Behind the Scenes in Turks and Caicos for Uptown cover
Submitted by Sander-Martijn on Tue, 03/11/2014 - 15:07
One night I got a call from my favorite makeup artist, Candace Corey. "How would you like to go to Turks and Caicos to shoot the cover of Uptown Magazine?" It all started with that simple question. I thought she said Turkey and didn't realize I was headed to the caribbean until my plane ticket arrived in my inbox. Wrong part of the world but who would say no to either?
I packed my gear and headed off to La Guardia. I was a bit late and they wouldn't let me through. The only other flight that day to Turks and Caicos was flying out of JFK and if I waited a day I would screw up our shooting schedule so I hopped in a cab to JFK, buying another ticket by phone on the way. Somehow I made it through with the oversize wedding dress I was carrying - they wanted me to check it but being that it wasn't mine and was worth about $15,000 I wasn't going to let that happen. I arrived 15 minutes before my scheduled flight that I "missed" did.
What's in my bag
I brought with me a Nikon D800, a Nikon D300 and an assortment of lenses. My sekonic light meter, 4 pocket wizards and all the cables and batteries I could dream of needing completed my pelican case.
In my light case I had two portable battery operated light kits - an Einstein E640 with a Vagabond battery pack, and an Impact Litetrek Pro. Out of the two I primarily used the Einstein but I frequently used both. I also had a Phottix Luna Folding Octa Softbox, a collapsible reflector, 3 stands (one with built-in boom), two grids and a variety of gels, clamps, and other accessories. Around these things I packed all my clothes for extra padding and to keep my bag count down.
I have never stayed in a resort before, it's just not how I generally like to travel. I must say as far as introductions to resorts go this one was the place to be. Rated as one of the best resorts in the world and actually took the prize for the best resort spa in the world in 2012. The food was exquisite, the atmosphere was quiet and the staff was amazing. It was the off season so we had free rein of the place as there weren't many other guests. We each had our own suite plus an extra large one which we used as a workspace to do hair and makeup, styling and general planning. We even received complimentary spa treatments so they could be written about in the issue. I chose a deep tissue massage and my write-up was the one that made it into the magazine.
Shooting in an idyllic location like this it's not difficult to find locations for the actual shots. If anything it was difficult to narrow them down to the best spots! There were of course a few locations we thought would be right that didn't work out for various reasons, but most of the time we picked a spot and it was perfect.
We had a very small team on this shoot, largely due to the expense of flying everyone out. Dana Powell (Editor) and Summer Powell handled styling, Candace Corey (Beauty Editor) did hair and makeup, and I did the photography. We all shared the responsibility of inspiration, art direction and location scouting. Lacking assistants we all just helped each other as needed. Fortunately it was a stellar team and we had all worked together before so it went very smoothly.
Our models were the 2012 and 2013 Turks and Caicos models of the year. Lacking the experience and refinement I am accustomed to they required more direction than a professional model in NYC would, but they certainly had the beauty to make up for it and it's good practice to work on coaching skills and not just rely on the models understanding your vision.
My lighting was simple but consistent. Most of the time I just used the Einstein with the Octabox on it. The octabox creates a beautiful light that is perfect for fashion work and the Einstein is balanced perfectly for daylight so it's hard to tell an additional light source was used at all. Its collapsible design is perfect for location work as you can fold it forward without removing it from the head and then fold the whole thing down against the stand, pick the whole unit up and go. The battery pack helped things move along quickly as I didn't have to worry about finding power, extension cords or any other nonsense. When I did use the second light it was usually to light up the trees outside so they would show up in the mirrors that appear in two of the shots. It's one of the simpler lighting setups I've used but it gave me the look I wanted and it worked out perfectly. When simplicity works, use it.
The first question people invariably ask me about this shoot is how I got the cape to flow like that, so I might as well spill it. We originally thought we were going to use a fan but it turned out to be much simpler than that. The cape was so lightweight that all we had to do was position Dana and Summer slightly off camera who would then toss up each side of the cape - as soon as they would let go I would take the shot. It actually only took a few shots before I knew I had at least three good options and I knew that one was the best. For all the curiosity I've gotten about this shot there wasn't anything all that secret about it!
Reflecting pool shot
This one was a bit more complicated. The resort actually had a platform that installed into the reflecting pool designed for exactly this that they typically used for weddings. However we did the shot on a holiday (required because we could only do it when the spa was closed) and the staff was not on hand to install it! Adding to that is that the sun sets in minutes in the caribbean so we had a very small window of time to get the shot. We tried various options and ended up putting a white marble table in the water which we covered with a black tablecloth both so you couldn't see it and so the model wouldn't slip on the marble. As for me I just got right into the pool, glad I had decided to shoot in my swimsuit!
The magazine booked my flight and hotel for an extra day after the rest of the team left so I could have a bit of a vacation and because I had to change my flight I ended up with two instead, so I spent my last two days sitting by the infinity pool, sipping coctails and editing the photos from the shoot, taking breaks to go for a swim or a walk on the beach. A great way to end a great shoot.
To see some of the final images click here or pick up a copy of Uptown Magazine's special Wedding & Travel issue