Heat Strokes - A Fashion Editorial
Having spent the majority of this year shooting purely commercial campaigns, which has been great, I needed a creative break and a different focus. Fortunately a fabulous stylist was back in Taiwan, Tess Chung spends her time between Taiwan and L.A. she is super busy building her clothing brand Agameartists (get over there and check out her store), so I was blessed that she had time to style a shoot for me. Good wardrobe stylists are tricky to find, and especially here in Taiwan, it is a shame as unlike some other photographers, I feel that they are an imperative asset and invaluable on set. Luck seemed to be on my side for this shoot as Jordan Mcewen a fantastic Canadian model was back on the Island. She had reached out to me and asked to shoot as soon as she had landed, I was thrilled as having worked with her before I know she is really talented. So the team was coming together, Tess got her friend and hairstylist Queena Tsai onboard, I rounded it off with make up artist Eddi Shi. I also have to say a big thank you to my two great and hard working assistants that day, Christy Lin and Edison Tang.
As Tess pulled some looks together it was over to me to head out and location scout. I had been thinking of a beach on the west coast, but after further contemplation and searching on Google Earth decided to check out a place I had shot at before. There seemed to be an area I hadn't explored that looked like it had great potential. Jumping on my scooter I headed off on the 20km ride to check it out. That is the benefit of living on a small island I guess, everything is relatively close, however the traffic is usually heavy as it is quite densly populated here so it takes a little longer than you may expect. About an hour later I rolled up and wandered down to the place I was thinking about, it was perfect for us.
I made some quick reference shots on my phone as you can see and sent them to Tess so she could get a better idea of my direction and thoughts, she really liked the location too and so we were now pretty much set. Speaking to everyone we found a day that fitted, there would be no chance of a reshoot if anything happened as Jordan was flying out the next day so all fingers were crossed for good weather, little did we realise what we would be faced with.
Since moving to Taiwan I have made photoshoots on blissfully nice days, days with rain driving sideways in off the ocean, days with mist rolling over us on a mountain side and days with a typhoon heading in and facing the winds that brings to mention just a few. This day was something else though, we have had a hot summer, many days have been mid to high 30's (96+ in fahrenheit). On our shoot day we had got ready early starting at 07:00, leaving Taipei and heading out we were on the location around 09:30 and began to lug the kit down. The temperature was already hitting 30 degrees, and there was not a scrap of breeze to cool us, it was going to be hardcore and I was already slightly concerned for the team. I had brought water for everyone, I had also brought a cooler with ice and beer so we could hit the beach after the shoot and chill together, that plan was not to come be.
The first victims were Tess's shoes, they simply melted in the hot sand and decintigrated, Eddi had stripped to his shorts and was regularly getting in the water, my reflector was deployed to bounce the sun off the kit and offer that some protection. Shoot through umbrellas were handed out for shade and used to shade my light which was baking. Anything we could do to try and keep ourselves and the kit cool was already happening by 10:30 and we were scheduled to shoot until 14:00, this was not good.
Gradually Tess started to look like she was really suffering, I have experience of heat stroke and how dangerous the heat can be so I urged her to get into the ocean and try to cool down. Christy went and got the cool box and we all took turns to place the ice bags on our necks, anything to find a bit of relief. I was ringing with sweat, I may as well have been in the ocean, worse still I was starting to shake from the heat and my head was pounding but I had no choice other than to press on.
I had brought my Mamiya RZ67ProII along with the intention of shooting some rolls of film. I shot one roll per set, so 30 shots for the first three looks, but after that I had to forget about it. I couldn't risk the team or myself by taking time to load film and shoot. I did get some lovely images with the Mamiya and there is certainly a different feel from both film and medium format.
I will for sure be bringing it out on set more regularly in future, preferably when I am not in a situation where the sweat dripping off me is obscuring the viewfinder!
Jordan was a trooper and just kept going as we were falling by the wayside. The ice bags had melted by then and been cut open to share the cool water between us. By now it was midday, the sun was relentless, beating down mercylessly. I was wearing a pair of Vans shoes and the sand was burning my feet through them, it was rediculous, I was later to find out that the temperature on that beach had been an estimated 45 degrees (113 degrees fahrenheit). Here we are battling the heat for this shoot.
Dispite everything we completed the shoot and then it was time to pack up and drag the kit back up the hill to the car. Tess's first pair of shoes had been abandoned, I had given her a pair that I had brought for the shoot but by now they had melted too. She headed off to the car ahead of us dragging her suitcase of clothes. Edison, Christy and I were left to pull the kit out, on the way up the path we found Tess, she was exhausted. I too was exhausted by the time I made it to my car, I really felt like I was about to pass out, Edison saved me though delivering a cool sports replenishment drink. He had gone to the vending machine and bought one bottle for everyone, it was a real lifesaver the hero of the day. Needless to say any plan to hit the beach was abandoned and we all headed home to recover.
So was the shoot worth it? Damn right it was, it went straight into Féroce Magazine, we produced some killer shots and as always the challenge made us push our limits and reach higher.
So I have to say an extra special thank you to all the team, Tess, Queena, Eddi, Christy and Edison. Also a special thank you to Cactus Image for producing super reliable kit that can handle these torturous conditions, it is great to be an Ambassador for such a good company who genuinly want to make the right product for working photographers such as myself (check them out for good kit that works).
And so I suppose you want to see the final results from the days shooting, well I hope you enjoy these.
There we are, a fashion shoot from start to finish pretty much. Thankfully conditions aren't always as demanding as this, but shooting on location you have to take the rough with the smooth. I am shooting two more editorials over the next two weeks so will see what is thrown at us for those, I could of course simply head in to a studio, but where is the fun in that.
I hope you enjoyed this episode, and got an insight into the work that I do, and effort that we all put into it to produce beautiful images.
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Thank you and love to all.....