4 years, my friend Thomas and I launched a foundation called “Fondation Marengo” which aims at preserving the Mauritian heritage, and I started to write 2 books about Mauritius (to be released in 2015 and 2016).

With everything going at a fast pace, new projects, ideas and opportunities flowing in without pause, it has been a quite tough period for me, always being busy and overbooked. In the end, it’s the whole creative process which is suffering – creativity needs time, I need time to be creative, and I’m happy I have decided to take the necessary time to write my books. Photography is a singular art, where creativity meets commercial pressure at every steps, where digital technology means instantaneity, where speed prevails over quality. I feel it’s time for me to be back to basic, to photographic roots, to feel closer to my subjects, to take time to admire and appreciate the present moment – in other words, CARPE DIEM !, and this will be my tribute to an actor I liked very much, Robin Williams.

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Despite it is not “fresh” news anymore since it happened in June 2012, I still wanted to share some images and thoughts here about my first conceptual fashion shoot.

The consultation I launched through a poll here on my blog gave birth to the definition of the selected theme: retro colonial. I discussed it with my wife and with a few friends (namely Julien and Jasbeer), and I finally decided to go for the “behind the scene” shoot of a movie on the colonial period. In every images of this concept, I had to integrate some anachronisms and some cinematographic elements (lights, clap, camera, film director on his chair …), as if it was a real movie. Obviously, I also shot some real “fashion” images and some portraits showing the great job of The House of Haute Couture Lionnet Fauzou, of the hairdresser Steeves Ramiah and the make-up artist Dominique Chan, and the great acting of my models. So this basically was my concept.

After having defined the concept and explained it to the fashion designers, I needed to clarify my thoughts about the “what will shoot exactly, what do I want to show in my images ?” It then became obvious to me that what I will show is the normal life of a normal colonial couple, in their wonderful house (Eureka in Moka). I started to picture in my mind the different scenes of life that I wanted to capture – the couple having a cup of tea inside, the couple reading books in the varangue, the couple walking in their park, the couple having a picnic in their garden, the couple playing badminton together, the couple having fun with arts (drawing, photographing), the couple dancing at twighlight  … It seemed to me that it would constitute a nice series of images, quite different the ones from the others.

So here they are … some of the images taken during this wonderful day:

Back to Marie Antoinette time DSC_8804w signed resized DSC_8851w signed resized DSC_8870w signed resized DSC_8960w signed resized DSC_8992w signed resized DSC_9001w signed resized DSC_9013w signed resized DSC_9038w signed resized DSC_9051w signed resized DSC_9078w signed resized DSC_9093w signed resized DSC_9135w1 signed resized DSC_9151w finale signed resized DSC_9160w signed resized

After disclosing those images, I simply would like to emphasize some facts and figures on the preparation of such a photo shoot. It seems to me that people should know more on all the work that lies behind a photo shoot. And here, I’m only talking for my part, the photographer’s part – hence this doesn’t include the work of the fashion designers, who did a fantastic job on the dress and the male costume.

So for me, this shoot represented:

– 5 full days of preparations – defining the concept and the outfit, finding the right place, the right people and the appropriate accessories (3 days were spent only to do shopping to find the best accessories !)

– more than 100 phone calls

– more than 50 different people, shops, partners … contacted and met

– 4 hours of actual photo shooting

– 3 hours of hairdressing and make-up

– some Rs 22,000 spent out of my pocket (this obviously doesn’t include the cost for the outfit, which has been offered to me due to my honorable mention for the fashion photography contest !)

– more than 18 people present on the photo shoot

As you can see, it looks more like a real movie production than just a photo shoot !😉 But all the efforts we put in it were really worthy, we had a wonderful day and so much fun.

