A professional photographer's challenge, whilst on location in Vienna.
The Imperial hotel in Vienna is one of the most elegant hotel establishments in the world with a rich history of Kings, Queens and distinguished guests ascending and descending its magnificent staircase whilst residing at the Imperial.
The Imperial hotel commissioned Michelle Chaplow to carry out a particularly challenging image. An interior shot of Suite 104 with the butler cleaning the chandelier using a simple spray of pure spring water from the Austrian mountains. The Imperial Hotel wave their eco-friendly flag with great pride, but apparently no other photographer to date had been able to “significantly” capture the spray “nor the beautiful reflections of the chandelier”.
Notes from Michelle
Location Imperial Hotel Vienna, Austria.
Crew Art director, photographer, assistant and model.
The model, Mr. Lujic, was a porter from the Imperial.
Brief An interior shot taken in Suite 104 of the butler cleaning the chandelier with pure spring water from the Austrian mountains. The spray must be visible, the butler visibly enjoying his work and catch lights on the solid crystal of the chandelier.
Room 104 is a beautiful suite, full of antique furniture, oil paintings and of course, solid crystal chandeliers. Apparently the King and Queen of Jordan had just checked out of the hotel.
So here was my challenge………
The brief was given to me 10 minutes before the shoot.
The room only had the last glimpses of natural daylight, which was slowly fading at 5:00 p.m. on an April day. To reach the chandelier, we needed a stepladder, which was supplied immediately by the hotel.
Due to the light levels, I needed a tripod for the slow shutter speed. The highest level of my Manfrotto tripod fully extended is approximately two meters. The possibility of placing the tripod on a second stepladder was out of the question due to potential camera shake.
The ceiling must have been over five meters high the chandelier at four meters, the Butler at three meters and myself at two meters.
I didn’t really want to up the IS0 of the film more than 400 as it gives a grainy affect, which wouldn’t enhance this press shot, so I would need to light it.
The Butler didn’t speak a word of English and I don’t speak more than six words of German. He would have to keep as still as possible on the ladder, but he also had to coordinate the time of the spray, in synchronisation with my shutter speed.
My assistant set up the lighting and we agreed that the best way forward was to shoot the images directly onto my Mac laptop using Camera control pro.
First of all we placed the butler on a ladder with a white wall behind, which didn’t work, as it was too hard to distinguish the spray from the wall. Therefore, a new position had to be arranged for the team and the lighting.
From our new location we had Baroque style red wallpaper behind the model, which would be perfect to enhance the spray. Also on the wall behind the butler hung a 17th century masterpiece by an unknown court painter entitled “Dame mit Hund ” (lady with dog), which would add an interesting element to the background.
Shooting directly to the laptop allowed me to view the images as I worked.
We lit the room with one Bowen’s head with a white umbrella on half power reflecting towards the butler and the chandelier and the second head on full power shooting straight up to the roof, to add a little more natural light - the chandeliers can create all kinds of weird and wonderful shadows if not controlled.
Lighting adjusted and re adjusted until the image began to work, now all we had to do was time to capture a relaxed expression and synchronise the spray.
2 hours and 65 images later, we had it in the bag!
Shot using a Nikon D200 400 ISO
Focal length 57mm shutter speed 1/20 at 4.2 and the face is pin sharp at 100%
Published image, Imperial Vienna turns green.
The final image used for the press release.
Close up of the spray and the crystal.
The Antique chairs came in very handy.