Recently, we had a couple of shoots out at Vasquez Rocks, just outside of Los Angeles. The final shoot was of our model, Gabrielle Tuite, dressed as a warrior princess. We suspended her on a rig so that she could position her feet in a variety of ways that would not be possible otherwise.
We also used an air canon to create a layer of smoke behind Gabrielle. (We had to use an air canon rather than a Rosco smoker because Vasquez Rocks does not allow smoke machines. It's a bit of an outdated rule because the new smoke machines are water-based and non-toxic and leave no residue.)
We started setting up the shot in the afternoon and shot well into darkness. Here, you can see the gear we used: three lights, a fan, and an air canon.
We placed our suspension structure so Gabrielle could be push off the rock and have the main peak in the background be unobstructed. This "suspension structure" was basically a very tall seat.
The first light we set up was a Dynalite head with reflector to serve as a rim light on the top of the rocks on the camera left side. It was positioned slightly behind the subject and had a full Rosco CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel attached. I add a CTO gel when I want to make the background go blue. I set my color temperature between 3500 to 4000 degrees Kelvin and it neutralizes the orange light on the subject and makes the ambient light go blue.
For our main light, we added another strobe head with a Photoflex Small OctoDome and set of Grids attached. It also had a Rosco full CTO gel attached. I wanted the light to be focused on her face and not the surrounding area, which is why I was using the Grids.
Next, we set up another head with a reflector attached and positioned it camera right to light up the rocks in the background and to rim-light her body. We added a blue gel to this head to add depth and contrasting color to the shot. This light would also back-light the smoke that we would shortly have in place.
The air canon essentially blew dust into the air and resembled smoke. It was a slow method, but one that works. I would rather have used a smoke machine, but again, these aren't allowed at Vasquez Rocks.
Here's one of the final images. As you can see, Gabrielle looked great as a warrior princess! Teri Groves from Make-Up Magic was the make-up person and Julia Perry was in charge of the wardrobe. They really did a great job!
Toolbox Tip: I carry several large playing cards in my camera bag. I use them to help me lock down focus in low light situations. This was one of those times and it was very helpful.
As the sun was going down, I shot some background frames, which would help in compositing the final images.
Here's an example of the process. We used the shot of Gabrielle and the smoke, and then in Photoshop we added the background rock. I love the look. The opening shot was done the same way.
Here's a shot of our base camp later that night. A great shoot at a beautiful location!
And here's a video account of the shoot. Enjoy!
To see more of Jay P. Morgan's work, check out his Pro Showcase page.