In the end, as you can imagine, I would not have been able to do all this without a lot of help. Here is a list of all the people I would like to thank: my wife Diane and my kids Chloé and Simon, for their support, help and patience; my parents-in-law for helping me find a lot of accessories; Anais and Véronique Lionnet, and Fabien Fauzou for having created such wonderful fashion outfits, just like in my dreams; Jasbeer Kootbally for her great ideas and for her beautiful drawings; Ali Ghanti, for being the best photo assistant; Karen Nicolini for having found the 2 perfect models for this shoot; Courtney Horn and Vincent Jolivet, THE 2 perfect models, who acted exactly how I wanted; Steeves Ramiah, the hairdresser, for having crafted an amazing hair cut on Courtney; Dominique Chan, MUA, for the stunning make-up on the models; Jacques De Marroussem, owner of the Eureka House, for having allowed me to have the shoot in his absolutely awesome colonial house; The Mauritius Film Development Corporation, recommended by my friend Gonzalo Fanny, for lending me all the cinema equipment. And I surely miss some other people (sorry in advance for that) …

Être photographe est un véritable engagement.

La photographie, qui est l’art d’écrire avec la lumière, permet à celui qui déclenche l’obturateur de poser un œil particulier sur le monde et l’environnement qui l’entourent. Les photographes sont les témoins visuels de leur époque, et leurs images documentent la réalité, leur réalité. Elles sont un prolongement de leurs yeux, le reflet de ce qu’ils voient, de ce qu’ils vivent, de ce qu’ils ressentent. Comment alors rester insensible à ce qui se passe sous leurs yeux ?

Ainsi de nombreux photographes s’engagent dans diverses actions politiques et écologiques. Yann Arthus Bertrand pour son engagement écologique (“La Terre vue du ciel”), ou, plus proche de nous à Maurice, Jameel Peerally pour son engagement politique avec Azir Moris, sont deux exemples parmi des centaines d’autres.

Mon engagement personnel, pour mon pays d’adoption qu’est l’île Maurice, concerne la protection du patrimoine culturel, architectural et paysager. C’est un engagement qui vaut la peine parce que l’Ile Maurice recèle encore d’une grande variété d’endroits, de paysages, de vieilles traditions à protéger et à préserver. Mais il s’agit aussi d’un combat, car il faut se battre contre le pouvoir de l’argent (à tous les niveaux), contre une société qui dénigre son passé et son patrimoine coloniaux et contre une culture du mauvais goût et de l’uniformisation. Pourtant, il me semble qu’il y a une prise de conscience qui est en train de naître dans notre petite ile; de plus en plus de personnes s’insurgent contre le tout béton, contre les dizaines de projets d’hôtels, d’IRS qui défigurent Maurice à tout jamais, qui privent les Mauriciens de leur terre et dont l’argent ne bénéficie qu’à une poignée de personnes. Ces projets, bien souvent d’une laideur affligeante, sont de très grande ampleur et sont un désastre écologique: pollution des sols, pollution du lagon, création de plages artificielles, destructions des habitats naturels pour les espèces endémiques … sans parler de la pollution visuelle ! Que préfèrent les gens, Mauriciens ou touristes: se retrouver sur une plage déserte, façon Robinson Crusoë, avec un décor idyllique et sentir la nature; ou être sur la même plage, avec des transats par centaines, et pour seule perspective la dizaine d’hôtels en béton qui vient d’ouvrir !

Je pense qu’avant tout, il faut redonner aux Mauriciens le goût du beau, de l’esthétique, de l’authenticité, de l’harmonie. Quand je montre aux couples que j’accompagne une belle maison coloniale pour y faire des photos, ils sont tous éblouis par la beauté de l’architecture, l’espace dans les jardins, l’organisation des pièces, le fait qu’il y fasse frais sans air conditionné … Les photographes (je citerais ici Kunal Jankee, dont le film en stop motion sur les beautés cachées de Maurice,”Celestial Pearl”, est attendu par tout le monde) sont partie-prenante dans la rééducation de la population mauricienne; grâce à leurs images, les Mauriciens vont découvrir leur pays, leur patrimoine et le fait que tout est menacé de disparition. Alors, peut-être, souhaiteront-ils faire bouger les choses pour stopper ce massacre. Car après tout, en démocratie, c’est encore le peuple qui décide, non ?!

