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  • Andrew JK Tan

Jakarta Conceptual - July Edition with the Nikon D850

My second Conceptual Photography session in Jakarta this year with my host and good friend master photographer Sebastian Kisworo. All concepts were by Sebastian Kisworo with some small inputs from yours truly.

During these sessions , all photography done were based on the following:

- ambient lighting

- occasional fill light with continuous LED lights or silver reflectors

- No flash or strobe lighting

As I share my collection of images from this latest session , I will also share the challenges faced during the session so that you the reader can appreciate better what the photographer has to go through (especially if you join Sebastian & I in future sessions in Jakarta).

My hardware setup was simple , it was just based on my Nikon D850 & the Nikkor 24-120mm f4.0 lens. All shots in JPEG FINE* as I find the D850's High ISO noise in-camera noise reduction works so well with the JPEF FINE* format producing clean images with minimal loss in details.

The Powder Dance Concept

A Visual based concept , an indoor concept.

Lighting wise , continuous LED lights + Ambient light coming through glass panels on the right

The real challenge of this concept was the timing - releasing the colored powder synchronised with peak action from the ballerina was no mean feat & even if the timing was perfect , how the powder disperses and interacted with the dance movements were totally unpredictable.

Shutter Speed & ISO settings were key in this concept.

To "Freeze" the dance motion , a shutter speed of at least 1/640s was needed

ISO was at 1600.

Shooting "Burst mode" allowed me to get the "peak" or appropriate action that blended well with the colored powder "behaviour"

In ALL the Powder Concept images shared , there was ZERO manipulation of the colored powder captured in terms of the shape & form during Post Production.

For this concept , there were many takes to get everything just right , so real credit to the ballerinas who had to do repeated jumps. There were no complaints , just determination to get it right.

Of course if you are a fan of monochrome styled presentation , then many of the images captured can easily be re-produced into some very dramatic & powerful monochromatic versions like this example on the left.

The Underground Story Concept

This location was just incredible. The timing had to be right , the weather had to be good as strong sunlight was needed to form the shafts of light as the light passes through holes at the top.

The angles of the light beams would change as the sun moved throughout the session. There were many challenges at this location ranging from cloud cover (no light beams) to wind direction causing havoc with the smoke deployed.

There were so many factors to get right just to get a decent shot:

- there had to be light beams present

- there had to be minimal wind

- the smoke patterns had to be "right" to create the atmosphere & accentuate the light beams

- the dancer had to be ready

- the environment was actually a low light environment but high dynamic range

- the photographer had to be alert and ready

- the photographer had to be able to visualise the composition of the potential scene.

Hopefully by viewing the images shared , you can understand what I meant that everything had to fall into place. Once that happened , the photographer still had to get everything right from exposure , focus accuracy to timing of shutter release to capture the moment.

The images of this concept shared were all produced from single JPEG FINE* captures. To get these shots , I used a variety of methods from :

- Bracketing (in case the light beam intensity changes)

- Burst mode to capture the peak action

- High ISOs of 3200 to maintain a minimum shutter speed of 1/640s

- RAW would have been the safer option but I stuck to JPEG FINE* for the reason I described earlier. I prioritised image noise over details & dynamic range captured. I was pretty sure my D850's JPEG FINE* capability could handle the dynamic range.

The Underground Story images were still based more on a Visual Appeal Concept.

This SOLE image on the left was the only one where I introduced an additional light beam (left most) to fill the "void" on the left for compositional reasons.

This image of Radinka Dharsono (right) is one of my favourite images captured from the whole Underground Concept Series !

In addition to the VISUAL Appeal , there was a STORY to it, however I will leave it to your own interpretation of the image.

I do not normally caption my images as I do not believe in influencing the viewer to my point of view or "story". I'd rather let the image invoke the reaction or "story" from the viewer's perspective. It does not matter to me at all if the viewer misses my "point of view".

To me , if an image "moves" the viewer in some way then it has done it's job.

The Silhouette Story

Well the whole idea here was to create impactful silhouettes from the backlighting. In the end my series of images from the backlighting were more like partial silhouettes as a totally blacked out silhouette was not really my cup of tea , style wise.

So as you can see , I stayed away from totally dark silhouettes. Instead I used overexposure in many cases to "blow" out the background and retrieve moody details in my potential silhouettes.

This image of Radinka on the left had a soft focused glow which was added during post production.

In this same location , there was another area which had this beautifully directed ambient side lighting from an opening in the wall and we knew we could use that light to create some incredible imagery.

The Urban Dance Conceptual Experiment

I requested Sebastian to see how we could bring an urban dance concept for this July Edition and we tried with this initial location. Unfortunately for this experimental session , the light in the evening was not too appealing. It was very cloudy & hazy producing some pretty flat images.

Still it was an excellent "learning" session which Sebastian & I will work on improving the concept further.

Using longer focal lengths like 200mm was the key for the experimental street concept as the longer focal length would provide more "compression" between elements in the scene. This would result in the elements becoming "closer" then it really was.

Probably for future sessions , I am going to experiment with 300mm to 400mm focal lengths with wide open apertures for even more drama.

This last image is my favourite from the session. It does look like the motorbikes were uncomfortably "close" to Mimi our ballerina. I can assure you that the combination of longer focal length & point of view made it seem so.

Well , this must have been one of my longest blog with almost 30 of my favourite images shared from this July Edition session in Jakarta.

I just love these conceptual photography sessions. Not knowing what to expect , the challenges from lighting to wind to synchronisation and so on gives me the thrill that I expect in photography (just like wildlife and sports photography). Sessions like this gives me excellent photography practice , trains me to adapt fast , to visualize and challenges my post production capabilities to produce the shots I want to produce and share with the viewer.

I did not really mention my hardware that much , don't overlook it though. It is an important element and my Nikon D850 gives me the confidence to "nail" my shots and having this confidence is really important.

Till my next blog , happy shooting everyone.

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