12 hours, 800+ frames, 3 cases of Red Bull: The Four Elements Photoshoot


Wow, that was a really long day!  But it was FUN!

Makeup artist Kahulani and model Julie LeBlond wanted to do a "Four Elements" shoot in the studio.  We had a lot of help on this one - Ronald, Jeane & Alex were our assistants.

To make the setups go as quickly as possible, we chose to use the same basic lighting on the model and just change up the background lighting and hair light between each look.


To light the model, we setup 4 AB800s with these modifiers: a large softbox above, medium softbox below, and two strip softboxes on either side.  Each light was controlled with the Alien Bees Wired Remote Control.
Since the lights were in so close to the model's face, the sliders on all four of the lights were set at minimum power.  Shot through the middle of this setup with a 5D mkII and 70-200mm f2.8L lens on a tripod.  Settings were iso 200, 1/160@f5.6.


Because we set up the main lights about 10-15 feet in front of the white wall, the light falloff allowed the white wall to go dark grey. For the background light we used another AB800 aimed at the white wall behind Julie.  We covered the light with a different colored gel to change the color of the wall for each look.

For Julie's hair light, we used a Nikon SB26 set at about 1/8th power.  This we also gelled differently for each look.



While Kat was working on Julie's first look "Fire", we put red gels on both background and hair lights.  We also added a 20 degree grid to reduce the light on the wall to just a small spot of color.


The look really started to come together once we put the hair light directly behind Julie and set up a fan to add motion to her hair.



For the next look "Wind",  we went with a high-key look.  We took off the gels and put a shoot thru umbrella on the background light.  To help add a subtle suggestion of wind/clouds to the background, we setup a couple of C-stands and strung some white tulle between them.


Because of the shallow depth of field, the tulle blurred out and left just a hint of movement in the background.


Each look also incorporated a neck tattoo to represent each element - Earth, Water, Fire, Air.  The graphic used was similar to the ones from the movie "The Fifth Element".


For the "Earth" look, we took off the umbrella and put on a green gel for the background light.



To help break up the light, we tried various things- shooting the light through water bottles, stacks of plastic cups, etc.  We finally just put an imitation silk tree in front of the background light.


This was one of the more elaborate looks of the day and Kat worked extra hard to make each look amazing.  The eyelashes were Kat's own invention.




For this "Earth" look, Kat also incorporated some greenery taken out of her own backyard.



We added a CTO gel to Julie's hair light and dialed down the power a bit to give a more subdued look.  You can just barely see the hair light on her neck and shoulders.

For the last look, "Water" we brought out the C-stands again and draped a blue satin bedsheet over them.  Alex positioned the fan underneath the sheet to add some random movement.  We lit it with a blue-gelled AB800.  After shooting a couple of test frames, we added another SB26 with a blue gel to help fill in the background from the other side.


To go along with Julie's wet hair for this look, we added some water droplets.  Alex was able to macgyver together a spray bottle with a bottle of water and the sprayer from a Windex bottle.

We then had Alex spray the water behind Julie as we shot. With a blue gel on the Nikon SB26 hair light, the water spray lit up pretty well.


We took over 800 frames to get to these final four images, and it was a very long day of work.  The results however, were really worth it.  I've always wanted to try shooting a concept like this and I'm glad I got to be a part of it. Mahalo to everyone for all their hard work!