Why I Started Creating My Own Locations
I guess none of you'd be surprised if we start this post by saying that location matters. In fact it is probably one of the more dominant elements of a photograph.
This is pretty much what most photographers gather after a few months of shooting. Actually, it is bigger than that, a location can make or break a photo, and if you have a "picture in your head" the further your location is from your vision, the more work (or compromises) you'll need to get to your final image.
So, why am I telling you what you already know? Because until recently (actually until I made this very photograph) I have always looked for a location that would match my vision and will need as little changes as possible to get to that final result.
All the photographs in my songs series (which you can check out here [UT]) were shot this way. This one, for example, was shot in an abandoned building in Ramat-Gan, or this one that was shot in an old restaurant in Jaffa.
When we started prepping the shoot for Black by Pearl Jam we stumbled into an issue with the find-an-existing-location method.. The concept I had for the shoot was quite challenging and as time went by the team and I started to doubt if it existed at all. So we decided to try and create it ourselves.
Photograph Me A Circle
The concept was to replicate Da Vinchi's Vitruvian Man diagram by posing a male model in a circle. At start we thought it would be pretty trivial to find a readily made circle. Thus began a few weeks tour in sculpture gardens, playgrounds (for carousels), helicopter pads and more. They all had great circles, but each had a killer limitation. Be it dimensions, security requirements, bad proportions or other technical challenges.
So after experiencing paralyzing frustration, an idea popped - to build the location to our requirements. We had a few duds, but finally settled on a kiddies pool (measuring 2.40 across).
We went down to the hardware store and picked up a bunch of orange colored spray. Then painted it in the right colors to match our vision.
After two days of unhealthy creative spraying and sun drying our location was ready to go. Here is what a test shot looked like with a fish eye lens - empty pool, one strobe hidden behind my hand.
Next challenge was getting some light in the water. Initially, we tried ziplocking the strobes and placing them in the pool. Bad idea. good old faithful SB-28 got totally drenched. (And revived after spending some time on the dish rack. They used to make them like tanks).
After that fiasco, we decided to light the pool from below the floor with two YN560 strobes. We would lose some light on the bottom sheet, but have significantly less complicated setup. It will only light the pool's floor, but this is all we really cared about anyways.
Bottom line, this is the first time I am building a set from scratch and I am definitely gonna be doing this again. Lessons learnt is that if you search for a ready-made solution for too long, DIYing it becomes an attractive option. This was a good use-case for me and fun and I am definitely considering repeating the process with the remaining images of the series.
As always I'd love to hear your feedback.
P.S. A huge thanks goes out to Maxim Golvanov who was a full partner on this process.
About The Author
This post is by Tomer Jacobson, a freelance on location photographer based in Israel. Tomer runs a lighting intensive Hebrew blog, luckily you can read it using google translate (if you don't mind the mechanical English sound :)