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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:

DSC_6633

* 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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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 !

Dear friends,

I am very pleased and proud to announce that our first stop motion movie is on its final steps of production. We (Jasbeer and I) are very proud because this is quite of an achievement that we have done with this short film. And it is a real team work, that looked almost impossible and too challenging a fews months back. But we have successfully met this challenge, and here it is: we are almost there with our first movie ! :)Here is the cover image of our short film, named: “In my Dreams”:

Synopsis: A boy and a girl dream about each other even though they have never met in real life and despite sharing the same passion for ballet, until one day …

But let’s go back to the origins of this beautiful artistic creation. This short stop motion movie has a nice ground story, as it is the combination of 3 arts: ballet dance, photography and 3D animation. The project was born a few months ago, when I contacted Jasbeer, a Mauritian drawer expert in 3D animation who was freshly back from the UK, to propose her to combine her drawings with my photography. When we first met, early April this year, we talked about a few ideas that we would like to achieve together … but really, one project triggered our full attention: the ballet stop motion project was born !

Thanks to the images that my friend Khatleen Minerve took of Meeyin Qiu, I knew there were some ballet dancers in Mauritius. Actually, we now know that there are several schools of ballet dance in Mauritius ! We contacted Meeyin, who then contacted a male ballet dancer, Christopher Charme – after our first meeting, late April, we were all very motivated to go ahead with this project. However, everything had yet to be achieved and we had lots of technical issues to solve.

First, we had to change my normal white photo studio (well it was more turning towards grey than pure white 😉 ) into a “green bubble” i.e. a green screen from ground to ceiling. Green screens are commonly used in the audio-video, cinema and TV industries as they are easier to remove during the editing process. So here we were, painting the ground in green, and creating green curtains for the walls and ceiling …

It was not easy to fix the ceiling curtain !!

The studio was then greeny ready 🙂 In the meantime, Jasbeer and I had worked a lot on the script of the story, cutting it in several sequences. Eeverything has been planned from the acting, the emotions, the background description, the color cast, the timing and number of frames for each sequences, the dancers’ outfits, the angle of view to the lighting and even its temperature ! Our dancers had then to meet to think of a choreography  and we had a few test shoots to solve the last technical issues.

 The beautiful Meeyin.

For the ones who don’t know what is a stop motion movie – this is a movie made of lots of still images rolling at 24 frames per second. Therefore, to see 1 second of film, you have to shoot 24 images. Linked to this fact, there are several constraints, like for instance, to capture a movement, you need to trigger the shutter quite quickly to get a flawless movement. I will certainly write about this in a later post. For the moment, let’s share some behind the scene images so that you have an idea of the whole stuff 🙂

First tests – Jas

First tests – Jas 2 🙂

During the planning process

Meeyin getting ready

The set up

Studio views 1

Studio views 2

Editing

Studio views 3

Studio views 4

Jasbeer choreographer 1

Jasbeer choreographer 2

Jasbeer choreographer 3

Jasbeer choreographer 4

Looking for the correct marks 🙂

I should have been a dancer 😉

What is it ? Ballet or rock ? 😉

A Sunday at work – visit of my kids

Jasbeer directing

Jasbeer directing 2

Chloe 1

Chloe 2

Proud Chloe 🙂

A nice angle

During the shoot

Shooting portraits

Flying Jul 🙂

Portraits

Meeyin and Christopher having fun

Editing

Editing 2

Editing 3

In total, the whole project took us about 3 months of work – 1 of planning, 1 of shooting (3 week-ends and a half of shooting) and 1 of post-processing (mainly Jasbeer). Some 4,000 images were taken, for an end result of a bit more than 3 minutes of film. It was a lot of work and efforts, but it really worths it … and we had so much fun ! 🙂

Now we just have to wait for a few more weeks before the last and final version of the film is over – then we will release it for film festivals, and then on the Internet. Let’s be patient ! 😉

Thanks for reading.

