Photo insight with Wayne Johns: Sleeping Beauty
On a shoot in a cold, draughty country house, fashion photographer Wayne Johns re-imagines an old fairytale with modern technology.
This image was shot with a prototype of the new Fujifilm GFX 50S medium-format cameras, and was one of the first shoots to take place in the UK with that camera. At the time, it was far from complete in many ways, and it gave me a few surprises. It lacked several functions and the focusing had a mind of its own, but even so it was beautiful to shoot with.
The concept for this image was Sleeping Beauty, but giving the story a modern edge. We shot it on location in a country house to give it that fairytale feel. What you can’t tell is that there was no heating and it was so cold we could see our breath in the air. In between shots, we had to warm up the model using hairdryers!
The lighting was a mix of daylight and flash. The sun was coming through windows to the right-hand side of me, while the light on the chest of drawers came from an open door behind. Shutters on the windows funnelled the light through. The sunlight was very bright for a short period of time, giving a lot of brightness to one side, which drops off into shadow very quickly on the other. It was actually a very dark scene, although it doesn’t look it from the shot.
I balanced the daylight with flash, using a Bowens Lumiair Octobox 90 above and to the right of the frame, to give some shadow direction on the model’s face. An Octobox 70 is almost directly behind the camera to give a very soft fill so that the shadows didn’t fall off into complete darkness. I used diffusers on both lights to keep things soft and subtle.
I had to stay aware of what the natural light was doing as there were strong winds outside and the clouds were moving fast, so the light kept changing. I had to keep an eye on it and grab the shot when the scene looked at its best, otherwise the ambient light I had exposed for would have been out of balance.
I’m increasingly bringing an element of theatricality into my images, especially when I’m given a free rein, as I was on this occasion. At the same time, you have to be aware of where you want the focus of attention to be, and it’s obvious in this image that it’s all about the textures of the feathers. The model is posed in such a way as to reveal the flow and detail of the skirt, which almost had a mind of its own.
If you approach your shoot as a story, rather than getting your model to pose – which can be a bit rigid – ask him or her to act the story. When they start to act, you get a lot more emotion and expression in the face, and the body language will follow. Give them a start point and an end point, and track the subtle changes with your camera.
Wayne’s Favourite Kit
Fujifilm GFX 50S
Mirrorless medium format is a whole new realm of technology. It weighs less than a Canon EOS 5D and is jam-packed with features, but you can take it out of the box and shoot straight away in manual mode, with no messing at all. The Fujinon glass is out of this world, but because it’s a focal-plane shutter, you can also use old third-party lenses on it with adaptors.
Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader-55 PL
The amount of kit I have means I need a roller bag to fit it all into and transport easily. This version from Manfrotto keeps it all safe and easily accessible.
Gitzo GT3543LS Systematic
This tripod may look big and heavy, but it’s carbon fibre, so very light weight. Super build quality and extremely strong, too. Of course, with systems such as this, you have to purchase your tripod head separately. I like Gitzo’s Center Ball Head range, so opted for the new GH3382QD (£369), which is wonderfully smooth and precise. It has a fantastic locking system that keeps your camera right where you need it.
About Wayne Johns
Fashion, beauty and advertising photographer Wayne Johns has been working in the industry for more than 25 years. He’s also head photographer at Next. An ambassador for Fujifilm and Bowens, he’s worked with the likes of Coca Cola, Marie Claire, Vogue Italia and L’Oréal. www.waynejohns.com