Motherland Chronicles #48 - The Keeper

Motherland Chronicles #48 - The Keeper

Photography: Zhang Jingna zemotion
Hair: Kelsey Petersen
Makeup: Satya Linak
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Pyrotechnician: Sky Rockit
Production Assistant: Sophia Chang
Photo Assistants: Tobias Kwan, Xun Chi

Fire and water. ♥ Shot at Salton Sea on the same day as From the Ashes.

Some behind-the-scenes. Photos by Tobias Kwan and Xun Chi. 

Motherland Chronicles #43 - Dreaming

Motherland Chronicles #43 - Dreaming

Photography: Zhang Jingna zemotion
Makeup: Lindsey Rivera
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Photo Assistants: Tobias Kwan, Alex Stoddard, Diana Chao, Sophia Chang
Dress: Michelle Hebert
Choker: Harlequin Romantique
Housing and strobe rental: AB Sea Photo, LA

More underwater. Read behind-the-scenes and things I learned from from this shoot here.

Motherland Chronicles #40-41 - From the Ashes

Motherland Chronicles #40, #41 - From the Ashes

Photography: Zhang Jingna zemotion
Hair: Kelsey Petersen
Makeup: Satya Linak
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Pyrotechnician: Sky Rockit
Production Assistant: Sophia Chang
Photo Assistants: Tobias Kwan, Xun Chi 
Dress: Michelle Hebert
Choker: Harlequin Romantique

Last year I was on set shooting the campaign for a fragrance ad where we set a car on fire. Ever since then, I'd been itching to play with fire again, because who doesn't wanna play with some for their photography?

When I was back in Irvine in November I decided to do something about it, so together with the team we drove to Salton Sea. Mostly because I wanted an unlimited open space to work where no one will disturb us regardless of what we did, but also because I wanted fire on water (or is it water on fire?). I'm so close to actually trying this underwater, I think I may just try figure that out for next time. This was a really fun experience. :D

In other news, I'm months behind schedule for blog posts so I'll just be updating photos for now. I'll work backwards in adding behind the scenes after the project is done, if time permits. Only 4 more pieces left and it's a wrap! Can't wait for the book~

Happy new year everyone! ♥

Motherland Chronicles #39 - Underwater

Motherland Chronicles #39 - Underwater

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Makeup: Lindsey Rivera
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Photo Assistants: Tobias Kwan, Alex Stoddard, Diana Chao, Sophia Chang
Dress: Michelle Hebert
Choker: Harlequin Romantique
Housing and strobe rental: AB Sea Photo, LA

My second underwater attempt! I had to deal with equipment all on my own this time and holy cow it was so freaking stressful. ._.

I use a 1Ds Mark III which may be old now, but cost me an arm and a leg when I bought it in 2008, so I was epically nervous each time I had to open up the housing then go back down into the water again. Thank god it didn't flood.  >_<

Camera in the housing!

I had to practice opening/closing the housing and changing the ports/domes for like 2 hours at home to make sure I'd remember everything haha.

Someone also randomly asked me on Instagram how much this weighed so I did a quick google and added the weights together, it totals up to roughly 5.3kg/12lbs! A lot lighter once underwater of course, but still pretty hefty!

 
Anyway I really liked this picture. ^^ I haven't been doing as much person-in-motion photos compared to my early work, so I thought it's a nice change and addition to the series. 

Also definitely a little influenced by Toby's work since we bounce ideas and sketches back and forth a lot in the project. Check out his triptych that pairs up with mine for this week - 

Motherland Chronicles #39 - Triptych II: Waterwalker by Tobias Kwan

On the technical side -- I think I'll have to update my underwater tips post now -- I've definitely learned a couple new things doing everything on my own this time. 

Here are some things I've done differently from the first shoot:

Lens

The first time I shot underwater I used a Tokina 10-17mm on a Nikon D300. But even with the sensor's crop factor, it's equivalent to about 15-25mm on a full frame, still a really wide focal length considering my usual lens is 70-200mm. This time, as I rented my own housing, I got to use my own camera so I tried shooting with the 16-35mm and 50mm. Both worked out great, but the 16-35 probably worked the best for full body. I can definitely see 50mm being perfect for something like beauty though. 

Assistants

I felt that one assistant wasn't enough the last time, so this time round I got four! :D It may sound a little excessive (it totally did to me) but it turned out just right. I had 2 assistants help with everything that needed adjustment underwater: fabrics, dress, strobe cords, etc. And the other 2 for the strobes (one in water and one above). 

