Hong Kong based wedding photographer Muse Chan travels the world with his Profoto B1 Off-Camera Flash. In this behind the scenes video we follow him when he visits Iceland to shoot mystically beautiful images on location. We talked with him and he tells a story of how he and his team conquered the Icelandic storms and how they had to flee from a burning car – all for the perfect shot.
Muse Chan, the founder of Muse Muse Photography, has truly made a name for himself in wedding photography. After working as an Art Director with multimedia design, advertising and portrait photography for well over 13 years, he started his own business in 2006. Besides working as full time photographer he holds workshops all around the world.
Running his own photography business has brought him a lot more freedom than he had before.
“During my years as Art Director, most work was done by a team – including the client’s team. People often had different opinions and the final results usually did not follow my wish. Wedding shoots are just the opposite. At most you have to deal opinions from two people. But they often leave the decisions concerning location, time, method of shooting, and style to the photographer.
“You don’t have a big team either. This offers much more freedom to do my creative work, although the budget is much smaller and you have less equipment.”
The freedom also has some personal bonuses.
“I feel more connected to the clients as well, more direct. Apart from my style which they really appreciate, they also care about of my life and treat me as a friend. So I enjoy wedding photography very much.”
Even though Muse really likes shooting wedding portraits, when asked about the set ups for these, he reveals that he doesn’t personally care about the surroundings, but that the right location can make the shoot easier.
“The environment – in studio or on location – doesn’t matter so much, since I have never enjoyed shooting landscape. On the other hands, different background, weather, and different gown styles bring out different feelings. It makes it easier for the subject, who also is the client, to get into the role. Clients are usually not models by profession. Shooting at their favorite location could help them to pose naturally.”
So what do you search for in a great wedding shoot location?
“To shoot on location for me is just a background to highlight the subject. Most important, it must match the couple and their styling. I think the angle of sunlight plays a more important role than the location in itself. The lighting and three-dimensional feeling of the background mainly comes from the sun.”
Pre-wedding photography is a trend that is coming along hard in Hong Kong and China. In order to create your personal, unique touch to these images, the recent years it has become very popular among the clients to shoot abroad. An opportunity that Muse welcomed. Or as he puts it: “It gives me more chances to shoot overseas.”
And traveling is something that has become a big part of Muse everyday life. We previously reported when Muse went around Europe to shoot pre-wedding images. Now he is back from an exciting shooting on Iceland.
Tell us about the shoot on Iceland. It’s a long way from Hong Kong. How did you end up there?
“We picked Iceland as a challenge, a creative experience, an adventure. First of all, we were attracted by the magnificent landscape of Iceland. Secondly, people rarely shoot pre-weddings on Iceland. Thirdly, we are not fond of repetitive routines in our creative work. From time to time, we like to do some projects to bring inspiration and challenge to ourselves. Therefore, we selected Iceland this time, and it happened that a couple wanted to join our adventure. It was a happy and memorable experience.”
When doing shoots, Muse insists on follow his own style, look, and feel.
“I prefer movie-style lighting to create a sense of mystery and romance. In this shoot I wanted to incorporate the poignant sceneries of Iceland and the angelic beauty of the bride-to-be”
“With the B1 and reflector I could emphasize on the subject, foreground fades out subtly as a result. It gives a movie feeling.”
“It’s also unpractical for photographers to bring a lot of overweight equipment when going abroad. We would need to shoot many groups of photos, not just several images. Therefore, our equipment have to be portable and convenient to use.”
What were the greatest lighting challenges on this shoot?
“April weather on Iceland is not ideal. But we kind of liked the inconstant weather on Iceland. Thick clouds. Weather condition changed every 10 minutes, and could change even more sudden. In a short amount of time one could experience sunny weather, rainstorm, fierce wind, even snow.
“The biggest challenged we faced during this shooting was ’non-directional’ wind. It was only the three of us in the team: a stylist, a videographer and me. Very often, the stylist is also the lighting assistance. Since the wind was very strong, someone must hold the light. At the same time, wind blew the gown and veil everywhere, making it impossible to fix them in any position. Not to mention that I actually wanted to capture the veil and gown floating beautifully. So my videographer had to put down his recorder to assist with lighting, so that my stylist could get the skirt and veil in place. It required a lot of teamwork to get a satisfying shot.”
Looking back, what is your most spectacular memory from shooting on Iceland?
We had to change our cross-country car three times during the 8-day shooting. It was unforgettable. One of the cars went out of battery at Jökulsárlón, five hours away from the city. It was already late into the night, and there is no one around to ask for help.
“The last day on Iceland, the brake system of the second car suddenly broke, and one of the front tires caught fire. We ran away for rescue!”
When asked if Muse has any advice for photographers that want to travel in work he says you have to be prepared for anything.
“Shooting wedding photos oversea are not easy. External factors work against you all the time, such as this Iceland shooting experience. We encountered many external challenges: short daylight hours, constantly changing weather, low temperature, a traffic accidents, health situations of the client, pressure on the photographer and the team. Resilience and persistence was the key to accomplish this mission.”
But you ended up with some really extraordinary photographs. If you had to choose one, which would it be?
“My favorite is the one with the Sólheimasandur Plane Crash as background. It was very windy and chilly that day and it made it hard keep things under control to get the shot. But we got a perfect picture. I love it!”
For more images visit Muse Muse’s webpage.