A picture tells a thousand words... and we are here to tell you a few more in our ongoing series 'The Thousand Words' where we dig through the vault of talented photographers at Aperture Tours and get them to open up a little about some of their favourite images.
Ophelia - Drown Scene
Hong Kong, by Ronnie Yeoh
As I am always looking for new challenges since I started shooting fashion and portraits for a living, a close photographer friend, Christophe Ginguene, messaged me one day asking if we could attempt a recreation Hamlet, the William Shakespeare play. He made friends with a female singer
from Japan on Craigslist who wanted to produce a modern version of Hamlet as a music CD. I immediately jumped at the chance. The chance to shoot a medieval style photo with modern techniques.
I spent about four weeks to plan and execute five scenes in two locations. I messaged my Facebook group of Hong Kong professional photographers to ask where I can find a stream or small body of water to photograph the drowning scene of Ophelia. I think these guys do not move around Hong Kong a lot. They suggested bathtubs, swimming pools, the ocean and even a giant monsoon drain. A lot of help those guys were. Anyway, if you remember your Hamlet, Ophelia is a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love. She climbed a tree, the branch snapped, and she fell into the water beneath her and drowned.
I had to re-read Hamlet again to recall the whole story as I could not remember the scenes from the one time I saw it live; the last time I read it was in high school. I imagined some scenes that I thought would go well with the music. After the singer approved them, I set about calling my crew of a Frenchman, Christophe, a German lady, Martina, who’s been living in Hong Kong for two decades and a Swede, Johan, a retired pilot living in Bangkok but was always ready to fly into Hong Kong for any fashion photography assignment that intrigues him.
As per standard practice when shooting outdoor fashion, I went scouting for locations based on the chosen scenes. I discovered a small mountain stream in the hills in Hong Kong that could be used for the drowning scene. I googled for that famous painting by British artist Sir John Everett Millais in 1852. Yes, that’s the scene I would want to recreate, but with my own style.
With the Japanese singer/model and my small team, we went hiking into the hills after a long bus ride. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. No cars were allowed in the reservoir area at the forest reserve. Up in the mountains, the air was fresh and with birds singing and monkeys stealing our breakfast as we ate. Along the route of the two-mile hike, we stopped to shoot two other scenes before we arrived at the stream. That would be the last shot of the day as we were going to have the singer/model totally submerged in the water up to her nose.
Preparation of the scene with lighting and camera took almost an hour. Meanwhile, the singer/ model put on a dress which we bought at a costume store. I have to tell you how much fun it is, but also a lot of work, to prepare for a fashion photo shoot. It is remarkably different than a studio shoot as we have to deal with natural elements continually changing, like sunlight and trees and shrubs getting in the way. Mood boards have to be drawn up depicting the actual dresses and makeup styles in Denmark in the 16th century. Yes, remember that Hamlet was a play about a fictitious Danish Prince in the 1850s. But eventually, we ditched all that as it was going to be a modern style Hamlet story. Oh well!
On Sundays, this forest reserve had many other hikers and families attending picnics or exercising. There were some other photographers there too, shooting their girlfriends without their wives’ knowing. The stream we shot at had a stone bridge overhead. Folks walked past on it and stared at what we were doing down there. I overheard some women saying the singer/model looked like she was dead in the water. Excellent! That’s what we were aiming for. They also said we might be performing some ritual for the dead so they took photos and quickly ran off. The final photo was enhanced in Photoshop to add colourful flowers and water reflections. My crew loved it! They felt that being involved in the whole project was worth the effort of research, prep and execution.
NAME: Ronnie Yeoh
BORN: Penang, Malaysia
CURRENT LOCATION: Hong Kong
PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE: Fashion and Portraits
INFLUENCES: Lindsay Adler, Joe Edelman, Joel Grimes, Von Wong, Sails Chong, Tony Corbell and the many photographers whom I met at these photo tours in Hong Kong. So many stories and adventures they have to tell.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOOT: Any place outdoor, especially against old architecture with worn out walls and fittings.
HIGH POINT: Whenever I am doing a fashion shoot, rain or shine. When I have a camera in my hand, it is always a high point.
LOW POINT: In photography, no low points. I’m always happiest when I’m composing and looking for an angle to shoot from.
TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: None. I’m still learning.