Fantasy

Romania (Transylvania and Salina Turda) by Kenneth Kao

Last November, Marlo and I headed to Romania for photo shoots in Transylvania (yes, it’s a real place!) and Salina Turda.  It was a whirlwind of a trip and was after we’d already been on the road for about two months; it was our ninth country out of twelve.  We’d been planning Romania for a long time.  Between the castles, the forests, and the salt mine, there was just so much that screamed – EPIC photo shoot!  In a little more than 30 hours, we were able to get 5 photoshoots completed in 4 locations, with about 6 hours of driving and 2 hours of sleep before a red-eye flight.  The shots we got turned into this beautiful contrast of the romanticism of an abandoned castle against the sci-fi likeness of the salt mine-turned-museum of Salina Turda.

We were incredibly lucky to get these shots, for many reasons.

Briefly: Romania is as iconic as it gets when you think about the Middle Ages/Romantic Period/ Victorian Period.  Sure, everyone knows Dracula, and most people know that Vlad the Impaler was the inspiration for Dracula--but as much as this is the case, we were surprised that Romania didn't play this up for tourists.  There weren't Dracula-inspired souvenirs everywhere.  In fact, they seemed far more concerned about living their own lives than dealing with tourists.  This was something we appreciated.  Romania has an authenticity to it that makes everything so much COOLER.  Even their castles aren't really suped-up (oh, and a sidenote: Romania has some really great food.  Hardy food.  Yum.  I mention this here because I said, "suped-up".  Get it?), as many countries do with their palaces and "historic" places.  To me, what's the point of seeing an ancient location if it's turned into a laser light-show choreographed to music?  Takes all the awe out of it, if you ask me.

Castle Hunting in Transylvania

 Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler

We had been trying to find good locations to shoot, and it was already 3 days into our trip with nothing to show.  I was starting to panic (Marlo's always chill), and I was feeling the pressure of finding a location that not only was close and accessible, but something that Marlo could interact with.  See, we look for several things when we shoot, but interactivity is a huge piece. I mean, what's the point of shooting in a location if you don't interact with it?  You might as well print out a nice backdrop and stand in front of it.

This desire almost cut out all the castles we thought would have worked.  There are actually 3-6ish castles that claim title to the "Dracula's castle" ranging from places that Vlad was captured, to places that he used as a fortresses during various stages of his rule.  Regardless, well worth seeing any of them.  Read up on him.  It's surreal that someone like that ever existed.  I mean, dining on people's organs right after you impaled them, while they watch you?  Nasty dude.

 Pelisor Castle in Sinaia, Romania, is privately owned and absolutely iconic to the fairytale castle look.  Just a gorgeous place.  But doing a photoshoot isn't possible here as security is quite attentive, though nice.

Pelisor Castle in Sinaia, Romania, is privately owned and absolutely iconic to the fairytale castle look.  Just a gorgeous place.  But doing a photoshoot isn't possible here as security is quite attentive, though nice.

Anyway, the problem with shooting with a castle is that it's hard to capture the entirety of it because it just looks like a wall if you stand too close, and it's impossible to interact with it if you're far.  If you're inside it, it's difficult to get special permission, and...that pretty much takes all the options away.  So, a little disheartened that we didn’t get those shots we wanted with Marlo and her castle, we moved on to our next big location, the one that this entire Romania trip was planned around.

Salina Turda

Salina Turda is a salt mine that continuously provided salt in the Middle Ages and has been since converted into an...amusement park?  WTF?  And there was a LAKE inside this massive cave thing?

Incredible.  

It's been picked up by so much media, lately, because of how unique it is.  It looks like some sort of sci-fi dreamland.  We had called ahead, and confirmed that it was okay to do photoshoots inside.  They charged something around 50-75 dollars, US.  WOW.  I've never seen a place charge so little for a permit to shoot.  And all you had to do was show up.  It was incredibly reasonable, and it wasn't until Corvin's Castle the next day that I realized that all of Romania has reasonable permit costs for photoshoots.  Unbelievable.  I'm used to seeing $600 dollar price tags that basically make it impossible for me to shoot in a location--cause guess what?  I'm not making money off my shoots.  We do it for fun, and adventure.

