Two sisters, a barn, and my X100T

· 27.May.2016

At this time of the year, after May comes, I find myself so scheduled between fashion shootings, portraits, and weddings, that I can scarcely find anytime to pursuit my personal projects. I can’t complain, I know, being busy is the first effect of having a good business, but still I can’t avoid to miss my “creative time” either.

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Not producing personal projects means feeling emotionally stuck, numb, and dumb. But it also means not having new, fresh material to share with you folks. So, as I usually do in such times, I scrolled through my Lightroom library looking for something shot with the Fujis which I haven’t published yet.

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Luckily (is it?) I tend to produce more that I’m able to share/publish/sell/etc. Among these unpublished projects, today I found “Two Sisters”, the first “editorial” I shot during my trip to Sweden, a little shorter than one year ago. It was the end of July, which means it was almost three months I wasn’t producing much personal projects, when I finally found the time and energy to leave Rome to experience some fresh air and new adventures in Sweden.

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Once there I drove till Kalmar, where I was hosted for a few days by the Gierow family. I’d met and photographed their older daughter, Kristine (Kikki), a few months earlier, and after that she had been so kind to invite me to visit her home. Once there I found Kikki’s younger daughter, Astrid, to be in town as well. The amazing thing about the Gierows girls is that they are both gorgeous, but in completely different ways. Kikki is romantic, melancholic, and voluptuous. Astrid is harsh, intense, and skinny. And they both wanted to shoot with me.

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Kikki loves to ride horses, she even owns a Pony at a beautiful old barn just out of town. So we planned to shoot there the morning after. I went with the two girls through their wardrobes looking for clothes and accessories that could work in such a scenario. The mood I had in mind was somewhere between “The Piano” (New Zeland in the mid-19th century) and the hippy commune scene in “Easy Rider” (somewhere in the middle of USA during the sixties). I wanted the harshness of Astrid to be enhanced by black and white clothes, but to introduce some lustful by having Astrid wearing the shirt half opened and with no bra. The romantic and dreamy nature of Kikki, instead, asked for colors and patterns. I picked some different options and I played with them during the shooting.

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When we got at the barn, I found its red walls and blue doors to be enhanced by the shiny green grass, while the sky, covered by fast clouds, kept constantly and quickly changing the light conditions, and the breeze played with the girls’ skirts and hair. Probably my favorite shooting scenario. I explained to Kikki and Astrid what I had in mind, what was the “story” and which ones were the backgrounds I intended to use. Then, I took out my X100T, plugged the teleconverter on it, and started shooting.

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When working with natural lights, my X100T is set, as I described on a previous post, with auto ISO ranging from 200 to 3200, auto shutter-speed staying shorter than 125th, and manual aperture, selected shot by shot in order to control and play with the depth of field (DOF). With such a set-up, I use the aperture to control the DOF, and the exposure compensation dial to reduce or increase the total light. It’s then the camera’s job to decide if tweaking the shutter-speed or the ISO to get the exposure I want with the aperture I set, not mine. I used f numbers from f/2.5 to f/9 to get the different depth of fields you see, but I never had to worry about the other settings, leaving the camera to figure them out for me.

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For example, when I shot Astrid against the red wall with the fields visible in the right, I wanted the Swedish countryside to go slightly out of focus, to give more “depth” to the image, so I opted for an f/4. When I took the same shot with the rest of the barn on the left side, I wanted to retain more details but still to have the background going out of focus, so I closed an half stop to f/5.6. For all the shots in which I simply wanted to preserve all the details, I closed the aperture till f/8 or f/9. On the opposite, when I had Kikki laying on the grass, among the flowers, and I went for a macro shot of her blue-green eyes, I opened up to f/2.5 to have all the colors explode into blurriness and focus solely on Kikki’s melancholic stare.

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The great thing about the X100T is that I can switch to the electronic viewfinder (EVF) whenever I want to assess, before shooting, how the f number really affects the DOF. Dslr can preview the DOF too, but to do so they reduce the brightness of their viewfinder. The EVF, instead, keeps its original brightness, and it even shows the effect of exposure compensation. Basically, with the EVF what you see is what you get once you press the shutter. Which, when working with constantly changing natural lights, is a huge benefit.

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After the shots in front of the barn, we played with the horses a bit. Kikki had their best white horse cleaned and stroked as never before, and she’s such a good rider she didn’t even need to mount the saddle. Photographing with a horse proved to be much harder than expected. Restless, always moving, often racing, never easy to compose in the image. Yet we got a couple of good shots, one close to the barn, another in the deep of the nearby woods.

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At the end of the day Astrid had to fly back to Stockholm, where she lives, and since then I haven’t had any other chances to shoot her. She might get to Italy this summer, and visit us here in Rome, and I really look forward to working with her again. Kikki stayed with us all the time we spent in Kalmar, so I had many other chances to photograph here, some of which I published here on Fujilove already.

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That said, I hope to get the Gierows sisters together again for a shooting, I really love how different an intense they are, and how they interact with each other. I just wish I could do like last year, and find the time and energy to leave Rome and visit them again, but thanks to my sweet 7 months second daughter, this year, travelling got a hell more difficult!