Pour terminer ce long article en français (désolé pour les non-francophones), je désire partager avec vous l’histoire d’une image forte, que j’ai faite très récemment dans une école de Rose Hill. On dit souvent qu’une image vaut mieux que cent discours; je pense que c’est partiellement vrai, car on peut faire dire ce qu’on veut à une image. Pour autant, une belle image authentique peut créer une émotion très vive ne pouvant être décrite par des mots.

L’école, donc, est une ancienne maison coloniale en bois, et elle n’est plus entretenue depuis longtemps – trous dans le sol, dans les murs, aménagements sommaires. Pour autant, cette école reste magnifique, on peut y sentir la vie et l’histoire des milliers d’écoliers qui sont passés par ses bancs. Le propriétaire du lieu, directeur de l’école, nous dit qu’elle sera vraisemblablement démolie pour être remplacée par une école en béton sans âme, mais plus pratique. Les quelques élèves sur place nous avouent à demi-mots qu’ils ne se sentent pas concernés et qu’ils préfèrent un bâtiment moderne. L’image qui suit prend alors une force incroyable à la connaissance de cette histoire et du devenir de cette petite école; il en émane une tristesse et une mélancolie qui procurent en moi des sentiments puissants: tantôt je n’arrive pas à regarder cette image tant je suis triste, tantôt mes yeux ne peuvent se détourner de l’écran tant l’image est belle et tant j’ai envie de “sauver” cette école !

Ecole coloniale à Rose Hill

Hi guys, it’s been again a long time since I have blogged my latest post here.  A combination of work, important projects and family life (3 kids now, and 2 of them at home for 2 months during holidays in July/August) made me virtually unavailable for anything else. I already can’t wait for our first holidays in more than 3 years, by the end of this year, back to Europe !

Anyway, during that time, I have done many different things, and among them, I have upgraded my lighting equipment with an amazing item: the Icelight. When I first heard about the Icelight early 2012, it was through my friend Jerry Ghionis when he was still testing it. Jerry is recognized as one of the best wedding photographers in the world, and he had the brilliant idea to design a continuous lighting that is really transportable and delivers a great light quality. I won’t describe the product here, there are lots of resources on that on the net – http://www.theicelight.com – but I simply would like to stress out that this product is amazing *.

So I have ordered 2 Icelights a couple of weeks ago and I got them last Saturday (17 Aug 13). They are not really cheap (US$500 each) but it costs less than a good speed light and for a far better quality of light. It’s as Jerry says: “it’s like carrying window light everywhere you go”. The product is manufactured by Wescott, a famous lighting equipment company, and is of great quality. The box itself looks like the one of an Apple product, and really you feel quality, reliability, solidness when you have the Icelight in hand. Everything looks perfect, and it is, but of course, there are a few cons: like the battery for instance, which lasts only 1 hour at full power (that being said, it’s quite rare that you need full power all the time, and between 2 shots, you can just switch it off …), or the maximum power, which doesn’t enable you to use it in bright outdoor conditions (the Icelight is clearly designed for indoor, studio or night shoots).

As every photographer, I am photo equipment geek … and as soon as I receive a new piece of equipment, I want to test and try it. In less than a week, I have already shot 2 photo sessions with my Icelights: one for a wedding and one that I have offered to a couple who wanted to do something very special (recreate the Wong Kar Wai movie “In the mood for love” mood and atmosphere in the streets of Port-Louis, Mauritius. Here are then some images taken during those 2 photo sessions … and really looking forward to the next sessions with them !

1. “In the mood for love” theme images:

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2. Images of Meelin and Oliver wedding – first time I ever used the Icelights:

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3. The Icelight with its box:

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* Note: I am not a distributor or reseller of this product in Mauritius or anywhere in the world – Jerry, if you read this, maybe we could do business together here😉 lol. I am not earning any commissions or royalties by writing this blog post. I am just writing it because I love the product and I think it deserves to be better known.

