It was a joy, mostly, to shoot yoga instructor Ka’ale Sea performing feats of grace in the gushing mist of a tropical waterfall.
We had just a couple hours to capture teaser stills and video for the up-and-coming launch of Waterfall Yoga at Nihiwatu Resort, in western Sumba. And since the bamboo platform for this offering hasn’t quite left the ground, we were further challenged to find flattish perches on which to prop Ka’ale and cameras.
Thankfully, Ka’ale is a pro, and made a one-legged squat on a boulder look effortless. “That’s the move!” I said. “Can you do that 20 more times?” She didn’t bat an eye.
By capturing a wide shot of Ka’ale’s full sequence, followed up by “B-camera” cutaways of the same moves (“Perfect knee bend! Do it again!”), we got just enough footage for a two-minute flow.
Lensbaby Control Freak – Rock ‘n’ roll!
The dreamy, creamy shots were courtesy Lensbaby. This was the first time I’d strapped one on for video on my Nikon D7000. I’d seen a Lensbaby in movie mode while fixing some reconstruction sequences on a production of Man vs. Monster. But that was a Lensbaby “Composer”, and sure enough, it’s the more forgiving lens in the heat of action. Not like my “Control Freak” which is 150% manual, from the poke-em-in, pry-em-out aperture rings, to the accordian-like tilt/shift focus, flexed by two hands, or better yet, three.
The strategy: I picked an f8-ish ring from my quiver, which offered maybe f0.8 depth of field with the lens mid-squish. Next I hunted down a sliver a focus (“Hold that squat!”), and once I found it (at last!) I probed gently all around it, rocking the lens and/or my body in the rhythm of breath. It was like meditating, save for the cuss words, and the odd shots where my wobbles jived with Ka’ale’s, which were quasi-orgasmic.
Hoodman loupe — Keep out of reach of rodents!
None of this would have been possible without a decent loupe. Sadly, mine was barely decent as the night before its eyepiece had been half-eaten by rats! They’d marched past my Toblerone and cashews and went straight for my $5-a-nibble eyecup. Tragic! I’ve yet to find a camera loupe dealer in Indo, let alone Sumba. Anyway, even half an eyecup was indispensable for a 3-point brace on the camera (make that 20-point, with the rat nibbles) and for fishing out “sweet spots” of focus.
Since the dawn of DSLR video, there’s been a proliferation of loupes that cost more than most used cameras. ‘Til now, I’ve been happy strapping on my $90 Hoodman loupe (better known for reviewing still images) with a couple over-sized hair ties. The Hoodman comes with a nifty case. Use it!
Over the last eight years, I’ve been honored to shoot Bali’s top luxury properties. Here climate, craftsmanship and jet set indulgence collect in the perfect storm of architectural abandon. Walls are optional, as are handrails and a bath that precludes nude sunbathing.
These homes look and feel like heaven. But shooting them can be anything but. The challenge is to capture the essence of indoor-outdoor living. If you can saunter, unhindered, from a shady day bed to a sun-blasted pool patio, I insist that this be known in a single frame. Nevermind the 1000-fold gulf in light. Yes, one thousand-fold! Our eyes leap 10 stops without blinking. Our cameras (yes, even mine) can’t see more than five.
The solution? Add light. A lot if it. Enough to fill a car, and empty a bank account. In my case, a few times over! Yes, I thank the gods for the miracles of digital compositing. For some shots, I meticulously blend dozens of exposures into one. But compositing, alone, does not make for a compelling, realistic image. There simply is no substitute for big strobes on big stands, and the wherewithal to set them up. Click into our exterior and interior galleries and see for yourself.
#5. Because, sooner or later, you will. Too much of our work follows on the heels of non-specialist shooters — photographers who don’t know what shots sells villa nights. Our well-oiled team — including a stylist, a lighting wizard and a digital darkroom magician — will do what it takes to make your property look its best. Save time and money by shooting once, and shooting right.
#4. Because a villa is not a hotel. Your property is unique — in a class of if its own. How do you communicate that? Your clients won’t be relying on corporate brand recognition, fueled by a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. They’ll be scrutinizing your image gallery long and hard before sending a deposit, sight unseen. What will it take to drive that conversion?
