Around one month ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to have a portfolio review with the senior photo-editor of Vogue Italia, Alessia Glaviano. She came to Rome for the city’s Fashion Week “Altaroma”, and she offered a portfolio review to twelve selected photographers. More than three hundred applied, and I luckily was one of the few selected. So, on a very hot Sunday morning, in one of the beautiful and ancient rooms of the “Fashion and Costume Academy” of Rome, I had a chance to show this work of mine to Alessia. You might remember the photos of the Swedish models I took in Bergamo, cause they have been published here on Fujilove a few months ago.
The review went really well, and I came back with much more energy and strong will I ever had. Among the many things we talked about, Alessia gently pushed me into trying to mix my fashion photography attempts with my “vision” on low-light urban scenes. The day after I went to Milan for a meeting with a potential client, and I managed to fit in the agenda a short photo-shoot with a fantastic model I had met in Bergamo a few months before, Alessandra Barbieri. Before leaving Rome, remembering the talk with Alessia, I fit my bag with a couple of Yongnuo speedlite YN568EX II, two Yongnuo YN622C receivers, and one Yonguno YN622C-TX transmitter, together with a Velbon UT-43D II tripod, two clamps and a pack of super cheap gelatines. Plus, obviously, my Fujifilm X100T, equipped with the 50mm equivalent teleconverter. I love how compact, and yet how powerful and versatile, such a “portable studio” is!
My sister in law lives in Milan and I decided I would have shot in her apartment, because of it having a couple of interesting backgrounds I’ve always wanted to use since I visited the apartment a few months before. Once I arrived there, I played for a couple of hours with the lights and the perspectives. As usual, the Cam Remote Fuji app coupled with the X100T wi-fi capabilities is simply the best tool ever when it comes to self-test a shot. So when the model eventually arrived I had everything ready, and I could just focus on the styling, acting, and props, instead than on the lights or angles.
The shots have been taken all at ISO400 and f/8.0, with a shutter speed between 1/125th and 1/80th of a second. I used two flashes, one with a green gelatine and one with a purple one. The power of the flashes has been manually controlled directly from the transmitter. Dean Martin already talked about the Yongnuo solution in a dedicated post, so here I’ll go very quickly on the set-up: the Yongnuo YN622C-TX transmitter is designed for Canon cameras, but using the legacy function can be operated by Fujifilm cameras as well (though not in TTL mode). The transmitter is able to radio-control the manual settings such as power and zoom of Canon flashes or Yongnuo speedlites, when the latter are connected to the YN622C Yongnuo receivers. This set-up works really well, and it’s very convenient because it allows you to manually refine the power and zoom of the flashes directly from the transmitter, hence, without having to walk to the flashes and operate them directly. Each receiver can be set in one of three different groups, so it is possible to set different powers and different zooms to three different groups, and add as many flash as you want to each group.
When Alessandra, the model, arrived, we went through the styling and then we had a brief talk about the mood. I wanted a super simple styling, with a white dress shiny enough to reflect a bit of flashes lights, and with very light make-up and simple hairstyle. About the mood, this is what I told her: “It shouldn’t be clear if we’re looking at a reality or at a dream, and in the latter case it shouldn’t be clear if it is your dream or my dream we’re looking at.
I must say I was amazed by how brilliantly Alessandra interpreted my guidelines. In all the photographs I believe there’s a strong, dream-like, tension between the model and the observer. The latter gets sucked into this weird scenario, where the lights, the shadows, and the colours play a central role into setting the proper atmosphere. In particular with the last sequence, when I used the design chair. There something special happened, and when I asked Alessandra to put and hug her legs on the char, I knew I was finally looking at the scene through my dream.
When I finished the post-production, I sent the photographs to Alessia Glaviano, asking for her opinion. She liked them a lot. She liked them so much that she personally selected three of them to be part of the “Best Of” section of PhotoVogue. I’m really glad I went to the portfolio review, I’m really glad I got the Yongnuo trigger/receivers/flash system, I’m really glad I got the ultra-compact tripod and the gelatines, I’m really glad the X100T can control them all and deliver such good images, but most of all I’m really glad I took the step to look into my dreams and try to bring them in a photograph.