Insight Notes on the Long Shadow

photograph by Mark Laurie of Calgary Alberta

Created at the Best of the Best photography reality show contest in the Bahamas. My model is Abigail. The power of this image, The Long Shadow, lies in the shadows and the bold colors.

The window of opportunity is very narrow for this type of shot, especially in the Bahamas where the sun goes down so fast. Before you start this type of shoot you need to take a moment to pre-visualize it. The mood and the feeling the image will project. This does not need to be a deep long process but you do need to take a few minutes to consider things.

The time of day always gives you saturated colors. With the blue background, we needed a striking, standout color for her outfit. Her red satin corset was perfect. The satin was a bonus since its sheen would work well with the reflector we would need to open shadows. Below the rail the design gets busy so she had to have a receding color for her pants. This would keep the distractions away from the busy boards. Blue jeans matched the wall’s tonality, and were not reflective so would keep the shadowed look.

The next consideration was the relationship of my camera position and her height position. The shadow is a critical element in the image. Abigail had to be positioned so her shadow did not blend into the top shadow on the wall, while having a larger space between the bottom of the shadow and the railing. The adjustment to achieve this was best reached with a long lens.

The light is very directional from the side, so there are not a lot of choices for her head placement. I wanted the drama of the split lighting on her face rather than turning the full face to the light. The light is blindingly strong, so our choices were squinting (not really wanted), sunglasses, or closed eyes. The sunglasses would have given the image a celebrity feel, adding some mystery to it. The eyes closed, my choice, gives the image a sensual sense combined with the bold red corset.

She looks like she is leaning flat to the wall but she isn’t. I have Abigail doing a slight angle to the light so we can have as much light as possible going across her corset. Left alone, the shadows would have been too dark, with the shadow side of the corset going flat dark. To give it more shape but keep the light still looking natural, not overdone, and had my assistant bring in a reflector. Jonathon Sims is just barely out of camera frame holding the reflector up. He had folded the reflector in to focus the reflection on her with as little bleed of the reflected light on wall shadow as possible.

To add to the sensual and sexy feel, we have her tossing her hips. If you look carefully through the railing you can see the leg towards the light is straight while the other leg has the raised heel. Her knee is pushed over to other knee, causing her hips to drop.

Hand placement became a critical detail. We had to have both hands cleanly above the rails but not on the same plane. I always like to have the wrist pushed down; we call it breaking the limb. The rule for that was any limb that could bend should be bent.

Once we got her in place with a couple of shots I asked her to come to the rail. She said sure, but could she go down a step or two. Replying to the why she explained there was a hornet’s nest right in front of her that was making her nervous. I was amazed; most girls would not have posed in that spot for me. Here was a model that would always give you what you needed to get that shot.

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