Finally, I had a chance to continue on the project that I started a while back in 2014, that is the dance project. It is one if the projects I enjoy doing the most. This time we were doing the shoot in one of the old neighbourhoods of Bangkok which added some quirkiness and vibes to the photos.

After a few emails and phone calls, a friend arranged me to meet up with our model dancer, Faifah who is very good, very patient and great fun to work with. It was more like me who slow her down being rusty and not having all the gears there (since I was kind of on holiday). Nonetheless, we still have 3 lights, 2 stands and some diffusers, enough to do creative shots. Faifah turned up in light coloured outfit exactly as I requested. She even brought me a friend to help carry the light around. For this, I would love to work with her again any day!

We started our shoot in an alleyway. I kept the lighting simple and background as rustic and authentic as possible to contrast with the clean image of the classical ballet.  Now, if the camera can only capture smell, the lady in the background was also frying fish to help intensify that atmosphere. The space in the alleyway is really tight and full of stuffs. Great for the image but limited the choice of our lighting. I didn’t want to front lit the subject and ended up with flat images so I asked our new ‘lighting assistant’ to lift the light up as high as possible while I pop another light to edge lit the subject.


Then one of the local ladies suggested that there is a beautiful palace nearby and we should do a shoot there. We followed her down the narrow alley, through a gap in the fence, and stood in front of a magnificent colonial style building in the picture at the top of this page. I wanted this shot to capture the whole building facade as a backdrop and focusing the light spot really tight to highlight the dancer, like stage light. Normally, I would take at least 4-5 good shots, just to have some variety to choose from. I am still surprise how Faifah can repetitively jump on demand, and still holding pretty much the same pose.


When you are shooting on location, a lot of things can happen beyond your control. So I normally go with the gut feeling of what really feels right. Sometimes it works, a lot of the time, it doesn’t.  When it works though, it would turn out surprisingly better than the planned shot. For instant, I planned to shoot the image above in the centre of Mahajetsadabordin square with the Metal palace as a background. When I turned up for location survey, half a building was covered in scaffold for renovation. So it’s not going have the same amount of impact as planned. We decided to shift along to a new location near the royal pavilion and used it as the foreground to boost the cultural. The two light will have to be repositioned and do harder work by lighting both the model and the pavilion.


The real fun of doing an on location street shoot like this is actually the interaction with local people. Most of them have been very kind and supportive. I walked pass the sewing workshop in the image below and fell in love with the setting and how rich it was but didn’t quite know how to ask for a permission to use their shop. On the shooting day I decided to just walk right in and ask whether we can do a photoshoot inside their shop.  With me carrying the gears and Faifah already dressed up, it’s going to be easier to explain (so I hope). They asked what is the photos for and simply let us use the front of their shop while they got on with their work.


Even though it is a ballet shoot, I always try to include some general close up shots that’d also show the personality of the model. Here we set up some shots at a banana grove inside the courtyard of the palace compound. The lighting for this kind of shot needs to be soft so it create a nice falloff on her white skirt. I put on a shoot-through umbrella and move the light source as close as possible to get that effect.




Another interesting point of this area aside from three very important temple,  monk robe weaving community is the buddha casting industry. There are a lot of factories and shops casting and selling buddha statues around. The streets and alleyways here are lined up with Buddha of all postures. We  decided to do a shoot on one of these alleyways.



Lastly, we went to an abandon market hall hidden among other building. With the tall interior and floor full of rubbles, this provide a perfect place for  the anti-establishment look. To make sure we capture how big and tall the space is, I tilt the back light upward to light up the ceiling without a diffuser. That gives smaller hotspot and lines of shadow projecting out from the columns. The side light became key subject light. We even added the volumetric smoke effect to the picture. But due to low budget, this had to be done by kicking dirt around.


As we took the shots, one of the flashes was recycling the charge and didn’t fire. It gave another look to just backlit the image. Some people prefer this look over the one above. I guess there is no right or wrong answer. It’s just another way to light the scene. Thats is the fun of on location shoot like this. This site has a lot of potential but we ran out of time. Now, had we have more time, I would experiment more at this location to mimic lighting of the strip of windows. etc. Anyway, time’s up, pencil down and we moved on.


More tk…