This was our last day-ish to get the shots we'd dreamt of.

Somehow, we managed to choose the day we were there on a national holiday.  A big one.  The place was PACKED.  When we got there, we were so disappointed and discouraged.  All this traveling and planning, and we couldn't get a clean shot, anywhere.  And, the location was closing very soon--a couple hours to spare.  I was determined not to lose out on such a crazy location, though, so I ran all the way back to the entrance, up flights and flights of stairs, and tunnels and lines, etc., and found an employee to talk to.  It took like 30 minutes just to get back to the entrance.  The employee's name was Daniel Popa, and to him I owe a huge debt.  Basically, I was told by him that the park was what it was.  There was no way to stay after hours, and of course we couldn't block crowds.  Our permit didn't allow for anything more than whatever was available--and off limit areas are off limits, just as blocking people and paths isn't an option (not that we would consider that).

It's never comfortable shooting in front of people watching, either, especially if the costume Marlo is wearing isn't covering everything--and children and families are walking around.

I kept asking him about ideas--in particular about one location that was, well, off limits.  Why was it off limits?  Because stuff (rocks?  Water?) could fall from the ceiling.  COULD.  Even if unlikely, no one was allowed back there.  I asked him to make an exception, but he refused because he didn't have any right to allow it.  And we couldn't stay after hours; they couldn't hold up the entire park just for us.  It all made sense, but we had come to Romania specifically for this location.  It was so disappointing, and in large part due to the fact that we chose the worst day possible to arrive.

So he gave in to my begging, in order to call the manager/owner, who wasn't around at the time.  After much discussion, Daniel came back to me with a smile, and told me that he could lead me to the off limits area as a personal guide!  That was all he could do, though, and we only had 1 hour total left.  ...it'd taken me 30 minutes to just get upstairs...

I was elated.  But with only 1 hour left.  And with the lines...

 #notme, but you get the idea.

#notme, but you get the idea.

Dan skipped us ahead of people.  Special employee privilege, and not only did he do that, he acted as a tour guide--giving us plenty of information to the history and what we were looking at as we made our way down.  He got us behind the off-limits area, and we, I'm so proud to say--got the shots!  Two locations, inside this ancient salt mine converted to amusement park.  We had about 15 minutes to actually shoot in each location, so I worked faster than I ever have--maybe. 

BUT CHECK THESE OUT!

 This is one of my favorite shots of all time.  It was done in a rush, but we managed to pull it off.  I wish I could've captured the water all around us, something like a cenote underground, but it was impossible to frame.  This is the shot we planned and dreamed of, and I'm thrilled that Salina Turda was able to work with us and help us achieve this dream.  To learn more, read the blog!

This is one of my favorite shots of all time.  It was done in a rush, but we managed to pull it off.  I wish I could've captured the water all around us, something like a cenote underground, but it was impossible to frame.  This is the shot we planned and dreamed of, and I'm thrilled that Salina Turda was able to work with us and help us achieve this dream.  To learn more, read the blog!

 So, I have mixed feelings about this one.  It was even more rushed, and as a result, I don't think we got "THE" shot we were looking for.  We tend towards active and interactive shots, rather than stand-and-look-pretty shots.  We try to show "proof" that we were on location.  But in this case, with the park closing, there wasn't much more time than to set up and take a couple shots, and break down.  I think this one still lends a curious steampunk energy, though--and I definitely want to use this outfit again for another more intense steampunk look.

So, I have mixed feelings about this one.  It was even more rushed, and as a result, I don't think we got "THE" shot we were looking for.  We tend towards active and interactive shots, rather than stand-and-look-pretty shots.  We try to show "proof" that we were on location.  But in this case, with the park closing, there wasn't much more time than to set up and take a couple shots, and break down.  I think this one still lends a curious steampunk energy, though--and I definitely want to use this outfit again for another more intense steampunk look.

