A nimble & sprightly violinist

Somehow, the musical Project Wind Dance never fails to excite me with a bagful of surprising elements. Such photo projects really do keep you on your toes and help spur on the flow of creative juices, even when it seems you’re being cornered and pressed for time with little forethought.

I’ve never ever met violinist Yvonne Wang before today’s shoot. She was a friend recommended by a long lost high school friend for Project Wind Dance. I’ve only come to sense her as being vivacious from our short facebook conversation during the planning that led up to today’s shoot.

So, imagine the tingling nervousness that crept all over me when I had to conduct this shoot after being physically/mentally drained from a previous night’s wedding reception shoot at Royal Selangor Club.

I knew the location. I’ve scouted it a couple of days back. But I had not any solid ideas ’bout the angles to execute. I didn’t even have time to chat and get to know her; which would have been essential in any portraiture. After all, a portrait is all about capturing the essence of your model.

Yvonne Wang in Project Wind DanceYvonne Wang in Project Wind DanceYvonne Wang in Project Wind Dance

We started out at this steel structure, which was the underside of a skateboarding ramp at Bukit Kiara Extreme Park. The complex mesh of metal beams and geometrical lines that supported the structure helped encased and put her in context. The second picture above looked as if she could have fiddled the beams with her bow.

I have to say that Yvonne was very bubbly and pleasant; always smiling and presenting herself as one not to be taken seriously. I felt at times I could just laugh my head off by laying eyes on her trademarked dimples and mischievous look that screamed, “Here comes the clown!”. No wonder she’s an excellent teacher at an international school teaching english to 5 years-old, apart from being a talented violinist, and oh, a ballet dancer as well!

We proceeded upstairs where I knew somethings could be done at this pink wooden door, days earlier when I was here. Unfortunately, I’ll have to be shooting in the open bright morning blazing sun, which wouldn’t be speedlight-friendly

Lighting setup for Yvonne Wang in Project Wind Dance

I stopped down to f/11 @ ISO 100 to shoot at my maximum sync speed of 1/250 to kill the ambient as much. The first 105mm-zoomed key light speedlight gelled with 1/2 CTO was aimed at her face. A second 105mm-zoomed “splash” speedlight was aimed at the violin. This created a vignetted effect at the top of the door frames. No photoshopping there! Finally, the sun which was directly behind me acted as an on-axis fill. My speedlights were practically firing at 1/2 power.

You can also clearly see that the top part of the door is a warmer tone than the true actual pinkish colour of the door below, because I did not gel the second speedlight aimed at the violin.

Yvonne Wang in Project Wind Dance

The idea was to depict Yvonne emerging from a dark room within, though I could have placed a third speed light behind her, resulting in emanating rays of light that would bleed out under the doors and provided backlit separation. Perfect on hind sight.

Next, we moved down to a nearby stairway.

Yvonne Wang in Project Wind DanceYvonne Wang in Project Wind DanceYvonne Wang in Project Wind DanceYvonne Wang in Project Wind Dance

A bare head speedlight zoomed at 105mm gelled with 1/2 CTO from high above lit her, while the second and third shot above had an additional second speedlight gelled with CTB aimed at the graffiti.

Finally, a closed-up portrait of Yvonne. I found this suitable gritty concrete textured surface of a stadium’s staggered seat.

Yvonne Wang in Project Wind Dance

They were…well, satisfactory but undoubtedly without impact, much to my disappointment. This was because just when I thought everything was going on well for me, all my batteries died on me except for one speedlight!

Hence, I had to zoom the remaining speedlight at 105mm, and hit her with its feathered edge from camera left. This provided a soft controlled illumination on her, and helped provided separation from the background, seen as a sliver of light scraped over the seat behind her.

While still muttering disgust at my misfortune of being so close but yet so far, I could only hoped for a second speedlight to spot scrape the surface just right behind her head, and a third speedlight to splash some light on her violin. That would have been perfect, but then, it was never meant to be. I just had to settle for this.

All in all, it had been a wonderful and exciting 3 hours of tinkering and socializing. What a way to get the ball rolling with totally perfect strangers.

That’s how the excitement and tantalizing challenge keeps you going.

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