How I Got the Shot with Sal Cincotta
Travel is one of my favorite things. I love to travel. I love seeing the world. And photographers who travel for work have the best job in the world. We get to see some amazing places and, with any luck, capture some incredible and moving imagery.
To most people, travel photography conjures thoughts of landscapes and monuments. A lot more goes into travel shoots for wedding and portrait photographers.
When I travel, I almost always try to schedule a photo shoot of some sort. I often have a dress or concept to ensure I can create something magical from that location. Even if I am shooting for just an hour, I want to make the most of it.
Getting started is easier than you might think. Sure, you might not have the opportunity to travel to exotic locations, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I want to maximize every single trip I can, and I get pissed when I don’t. It’s a lost opportunity. Every city in the world offers something unique, and we all see the world a little differently.
The concept for this shoot was to embrace the gorgeous landscape of Iceland. Now, let me start by saying, if you had asked me the top 10 places in the world I would like to visit, Iceland would have been last on my list. After visiting this incredibly diverse, visually challenging and inspiring environment, I can tell you that I can’t wait to return.
We were looking to create something that embraced the beauty and uniqueness of the landscape. Blue water and black lava rock—yes, please.
The next part to this entire thing was having the right subject. Icelandic women are gorgeous and have a very unique build, look and skin type. Our model for the day fit the bill perfectly.
My vision was to have something soft and flowing to counter the harsh landscape. I love the juxtaposition of it all. We used a loose wedding dress and a long veil we had with us. In addition, we wanted to bring in all the beautiful blue colors. For that, we knew we would need some additional lighting in the scene. More on that below.
We shot just outside Reykjavik near the Blue Lagoon, a natural hot spring. If you have never been, I highly recommend a trip out there. The water is baby blue. That’s not Photoshop you are seeing in this image. It’s incredible to lay eyes on this natural phenomenon.
Locations like this can be challenging because you are not always working with light. Or, maybe better stated, the light is not always working with you. Looking at the shadows, you can see that the light is coming in from behind, creating a beautiful hair light for separation.
This location and the available light posed a bit of a challenge. Expose for her face, and the sky and water would be blown out. More than likely, her dress would suffer the same fate. Expose for the deep blue sky, and the water and her face would be in shadow.
So, what does all this mean? Gorgeous locations don’t always translate to gorgeous images. You have to step back, analyze the scene and determine the best way to get the results you are looking for. You never want to compromise natural beauty.
It should be no surprise at this point that lighting had a big impact on this final image. Without external lighting, we would not have been able to capture the dynamic range of this scene.
For this shot, we used the Profoto B2 bare bulb to push in some light on the front side of the image. There are all sorts of light modifiers out there, and Profoto offers a plethora of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love their beauty dishes and softboxes, but from time to time, I am just looking for a hard-edged light. That’s exactly what we did here. The B2, located camera left behind me, had the perfect punch for this shot.
At f16, there is no way a speedlight would have enough power at this distance to provide the light we needed. We were able to use the light from the sky to create a well-balanced image.
Hasselblad 24mm lens
1/125th of a sec @ f16, ISO 100
Travel photography is more than just landmarks and landscapes. No matter what type of photographer you are, there is a way to incorporate your travels into a portfolio-building opportunity.
The key is planning ahead of time. Where are you going and what do you want to accomplish? I typically look for opportunities to showcase local architecture or landmarks to create something that has my signature style incorporated into it. Make the investment and have a dress with you wherever you go. Wardrobe will typically be the thing that trips you up. No matter where I go, I like to have an extra dress with me in case I get the urge to shoot something. You can find wardrobe at ridiculously low prices at thrift stores around the world.
Finally, break out of your box. We all have our favorite spots to shoot. We know when the light is perfect, etc. What fun is that? Photography is an adventure and a lifelong pursuit. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
Get out there and give it a try.