This spring, wedding and portrait photographer Zohaib Ali published a few portraits on his Facebook page. Within days they had gone viral. Zohaib tells us about how he stumbled upon the photoshoot of a lifetime.
London based Zohaib Ali has found his niche in Asian wedding and portrait photography. After graduating in broadcast media he started working for one of UK’s leading post-production companies, but soon his passion for photography took overhand and he started shooting Asian weddings. And it was at a wedding he was confronted with one of the biggest opportunities in his career so far.
During the early morning preparations at a wedding shoot in Birmingham, UK – In Sikh weddings the photographer often has to arrive at the soon-to-wed’s house around 6-7 a.m. to shoot morning portraits and documentary family images – Zohaib suddenly found himself in front of a childhood legend.
104 year-old Fauja Singh, one of the oldest living men, was having a cup of tea when Zohaib walked in to the room. As if living for a century is not enough of an accomplishment, in 2011 Fauja Singh became the first centenarian to complete a full marathon.
“Coming from a British Asian Background myself I have grown up listening and reading about this incredible man who has managed to defy age limitations and go onto achieve some amazing records.
“Throughout my teenage years, Fauja Singh’s face was on various posters, adverts, commercials, and Olympics campaigns”.
The brief encounter fueled Zohaib’s imagination and throughout the day he kept thinking how amazing it would be to get the opportunity to document Fauja Singh’s life through some portraits. Later, during the evening this was made possible.
When you seized the opportunity, how did you set the shoot up?
“Previously I had scouted a small area at the venue where I had enough space to create what I had envisaged. I had my lights already set up and all I did was request Fauja to stand in front of the camera, quite close to the B1 head as I had a beauty dish and grid.
“I shot the images of him standing on my 70-200mm and the ones of him sitting on my 50mm. My lighting was very simple and took minimal adjustment. I was able to set up in 3 minutes and from then on I controlled the B1 power from my Air Remote TTL-C.
”Throughout these images I worked more on the emotion in his face and body, and hardly posed him. I wanted his face to tell the story.”
Achieving this Zohaib used a Profot B1 and a Softlight Reflector Kit with his Canon 5D Mark III. For close ups on the subject’s face he used a Colapsible Reflector Silver to fill in some shadows and bring more light into Fauja Singh’s eyes.
What’s the most challenging thing with the shooting?
“The space. As you can see from the final images no one would guess that these were shot in a hotel lobby, next to a busy bar. During the party! My biggest worry was the spill of light. There was a lot of ambient light in the reception, but as I had my beauty dish, with a grid, very close to Mr. Singh, it enabled me to cut the ambient. I had him standing about 1-2 meters from the wall to ensure no light bounce.
“Secondly, the fact Fauja Singh is of such an old age, I had to make sure I utilized my time well and got enough different portraits as possible. In the end I had 15 minutes with him and the result is for you all to see”.
When Zohaib posted some his images online they quickly went viral. And when you look at them it’s easy to understand why. If you’re intrigued by story about Fauja Singh and want to know more about the shoot, Zohaib has made a short documentary about his meeting with this extraordinary man.
Zohaib has written about the shooting on his blog. Make sure to read it here.
If you want to know more about the Profoto B1 Off-Camera Flash system visit our webpage.