It’s been now a few months that I have opened my studio in Coromandel; however, due to a very busy agenda, I still haven’t been able to really start shooting in it. Also it still needs to be a bit renovated and better furnished, to properly welcome clients, models, make-up artists … Eventually, I have recently painted the shooting stage in green for a personal project which will combine 2 types of art – photography and animation. I’ll write more on this later on.

When launching my studio, I had in mind to widen my scope of photography to fashion and commercial photography. Recently, I put a first step into the small world of fashion in Mauritius … but not the studio. I took the opportunity of the first Fashion Photography Contest in Mauritius to gather a first small team around me to be able to submit nice images for the contest. This team was composed by Pawan Cavalli – fashion designer; Mélanie André – model; Valérie Lee – make-up artist; Nicolas Malachie – assistant. The shoes were provided by Bella Donna and jewels by Svarowski. Finally, I got some assistance from Sachin Sagar (he lend me some pieces of photographic equipment) and from East-Sider (which provided me with the male mannequin). Pawan designed and created an absolutely stunning dress, using the latest technology and materials, specially for this shoot. As usual, Valérie did an awesome make-up on Mélanie, who was the perfect model for the occasion. Finally, Nicolas’s assistance and help was extremely valuable, as I wouldn’t have been able to set-up all the lights without him. All this was put together in less than 10 days, and for free, which was quite improbable ! 😉 (the idea of the male mannequin even arose in my mind on the same morning as the shoot itself !)

To participate to this contest, I had to submit 2 fashion images before a certain date – and the last free date we all had was actually the day before the deadline. And on that day, the weather was quite grey, windy and rainy on the whole island ! I had decided to do the shoot at Cap Malheureux, the Northest point of the island. It rained almost the whole trip to there, and finally, the sun came out and we had a wonderful sunny afternoon ! Here are some images I took on that shoot:

After submitting my entries for the contest, I posted some images on my Facebook fan page. A few hours later, I got a message from Alexandra Weber Isaacs, who is promoting fashion in Mauritius through her nice and interesting blog. She wrote that my images were nice and pleasant to look at, and technically well realized, but that I missed some elements to compose some really excellent fashion images. Although I don’t deny it, as it was one of my first fashion shoot, it made me think of the definition of “fashion photography”. What is fashion photography really about ?

Alexandra’s definition is as such: “The principal aim of fashion photography is to combine two elements: the perfect presentation and display of a product and doing this in an original way that blends in and enhances a particular mood.” My opinion is that this definition isn’t fully complete as it missed an important piece of the subject: the model. To me, fashion photography is a kind of portrait photography for which the model wears some fashion items that are presented and displayed in an original way, respecting a certain concept and mood. To say it in another way, there is very little difference between fashion photography, portrait photography, modeling, glamour … Honestly, I am still not sure if I am shooting fashion images or just portraits of models, but to put this internal debate in my mind to an end, I got a part of the answer from contradictory comments on the same image – someone wrote that the mood, model and product did not work up to their combined potential and that it could have been better, stating that the male mannequin didn’t fit the mood or the location / on the same image, other people commented that this is one of the best concept image they have seen for a while and that it is a totally great and interesting concept, looking like a surrealist painting, Dali-style.

With this ambiguity in my mind, I came to the Fashion Photography Contest‘s final (I was selected among the 4 finalists) with the idea of building my own “fashion” style. Being a finalist of that contest meant to shoot 2 imposed concepts, with 2 models each. Dresses and outfits were specially designed for the occasion by La Maison de Haute Couture Lionnet Fauzou and by Sanjeet Boolell; models were provided by Mathis Models, directed by Karen Nicolini; make-up artists were Dominique Chan and Cédric Lanappe; shoes and accessories were provided by Bella Donna and the Mauritius Glass Gallery (which designed some amazing shoes in glass ! – see below). The day was really fun and tiring, it made me think of the TV show “Top Chef” for cookers – we had 2 imposed themes, on an imposed location (L’Aventure du Sucre) – although we could pick up whatever place we wanted inside the domain -, we got to know the models, the outfits and dresses and the accessories only a few minutes before starting the shoot. Finally we had a fixed limited time to complete the task, which was to create 2 fashion images by concept + 1 individual portrait of each model.

