Nakasendo Way - Old Japan Highway

Now this is something I want to try next time I'm in Japan.

Nakasendo Way is the old Japanese highway that used to link Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo Period. 

It's amazing how they are able to preserve the past despite the all development that has happened around. Just sharing this guy's Google gallery to remind myself to do this during on our regular trips to Japan.

More details on guided tours and travel info, check out: http://www.nakasendoway.com/


Model Portfolio: Anthea

My test shoots nowadays consist of either natural light or a single light source. These are shoots I don't want to be spending much of my time trying to pull of a squeaky clean lighting setup. Instead, most of these things happen on the fly and I would just think of the lighting on the spot when the model is actually standing in front of me. 

Beauty shots don't need to be those complicated setups done for most advertising brands. If you're doing a more editorial kind of feel, one light is enough. It's about maximizing that single light source and angling it correctly on your model. I'm more concerned with look and story rather than getting one layout cleanly shot. Unfortunately, my lighting setup diagram doesn't have an icon for reflectors placed at angle from the floor. What I did here is do a makeshift triflector and placed it around the model front and both flanks. All were tilted towards her. 

For Anthea's head shot, I did use one Mola hoisted on a boom and placed her near the background. The shadow she produces is intentional, and part of the feel I wanted for this set. I was inspired from 70s beauty ad campaigns. I guess in hindsight, I needed to push the look further, and these images still look a bit crisp (since it they were shot in digital). I'm drawn to the soft focus look of images done in film. 

This next set was something taken from 90s fashion magazines. Lighting is almost the same, save for an additional softbox back light behind me to add a bit for a fill on the body. 

Next few sets are done with natural light in the pantry area beside the studio. This is where I also experimented with various color grading to get various "period" treatments out of them. I've always found onesies a sexy look on certain models and Anthea carried this look well. 

This black and white set reminds of a 90s biker girl / rock kind of feel. 

Mental Note: Anthea would make a good Caitlyn Fairchild given her height (5'8"). I think that character deserves an updated shoot.

Production Credits: 
  • Make-up: Jet Babas
  • Styling: Hannah Kim
  • Model: Anthea Murfet


Model Portfolio: Jinri

This is the nth time Jinri and I have worked on a folio shoot, but you would never tired working with this babe. She's always a trooper in doing something new.

I've been adding this Asian-inspired vintage look to my shooting repertoire and it stemmed out from shooting Jinri for her calendar. I thought of exploring this look further in the next few shoots and see where we could evolve in this style. 

Now, one way to hone your skills is actually to put a handicap on what you plan to do for the shoot. In this case, we limited the frame to just doing a beauty / head shot story. Adding a fashion layout would have thrown the creative direction off track. I wanted to practice beauty shots for this session, and didn't want any other genre to affect our thought process. This meant all my shots were at most, half-body. My lighting concentration is locked on the face and hair. 

The very first image had minimal color grading. This is almost what we got from the camera. The next four images ran through the same workflow with tweaks on the kinds of colors overlaid on top and their respective intensities. By the way, my working aperture was 2.8 to get that natural shallow depth of field. I just exaggerated the blurs in post. 

These two images are actually consecutive shots, but her slight adjustment on the shoulders made a huge difference in impact. I personally like the 2nd one in terms of pose, while the 1st for the color grading I did. 

As much as we have some lined up pegs and prepared concepts as guides, the shoot itself is free-flowing. Adhering to the pegs is not necessary, but it does serve as a starting point. Much like thinking outside of the box. You can't think outside without knowing the bounds of the box first. 

Here's one confession (during a fun shoot): I never do the lighting formation up until make-up is more or less at 75% completion. It's hard for me to imagine the final look without seeing the elements coming together. I take glance at the model's make-up, look at the wardrobe and/or props involved, only then I come up with a specific setup. Even that isn't even 100%. There are shoots where I drop the entire thing I thought of and do something completely new -- much to the frustration of my lighting crew at times. 

Initially Jinri proposed doing some Japanese fashion magazine covers, which I gladly obliged since it is not something I get to do often. But then during the shoot, it somewhat mutated into a vintage feel with the styling and production design. I thought of patterning the lighting on this instead. 