I’m quite proud to have been chosen to take the first images of the new dress collection of La Maison de Haute-Couture Lionnet Fauzou. This new dress collection is based on the masterpieces of Mauritian artist/painter Vaco Baissac. Very well designed, very colorful, it’s a real pleasure for the eyes.

Here are some images I’ve taken, some of the dresses’ designs and a few Vaco Baissac paintings which inspired Ainais Lionnet and Fabien Fauzou, the 2 young and talented Mauritian designers.

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Dear friends,

it’s been quite a long time since I have posted something here – busy life with my job and my family to take care of … because my wife was pregnant of our 3rd kid🙂

So here it is, she gave birth to a lovely little girl, Camille, on Friday 5 April 2013 at 8:10am. Baby Camille weighs 3.45kg and measures 51 cm. Both Camille and my wife are doing well and are back home since today🙂

Chloé and Simon are both very happy, excited and proud to have a little sister ! It’s going to be hectic and interesting at home now🙂

Also, I’d like to apologize to my family, friends, clients and prospects for not being very present and reactive over the last few weeks/months. It’s going to be back to normal very soon … hopefully !

Here are the few first images I took of Camille:

Camille 5 April 2013b DSC_2536w resized Camille Day 2 0005 Camille Day 3 0005 Camille Day 3 0006

Despite being quite late for my new year’s wishes, it is commonly accepted to send wishes up to the end of the first month of the year. Therefore I am still on schedule🙂

My family and I, wish you all the best of love, luck, health and success for 2013. Our politicians, throughout the world, are planning a difficult, tough and gloomy year 2013 – I prefer to see it with hope and opportunities.

2012 has been an amazing year for Pixel in the box – with a lot a new styles and projects reached: fashion, a short animation movie …

2013 promises to be an even greater year, on both professional and personal sides, as we expect our third kid by the end of March !

Again, dear friends, all my best wishes to you for 2013 !

Carte voeux 2013

Back in 1998, when I first visited Mauritius, I discovered that my wife-to-be’s mother was raised and lived in a colonial house in Port-Louis. When I saw the house, I told to myself: “one day, I’ll own a similar colonial house and I’ll live in it”. Never could I have imagined, that 14 years later, I would be thinking of a photography project around the colonial houses to try to save them !

Indeed, in less than 2 decades, hundreds of colonial houses and other old style houses have been demolished in Mauritius. 10 years ago, I bought a wonderful book called “Vivre à l’Ile Maurice – la vie en varangue” – in this book are photographed more than a hundred of houses; today in 2012, less than 50% of those houses are still here ! This is a reality, and this is a reality of NOW – from the few houses (6) I have visited last week-end, 1 has been destroyed in 2012, 1 is promised to be destroyed in 2013, and 2 are in such a bad shape that they could simply collapse at any time.

Most of those houses are privately owned by Mauritian families, but some of them are owned by the State. We can argue that the cost of maintenance for those houses is high, but if it is well done on a regular basis, it is not unacceptable … and anyway, this cost is still far less than the one of destroying the house and building something new in concrete. We can also argue that the colonial houses is more a “white people” patrimony which is not linked to a positive past for most of the Mauritian – but here again, this is the history of the island, its culture and architecture and it has to be protected – in Poland for instance, they have not destroyed the Auschwitz site where millions of people were murdered. After all, I think it is simply a matter of choice and of willingness, and I believe it has to come from the State – for instance, some houses should be classified as Mauritian national patrimony and thus cannot be destroyed, even if they are privately owned. In France, it’s the case for a lot of castles, houses, monuments … And I truly believe that this goes in a positive direction for tourism,which is one of the most important pillar of the Mauritian economy. If Mauritius destroys its cultural patrimony, it will lose a lot of interest. Well, at least, this is my opinion.

