Alexia Sinclair Goes Into the Dark Woods and Lights up the Creatures of the Night | Profoto

Alexia Sinclair Goes Into the Dark Woods and Lights up the Creatures of the Night

22 June, 2015

Written by: Alexia Sinclair

In the second part of Into The Gloaming, Alexia Sinclair leaves the comfort of her studio in search of a one hundred year old weeping beech tree. With her is a porcelain skinned heroine, a dress made of moths and a bag full of toadstools. The dedication and attention to detail is beyond belief. Here is the full story in Alexia’s own words.

As much as I love set construction and working in the studio (it never rains), some things just can’t be recreated on set, namely a gorgeous one hundred year old weeping beech tree.

With only a week until the tree would lose all it’s leaves (winter is coming, at least in Australia) we had to act fast to manifest this gateway between the real and the surreal.
Shooting on location is all about planning for that 5 minute window where the ambient intersects with the artificial and creates something otherworldly. With that in mind the only question that matters is: When exactly will the Sun be in that 5 minute window? And then how do I make sure that everything is ready for that moment.

Set beneath those variegated leaves I went about planning the shoot Kissed by the Moon. The scene would be inspired by Titania from Shakespear’s A midsummer night’s dream, and Titania queen of the fairies would act as the medium between the two worlds.

Our scene needed to look moonlit, yet register all the detail in the shadows as an eye would. We’d be shooting at ISO 50 on a Phase One IQ280, coupled with a reasonable shutter speed as to not register movement from the tree. We’d be using the sun to create artifical “moonrays” and strobe lighting to give my hero a dewy sheen. Couple all the above with a decent DOF and we’d need to time this just right.

The Costume

Prior to embarking on this journey I needed a costume, one that would befit our nocturnal hero. Following on from the first chapter of Into the Gloaming’s theme of printing upon the fabric that would later be sewn into the costume; I settled upon the creature of the night that seeks the light. The humble yet incredilby beautiful (detailed) moth.

While I had photographed moths for artworks before, none at the detail I required to print a 2 square meter cape. I hired a Schneider 120mm Macro and set about lighting to capture the most intricate detail I possibly could.

With a makeshift focus staking rail and an hour later my appreciation for intricate macro photography was well and truely realised.


Lighting the moths, two heads powered by a Profoto B4 with barn doors attached to prevent flare on the camera. Even power distribution.

Raw detail of moth wing through 120mm Macro.

The Model

My search for the right model to play our hero Titania began with a desire to find an albino model. A strange desire you may think, but to me, a magical moonlit night seemed the right setting for someone whose fragile skin can’t be photographed in full sunlight, whose sensitive eyes prefer the shadows, a nocturnal creature, someone who is “kissed by the moon”.

With the majority of pre-production coming together at a frantic pace we turn to the intricies of the shoot day. Having used the iPhone app sunseeker to plot the location of the sun we knew we were on to shoot at 4pm. Of course that means rigged by midday, hair & makeup done by 3pm and the model on Location by 3:30pm, leaving us 30 minutes in reserve.


The Lighting

We had a Pro-B4 battery generator & a Pro Head through a Beauty Dish filling in the dark side of the moon (the shadow side of the hero), and a Pro-B3 battery generator with gridded Pro Heads for the rim and accent lighting.

After spending two weeks in pre-production it all comes down to those 5 minutes when the model is in position. The Magic Hour 5 Minutes. We threw in some smoke from our trusty smoke machine, backlit by the gorgeous sun filtering through the leaves and with that we were done.

Photographers get a bad rap for always saying “one more shot”, but when you’ve spent so long planning an image it’s hard to let the euphoria end, and that it will when the sun sets.



Alexia Sinclair

Alexia’s website

Alexia on Facebook and Twitter.

Learn more about Alexia’s post-production via her online tutorials & masterclasses.

The first episode of Alexia’s Into the Gloaming.

Written by: Alexia Sinclair