#3. Because you, too, are a professional. Professional photographs reveal more than “hardware” — a villa’s furniture and facilities. Top-notch images speak to quality, trustworthiness and attention to detail. And to the heart — to values that transcend money.
#2. Because your competition did.
#1. Because with great photos, your villa will sell itself.
“Djuna captured the mood and character of Villa Home perfectly. The shots bring to life the villa’s unique energy and our rental occupancy has gone through the roof since we loaded the shots to our web site.” — Emily, Villa Home
“Djuna’s photos tread that fine line of showing a villa to its best advantage and being honest in the representation, giving a great idea of actually being there.” — Johan Mansur, The Istana
“The photos you took have withstood the test of time, and have been universally admired. They really captured the spirit of Khayangan Estate – Seventh Heaven. I was also personally very impressed by the efficient and professional way you worked, and got so much done in such a short time.” — Mark Saunders-Davies, Khayangan Estate
“No, Djuna, listen. Do you know how beautiful your pictures are?” — Wendy Wilcox, Karang Kembar Estate
“We worked with Djuna and her team on a new luxury villa shoot in Seminyak. The villa was a pure white colonial style residence and it was essential that amazing images were shot to add to the website and promotional literature. At the time this was no mean feat with the unpredictable weather of that season! Djuna was a consummate professional. Her team were almost invisible, ensuring set up was perfect and Djuna completed not only our shot list but angles I could have only dreamt about. We were so happy with the resulting shots and the client was delighted! I would not hesitate to work with Djuna and her team again, they make it all look so easy!” — Joanne McFarlane, ClearWhiteSpace Creative Marketing Solutions
“I’d never leave another photographer alone. They’d screw it up. Do you know how beautiful these pictures are??” — Wendy Wilcox, Karang Kembar Estate
“Djuna rocks! We love her work and can’t wait to have her come back to shoot our new villas as soon as they are done.” — Claude Graves, Managing Director, Nihiwatu Resort
Dian, Nelly and I spent four long days and nights shooting new suites at Bambu Indah, the eco-luxe retreat fashioned by Green School founders Cynthia and John Hardy. The property is a fantasyland of antique Javanese houses, surrounding a black bamboo Minangkabau palace, all perched over the verdant Sayan River gorge. Every house is unique — at each one it took us some time to discover the hidden windows and portals through which we could beam strobes. And while some are plenty spacious, others were clearly built for hobbits. Wedging into a corner with camera, legs and lights left me feeling like Alice, having eaten the wrong bit of cake.
Shooting during the full moon, it was hard to get any rest! By the time we’d finish dinner, a clean blue light would start beaming off the horned thatch roof at the Minang house. I had no choice but to stay up half the night, set the camera on long exposure, and paint the bamboo by Maglite…
This was our first shoot putting some homegrown LEDs to work, and boy, was I glad we did. Dian and I scrounged some 10- and 20-watt (i.e., honking!) LEDs from a lighting shop in Denpasar, and rigged them up via inverters and motorbike batteries. How fun it was to go “unplugged” with a lot of light in a little package, cool enough to hold in hand and gel any which way! And with the native temperature darn close to daylight, it was easy for us to bring out the blue and green patinas in some of the old Java houses. These would have been lost under incandescents.
Down below is a good example, lifted from a “bonus” slideshow at Entra. Yes, there’s a bonus slideshow! The added content at this e-mag is great! Extra photos and video content.. even the ads are cool, linked to take-it-or-leave-it digital brochures.
There’s several more spreads and slides to this story. Go see for yourself at entramagazine.com. It’s a candy store read, with drop-dead gorgeous layouts. I’m tickled to play a part in that, from a property that — they said it best — is “redefining home”.
Shooting the Shrimp House was also the first time I called up room service to order whale ribs! Just a few of the odd treasures strewn about the Bambu Indah estate… Propped against the left wall in the final shot, the big old bones played nice with a wooden paddle and traditional fish trap that accent the room.
And here it is — your exclusive behind-the-scenes look at fish-wrangling. Dian loves all things fish, and was happy to bait them with food and flashlights ’til well past midnight.
By the time we wrapped, it was well past my sweetie’s bedtime.
For more of the inside scoop on Entra magazine — people profiles and a sneak peak at what’s ahead — check the DesigninTell blog at VandM (Vintage and Modern) Design.