Here's the Behind the Scenes Video:

Now, in order to not make this blog too long--the slideshows will have the incidentals, and I'll be brief about the other three locations we shot at.

The Abandoned Mansion of our Dreams

The next morning, we were planning on going to the "most haunted forest in the world."  This was supposed to be the forest with the most documented paranormal activity in the world.  As we were driving toward it, there were definitely a large number of frightening dogs (everywhere, and super aggressive dogs!), but we actually...never found it.  If that counts for paranormal--a large forest we never found, then maybe it really is paranormal :).  Jokes aside, we did run across an abandoned train--which was really cool.  We did a brief photoshoot there, but we weren't really prepared, so I'm not terribly happy with the shots.  Check out the "keeper" shot:

 I have mixed feelings about this shot as well.  The framing isn't quite right, but the natural light is just so beautiful.  I feel like the body angles and the pose in the lower extremities don't really show the same energy as the upper torso--but all that being said, I still really like this one.  Despite any technical issues, it still carries the weight of the environment.  Marlo's post describes this location more--this abandoned train that we found instead of the most haunted forest in the world, so follow her for more info, or read the blog.

I have mixed feelings about this shot as well.  The framing isn't quite right, but the natural light is just so beautiful.  I feel like the body angles and the pose in the lower extremities don't really show the same energy as the upper torso--but all that being said, I still really like this one.  Despite any technical issues, it still carries the weight of the environment.  Marlo's post describes this location more--this abandoned train that we found instead of the most haunted forest in the world, so follow her for more info, or read the blog.

The next location was completely random.  We were driving, and Marlo grabbed me (or verbally jumped.  I don't remember the details to how she got my attention), and she made us turn around to look at this incredible house.  Romania has THE most incredible roofs.  Houses and buildings everywhere look like wizard houses.  I love the architecture so much.  It's definitely one of the most attractive places to me, and I really wish I could live in some of these houses for at least part of each year.  Anyway, this house didn't fit at all.  It was this exquisite mansion that looked straight out of India.  We pulled over, and talked to some neighbors, to which they responded in disdainful tones, "It's a gypsy house.  You can buy it for ______".  I get the impression "gypsies" aren't really seen in a positive light.  But for lack of better term, we'll continue calling it a gypsy home, even though I'm aware it might be an insulting term depending on who you're talking to.

Well, the gypsy home was completely abandoned, and incredibly gorgeous.  There was a single wire holding the door shut--so we let ourselves in.  It was the stuff of dreams, for a photographer.  Sure, there was bird poop everywhere, and leaking roofs and stray cats, but all in all, still extremely beautiful with the peeling paint and the ornate everything.  I loved it.  I wish to go back.  Well, we ended up doing a full on shoot, there, even though we didn't have the costumes for it.  Check out the images here:

 I am ridiculously proud of this shot.  The technical pieces to this, on the photography side, make me so happy.  There are two artificial light sources, and two/three natural light sources.  Both artificial lights are to the right of the image.  They are shot through two different windows.  Behind her is a very soft light, shot through a cloudy window, and the light in front of her is a blue and red gel stacked together, shot through the same kind of window...maybe the red was actually an orangish gel (I can't exactly remember).  Anyway, not only was the light softened significantly, but it has a natural look even though the color of the stacked gels ends up making the light look purple.  The shadows of the window's frame adds an authenticity to this image, and the mixed natural light...I am just over the top with this.  Marlo isn't the most thrilled about the pose--but *I* love it.  I think it fits perfectly.  On the BTS side, you'll have to read the blog to get more info, but we weren't prepare to find this place or shoot here.  It was dumb luck, and Marlo's outfit?  Basically a piece of fabric with jewelry.  But it works, doesn't it?

