Strike the Lights


  • Color Gelled Ballet Photos - Christine Shevchenko – Principle, American Ballet Theater

    Client: Personal Work

    Talent: Christine Shevchenko – Principle, American Ballet Theater

    Photographer/Director: AlexisCuarezma

    One of the things I love doing is using color and light to give my images visual impact. For this project I had the pleasure of working with Christine Shevchenko, who's a principal at American Ballet Theater in New York. We did both, still photography and I wrote and direct a short narrative with her.

    I love having color contrast in my images and that's why I use a lot of complimentary colors. When it comes to lighting, I love combining warm and cool tones. One of the questions I get asked most often is if I use blue gels? And the answer is, VERY RARELY.

    What I much prefer to do is set my Kelvin temperature in the camera anywhere between 2500k-3500k. And that turns any daylight balance strobe, blue. Any warmth that I want to bring into the images, I gel the light. With a combination of CTO (color tint orange) and CTS (color tint straw) gels. I find that combing both of those gels, gives me the warmth I'm looking for.

    Even when I want to go for a monochromatic look, and just want one gold tone. I rare just do that in camera [with WB], I prefer to gel the lights and I find that using a combination of CTO/CTS gels gives me the warmth and gold tone I want.

    When I want a little less color contrast, my white balance is anywhere between 3500, and maybe 4000 Kelvin. And I'll gel the light depending on the mood I want, with more CTS gel. Which you can see above. Which is much more subtle then what I shoot at 2500k and combine a lot CTO/CTS gels (right image).

    The inspiration for this image was a portrait I did before of an artist named Hueman (below).

    As we were walking into the dance studio I noticed a wall that had red and white stripes and it reminded me of that image. I wanted to create something similar that didn't have any white at all in it, and just color purely for impact.

    To eliminate all the white from that wall I put a gridded light behind her that again had a combination of CTO/CTS gels. And behind that light, I had a light with no gel on it so it would bring out the red. And to light Christine in this photo, I actually had a CTB (color tint blue) to bring the blue for underneath. And on the sides I lit her with a green (Rosco Moss Green #89) and magenta (Rosco 60 Magenta 4760) gel.

    I absolutely love lighting and it's essential to how I make my images. Color, helps amplify the emotion and the mood that I want to evoke in my photography.

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    Products Used:
    Rosco Cinegel Filter #3408 RoscoSun 1/2 CTO (20 x 24" Sheet)
    Rosco Cinegel #3442 1/2 Straw CTS Filter (20 x 24" Sheet)
    Rosco # 3202 Full Blue CTB Color Conversion Gel Filter (20 x 24" Sheet)
    Rosco Roscolux #89 Filter - Moss Green - 20x24" Sheet
    Rosco CalColor #4760 Filter - Magenta (2 Stops) – 24"x25'
    Canon 5ds
    Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L
    SanDisk 128GB Extreme Pro CompactFlash Memory Card
    Profoto B1X 500 AirTTL 2-Light Location Kit
    Profoto Air Remote Transceiver
    Profoto 7" Grid Reflector for Profoto Flash Heads
    Dynalite 7" Honeycomb Grids (Set of 4)
    Sekonic Speedmaster L-858D-U Light Meter
    Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21
    11x14 Bay Book with Hindge Pages enter code ALEXIS20 for 20% off
  • Milca Roja Photo Shoot with Miss Nicaragua Marina Jacoby

    Client: Milca Roja
    Talent: Marina Jacoby - Miss Nicaragua 2016
    Photographer/Director: AlexisCuarezma
    BTS Video: Jason Tawiah
    Assistant: Sasha Fierce

    Final Assets: 4 images, 1 Motion Poster / Vertical Video

    This photo shoot was very special to me for two reasons. Number one Milca Roja was founded and started in the same place as me, Nicaragua. Number two I got to work with Ms Nicaragua herself, Marina Jacoby.

    Their headquarters are now based out of Miami. I flew out there for two reasons. My friend Hueman highly recommended I go check out Art Basal with her for creative inspiration. And the second one was to setup a meeting with Milca Roja. I met with their president Javier who's super passionate about their brand.

    I showed him my portfolio book and pitched him the idea of working with Marina on a shoot for them. He was familiar with who I was because of a personal shoot I did prior with her about the situation in Nicaragua. I showed him references in my portfolio book of visual styles that I thought would look great for Milca and thankfully he liked it so we moved forward with making the shoot happen.

