Benjamin Von Wong has never been one to turn down a challenge. He consistently creates mind-blowing images in some of the most desolate of places under extreme conditions. This recent venture for Huawei's new smartphone, the P8, is no exception!
I was first introduced to Von Wong's work a few years back while researching how to photograph fire for a project I was working on. After looking at his portfolio, there was no denying that this guy knew the ins and outs of shooting fire. It's no surprise he jumped at the opportunity to work on this campaign when his agent, Suzy Johnston, presented him with the job. "This is the perfect job, the one that you’ve been waiting for. They want you to create the craziest photograph you possibly can using their upcoming telephone, the Huawei P8 for their global launch campaign," said Johnston, "Oh, and it gets better. They want you to use fire!"
As exciting of an endeavor this campaign was going to be, it presented new challenges that Von Wong had not yet faced. Aside from the fact that he wasn't going to be shooting the campaign with an actual camera, rather a smartphone, he also had to follow three very specific rules: use the phone's light painting feature, the model must be surrounded by fire, and he couldn't use Photoshop.
Could it work? That was the first question I had to answer, and the only way to do that especially on an unreleased phone was to actually do them in person. We invited fire performance team Starlight Alchemy to assist us with some critical tests one cold evening off in Shanghai and prepare for the ultimate test: Was it even possible to capture the fiery images we had in our minds using just a smartphone?
After about an hour of testing using some of the original P8 engineers as stand-in models, and some simple ND filters, I felt confident. Yes, this was going to be possible.
How did it work? Traditionally, smaller sensors can’t take long exposures without introducing an ungodly amount of noise into an image. The P8 found a way around that. To minimize noise, it would capture multiple images over an unlimited amount of time that it would then compare, stack, and blend; all on its own. Basically the same idea as how star trails are made, except without the need of a computer!
Once Von Wong worked out the details and logistics of the shoot, the lighting was then set.
Continuous lighting was used on the pillars. The model was lit by a single Broncolor flash with barn doors.
The final piece of the puzzle was added by Starlight Alchemy to create the beautiful fiery shapes.
I can't imagine the amount of pressure that comes with taking on a task that has never been done before, especially when it is for a client. I asked Von Wong if he felt more pressure when he is working on commissioned work than he does working on personal projects. "I wouldn't necessarily say that there was more pressure on a personal project that a commissioned piece but the pressure is definitely different. Suddenly there are a lot more people to satisfy, a lot more politics involved and a lot more dollars at risk than when you do a personal project," said Von Wong.
I was also curious what his advice would be if someone offered him a job that he wasn't sure he could pull off. Would he take the job and figure it out as he went, or turn it down? In response he said, "I think that part of the job of a professional is to know what your limits are and to be realistic about setting expectations. No one wants to work with someone that’s unable to deliver and consequently I never overpromise. If something is complicated and I cannot guarantee results, I let people know exactly what they can expect and what are the best case scenarios so that we can plan for contingencies!"
Von Wong has this amazing ability of creating beautiful works of art in situations where many people would just throw in the towel. I am always inspired when he releases something new, and I'm greatly honored to be able to share this one with all of you. I hope you are able to be inspired as well!
You can see Von Wong's original post here.
All images used with permission