Jeffery Salter is as passionate about his personal projects as he is about his commercial jobs. For this project, for example, he brought two dancers to Bahia Honda Rail Bridge to explore the relationship between people and beautiful architecture.
Jeffery Salter describes his photographic style as “cinematic with a touch of whimsy.” He draws inspiration from surreal artists, mostly painters, and from the cinema. “I keep my eyes open even when I don’t have a camera with me,” he says.
Jeffery, who has travelled the 127 mile long road in the Florida Keys many times, is fascinated by the Key Bridges – a series of bridges which connect the forty-three islands. He had since long wanted to do a personal project about them. Now was the time.
“Its combination of structural strength and graphic lines create a surreal sense of beauty,” replies Jeffery, when asked what is so special about the old Bahia Honda Rail bridge. “It’s magnificent in sheer functionally. You know, it has withstood extreme weather conditions, even hurricanes,” he explains.
The idea behind the project was to put the bridge’s long lasting grandeur and strong graphic lines in contrast with the fleeting moment of grace and soft curves of a dancer. “I wanted to marry the lines in the bridges to the lines of the human form,” he says.
Shooting on the location wasn’t all that easy, though. The environment was pretty raw with broken glass and rusty bars of metal. Neither did it help that the dancers wanted to perform bare feet. “Push brooms and leaf blowers definitely came in handy,” says Jeffery.
Equipment-wise, Jeffery needed equipment that was both solid and portable. “This was not the type of shoot where one can simply put a light on a stand and walk away,” says Jeffery.
So, what lighting did he bring with him? Well, at the beginning of the day, Jeffery used two Profoto Pro-B4 battery packs, Magnum Reflectors and a Collapsible Reflector Silver. First, he set his trusted Phase One‘s shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second to balance out the ambient light. He then dropped it down a bit to make the image more dramatic. An Air Remote was added to the camera’s hot shoe to wirelessly sync and control the flashes.
“It’s all about layering the light,” says Jeffery. “A key, a kicker, a back light, a bit of bounce off the sand and a background light all in the service of directing the viewer’s eye into the photograph. The extreme flexibility of the Profoto B1s allowed my assistant to wade out into the ocean with just the head on a long stand.”
For the last round of shot, Jeffery changed location. He had three main shots planned out in his head. For the first shot, he placed the models on an angled piece of concrete. “I choose that spot because when the dancer stands up in that angle, the sun is directly behind her, and also behind her is a gap in the bridge and I wanted her to bridge the gap,” Jeffery explains.
For the second shot, Jeffery placed the model on two rocks outside in the water. He wanted the model to appear floating. He had two B1s pointing directly to the model from two opposite sides while he was standing in the water photographing.
Finally, when all the ambient light was completely gone, Jeffery decided to try something a bit different. He used the B1’s modelling light and painted the light during a 1/16 of a second exposure.
“We’re gonna break all the rules because it’s all about having fun,” says Jeffery.
Amen to that.