I am ridiculously proud of this shot.  The technical pieces to this, on the photography side, make me so happy.  There are two artificial light sources, and two/three natural light sources.  Both artificial lights are to the right of the image.  They are shot through two different windows.  Behind her is a very soft light, shot through a cloudy window, and the light in front of her is a blue and red gel stacked together, shot through the same kind of window...maybe the red was actually an orangish gel (I can't exactly remember).  Anyway, not only was the light softened significantly, but it has a natural look even though the color of the stacked gels ends up making the light look purple.  The shadows of the window's frame adds an authenticity to this image, and the mixed natural light...I am just over the top with this.  Marlo isn't the most thrilled about the pose--but *I* love it.  I think it fits perfectly.  On the BTS side, you'll have to read the blog to get more info, but we weren't prepare to find this place or shoot here.  It was dumb luck, and Marlo's outfit?  Basically a piece of fabric with jewelry.  But it works, doesn't it?

And the 360° video here:

Our last location was Corvin's Castle.  We had to get there before sunset, and since we'd burned several hours at this gypsy home, we had to skip lunch and drive straight to it.  We, unfortunately, often miss the tourism part of visiting locations because we're always rushed for time, but we decided to at least walk through the castle and take a look around.  

Now, it was almost sunset, and they would light the castle up after sundown.  So once again, we were rushed to get our shot.  We don't like the artificial lighting, often, and sunset in general is a great time to shoot.  This was one of those locations that couldn't care less if you took pictures outside, so we did!  People were staring and pointing, of course, but in this case there wasn't much other option.  The whole action/interaction piece, plus the character of the image was a tough one to balance.  Marlo loves to be active and move for pictures, but this location and her costume definitely said more of a "princess" or "sorceress" look.  We have a lot of great shots here, but here's the one we ended up with (I DID replace the sky, for drama.  So don't be surprised.):

 Once again, a shot that I'm ridiculously proud of.  It's not generally what we want--active, interactive rather than standing-in-front-of-something, but at the same time it was so fitting.  We walked out with so many great shots that we didn't know how to choose, but ultimately this is the one it came down to.  The image was shot on the 15mm Laowa, macro lens.  I know, this isn't macro, but it was the only lens I owned wide enough to capture this scene in its entirety.  As a result, there is a softness to this image, as I'm using it against design, but sharpness isn't everything and I actually like what happened to the image, like I used some special texture to it.  I also caught, in this shot, a small lens flare right over Marlo's right hand, which we played with a bit and I felt it added to the fantasy/sorceress look we were striving for.  If I get enough encouragement, maybe I'll finish some of the other shots we loved, and share those.  What do you think?  Read the blog to see the cinemagraph and more information about Corvin's Castle, which is in the background, and is one of Dracula's castles.

Once again, a shot that I'm ridiculously proud of.  It's not generally what we want--active, interactive rather than standing-in-front-of-something, but at the same time it was so fitting.  We walked out with so many great shots that we didn't know how to choose, but ultimately this is the one it came down to.  The image was shot on the 15mm Laowa, macro lens.  I know, this isn't macro, but it was the only lens I owned wide enough to capture this scene in its entirety.  As a result, there is a softness to this image, as I'm using it against design, but sharpness isn't everything and I actually like what happened to the image, like I used some special texture to it.  I also caught, in this shot, a small lens flare right over Marlo's right hand, which we played with a bit and I felt it added to the fantasy/sorceress look we were striving for.  If I get enough encouragement, maybe I'll finish some of the other shots we loved, and share those.  What do you think?  Read the blog to see the cinemagraph and more information about Corvin's Castle, which is in the background, and is one of Dracula's castles.

I also made a fun cinemagraph of the shoot.  It rained right as we were packing up after sunset (and right before we started shooting, actually), so once again, incredibly lucky.

Then we had dinner, drove for another 3-5 hours, and got in bed--woke up 2 hours later, and flew to Israel

My final thoughts on Romania? Aside from crazy dogs who harass you and bite you, and the terrible weather, Romania was pretty cool.  Everywhere I looked, I saw evidence of traditional living.  Men riding with pigs on a horse-drawn carriage.  Lots of potatoes.  That kind of stuff.  We didn’t see much of Bucharest but again, that wasn’t our plan.