Staying in Position/Sinking

Remember how I mentioned it was difficult to sink on my own? Having weights last time was cool but it still required quite a bit of swimming as I tried to chase my angles. Apparently I found out this time, that it's actually pretty nice to have an assistant press me down into the water so I didn't have to think about pedaling while trying to work against floating at the same time. It allowed me to get ready better in the first couple seconds instead of having to make sure I was just focused on sinking properly, and when I found a spot I liked, it was a lot easier to stay in the same place for a short while with the help. 

So overall cool experience once again and it was a lot of fun! Thank you my awesome team for the hard work! And a super mega kudos to my model Jessica who was still on crutches and wearing ankle brace after breaking her foot, you're such a trooper woman! ♥

Motherland Chronicles #33 - Ascend

Motherland Chronicles #33 - Ascend

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Video: Underwater Assistance: Brenda Stumpf
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Makeup: Jenn Nelson
Photo Assistant: Matt Cadwallader
Special thanks to Brian Sousa for the pool

Check out behind-the-scenes post here and video here! Gonna do a little post on underwater photography later! :D

Motherland Chronicles #23 - Dive + Behind the Scenes

Motherland Chronicles #23 - Dive
Photography: Zhang Jingna
Video: Underwater Assistance: Brenda Stumpf
Model: Jessica Dru Johnson
Makeup: Jenn Nelson
Photo Assistant: Matt Cadwallader
Special thanks to Brian Sousa for the pool

My first underwater photoshoot!!! It was so fun, but so hard too. T_T

I was fortunate to have my lovely model Jessica help pull this together, and her friend Brenda Stumpf (wonderful underwater photographer) give me all the underwater guidance, assistance and equipment I needed for the shoot. So thank you Jessica, Brenda, Jenn, Matt, and Brian who helped make this shoot possible. I can't say it enough!

Brenda managed put a little video together. It doesn't have very much footage unfortunately because the camera's housing got flooded :( But I figure it's still cool to see how things looked behind the scenes:

(Hello my first YouTube video. I'm not sure if I'll have anything again, but why not subscribe just in case? :D :D)

The shoot --

I know a number of people who've attempted underwater model photography. I've heard about the difficulties, I've imagined it, I've even experienced it as a model once.

But knowing the difficulties didn't quite make the shoot easier.

Sure, I didn't go in blind, but knowing it won't be easy just made me afraid that I wouldn't be able to get a single shot at all. (A trend in my Motherland Chronicles photoshoots, me being terrified of taking bad pictures, and after every one I'm drenched in enough self-loathing to bathe an army. It's very sad.)

Nevertheless, exploration is the point of the exercise.

Thank you Brenda for getting a picture for me

We had one light fixed to the camera housing (on an arm which I can adjust and twist around), and another above water, for when the sun started to go down.

I think the thing I'm most unused to is the wide angle lens and impeded movement in water.

Lens because I shoot with a 70-200mm most of the time when I'm photographing people, and movement because I like moving around when I shoot. It made me very sad when I can't shift as freely as on land. Or stay still when I'm floating.
 
Actually, you know I need to review photos every few shots, and it's not quite ideal while threading water, so my preferred position is to stand with my feet on the pool's floor.

But because I need depth for the model's dive and clothes to move around, I can't shoot in the shallow end. The compromise is to stand where I can just about raise my head for air if I tiptoe, so when my hands are occupied with the camera I can still surface for breaths. 

But like, I have these weights tied around my waist to help me sink when I dive, and so I keep sliding towards the deep end when I'm tiptoeing, and sometimes it means going under before I've taken a breath... It's very inconvenient.

Ohai, don't mind me, I'm just floating.

In other news, because I was inexperienced and it took some time to get the hang of things, I ended up staying in the water for 6 hours. I don't think I'd ever been in the water for so long in my life.

My hands were so pruney by the end of the shoot I felt that my fingernails would come off if I tried to peel them with a little bit of force.

BUT IT WAS VERY FUN.

I'm really thankful that Jessica's such a great model because I know it's hard to model underwater, and harder when it's so many freaking hours (and freezing, after sundown). She was positively shivering by hour 4, and I know I tend to not rest till I've gotten my shots so... thank you Jes for putting up with me. ♥

I can't wait to do this again.

And here, have some screenshots because I think the video is cool. It also makes me want to try filming next time.