The first concept I had to shoot was about 2 queens: a dark/devil queen who wants to invade the territory of the white butterfly queen. The outfits were really amazing, the models acted very well. For this concept, I was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Kill Bill”, mainly the scenes in Japan with swords. On the field, I have looked for potential swords and found that sugar canes would perfectly fit both the place and the swords. Then I looked for a “grungy” place and found out an outdoor facade with a lot of textures, geometrical items, old stairs … Perfect for the mood I wanted to create. For all the below images, I wanted to convey a feeling of the strength of their fight, their anger and spirit of revenge ; I also wanted to experiment new angles, using the background for composing my images. To do so, I had to face some difficult elements, such as a strong and harsh sun (it was 11am), I had to climb on a not-so-stable ladder to find new angles, I used a fan to blow some air opposite to the existing wind … – it really looked like a “super-production” from the outside 😉

The second concept I had to shoot dealt with a soldier, coming back from the future to save his beloved princess who was imprisoned in a steel jail. For this shoot, I had to find futuristic inspirations in the locations and in the outfits, which were also really great. The huge engines of the sugar cane plant, the wheels, the wooden boat, the tubes, all in all formed a good set-up for picturing my tale. Because I have apprehended this shoot as a story in 4 steps (images), with the soldier cruising back through future, her beloved princess in her wheel jail (inspiration from “Modern Times”, Charlie Chaplin), the soldier climbing to deliver her and finally the start of their romance. Here I wanted to show the power of love in a futuristic place, using the great-but-difficult-to-deal-with background. It was very dark indeed and my challenge was both to keep as much ambient light as possible and darken all unnecessary disturbable elements. This second shoot was also very challenging for my team as we had to change lighting set-ups 5 times, at 5 different places … within 1 hour and 15 minutes !

Last but not least, I would like to thank a million times Ali Ghanti and my wife – they have assisted, helped and supported me during this whole long and hectic day. The work of an assistant is very interesting but also very demanding – you need to be proactive, to anticipate, but also to react very quickly; you need to suggest and propose improvements in lighting, posing, framing … Both Ali and Diane did that perfectly ! Thanks a lot again !

And wish me good luck for the results ! 🙂

Until recently, I always believed there are 2 types of lighting school – natural light and flash photography. Being a natural light photographer, I had in my mind that natural light was the best quality one and that a photographer using it well was someone able to adapt himself to any kind of situations (and I still think this is true 😉 ). Also in my mind, the role of flash was more to light a dark scenery or fill-in the shadows – this is obviously the main basic role of a strobe (flash). Finally, using flash had some major drawbacks for me: first strobes flatten perspective hone on-camera; second, when off-camera, it requires to move a lot of equipment (a tripod stand, an umbrella or a soft-box …) and this is really not convenient during a wedding and without assistant.

So, with those negatives mindsets against flash, I have launched my studio activities in Mauritius last year … and from then, I have rediscovered the power of flash, the one I learned some years ago during my photography degree in Paris and the one I used on assignments with professional photographers in Europe and in Asia. However, this really was about using big huge studio flashes, either in a studio or outside, and this required a lot of equipment and assistants (I have very recently assisted a Belgian photographer for a Paris Match reportage in Mauritius, using those big huge studio flashes outdoor – you can have a look here). Here comes a technique that is now, I guess, quite well known by professional photographers – it is called “strobist“. This term of strobist was named by David Hobby (and it’s copyrighted), who is one of the 3 masters of flash photography with Joe McNally and Zack Arias. Just have a look at their work and you’ll understand the power of small flash (strobe) photography ! Very briefly, the technique consists of having your flash off-camera i.e. from a different angle than the one of your lens. You can use 1, 2, 3, 10 different flashes to compose the light of your image – this gives you incredible creative possibilities and precise master of your light. Also, used with effective light modifiers (umbrella, soft-box, grid, diffuser, beauty-dish, snoot …), small strobes can achieve great results !

