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Inspiration

In love with Nature and Fuji X cameras

· 26.April.2016

Here on FujiLove I usually write about my personal projects, and how my Fuji gear fits in it or affects it. This time, however, I am going to present the preview of a job I recently did on an assignment for a gifted hairdresser of Rome, Simone Bartorelli. What came up is really different from my usual dark and dramatic shootings, and I think it somehow shows different sides and abilities of my Fuji gear (X100T with teleconverter, X-T10 with the 56mm f1.2), so I thought it would work great as article material. Luckily for me, my assistant, Giacomo Meiarini, had his dslr along, so he could take some backstage shots. Hence, all the backstage photos in this post are his.

Back to the story, Simone called me around a month ago asking me to shoot his new styles’ collection, “Nature in Love”, based on the romantic fusion between hair and flowers. He invited me and my assistant to his studio to assist to the getting ready phase, while discussing the styling and the mood.

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photo by Giacomo Meiarini. Simone Bartorelli in his studio working on Elisabetta Mirra.

At Bartorelli’s studio we found a magic place waiting for us. Packed with spring flowers of all the possible colors, the air filled with their intense scents, the place was hectic, with Simone and his brother Luca working, together with their assistants Liliana, Nicoletta and Nadine, on the hair (and flowers) of five beautiful models, Benedetta, Greta, Costanza, Elisabetta, and Angelica.

The models were already wearing the dresses for the shooting, designed by Antonella Rossi, while Giulia Pierantoni was working on their make-up. The place was so filled with beauty and grace that ended up making my day. Bartorelli’s is in the core of the city center, surrounded by trees and ancient buildings, facing a quiet street. A place that’s already easy to enjoy, which becomes almost a paradise once you fill it with models, flowers, and nice, romantic dresses. Plus, it’s always a pleasure to see skillful artists at work, and Simone and his crew performed incredibly.

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photo by Giacomo Meiarini. Simone Bartorelli and his crew working on Costanza Tuccimei.

Once the girls were ready, we moved to the shooting venue, Palazzo Dama, a close-by villa-hotel surrounded by gardens, facing a fantastic courtyard with a marvelous pool. After a quick scouting around, we decided to develop the whole shooting in the courtyard, between its flowers and the typical architecture.

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I performed most of the shooting with the X-t10 and the 52m f1.2, preferring it to the x100t for the wide aperture and the focal length better suited for headshots. The cameras were all set the same, with automatic shutter speed, automatic ISO, automatic white balance, and manually selected aperture. To enhance the romantic feeling, I opted for shallow depth of fields, with aperture as wide as f/1.6, which would have transformed the flowers in the background into an explosion of colorful spots lost in a pattern of greens. I took headshots of all the models in such a way, confiding to the EVF for fine focusing. I had the girls getting very close to the flowers, and then I had Giacomo holding a reflector to get that extra bit of light on the models’ faces and eyes.

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For the “larger” views, that is, half-body portratis, I knew I couldn’t get the same bokeh effect, even at f/1.2. This is because the depth of field is strictly related with the distance of the subject, and longer that gets, more the background gets in focus too. So I went for a different background, something that could work with the mood and the style without adding to many details (and confusion). The villa’s windows facing the gardens were just perfect, in this respect, with their 20’s architecture, simple design, and creamy colors.

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photo by Giacomo Meiarini. I place Elisabetta and Costanza for a “doublet”.

I worked with the girls in “doublets”. I tried to pair the dressed and the hairstyle, so they could work in harmony. The overall mood was so dreamy, candid, and romantic that anything adding contrast just wouldn’t work. With doublets I could work putting the models on the same line, that is at the same distance from the camera, which allowed me to work with the wide aperture of f/2.8. The result is that the windows and wall behind the models isn’t perfectly in focus, dissolving the fine details and never getting in the way.

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At last, I did the “group shots” where I framed all the girls together, in order to show the whole Bartorelli’s new collection all together. Such shots are crucial, because they reveal all the work put into creating a various and yet coherent styling, so that the group enhances the qualities of the single styles. A good amount of careful work has to be put into the composition of such shots, so that the models fit the space without disturbing each other. During this composition, it is important to re-evaluate the required depth of field. For example, this time I decided to put the model with the huge flowers-crown in the background, because she otherwise would have drained all the attention. By doing so, I forced myself to work with a narrow aperture of F/8.0 with the 50mm equivalent of the X100T with the teleconverter, so that all the models would have been properly in focus.

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photo by Giacomo Meiarini. Me working on the group shot composition.

The other element to weight when shooting groups of models, is where they look at. The gaze of a subject is always a major element in the composition of any photograph, but with groups it gets even more important, as they all have to work together. There isn’t a fixed rule, and every case is different. Here I chose to have the girls on the sides to look at the camera (which translates into looking at the viewer), so they would “hook” the viewer before his gaze could leave the frame. Their bodies, instead, face the outside of the frame, a solution that “opens up” the frame, adding movement and lightening the scene. Only the central girl looks out of the frame, to create some dynamics in the picture.

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Fuji’s are great tools for this kind of photography, for a lot of reasons, most of which I already discussed in this blog many, many times. They’re lightweight, which means less energy goes away to carry them and more can be put into thinking and framing. They’re small, which means I don’t shove huge, black scopes at my models’ faces, resulting in a more intimate and enjoyable experience for them. They allow to “see” the exposure before pressing the shutter, which makes it so much easier and precise to work with any mix of natural light. They allow for “zooming-in” while focusing in the EVF, which makes it so much easier to use shallow depth of fields. And finally, they provide pictures of superb quality, especially for what concerns the skin tones while using the Fuji-exclusive “Classic Chrome” film simulation.

I must say thanks to Simone Bartorelli for agreeing on using these photos for the article, I hope you enjoyed them. Should you have any questions, please feel free to ask! Here are the full credits for the shootings, by the way:

“Nature in Love”

Lookmaker: Simone Bartorelli

Hairstyling: Simone e Luca Bartorelli, Liliana, Nicoletta and Nadine

Makeup: Giulia Pierantoni

Dresses: Antonella Rossi

Location: Palazzo Dama

Models: Benedetta Frucci, Greta Galizi, Costanza Tuccimei, Elisabetta Mirra, Angelica Preziosi

Assistant: Giacomo Meiarini

Luca Rossini

"My photography is a good mix between inspiration, planning, and good old fashioned improvisation. I love working with complex lights and low light, both in studio and in the open. My favourite subjects are portraits which tell dream-like stories; places which seem daydream scenarios; and surrealistic concepts created in my studio. Photography to me is not a way to document reality, but more the way in which I can suspend reality, with all its physical and societal rules, and turn everything into my dream of it.

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