Saturday, 6 January 2018

Beyond The Frame | Lee Lee The Traveler | GFX50s

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
Spending a couple of weeks documenting the Chinese (Hokkien) Opera troupes during the Nine Emperor Gods festivals in Kuala Lumpur gave me the opportunity to continue my "Red Qi Pao" project which involves photo shoots in atmospheric interiors that are reminiscent of a 1930 Shanghai. This time, I chose to shoot in a studio setting (a first for me).

Along with Stanley Hong, a friend and photographer, we drove from mid town Kuala Lumpur to 512 Studio, Jalan SS 7/26, in Petaling Jaya...a journey that took us about half an hour or so. The studio is owned by Ms Osa Lim, and managed by the ebullient Ms Shay Yap, herself a photographer as well.

The small studio is reasonably well appointed, with 4 or 5 separate areas that are decorated in different styles; such as a dark bar with wine glasses, a red room with old Shanghai posters, another in a Japanese style, etc.

We were to met Lee Lee; a lovely friend who volunteered to model for us. She was already prepared with a 1930-style make up and hair-do, and would pose for me in two types of qi pao; a grayish cotton qi pao and a red silky one, along with a white fur stole.

Lee Lee works in administration, as well as a prolific blogger and what we now call an "influencer" who's involved in fashion and travel.




Lee Lee took her part very seriously, and was amenable to both my and Stanley's directions. We spent about 2 hours at the studio, adjusting the lights and positions. Shay Yap even provided us with an opened bottle of wine and glass as props. For the photograph in this post, the intent was to depict Lee Lee as a 1930 Shanghainese in a train station VIP waiting room, traveling to meet her lover.

Photographing in a controlled setting may seem easier to do than in an uncontrolled one, but I much prefer the flexibility of the latter environment. In contrast to the photo shoot I did in Shanghai's Guilin Park, the one in Studio 
512 felt more restrictive. Not only on account of the more limited space, but also because I am more at ease working with ambient light, and am uncomfortable (and unfamiliar) with studio lights. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with the results of the photo shoot.

Technical details: GFX50s + 63mm. 1/60 Hand Held. f2.8. iso 800. Spot Metering. Date: 2017-10-21 at 15:43:00 (Kuala Lumpur time). Post Processing using Luminar ("Enigmatic Vision" Preset + Adjusting RGB Curves and Orton Effect).


The GFX performed superbly (I also used the X-Pro2), and its 63mm lens was used wide open. In some respects, I wish I had its 45mm lens to give me a slightly wider angle, but taking a few steps backwards while shooting provided me with a similar viewpoint. I am not a tripod user (hence my discomfort in studio settings, nor did I use any reflectors. Stanley provided a small portable LED which was used a few times when we felt it necessary to have some fill light.

After the photo shoot, we all went for a Vietnamese dinner...the best I've had since Hanoi.

PS. If you look closely at the photograph, you'll see 旅游攝影師 (lǚyóu shèyǐng shī) in red under my copyright...it means 'the travel photographer' in Mandarin.