Zodiac series – Saggitarius

Of all of the shoots in my Zodiac series Sagittarius was the one that I had the clearest idea of what I wanted to shoot right from the start. Sagittarius is known as the archer but it is also a fire symbol. Therefore the colour red was going to play a strong part in the image and I wanted to extend it not only to the subject but to the background. I actually discuss this with model Brie two years before the actual shit took place.

In an ideal world I would’ve been able to arrange the model and the location at the same time, and create the image in camera. However, in this case we were dealing with trying to find an ideal sunset, with right tide time as well as the models availability. The location was fairly easy to choose as there are glorious sunsets on the Kapiti coast however this is 40 km from my home in Upper Hutt and a similar distance to the models home in Wellington. Therefore I decided that the easiest way to do this was to shoot the model in the studio and composite the background in.

A member of my camera club lives on the coast, so on a Sunday afternoon, when I suspected that the conditions would be right I got them to check. She confirmed that the skies were clear with a slight amount of cloud therefore we headed over to the beach.

The key to getting the composite right was to ensure that the camera was in the same position for both shots. On the beach I place the urn in the line that I wanted Bree to be in, using the grid in my viewfinder. I then recorded how many paces where to the camera. I also took note of how high the camera way.

Over the course of 30 minutes I took a whole string of images as the light changed. Once I got home I took them into Lightroom, chose the one I wanted and then tweaked it to the look I was going for.

Having got the background it was now time to bring in Brie. I had rented a bow from a film prop company and brought out the red ball dress. I had to set up in the garage to give me enough room to replicate the beach.

The lighting looks a little complicated but it is not really. I had my two Elinchroms positioned on either side of the backdrop aimed at it and feathered so that there would be not light spin on the model. The main light was my AD600 in a 85cm softbox positioned camera right.

Finally to mimic the warm tones coming from the sun I had a gold reflector angled towards Brie which was being lit with a speedlight inside a gridded 7inch round reflector.

I had the camera set to the same settings as at the beach, which inside eliminated all light, then I metered each light individually

I didn’t had Brie step into the shot, we moved in the final lights and tested what it look like. Once I was happy with the settings we started shooting.

One of the trickiest elements to blend in a composite is the ground, so to make it slightly easier I had gone to a local beach and grabbed a whole lot of sand. I then wet this and spread it out on the floor under Brie’s feet. That way she was already grounded and it would be much easier to blend into the final scene.

I wanted to ensure that we had several options so I zoomed the camera in to make Brie larger in the frame. In the image you can see the position of the pot that was used to line up her with the background.

In Photoshop, I removed Brie from her background and placed her in the scene. Then there was several adjustment layers to match her both in terms of brightness and colour.

I then added some shots of fire from my collection to make it appear that the pot was burning. Finally I used Nik software to get the final image.

It is really great when an image that envisaged over two years before finally comes to life.

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