Sometimes it’s the happy accidents that lead you to the shot. Nyla and I were exploring the beaches of Princeville when I noticed dramatic clouds moving in over Kauai’s Bali Hai peaks. I didn’t have a good vantage point from which to shoot, so we followed the shoreline in hope of scooting around a small forest of trees that were blocking the view.
That’s when we ran into this magnificent banyan tree growing right there on the sandy shore. The tree was enormous with long limbs and equally long exposed root system. (The only other giant banyan on Kauai, that I know about, is locked up in the Allerton botanical garden, where they don’t allow tripods.) Needless to say, we stopped and took a bunch of photos.
That evening we looked at the shots and both loved how the late afternoon light was shining through the branches and leaves. The next day, we decided to go back to see if we could make a photo that captured the enormity and power of the tree by showing the roots cradling Nyla.
I knew that the tree would be in heavy shade, so I setup two strobes (both Elinchrom Ranger Quadras) to light the scene. The first strobe was far off to camera right shooting into a Paul Buff 64″ PLM. The PLM is a giant umbrella with a diffusion cloth that produces a nice, wide, even fill light which I used to light most of the tree.
The second strobe was used to avoid Nyla getting lost in the intricate details of the tree’s bark. It was placed high to camera left and fitted with a 30 degree grid so that it only added more contrast to the area she was curled into. We also brought along some bright flowers to call more attention to the foreground. You can see the lighting setup in this shot snapped from my iPhone.
The keys to this shot were the broad fill light (without it the detail in the tree would have been flat, dark and muddy) and my incredible model who managed to hold her poses even while the mosquitos and ants were biting her.