If you have been enjoying my blogs, please share them!  I want nothing more than to be able to continue to travel and create more of these experiences and photos -- photos that are incredible, dramatic, and uninhibited art. But, these trips add up. I want locations, access, and creativity, without the stress.  If you're interested in partnering with me in this, let me know.  Over-the-top and 100% unique art, with an incredible adventure and experience, is the goal.

Jordan and Israel: The Dead Sea (Part I) 360 Immersive Experience! by Kenneth Kao

Marlo at the Dead Sea, Jordan

If you're only interested in the photoshoot, and the BTS of the photoshoot scroll down...but you'll be missing out. I've compiled unique video, audio, text, and 360 degree immersions of our journey to capture the image above.  It began in Israel...

Israel:

We were under the impression that the Dead Sea, coming from Jerusalem, was only thirty or so minutes by bus.  Technically, it is--but it's more like a couple hours before the bus stops.  After much confusion, and a hyper-aggressive bus driver, we finally made it to the town of Ein Gedi, but with only about one hour before sunset.   It was quite cold when we got there, so there was virtually no one else on the beach.

We'd thought, based on pictures we'd seen, that it would be so-so visually. Maybe we'd do a mud spa.  Be normal tourists. But whoa...the view, the colors, and the landscape are all breathtaking.  Once we got there, seeing sunset--we really did wish we brought some costumes and proper photo gear.  

It's so pretty, in fact, that you don't really mind being stabbed by jagged salt crystals as you walk into the water.  Other people had shoes on--we didn't get the memo.  You better not have any open wounds, either (salt, wounds, ow).  We can see why the Dead Sea claims such healing properties, though; we were baby-smooth for days after.  Plus, floating is fun. Your buoyancy makes you feel like a sea otter.   

The Dead Sea, besides being very salty, is also quite oily.  Because of that, colors across the surface of the water are unbelievable.  You think it's hyper-manipulated/saturated.  Except it's your eyeballs you're looking through and it's all real.  Surreal.

We did a quick impromptu photoshoot and swore that we'd come back and spend proper time.  Also, be warned that the water, if it gets on anything at all, never dries.  The oil-salt-water defies any reasonable expectations in drying time.  I hung up the pants I'd gotten wet for a week, and it remained soaking until I finally hand-washed/dried it.  I hope my gear will forgive the abuse.

Here are a few of the impromptu shots we got.

And some fun video with behind the scenes:

Jordan:


It's difficult to get to Petra from Israel without help. 

You need a visa, and the rules keep changing about how or when to get it.  Anything online seemed unofficial.  But we were under the impression that you just show up and if you're American, you can get one.  Turns out there are specifics to this. This was one of our last stops of a 2.5 month long tour; we hadn't had a chance to research it or follow up.  That was a mistake.

I won't get into the complexities too much, but we had to fly from Jerusalem through a tiny airport to Eilat.  The tiny airport seemed to have no foreigners at all -- so we went through an extensive searching and questioning process due to the fact that we were going to visit Dubai later on our trip.  They literally examined our scalps hair by hair and went through my photos, my patient emails (for proof that I was a doctor), my phone, questioned us separately (three times), and handled everything in our luggage.  Thanks to them, we also had a huge detergent explosion in our luggage.  We walked in with three bags, and were sent off with 6 because they couldn't repack in time.

I get it.  Security.  Middle East.  Tension.  I'm not complaining.  They were nice about it all, even if they didn't handle my photography gear in ways I felt good about, but it certainly could've been much worse.

This was all before we'd even crossed the Israeli-Jordan border.  We were not looking forward to the next step.