    11x14 Bay Book with Hindge Pages
    enter code ALEXIS20 for 20% off

    The shoot took place in Malibu, California. When scouting the location, I wanted a place that showed the ocean and also had palm trees. I wanted to have a feeling of getting away, relaxing and being refreshed, as one of their mottos is "disfruta Milca".

    When I arrive on location one of the first things I do is Walk around with my light meter and measure the ambiant lighting as conditions on the scouting day could differ greatly from the actual shoot day. This allows me to figure out how much gear I need to take out before I set anything up. When working on location having a minimal amount of gear allows you to be flexible, mobile and stay on schedule.

    Sekonic Speedmaster L-858D-U Light Meter -
    Canon 5ds -
    Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L -
    SanDisk 128GB Extreme Pro CompactFlash Memory Card -

    I wanted to have nice deep blue skies as that would compliment the colors of the brand. It was a clear day and the sky was reading at F22 so I knew I would have to use a lot of light to make all the colors pop. Sasha was assisting me that day so she helped set everything up.

    When Marina arrived we already knew everything we would need to set up. I spoke to her before the shoot so she already had to run down of what we had planned.

    One of the things I always like to do with my talent is go over what we planned and kind of do a rehearsal and walkthrough without any gear or lights. This lets me have zero barrier with them and I could talk to them one on one, explain the shots or listen to any ideas they may have without the pressure of having the lights and camera and everybody staring at them.

    Once we start shooting they already have a clear idea of how the day will unfold and it helps everything go smoother. I did all this with Marina as soon as she arrived and before she changed wardrobe so she could keep on all her layers and jacket for as long as possible because it was a pretty windy day and I knew she would have to endure being cold once we started shooting.

    Once we were all done with that, the lights come out. Since I knew I needed to push F22, I used two b1's and to keep setup minimal, I used 1 c-stand with a triple header to mount them both on the same stand. Then I made adjustments, dialed in my exposure and started shooting.

    Profoto B1X 500 AirTTL 2-Light Location Kit -
    2x Profoto OCF Softbox (1 x 3') -
    2x Profoto Speed Ring for OCF Flash Heads -
    Profoto Air Remote Transceiver -
    Avenger C-Stand Grip Arm Kit (Black, 10.75') -
    Avenger F900 Baby Triple Header - 

    From there I just refind everything we went over. I'll make small adjustment to her pose or my composition until we get the shot.

    There's always small adjustments you can make once you see the final framing and lighting. If possible I like to try out a variation height or perspective. But traveling with Apple boxes & small stepping stool isn't always ideal. As I mentioned before when working on location keeping gear to a minimum is usually best specially with a small crew. And that's one of the reasons why I love my camera bag. It's sturdy and strong enough to hold my weight and it can double as an Apple box because I can stand on it.

    Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21-

    This was my favorite shot because it had everything I wanted to show. The ocean, the blue skies, the palm trees and of course Marina enjoying a Milca.

    The final photo was a detailed shot of a Milca can being handed over with the sun in the background. Since Milca is from Nicaragua I hand modeled wearing my ring that's the Nicaraguan flag emblem.

    The final thing we had to do was produce a vertical video/motion asset. That meant we had to change lighting, framing, and camera. I wanted to keep the same visual aesthetics and not let the sky blow out. But to match that intensity with video lights would require powerful lights and generators which we didn't have.

    Tell help bring down the sky I used 85 tiffin filters, and counter them by dropping my White balance. And for lighting the Skylite Rapid came to the rescue! It's a 5x5 that folds down this small (see photo blew) for portability, and we used a silver reflector to bounce sunlight back to Marina and light her.

    Lastolite Skylite Rapid Midi Kit (5 x 5') -
    2x Lastolite Grip Head for Skylite Frame/Panel Reflector -
    2x Avenger C-Stand Grip Arm Kit (Black, 10.75') -
    Tiffen 77mm 85 Color Conversion Filter -
    Tiffen 77mm 85B Color Conversion Filter -
    Tiffen 77mm 85C Color Conversion Filter -
    Canon EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR Camera-

    I filmed her at 120fps using a 1Dxmk2 and here's the results.

    And that concluded our shoot. Thank you so much Javier at Milca for the opportunity and Marina for working with me on this shoot. Being from Nicaragua this was a dream come true. Be sure to follow them on Instagram and show them some love.

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