Join me on a conceptual photoshoot with Macphun inspired by a fabled viking funeral!
In the beginning of October when the weather was still warm and the trees full of color, I was given the opportunity by Macphun to film a video of my process during a conceptual photoshoot to celebrate the release of their new photo editing software Luminar. Never one to turn down a new experience, I jumped at the chance to challenge my ability and perspective. To brainstorm concepts, I consulted the mountain of notebooks stacked high in my closet where I have crudely drawn sketches of inspiration scribbled down whenever the spark of creativity stuck me - a helpful way to never be without an idea when you need one! I knew I wanted to leave the audience with a powerful scene so I choose to recreate a fabled viking funeral - a strong woman laid to rest at sea in a burning memorial.
For months I anxiously prepared for the shoot with a desire to pull together every small detail. It's not often I work with large teams, preferring to create a bit more minimally with just a camera, model, and epic location, but I was grateful for the ability to work fluidly with like minded creatives to compose a meaningful final piece. For a location my friends were kind enough to lend me their family camp - a beautifully built wood cabin settled quietly on the shores of a private pond in rural Maine, equipped with an aged row boat that would work well for the shoot. With location set and schedule in place, I felt confident in what my team was about to capture.
On the day of the shoot I woke up early to start gathering props and gear. I had spent most of the night clearing cards and charing batteries for the long day ahead. After testing my batteries and formatting my cards I packed up my car to bring the props to the location and to get to work building a simple sail I could use to light on fire. With limited budget I was going for effect more than historical accuracy opting to construct something that was small but could be easily buried in the sand so the boat could slip in and out of place so as not to damage the boat or hurt my wonderfully trusting model while the sail was lit on fire.
Because the shoot was symbolizing a memorial, I had purchased a dozen pots of mums, luckily they were in season and with their beautifully vibrant colors and pleasant scent my model didn't mind laying among them too much propped up on a comfy bed of eight pillows. I wanted the scene to look as though the faithful family of the beloved had gathered handfuls of wild flowers to place with the resting soul. However since the mums only came in plants of solid color, doing so took about two hours of carefully cutting individual flowers and placing them in separate pots. The end result was definitely worth the hassle. For a lot of my conceptual work, I'd much rather get the details in camera as much as I can since a lot of my time on each image is already spent compositing various details.
When the video team of Matt Bourgeois, Sophia Aldinio, and Kallie Daggett arrived, we decided to start with interviews and wait for the sun to set enough to start shooting. The talented videographers choose to use the upper balcony of the cabin for all it's vintage softly lit glory and over a few hours I recounted my photographic process.
After interviews were finished and the sun was beginning to set, everything started to fall into place. My helpful assistant had positioned the sail into the pond and my model was dressed and ready for arrangement in the boat. With waders on I trekked into the water and up a ladder to find the right angle to start shooting. I had brought some assorted color smoke bombs with me to create atmosphere in the close ups and we had a great time lighting them off in colorful clouds. We were able to get a few different angles before the sun set enough to light the sail on fire. My trusty assistant set to work with lighter fluid quick to engulf the fabric in flames. In about an hour of shooting I felt I had captured enough diversity of shots to composite into the final image and was ready to wrap up for the night.
This concept would not have been made possible without Macphun. I would also like to say a huge thank you to a wonderful team that made this day go by so smoothly. And thank you to the wonderful Eastern Front Designs for kindly letting me borrow some armor and props.
You can find full 17 minute video released for free after signing up for their mailing list here:
Full credits go to:
Model: Corey Black
Assistants: John Black, Kalli Daggett
Videographers: Matt Bourgeois, Sophia Aldinio
Props and Wardrobe: Eastern Front Designs