Zodiac series – Aries

Aries is a sign of the ram so would’ve been more logical to have shot it with a male model. In fact that was my original concept. Unfortunately finding male models with the right Starsign is not the easiest thing to do. Therefore when Nikita, who I have shot before, told me she was here as we booked her for the shoot.

I had a pretty clear idea for the shoot for a very long time. I wanted to model shearing hershelf in the shearing shed. I actually found the perfect location in March 2018 when my wife and I were going through an arts trail in the Wairarapa. One of the stops was on the farm and you were invited to walk around it. At the back was a perfect shearing shed.

The artist had photos in their collection so we got talking and I asked if I could use the location. That was agreed and all I had to do was get a time and model.

Unfortunately by the time I did get around to doing the shoot they had sold the farm and as I had no connection with the new owners I decided to shoot in the studio and composites the image.

I then set about making a costume. I had purchased a set of small horns online, but needed to change the red flowers on them to white wool.

In a thrift shop I found a free white teddy bear and an old pillow. The teddy bear was taken apart and then glued in sections to an old bra. I bought a length of white for to make the skirt. This was simply held together with clips at the back.

I wanted to use real old style shears so I posted online to see whether anybody had some that I could borrow. Fortunately a friend said they did have a set but they were quite old as they belonged to his wife’s father.

When they arrived they were perfect but he was quite correct that they were totally covered in rust, having spent many years in the shed. Google is a great tool as I quickly learned that soaking them in vinegar for 24 hours would lift the rust.

I did just that and they came out looking really good. A final wipe with vegetable oil brought them back to almost new. The only issue was that one of the tips was broken off but I figured that I could deal with us either with the way Nikita was holding them or I would simply recreated post.

I had shot the background back in 2018 when we visited the farm so I needed to ensure that the studio shoot matched in terms of lighting and angle. The shed had a wooden floor so I recreated one in the studio. The main light in the scene was coming from the bank of windows so replicated this using my large 7 foot umbrella.

My daughter arrived at the time I was sitting at the studio so she ended up being a stand and while I worked out the angle of the camera to ensure that the boards on the floor and the light were consistent with the original image. While putting the floor down was probably not necessary it did make it easier to ground Nakita into the composite later. The stuffing from a pillow was also used to make this process easier.

While the umbrella provided more than enough light for the whole scene I did add a second light. This was positioned behind Nakita and aimed at the backdrop. This was the insure a good separation that would make removing her from the backdrop easier.

I then did a series of shots to establish which one would be used as I like to have some variety to choose from.

Nikita had brought her boyfriend William to the shoot, which was absolutely no problem with me. I want my models to be comfortable and often bringing a support person is the best way to achieve this. I always say that the one condition however is that they act as my assistant should I need it.

In this case I put William into the role of chief wool thrower. Even though William is standing between the light and Nikita this is not an issue. The seven foot umbrella is so large that it wraps the light around him without casting any shadow.

We took a series of shots with him throwing the wool and then I used these to composite them together.

Once I had all of the images it was a reasonable straight forward job to bring them together in Photoshop. The trickiest part is balancing the colour and brightness between that shot on location and in the studio.

The end result was exactly how I envisaged that it would look. As it turned out by this stage it became obvious that the overall set was splitting into two distinct looks, which did not work together.

Therefore for the print set I went with a closer crop on the plain background which is the first image shown.

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