Getting your hands dirty in the studio with the Fuji XT-1
A few weeks back, I got in contact with local Toronto recording artist Danny Dymond we talked a little about life and work and we decided that we wanted to shoot together. We spitballed ideas back and forth until we landed on one that we both loved. I'm often inspired by the work of Nick Fancher and wanted to do a photo inspired by him – specifically his work with hard light.
Danny and I came up with an idea of a blazer, totally decked out in badass reflective material, changing the silhouette to something sort of badass glam. I sketched out a design in front of him and he loved it! There was one problem, nothing like this existed and there weren't many good references out there to base it off of. I had to make this thing on my own. I don't fancy myself a fashion designer - but when it comes to anything in photography, building a set, making a garment, what have you, sometimes you just have to get it done yourself.
I knew that I wasn't going to be sewing this thing from scratch, so the base would be purchased - however I wanted the material affied to the blazer to be lightweight but shiny, easy to work with and I settled on CD's (Remember CD's?) - they had a reflective backing and I assumed they would cut well (You know what they say about assuming), so Danny went out and bought himself a blazer from H&M as well as some CD's, the rest was up to me.
I spent the next few days cutting up the disks and laying them out, not wanting to glue them down just yet in case something went wrong. There was a hiccup though – I assumed that cutting the CD's would work just fine, but just using scissors made the disk's crack - so for every piece I had to score the plastic with a razor blade and then cut. On top of that, there was a blue laminate on the back of the CD's that didn't look very good, so I couldn't just cut and place. I had to score the plastic, cut, and then peel the laminate away from the plastic – sometimes the foil would stick to the laminate and it was a mess. But I soldiered through!
Once all of the pieces were cut it came time to affix them. Now, I'm not used to fabrication, thankfully I have friends more talented than me and I learned the magic of E6000, which is essentially cold hot-glue. It acts a lot like hot glue but doesn't melt or burn you like napalm. One by one I placed the pieces. Starting with the lapels, as they were most prominent. Putting them down in layers to give a sort of scaled effect.
Next was the cuffs, which I wanted to look like a mosaic, so lots of little pieces to piece together and look disorganized. The design changed a little, as I realized that too many CD's all up the arm and we would start to lose the 'form' of the jacket. So I decided to stay with the essentials so that it wasn't overboard. Once in awhile I had to try the jacket on to see how it all laid on a person, the problem being it was way too small, more than once I got stuck in it. Lastly I just had to ass some shoulder pads, of sorts, and we were ready to shoot!
I shot with a Fuji XT-1, as usual, and the lighting setup was pretty simple – however I only have two good flashes and two cheap flashes. So I actually had to set them up... oddly. I had my two cactus RF60's set up off camera right, along with a Neweer670 – now the 670 is not a bad flash for the price, but it doesn;t have remote controls, the battery life, or recycle time of my Cactus' (Cacti?). The Cactus flashes were triggered with the Cactus V6ii wirelessly, while the Neweer 670 was triggered with a second NW670 attached to the camera low-power so as to not affect the exposure. The lights were set up with no modifiers, other than some gels (purple/red, yellow and blue/cyan) right next to each other pointed at Danny so that the gels would fill in each others' shadows and give us some crisp shadows – the lights pulled back a bit to make them more specular.
When it came to shooting, I simply set up a chair against the corner so that Danny had something to jump off of – the only problem is that my ceilings at my home studio aren't super high so it was impossible to get the shot without some of the ceiling in frame. Simple enough to remove, but definitely an extra step in post, I also had to remove the chair which got in frame a couple times. It took a few shots to get the framing JUST right. One of the disadvantages to an EVF is that there is a little lag, more so on the XT-1 than the XT-2, so something action-y like this on my XT-1 took a little bit of precognition – needing to know exactly when to hit the shutter. For this I was using my trusty Helios 44-2 at around F5.6 to ensure that everything was tack sharp and in focus. Since it is all manual I just had to be sure I didn't bump the focus ring and double check my focus every few shots.
It was great shoot, and Danny was a goddamn trooper, doing take after take – he wanted the shot to be more than 'good enough' he wanted it to be amazing, and so did I. We took another shot of the jacket which you can see below which also turned out really well, but the photo at the head of the post is one of my favorite photos I have taken in a while and I am super proud of it. We did a few more looks with different setups that day, but those aren't out just yet – you'll have to wait for those.