It is no secret. Josh and I like a challenge. We like pushing our abilities. We like trying to find the limits of what we can do with our equipment and knowledge. We also like to see how far we can go as a team. We both like shooting cosplay, but what you can shoot often depends on the costume available and how adventurous the person wearing it is. Mika Nicole is a model we’ve been looking for an excuse to shoot with for a while. She had a Chun Li costume available and she also happens to be a kick boxer and stunt woman…
First of all, a confession. I am a huge Street Fighter II fan. I still remember putting a quarter on the sill of the cabinet to get next game. (A close second was Samurai Showdown but that is a story for another time, third place NBA Jam). I was a Ken fighter but Chun Li intrigued me. I could never really get her spinning kicks down but I thought they were the coolest superpower.
Second, now that you know how much of a nerd I am, you can bet I was excited about the proposition of creating a shot with Mika as Chun Li. I wanted a version that spoke to the “street” backgrounds of the light and the speed and movement of her kicks. We purchased blue LED light wrap lights from Amazon to trace the movement of her kicks, but they weren’t very bright. We needed a dark dark room instead of the original idea of a back alley somewhere.
Third, it was fun to play lighting director and not worry about executing the actual mechanics of the shoot. The teamwork and division of labor allowed Andrew and I a chance to make a better image than if we had co-shot or worked solo on this project. Give assisting/light directing a chance sometime to see how you can expand your vision.
Thanks to Mika for making low, medium and high kicks on slow repeat to make this photo happen!
My part in this image was to make it happen on the camera. I’ve been doing more and more in camera multiple exposures trying to see how far I can take “in camera” photography instead of falling back to Affinity to composite an image. My goal was to create, in camera, a single raw file that was a near final image.
Mika started doing single kicks which I photographed as practice & testing. The shutter speed was low and the flash fired at the end (rear curtain) so her foot would show up extended. It took a few tries to get the timing right so the flash would fire and the shutter close just at the right point in the kick.
One of the joys of working with Mika is how consistent she was. Once we established where to kick and at what speed, she was able to repeat the set of kicks, low, medium and high, over and over. That was critical to getting the final shot. I had to start the exposure just as her leg started moving and her movement had to end just as the shutter closed. Using a three frame in camera multiple exposure meant that we had three chances to mess up each image. If any of the three kicks was wrong (due to me missing the timing or Mika changing her kick) the image was ruined.
It took several tries to work out the exact procedure and timing on the individual kicks before we were ready to attempt to make the “real” image. We made a total of 4 images, each usable (there is Mika’s consistency showing through). Each image was the result of three shutter releases. For the first two shutter release (low and medium kicks) we turned the lights off and just captured the blue streak of the kick. For the final high kick shutter release, we turned the lights on and froze her leg extended at the end of the kick. The path of the three kicks is lit in each frame thanks to the LED ropes, but her body, arms and legs only show up in the final frame for the high kick when the flash fired.
The image above was done in camera. Other than a few basic raw adjustments (exposure tweak, curves, dodge/burn, etc), the image is as shot. It was not composited.
He is a self taught experiential learner who is addicted to the possibilities that new (to him) gear open up. He loves to share the things he has worked out. Andrew started with a passion for landscape and night photography and quickly branched out to work in just about every form of photography. He is an ex-software developer with extensive experience in the IT realm.