Knowing that you can get amazing results with just a few pieces of equipment, made me rethink the way I was shooting my outdoor wedding portraits. I used to use natural light and reflectors, which is still the way I operate 80% of the time, because it’s very practical in the fast-paced environment of a wedding. But now I also use my mobile lighting equipment to get images I was previously not able to shoot AND to precisely craft and master light to get stunning images with a lot of character (light creating soft or contrasted shadows). My equipment is pretty basic – 3 Nikon sb800 (I might buy a couple of sb910 soon), some stands, umbrellas, soft-box, color gels, reflectors, diffusion panels and radio triggers. I had this equipment for quite a long time, and I used it indoor (for corporate portraits for instance) – but I was reluctant to use it outdoor, because of the wind. So here comes the small detail that makes the whole difference: some weighting bags, given by my friend Michel Gronemberger, professional photographer in Belgium. With them filled with sand or rocks, my stands with umbrellas won’t fall down, even with some wind.

OK, enough said about my ways to flash photography ! Let’s have now some examples of a wedding I shot last week, without assistant – the wedding of Tara and Stephan in Tamarin. What I did was really simple, and the results were great. I simply thought of 2 lighting set-ups, one on the beach, on in the gardens – except those 2 settings, the whole wedding reportage was shot as usual, with natural light.

The first lighting set-up on the beach could not have been simpler than that – a one light set-up, with 1 Nikon sb800 triggered in a shoot-through umbrella, camera left, iTTL mode, +1EV compensation. The idea was to shoot the couple with the sea and the nice sunset behind them. At that time, the sun was hidden by some beautiful clouds and a few rays of sun light was coming out of them. The ambient light was very soft, but the background was pretty clear (explaining the +1EV compensation to the iTTL mode) – this bright background was also used as rim light i.e. the back light that defines your subject outlines. When you are taking pictures with flash, it’s better to go on your camera manual mode – first, you need to take an ambient light image to check which amount of ambient light you need in your final image; then you check the amount of flash light you need to light your subject; finally, you check the balance between ambient and flash light, in terms of amount of light, quality of light (the position of your flash towards your subject) and colors of light. Here’s the result:

Without any strobe, reflector … and measuring light for the whole frame, you get this type of result (which I love as much as the previous one 🙂 ):

 

The second lighting set-up I used for this wedding was later in the dark. I heard from the owner of the bungalow where the couple was staying that April is the only month in the year when you can have the full moon rising right over Black River, a beautiful river running just down the bungalow’s garden. On that specific day, it was full moon, the sky was cloudless and the moon’s reflection on the river was sensational. Very close to the river was a small pirogue, under a nice tree, both lit by a warm yellow directional spot. The whole difficulty here was to get enough ambient light while it was very dark. After my first test shot for ambient light, I was at ISO 3,200, f/2.8 and 1/20th. If those set-ups are tough for move blur of the background, there’s no risk of getting a blurry couple in my image as the flash will fix them in this very dark environment. Anyway, I had to hold my breath to get some sharpness in my background … The lighting set-up was composed of 2 Nikon sb800, the spot on the boat and tree, and the full moon. 1 sb800 was on-camera and was used as fill-in and commander for the second flash – it was in Manual mode at 1/32 power. The second sb800 was camera left, with shoot-through umbrella, iTTL mode and -1EV compensation (to compensate from the very dark environment). Here’s the result in those 2 different images (both with similar lighting set-up):

And seated on the boat:

Thanks for reading, guys 🙂 Have a good week !

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