So that’s why, with a Mauritian friend, we have decided to gather old and new images in a photography project to try to raise the awareness of whoever is interested with history, culture, architecture … ; the awareness that we have to do something, and we have to do it now ! Because who knows what will have happened in a few years if we don’t do anything now. This project will maybe end up with a book, we’ll see. But for sure, I’ll keep you posted here and there about it !😉

Here are a few images that I recently took:

1. My family-in-law house in Port-Louis – if there is one colonial house that I want to save myself, it’s this one. It is currently the location of a Mauritian company.

Colonial house Port-Louis

Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis  Colonial house Port-Louis

2. A couple of houses in Moka – the first one is promised to demolition in 2013, while the second one is hosting an office (which is a good way to rehabilitation):

Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka   Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka  Colonial house Moka

3. A very pretty house on the verge to collapse – from the outside, it still looks nice, except the roof; but once inside, the wooden parts are all rotten and it’s dangerous to walk in it !

Mon repos - Mount  Mon repos - Mount  Mon Repos - Mount

4. This is not a typical colonial house, but an old convent built in 1864 by the English. This is owned by the State.

Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Le Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre  Couvent 1864 - Moulin à poudreCouvent 1864 - Moulin à poudre

5. Finally, to finish on a positive note, here are 3 excellent examples of how to develop cultural attractions for those precious architectural jewels:

– Eureka House in Moka: museum, restaurant, hosting place for events

Maison Eureka, Moka  Maison Eureka, Moka

– Château Labourdonnais: museum, restaurant, hosting place for events, famous for its mangoes

Château Labourdonnais  Château Labourdonnais

– Mogador: an exceptional colonial house dated 1888 transformed into a beach villa to rent

Mogador  Mogador

This is a question that I am quite often asked, hence the reason of this blog post.

As I am also taking more and more images of hotels and villas, I have tried 2 very different techniques, which I will share with you. But first of all, why is it so difficult to take images of interiors: the reason lies in the essence of photography i.e. light ! When you look at a nice hotel room for instance, your eyes have a dynamic that a lens of a camera cannot render – they see both the room itself and the view from the window, at the same time, and both well exposed. The difficulty for a photographer will then be to render those exposures – one for the inside and one for the view – as good and realistic as possible.

The 2 techniques are:

1. The digital blending technique, which I consider to be more a “computer-based” technique rather than a pure photographic technique.

2. The flash lighting technique, which imposes to be much more careful on the ground when taking the image. (I also refer you to the great ebook of an american photographer, who explains this technique in details: Lighting Interiors by Scott Hargis)

For those 2 techniques, I recommend to use the following settings: lower ISO setting as possible (ISO 100 for instance) to get the best image quality; a small aperture (f/11 or above) to get the most elements in focus (except if you are looking for a specific effect); a long shutter speed (1/5th, 1/10th, 1/20th sec for instances) to get the most of your ambiant light (mostly if you put the lights on in the room) – just watch out not to move your camera, else your image will be blurred ! Finally, I also recommend not to shoot too wide – I think 24mm is largely enough. Shooting wide means a lot of lens distortions in the edges of your images.

Those 2 techniques both require some photoshop work afterwards, but while the first one may require hours of it, the second one is more for fine-tuning the image. Both techniques require the use of a dslr (digital single lens reflex) or at least a good compact camera that has Manual, Aperture, Shutter Speed modes. Both techniques require the use of a tripod. That’s basically all for the first technique, while the second one will also require the use of several speedlights (a minimum of 3 I personally think), some equipments to hold those lights – light stands, elastics or other stuffs to fix the speedlights in very remote places if needed … – and a triggering system to fire them. In the end, as you will see, the second technique would be the best one (to me), but it is a bit costly.

The first technique – the digital blending technique. To use this technique, you should shoot in RAW format – this enables to get the most of your exposure in the high lights and low lights. The shooting technique on the ground is pretty simple: select your point of view on your tripod, make a first assessment of the available light (ambiant light) for the inside of the room, take the first photo. From there, you will take several similar images, 1 full f-stop down or 1/2 f-stop down after each other – this means that you will take similar images more and more under-exposed, until you get the best exposure for the window and the view from this window. Generally, I use 3 images – 1 for the inside, 1 for the window, and 1 in-between. Now the tough job on photoshop can start – combining those 3 images into layers in the same image, getting nice transitions, often using selections (to select the frame  of the window for instance).