I jury-rigged a triflector with available styrofoam in the studio. My main light is an octobox placed in a Paramount setup hoisted behind me. Two (2) lights flanked both sides and are aimed to the ceiling. What I ended up with is a flat frontal light with slight highlights depending on the pose. The ceiling bounce lights provided that highlight on the shoulders -- given the ceiling is painted white. The more she tilts her head up, the more prominent the highlights become.

For the sake of uniformity, and I guess something of a habit I picked up doing editorial shoots, the post production for all the shots follow one workflow. This was one thing I have been letting go for the past test / portfolio shoots. Since I intentionally let go of saving any recipes or workflow on a specific shot, no two images ended up having the same treatment. The downside to this though, you can't have me replicate the exact same look anymore if we happen to hit a particular "look" jackpot. 

The 2nd lighting setup was just a modification of the first. Jinri's favored angle is her right so the main light was placed on my left flank, lighting up her right broadside. The re-positioned bounce is placed behind the other acting as a highlight bounce. This gave a very soft light, with a slight difference between the lighted and shadow parts of the shot. It was an almost evenly lit image without having too flat a side. 


Trese: High Tide at Midnight - A Fan Review

I recently got my own complimentary copy of Trese 6: High Tide at Midnight recently when dropped by Budjette's office in BGC. 

I'm a huge fan of Trese. This is outside the fact that Budjette is a good friend and a contemporary in the industry. This is one local title that caught my imagination in such a long time. How they make use of local folklore and bringing it into modern times is its greatest appeal to me. The (scary) stories of aswang, dwendes, tikbalangs have been translated into the urban landscape. 

Trese, along with other millennial contemporary titles (e.g. Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, Sky World etc...) gave a renewed interest in Philippine comics. It has evolved from your typical monthly issues back in the day to a more slick-looking graphic novel format. Nonetheless this reintroduces the "Komiks" to a younger generation who may have missed the golden age when the industry went zilch. 

From a case to case anthology, we're now seeing longer narratives starting with Book 3 and 5, story arcs akin to most mainstream comics. I guess this was a necessary shift to show more growth with Alexandra and her exploits. A case-to-case approach wasn't enough to introduce more complicated plot threads. By Book 6, she's no longer alone as joined by self-proclaimed superhero Maliksi (a hunky Tikbalang) who has a crush on her, members of the Trese family and some "super" friends. You also would notice a larger undercurrent involvement of the "Madame" secretly pushing her own agenda. Whether she sides to good or evil remains to be ambiguous at this point. 

It is established that you have been reading the previous books to get an idea on the various myths and creatures going about the city. If you're just picking up Trese now, I highly suggest brushing up on the hard bound compilation to get a sense of the world Alexandra is revolving in.

Noticeable with Book 6, mystery gives way to more action and you could feel the build-up to something big -- like a final confrontation between Madame and Trese. The end just happens to be the start. Budjette always makes it a point to leave you on a cliffhanger. 

Just a little showcase of Trese-related cosplay shoots we did in the past. 

For as long as Budjette and Kajo chuck out more stories, Trese would be in my regular cosplay to-do list in the foreseeable future. 


Model Portfolio: Apple

This was one shoot that happened out of serendipity. I was in between ad campaign jobs, and it so happened that one free day was sandwiched in between.  Apple messaged me out of the blue finding out if I was game to shoot. 

Over the years, there's no place like shooting in Raffy's house -- which I personally refer to as Raffy's last resort. Hehehe. It's one house I would never get tired of shooting in. There is always some nook and cranny you'd get to re-explore. 

Did all of these edits in just a morning. There wasn't much to work on except for color grading. So when I locked on one type of grading for a series, it was pretty much a "copy-paste" workflow from there. I did some slight experiments in the second and third sets though for the heck of it.

It was overcast for most part of the day, which gave a this bluish and spread out lighting texture. This scenario is a double-edged sword, but it turned out to be in our favor. Everything was shot in high ISO with at least 400. If I can't get enough grains, I add some more in post production. I never left the F2.8 mark and went for very shallow DoF all the way.

Experimented with various color grading in post production just for the heck of it. I personally like the first one. 

The high-slit cheongsam was pleasant surprise Apple brought given my brief to her was the vintage Chinese look. Obviously I am still riding from that Wong Kar Wai shoot I did with Jinri for her calendar

Doing these natural setting shots is a step back from the heavy effects and post-production we usually do in cosplay.

Production Credits:
  • Make-up: Kiko Escobar
  • Styling: Model's Own
  • Model: Apple Angeles Chan