An amazing tour company rescued us.  The Israel side of this company was Desert Eco Tours.  They picked us up from the airport, and arranged everything for us to get through the security.  We were taken care of and felt safe through the entire process.  Of course, they tried to sell us a tour--and we're glad they did.  We purchased a package from them on the spot because of the reality-check on how difficult things could be.  Definitely the most complex travel situation we've ever had.  The tour wasn't cheap, but taking the tension off of not knowing or being scammed by the taxis, etc. etc., was a huge deal.  Once across, we were handed off to Why Jordan Tours company--the company that actually managed our tour.  Now, I think the price was fair given all that we asked for, and given all they did for us (and the fact that two companies were involved).


Getting pictures of security areas in both Israel and Jordan is kinda a big no-no here.  So this is really all I got of this area:


Oh, and this (you walk 5-10 minutes from one end of the border to the other.  We have way too much gear and costumes, so thankfully there were some (squeaky) carts):

To learn more about the head coverings, listen here:

The quality of our tour guides varied (keep watch for a second blog post on Jordan coming soon, with a full review of the tour company), but we had a unique experience and we are 100% pleased with them. More on Petra as well in the next blog post.

Skipping ahead to our last day in Jordan--we were en route to the Dead Sea (yay, photoshoot).

We ended up with a tour guide that I swear knows all of Jordan inside and out.  He never once looked at a map, and he seemed to know each trail and canyon of everything we passed.  He knew the time and effort each path would take...on foot.  He was ex-military, and super intelligent.  He grew up there, a Bedouin, living in Petra.  This man seemed to know everything there was to know about his country, history-culture-landscape, and he spoke english very well; we finally felt like we were grasping the basics of the culture.  Ali Helalat, with Why Jordan Tours, you MADE our tour.  

BTW, we happened to be doing this trip on Muhammad's Birthday--if you want to learn more about it, you can listen here:

PHOTOSHOOT:


When Ali heard what we wanted--an epic shoot with no tourists, he knew exactly where to go.  We didn't have much time, so we rushed to the location.  We passed numerous security points, and I think his ex-military status made the whole process much easier. 

We ended up on the edge of a cliff.  I know for a fact that I would've never been able to find this place without Ali's help.  He must have explored (walked) the entire coast countless times.

We had only a little time before sunset.  It was illegal to be there after sunset. In fact, the military with their massive machine gun jeeps made us leave right as we were packing up.  But we got our shots in one of the most majestic places we've ever been.  I guess epic locations call for epic endings.

Here are the finished images:

And PLEASE check out the 360 video of the experience.  This is my favorite 360 video yet because you get to share the experience of discovering a new place.  Look around and listen to the audio.  I gotta say, I LOVE Ali's voice.  He sounds so...grandiosely heroic.

Unfortunately, the Dead Sea has been retreating for several years, for a variety of reasons.  Listen here for more info:

Other Content:

Here are some other images and info we got that day:

Now for a fun one:  The largest cistern in the area has a creepy story.  You can listen to it here in the 360 Video:

And here's the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George -- it's got an ancient mosaic map that's pretty interesting.  I recommend listening to the audio at the same time for this one, as you look around:

I've also included some audio recordings of him explaining some fun things.  Hidden treasure stories, religion, culture, history.  If you're into that, enjoy these raw audio files.

The Future:

We will definitely be working with Ali again.  I am excited to arrange a photoshoot with many of the locations he mentioned to us.  I trust that he knows the land better than anyone, and he knows exactly what I'd want as a photographer.  I would shoot at that same location a hundred times, so I can only imagine what else is available.  If you're interested in doing this with us, let me know.  We can only manage 3...maaaybe 4 models total.

On the safety side: it is pretty safe there.  Tourism has plummeted due to fears, but Jordan itself is safer than people think.  Their economy really needs the support of tourists.  Full disclosure--about 4 days after we left, for the first time in 10 years, there was a terrorist attack at a popular tourist castle, the Karak Castle.  We almost visited it, but we chose not to go because we had to get to the Dead Sea by sunset.  I'm against people letting terrorists control them with fear, but it would be irresponsible for me to say that nothing can happen.  But this is the case with any country you go to, including your home.  Clearly, by the military presence alone, you can tell the state of alert.  The good news is that if you want to do a photoshoot with me, in Jordan, we won't be going to the popular tourist spots. 

