Wine Korea, Part 1 and Part 2

I have the pleasure of working with Joshua Hall, who owns Wine Korea, on a number of projects. One of the things Joshua routinely brings me out to do is shoot famed (sometimes fabled) winemakers from France at Vinestock in Seorae Village in Seoul.

The shooting itself is sometimes challenging, since we do most of it in the cellar. That means myriad reflections, so big light sources (umbrellas, softboxes) become particularly unwieldy and unforgiving. This doubles our trouble when it comes time to shoot the bottles; reflections pop up from a hundred different angles at a thousand temperatures and controlling them becomes a pain. I could light box and infinity sweep the heck out of everything, sure… but where’s the fun of that? Product shooting – and studio work for that matter – on plain white backgrounds is the bane of my existence. So we deal with it and we get creative.

I think.

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First up is Valerie Rousselle-Riboud from Ch. Roubine. Valerie flew in same day and was exhausted by the time it came to shoot. Understandably so; she’d been speaking to Joshua for a few hours. That’d tire anyone out (kidding! Don’t fire me).

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These images of Valerie perfectly illustrate the difficulty we had shooting at Vinestock. The space is fairly small and this is the only place not surrounded by glass on three sides. Didn’t leave us much room to work with; Valerie is quite low to the floor because the wine racks only reach about four feet high.

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I know what I’d do again, given the time to look over these carefully. I’d lower the power of the background light and drop it in from overhead – so it spread evenly and not so nuclear from the top right corner. How? I’d move Valerie out a foot from the rack and put the flash under her chair. Would have solved that pretty quickly.

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These tighter shots are more in tune with what I’d like to see the next time round, though I would come in from an elevated angle – higher and to the right, in this case – to play with the DOF and really accent the wine. I might do it with a wide angle to make the glass pop out, but doing so would have to consider how my lines and Valerie could end up distorted.

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This walkthrough isn’t about second guessing my images – which I do enough of – but about exploring what I could do next time and what I could have done to make the frames better. I love the above image but I like to work through the process. I don’t think there’s ever any reason to stop learning and examining your own work is a great way to do so. But only after the fact. We’re often blinded by the immediacy of our accomplishments. Give your work a few weeks to simmer.

Some points to consider on this particular frame:

- do I like the long highlight from the softbox on the glass? Is it distracting?

- Is there too much DOF here? Not enough?

- Background: too hot again?

 Flash_29788 I’m happy with these bottle shots because they don’t look like ordinary bottle shots. No plain Jane white backgrounds for us! Sure there’s a time and place for that kind of stock imagery… but we’re not working on catalogue stuff here. No sir. Simple, evocative, effective. I don’t know anything about wine, but I know I want to drink it.

Next up: Président du Directoire of Domaine Josmeyer, Christophe Ehrhart.

I started shooting Christophe outside, on the street, to add a little of the French flavour that exists in Sorae to the frames. I think we had some fun, too; shooting outside always helps people get loose, though Christophe is certainly no stranger to being in front of the camera. Can’t imagine how many times a winemaker has his photo taken in a single year.

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I will shoot on location, outdoors, 9 times out of 10 given the chance. Even when the asphalt layers and concrete shredders are knocking on our door. Literally. One ran right over my lightstand. RIP.

The lighting here is simple; key high right, in an umbrella, and a little fill low and from the left in a softbox. I kept this, or went to one light, the entire time we were outside (which was only about 10 minutes). Deadlines!

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Here, there are some things I dig. The pose, the light, the comp. What I’m not big on is the angle. Don’t like the angle at all. The space to the left of the frame is awkward and everything is tilted since I’m about three feet below and don’t have the lens level with Christophe. Got away from this after a couple test frames. 

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Happier with this one. Windows open or closed? Black hole or… black hole blockade? Choices, man! The choices. At least all the lines are straight and the light, though a little too hot for my taste in the upper right corner, is smooth.

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And into the cellar. Reflection city, right here. Yes, gobos and grid spots and snoots would have easily solved the problem, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to solve it (under the gun, don’t you know!); what I’d really like to do in here is use some coloured gels from inside the cellar to the left (the same way I lit the manager at Bodega, for anyone that remembers) and deal with the reflections and the cast that way. And that’s just what I plan on doing the next go round. For these, though, I wanted to keep things clean and simple (meaning I didn’t want a dozen different styles from the same shoot for the winekorea.asia blog). 

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This is exactly why I didn’t want to get too wild with the lighting; I knew I’d be moving around and keeping things consistent would be a huge pain. Not that that’s really a big concern, but every once in a while it’s nice to come away with a set that has a little fluidity. I think we accomplished that with our simple one-light-high-and-tight portraits of Christophe.  

But the notice on the door?

Yeah… I should have seen that.

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We ended the shoot as we usually do, working with the labels in the cellar. I like our take on these – simple and classic with a little contemporary appeal. You can see just a little flash reflection in the second image, though I think it helps define the bottles against one another. Any higher and I would be showing all the big highlights from the cellar itself.

That’s it from our first couple sessions out at Vinestock. Stay tuned for more… reflections.

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