Red is a very dominant colour. Just a little bit of red in a photo can attract a lot of attention.
I first learned about the power of red as a kid while reading National Geographic. Their photographers would often put a person who was wearing a red jacket in their landscape shots, and that red jacket would capture my attention every time. So when Margrethe said she had a little red dress she could wear for a Postcards For A Dancer shoot, I immediately thought of putting her in a natural setting while wearing it.
Red is also a tricky colour for digital photographers: it is the hue the computers have a lot of difficulty properly handling. In fact, the odds are very good that the reds you will see here are not the same reds that I see on my monitor. Still, Margrethe and I were so happy with the results from our shoot and we wanted to share it.
The location for the shoot was Sognsvann. I had taken a few landscape shots there the previous week when I noticed the rising sunlight reflecting off the trees and onto the water like I had never seen before.
What is remarkable is that the light coming off the water is decidedly yellow-orange. This is normal in the fall when the leaves turn this shade, but here it is coming off evergreen trees - trees that do not change colour in the fall. Yet these evergreen trees look just like their deciduous cousins, such is the power of the rising sun!
As nice as this photo is, I thought that a dancer in a red dress amongst all that yellow would be something really special.
The light would be best about 30 minutes after official sunrise. At that time, the sun would be just starting to clear the tree tops on the near side of the pond. So I thought we should be there about 45 minutes ahead of this time in order for Margrethe to warm up and stretch, and for me to get my gear set up. We worked quickly and were all ready to go 15 minutes ahead of time. Rather than sit around in the cold, we decided to shoot and see what we could get.
I looked east, towards the rising sun and away from my planned direction of shooting. I saw that the moon was still high in the twilight sky. Margrethe went out to the end of a small wharf to strike a pose, and I hid my Elinchrom Quadra behind the trees at the end of the wharf to light her and the wharf. It was quite cold and there was a heavy frost on the wharf. The frost really made the wharf stand out.
I find that everything is so quiet and peaceful this early in the morning. Being outdoors and watching everything come to life is definitely the best way to start the day.
I had some issues with the Elinchrom trigger. It wasn't powerful enough to punch through the trees and the light fired only one in every 4 or 5 shots. I moved down to the wharf and shot with the Quadra right next to me. This solved the flaky trigger issue and with a hard light at my side, we were able to create a nice, dramatic shadow on the thick, white frost. The frost was heavy enough for us to be worried about Margrethe's footing, so we stuck to compositions that did not involve jumping. The white frost also complemented the red in the dress.
The frost on the wharf made it hard to balance. Jumping would probably have led to a wet and cold(er) start to the morning! It’s a good thing we didn’t go crazy to begin this shoot!
By this time, the sun was peaking up over the horizon, casting a very warm light onto the fir trees on the other side of the pond. So with the first light just starting to reflect onto the water, Margrethe went out to pose by the swimmer's ladder. It was still dark enough to require a splash of light from the Quadra to make her stand out from the dark water, but the yellows were starting to make their presence felt.
This was a beautiful location: the sun and bright colors were reflecting in the water and mist on the surface of the pond. While beautiful, it was at the same time probably the most challenging location to shoot. To move, and to move gracefully, on a frosty wharf was not easy. It got easier to move when I used the ladder as support, as a counterbalance, but the ladder was ice-cold, so it had its own challenges! It was almost like dancing with a partner - but a really cold one.
We continued to shoot as the sun rose higher over the trees. Its light became brighter and brighter, and the reflections changed from a dirty orange to a bright yellow. Margrethe placed herself as close to those yellows as she could. Note that in this shot the temperature is only a few degrees above freezing, yet she has a hand and a foot in the water! The lengths to which we go just to create art!
Believe it or not, the temperature in the water was actually a bit warmer than the air. It was almost a relief to put my hands and feet down into the water.
We left the north end of the pond and walked south. The path took us behind a dense stand of trees, and there was a marsh still sheltered from the sun's warm light. All of the plants in the marsh were still heavily coated with frost, and the light in this patch was still very muted; only a very small shaft of warm yellow light was poking through a hole in the trees. We thought it would make for an ideal environment to again show how red can totally dominate an image.
The trees and grass were covered in ice crystals and the small beam of light on the frost made it seem as if we were in a fairytale.
When we reached the south end of the pond, the sun was well above the tree line and the sky had turned blue. We found a small patch of frost that still had not melted, although a shaft of warm sunlight was about to make quick work of dispatching it! We had time for a few more poses and this is the one Margrethe selected to go with the Little Red Dress Series.
This was the perfect location to end the photo shoot. By now, the sun had begun to warm things up a bit and it was much more comfortable (and easier) to move. Movement, of course, is very important for a dancer!
This shoot was remarkable because of the change in temperature from start to finish. When the temperature changes, the environment changes with it and the different environments kept giving me new impulses and ideas. It was very inspirational!
I'm very happy we managed to get so many great shots on a single theme. Not that these shots came easily. The early rise, the heavy equipment, and the cold were all challenges that we had to overcome. I want to thank Margrethe for her dedication and hard work. I think you will agree with me that it paid off!