Hope you enjoyed this journey with us!  L  It'll be Petra photoshoot, Bedouins, and some additional impromptu shots in Wadi Musa!  Here's a preview image, and support this page if you want to see more content!

Bay of Fires, Tasmania by Kenneth Kao

Ah, this image. THIS image...

Taken in Tasmania, near the Bay of Fires. This was our second attempt.

See, the first attempt, I was shooting a model on tripod for the first time, during sunset, and I, um...forgot to focus the camera. I walked away from it that thinking I'd gotten the best images of my life--they were so good...but they weren't in focus!

So, on the drive back, I had to break it to Marlo, that she had posed for 4 hours straight, freezing her butt off, for me to screw up big time. I still can't understand how I did that, except that I'd test shot with the background in mind, and forgot to adjust it later.

She said it sucked, but we should go back the next morning and get it right. She didn't give me a hard time at all. Instead, she said we'd spent the time to get there, the money on hotels and flight, after all, so what was another 4 hours of work?

So, we woke up before dawn, about 3 hours later, and drove an hour to get back to the location, set up...

And my ND filter fell off. Into the freezing water. I freedove into the water, maybe 12 feet deep, after making sure my precariously balanced equipment, camera, lights, etc, were all stable (because obviously I was failing at that), and I managed to retrieve it. When I came out, dripping and even more cold than ever before...I went to dry the ND filter.

Except... It's a variable ND, so it has two glass plates. I couldn't get the water out from between the plates. There's no way to take them apart.

I did the best I could. I really wanted the long exposure, and I'd set up to shoot it, so damn it I'd do it anyway. We took some other images though.

Anyway Marlo had to stay perfectly still so that we'd get the water to blur like this and appear smooth as silk. Trust me though, she was as cold as I was, maybe colder, laying on the rock and trying not to shiver.

Afterwards, this became the winning shot. Sure there were water dropplets all over it. Sure, I tried to correct it, the best I could in post production. But I guess what I'm saying is...

Sometimes, things go terribly wrong, but you still only need to walk out with just one great image.

(Ask me, and I might release the out of focus shots, with a disclaimer, so you can see how epic they were...minus the focus issue)

20mm, ISO 31, F/14, 10s

(If I had to do it again, I'd choose a non-variable ND filter and a lower F stop to make the image sharper, and most importantly, I would have raised the tripod so that there would be a greater separation between the model and the background)

Lessons be learned.

#youngphotographer

To book a photoshoot, fill out this form:
http://goo.gl/forms/lydlpc6eRx

Earth Day by Kenneth Kao

Happy Earth Day!

This was taken during "sunset" in the Fjords of Norway. To the right of the image are sheep that look like goats, and perfectly serene farms. We had to hike up a small, but slippery mountain, and hop a little fence that the locals assured us was fine to do. The grass was incredibly soft, and it felt like you were stepping on mattresses. We barely beat a pretty good rain.

This was something around 10pm, btw. Truly a magical place.

Image is HDR, obviously, but I felt like it worked for the image. Natural light. Handheld.

28mm, ISO 250, F/4, 1/60s

To book a photoshoot, fill out this form:
http://goo.gl/forms/lydlpc6eRx

Dani in Wonderland... by Kenneth Kao

Today's photo of the day is perhaps my favorite photo of all time. Not because the technique or lighting was the best, but because I love character, and storytelling. This location we found, and the way Danielle Romano expressed the dreamlike sensations of being lost, and finding light--it shook me to the core.

I love images that are beautiful and magical. I love when people ask me, "What planet is this from? Is this real?" But I want even more from my images. I want the model to inspire just as many questions from the viewer, "What is she feeling? What does this image mean? What's the history of the model?" The perfect balance between the two, where the location and the model both begs for answers, is to me the most powerful of images.

I hope to create many more like this in the future.

ISO 125, 1/40th, 20mm, f2.8