There are a few tips to make it a little bit easier. First, pay great attention to the window – it has to be plain, with no other objects between the camera and the window (difficult to mask it out afterwards); watch out the curtains, the blinds and other elements that could be very painful to mask out. Second tip, use a manual white balance, as you would not like to have 2 different color sets in your images (although it can be adjusted as you shoot RAW …).

Here is an example of room I shot more than 1 year ago using this technique (2 of the 3 exposures):

and the final result:

And here are examples where this technique would be very difficult to apply, don’t you think so ?😉

Copyrights Scott Hargis

Copyrights Scott Hargis

The second technique – the flash lighting technique. This technique imposes the photographer to be much more careful when taking the picture. The following steps should be carried on to get nice images:

a. First, after having selected your angle of view on your tripod, you should assess your ambiant light vs. the light of the window. To do so, take a picture, in Manual mode, so that the view of the window is well exposed or highly over-exposed. This is the basis of your image.

b. Start thinking what should be your lighting with flash i.e. what are the key parts of the room to be lit – this would define how many flashes you will need. Here there is a little trick to know about – flashes produce hard light as they are small sources of light (this is why in studio we use soft boxes, umbrellas, diffusers … to create larger sources of light and thus smoother light – the larger and the closer your source of light to your subject, the smoother and creamier it will be). The trick here is that you should not direct your flash to your subject, but you should bounce it on the walls and on the ceiling. The walls and ceiling will then become larger sources of light and will create a beautiful smooth light for your subject. Here is an illustration of this:

Copyrights Scott Hargis

c. When lighting a room, always start with 1 speedlight  and always start lighting the foreground. Then you can combine a second light lighting another part of the room and so on … using this methodology, you will precisely know what are the effects and impacts of each light if you need to place them differently or adjust their power for a better rendering.

d. To adjust the power of your flashes, there is one rule to know: Shutter speed doesn’t affect your flash power, but aperture does. Shutter speed will allow more ambiant light to come to your sensor, so if your room if properly lit with your flashes, setting faster or slower shutter speed will only impact your ambiant light and the view of your window. If you lack power from your flashes, decrease the aperture to get brighter results.

e. Now that your image is well lit (both inside and window view), you can focus on small adjustments. Indeed, flashes will create shadows that can be removed by placing the flashes more adequately. Also, you can have reflections from your flashes in glasses, steel or wooden surfaces. Either you can deal with them while taking the final image, or those will constitute the minor adjustments to be done in Photoshop during the editing phase.

Here is an example of a room lit with flashes and how it was lit (Copyrights Scott Hargis):

Scott Hargis used 3 lights to lit this image, all bounced onto walls or ceiling, and placed so that the shadows created are not disturbing:

To conclude on this topic, taking images of interiors is a difficult and technical photographic subject. It requires patience, experience and a lot of skills (in both photography and editing). Finally it also requires a lot of equipment. But it is also very nice to compose the light of such images and to see the result out of it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and it answered some technical aspects … and most of all that it gave you the will to try it !🙂

Hi guys,

sorry I’ve been quite long to come back here and write something new. It is just that I ad (and still having) the most incredibly busy period since I have started my new life as professional photographer !

As from now, it seems that it will only calm down from mid-October, but for the moment, I have shootings (weddings, portraits, corporate, fashion …) almost every 2 days, which is a bit of a crazy rhythm, knowing the amount of work to edit and post-process all the images afterwards … I will need weeks of editing to catch this up !

 

 

 

Anyway, for the moment, I would like to share a couple behind-the-scene videos made by my friend Irwin Nursoo (irwinnursoo@gmail.com) during recent fashion shoots. With this, you’ll be able to feel the hectic atmosphere of a real fashion shoot, where dozens of people are around the models and photographer.

I’ll come back soon with more images and photographic tips🙂

Have a good day !

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