The Exploding Shoes

By Dave Paek (October 2015 #madewithmagmod contest winner)

Shooting details during a wedding can always be a great challenge as it tests your creative limits while forcing you to incorporate elements of the environment around you. Most often, you don’t have much time to shoot the dress, the shoes, the rings, miscellaneous jewelry, heirlooms, etc with the utmost creativity … at least not without feeling that you’re missing out on a few important moments, that is.

During a late September wedding at the Doral Arrowwood Resort in White Plains, New York, I was scrambling (like I do at every other other wedding) to get some creative dress and shoe shots. After I shot the bride’s dress, I was scouting around the venue looking for interesting places to shoot the bride’s unique blue shoes. I tried many of the typical shoe shots that include hanging them from lamps or sconces and placing them on window sills and reflective surfaces. The “typical” shoe shots weren’t doing it for me. I wanted to do something a little different.  

After trying a few shots that I deemed uninspiring, I spotted a beautiful red textured painting with thick circular brush strokes hanging almost inconspicuously in the hallway.  It almost reminded me of Dante’s Inferno as the gradients of red and rough brush strokes conjured images of flames radiating from its super hot core, which was marked by the brightest shades of red.


I was amped on my first 5 Hour Energy and I was easily excited: a floating shoe shot accentuated by the core of Dante’s Inferno! Great! Now how am I going to light it?  

I had to think of a lighting solution that would maximize the impression of an “explosion” and freeze the action of the shoes, so I ruled out using an LED. I immediately grabbed a MagGrid from my bag and slapped it on my Nikon SB-910, which was mounted on a light stand and triggered by Yongnuo 622N’s. I went with a grid to prevent spill onto the corners of the painting, which would mitigate the explosion effect. I angled the light at a relatively shallow angle to prevent visible background shadows from the shoes. After a few test shots, we were ready to roll (or throw, in this case).


I asked my second shooter, Jide Alakija of Alakija Studios (a superb photographer and good friend), to throw the blue pumps in the air as I was hoping to get a shot of the shoes at the brightest area of the painting.  I asked Jide to kneel as low as possible so that he would not be in the frame. After roughly 30 shots, I managed to get a decent shot of the shoes that appear to be floating in midair (see Image below). I took a few more snaps, and I nearly called it a day with this series of images.


The Human Element Always Adds More Interest

After “chimping” through a few shots through my camera’s LCD screen, I was reasonably pleased and my lazy inner voice whispered, “It’s time to move on. The bride will love these.”  But I glanced at Jide kneeling on the floor with the shoes still in his hands. I had an epiphany (if you can call it that)I reminded myself that a human element almost always adds more interest to an image, even if it’s a detail shot. There was something quite compelling about Jide’s presence in this shot; in essence, it tells a story within a story.  So I took a few more snaps with Jide in the frame tossing the shoes. Sensing that I had captured something special, I now had an image that showed a connection between a human element and the shoes through the expression of Jide’s eyes and hands. The three elements also create a triangular composition. But, I digress.

The MagGrid was a great choice for this shot, in my humble opinion, as I was able to freeze the shoes in the air as well as create a “blast” effect of the texture in the background, which is accentuated by the vignetting caused by the fall off in light. In all, I took approximately 65 frames to get what I consider two usable images (shown above).

All of my post-processing was done in Lightroom and Radlab. I toned this image by increasing vibrance, saturation, and clarity as well as adding a little more red saturation in the HSL slider section. I deepened the blacks and decreased the highlights just a touch. I also increased the exposure in Lightroom just over a stop as I tend to shoot about a stop underexposeda common practice among many of us Nikon shooters.  As a finishing touch, I added a few tweaks in Radlab to give the image slightly more pop.  


Be sure to check out more of Dave Paek’s incredible work on his Website, Facebook, and Instagram.

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