Travelling light and fast is just a fact of life for Little Shao. On assignment in South Korea he found that travelling with not one, but two B10’s didn’t hold him back.
French photographer Thinh Souvannarath, aka "Little Shao" travelled to Seoul, South Korea to cover the qualifiers for the most prestigious breakdance competition in the world. While he was there, he wanted to use the opportunity to catch up with world champion B-boy Crew - Jinjo; and spend a day shooting with them in the city going through their breakdancing moves. He wouldn't have much time after the event, just a day spare, but he was determined to use it well.
Little Shao is no stranger to breakdancing, having been a dancer himself in the late '90s. And that experience gave him a fresh perspective on shooting B-boy. "Few photographers took Hip-hop dance seriously, but as a fellow dancer I understood that world and fitted in; so I approached it like photographing sports for high-end advertising - trying to capture a feeling - a moment."
This idea for the shoot with the B10 was merely to be true to the conditions he usually faces. "Just the things I have to deal with on every assignment; no time, crazy jet-lag, unknown locations, having to be super-efficient shooting break dancers on the street."
Where Hip-hop and tradition collide
For the first images, Little Shao and the crew headed across town to a beautiful palace; Gyeonghuigung, constructed in the 17th century. Gyeonghuigung is one of the five grand palaces built in the Joseon Dynasty and translated means 'Palace of Serene Harmony.' "You've got to be very discreet and respectful in these places - you can't ship in lots of equipment. So this was a revolution for me because I could get my camera body, three lenses, remotes, extra batteries, OCF Speedrings, two gel holders and two B10's into a single backpack."
They set up the first image at the end of the afternoon as the sun was getting lower in the sky, and while it wasn't quite sunset it was getting quite dark within the structure.
Little Shao wanted to preserve the detail within the clouds in the sky yet put enough light into the three break dancers to ensure that they were crisp, sharp and detailed. He had a crew member hold one of the B10's out of shot behind the dancers to create a backlight, and the other B10 was also handheld by another of the group, as high as she could reach to the right of his camera position. He set both B10's on close to full power, and Little Shao chose a small aperture (f/16) shooting in High-Speed Sync. Finally, to intensify the colors a little more, Little Shao added a red gel to make the palace columns more vibrant.
The result, a collision between the modern and the ancient. That East Coast, USA Hip-hop attitude, juxtaposed against the peace and tranquility of a centuries-old Joseon palace.
Power when you need it
Little Shao had seen the palace in one of Jinjo's videos which is why he was keen to shoot at the location himself, so now he was here, he wanted to make the most of it. "In the roof, where it overhangs, there's a lot of beautiful detail, so I wanted to capture another image where we got to see it all, so I needed a lot of power to create a large depth-of-field."
Shooting from a low angle, he positioned one B10 high and slightly to the left of camera firing light into the dancer as he was mid-jump. That way all the textures in the sky and the palace roof are preserved and the subject is correctly exposed.
On the crowded streets of Seoul
Seoul is a colorful and vibrant city, and Little Shao was keen to spend time downtown shooting in the evening. Packed with shops and boutiques, the Myeong-Dong area of the city is incredibly vibrant, which presented Little Shao with as many problems as it did opportunities. "With so many people around, finding a quiet place to shoot proved difficult."
Along a slightly quieter passage, they happened upon a building with ornate wooden shutters, and Little Shao thought the textures would make for an exciting backdrop. He used one B10 to light the background with a blue gel to add color and attitude, and the second B10 with an OCF Softbox 2' Octa was positioned high above the dancer to put light into his body and his shoes. "For it to appear natural I positioned the second B10 quite high to mimic streetlights, because at night time - that's where you're expecting the light to come from."
Shooting with a small aperture at f/14 Little Shao needed a lot of light, so both B10's were set close to full power to maintain detail and to keep focus from front to back.
The advantages of continuous light
Finally, Little Shao wanted to create a portrait of the dancer in amongst the lights of the neighborhood, so he used a single B10 with an OCF Softbox 2' Octa to make sure the light on the subject matches the background, to the left of the camera in continuous light mode. "When you're shooting in a crowded area flash disturbs people, but no-one really notices continuous light. The real benefit, however, is that you can see what you're going to get through the lens which is such an advantage."
After a packed day, Little Shao achieved what he set out to do and captured some great images of the Hip-hop dance crew; Jinjo. As for the B10, it turns out it's the perfect light for his style of shooting.
"This is something I've wanted for so long; as someone who travels a lot and needs to shoot super-fast in sometimes some pretty dangerous locations, having the right balance between power and size is a huge advantage. I definitely need the B10; this light just upgraded my level of creativity."