Louis Pang is an international, award-winning photographer based in Malaysia. For this shoot, however, he changed the tropics for the mighty Putong skyline in Shanghai. Here is the full story in Louis’ own words.
Winter in Shanghai is cold, humid and windy, a tough combination for someone who live in the tropics. A teaching gig brought me to Shanghai, and I would not pass up the opportunity to shoot in the Paris of the East – winter or no winter. My friends in Shanghai pulled some major strings to get Rose, a professional model from Beijing, to jet into Shanghai for the shoot. We started at 7am, thinking it would be wise to avoid the peak hour traffic and crowd.
First stop, the Bund which oversees the famous Putong skyline that is synonymous with Shanghai. Security personnel wanted us off the area because we didn’t have prior approval to shoot there. I have Gao Feng, a fantastic wedding photographer in Shanghai, to thank for convincing them to let us shoot just “10 minutes”. We left the Bund after many “10 minutes”.
I perceive Shanghai as a world city of fashion and sophistication with her own swagger. That’s the idea behind the picture above. There are however some issues to sort out. First, I was shooting into the sun so I wanted to avoid overexposure of the sky and severe flaring from the sun. Secondly, there were lampposts, garbage bins and perdestrians everywhere.
I under expose the sky by about 1.5 stop, and I positioned Rose in such a way she blocked off the sun. Then I positioned the camera close to the ground so that I can get rid of all the distractions. Profoto B1 off-camera flash at camera right with a Zoom Reflector. Voila.
Next stop, we went to all-steel WaiBaiDu Bridge also at the Bund. Built in 1907 the bridge was historical and the meaning of its name highly debatable. Some say it means “foreigner crossing bridge”, other said it’s “toll free bridge” in Shanghainese. During World War II, thousands of Chinese used it to cross over to the international settlement to escape the Japanese army.
For our shoot, we had no marauding army to content with, but an endless stream of pedestrians and tourists. I went with the Profoto’s smallest soft box, the Softbox RFi 1×1.3, because it narrows the light but soften it at the same time. In terms of hardness of light it would fall between the standard reflector and a shoot through umbrella. At zero degree Celcius, nobody can survive without warm clothing. So we broke our shoot into 1-minute segments, and then take a 2-3 minute breaks in between when Rose could put on her winter coat again. Rose was professional and tough. She was determined to get the shot I wanted.
The last shot was right in the middle of the WaiBaiDu Bridge. The traffic light would turn red, and one side of the bridge would be free of traffic for a minute. One of the assistants would keep an eye on the traffic light and shouted at us when it turn green. That was the signal we should run back to the sidewalk. We would run back and forth between the sidewalk and the bridge until we got our shot.
We had a problem. With Rose standing fifteen feet away from the light, she was one stop under. I had to keep the camera at 1/250, f/16 because I wanted to under expose the ambient by 2 stop. Moving to f/11 would give Rose enough light, but the ambient would be too bright. I could not reach a compromise. How can I get an extra stop of light? I brought out a second unit of B1, placed them next to each other, and tilted both at the same angle point. Would it introduced a second set of shadow? We would have to try and see. And thankfully it didn’t. That spared Rose and I from becoming road kills on the historical bridge. It was a wrap.
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