A Chinese New Year In the Desert

We've featured the work of David Nguyen in the past and this time he has taken his whole production to new level. In his most recent photoshoot, Whispers in the Wind, David takes his creative team out to a desert and creates some really inspiring composite beauty images. The theme is sort of a Chinese New Year, and David has included wild elephants, tigers, rabbits, and birds into the final shots. I love it when artists take a concept to the max and really push their own creative aspirations. If you have not checked out David's portfolio, you are really missing out. Now if only we could get some BTS on how he made these composites!

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Lee Morris's picture

Fantastic work! I really want my work to start going in the direction of large concepts.

Si's picture

I'm always interested in how the lighting team is removed from the final composition of fashion editorials.. Would a sequence of empty landscape photographs be taken to help post production? Surely they don't just clone in empty areas right?

jt's picture

i don't see the point in 15 people traveling five hours to make a photo that looks like a composite. Why not take two people, shot the backgrounds, then shot the model in the studio, since the final image looks like that anyway.

David Nguyen's picture

Thank you Lee.. this was a great personal project of mine and I am glad more photographers interested in this medium. Merging the two worlds together was really my thought. I encourage you to start shooting more of your concepts and hopefully see some BTS videos!

SI~ Like most things, there are 100's of ways to approach the shot.. Most of the time, I will position on tripod in a marked measured spot and height. Shoot the model and on either the last or first shot, remove the gear and team and shoot a wide shot of the background landscape. this allows the retoucher to come back and fill in where we had gear or crew. Sometimes I will take this blank shot as the first shot depending on situation. Ie.. tire tracks,foot prints.. etc.. again so many ways to do this, this is how I learned the process from a friend.

Jt.. Yes, I agree that we could have taken far less effort to produce the images in studio and post. Photography itself is a huge adventure for me. Sometimes it is not the end result of an image, but the adventure in creating the images. For half the team, it was their first time camping. I wanted to share with them through this short journey, how amazing the outdoors can be. Personally, I wanted to see how we can merge the two mediums together and shoot images with a surreal feel. At the end of the day, it boils down to the experiences we had shooting this shoot. I think many of us discovered a new experience in the amazing world of photography! Would love to hear your thought on composites and techniques of lighting them. It's a new direction for me and eager to hear from veterans.

jt's picture

hey david, thanks for the reply.

Sounds like you planned this as part adventure, part team building exercise, which is great idea. Many photographers (including me) couldn't that afford the costs, especially if not apparent in the finished article. But forming a strong team is really important, you sounds like a great photographer to work for David.

This next paragraph my own subjective views. Having some elements, elephants and such, added in post is going to give the game away a little. However, I feel a stronger reason these images looks staged is due to the strong colour adjustments, it gives it a very CGI feel, making the viewing eye suspicious of whats real before even studying the detail.

Unfortunately I'm not a veteran on composite techniques and lighting, more of a noob really. I'm planning out larger concepts on my own work much of which will be composite job. Not saying you haven't done this but, I will approach it in the same way a good cinematographer might, having explained light sources, so the end result is lit but doesn't look lit. I hope to make a video so the shoot, so hopefully you will let me know if you think it worked, as I'd value your opinion.

Von Wong's picture

That's some pretty epic stuff David! Who did the post-processing, there was some really really clean stuff in the final edit :)

Jimmy's picture

I hope that one day I will get a chance to work with such talented people. The images were really good and the quality from the HB was amazing. The only thing I noticed was the scale of the elephant in relation to the model looked off.

David Nguyen's picture

Jt~.. you nailed it on head. it was shot before the holidays and wanted to give thanks to the entire team for there efforts all year.. So it was a "one stone.. two birds" scenario.I am learning, that there are endless possibilities to composites so am eager to hear everyones inputs to making this process even more magcial.. looking forward to seeing your visions into print! and a BTS video shared on Fstoppers.com!

Von~ The man behind all the magic is Doc le.. at www.sediji.smugmug.com. After we shot the series we later spent approx. 20 hours per image to get the tones and drop in the various eleements to create the story. Details and shadows were carefully orchestrated to give a realism yet paint like quality. Truely remarkable what collective minds can do in post.

Jimmy~ yes... I do hope to view some of your BTS footage with your collective team soon. Like I've mentioned before.. the final result is not the most important funtion in what we do. it's the individuals we take the journey with to create the end results for our clients that count.. I am glad you were able to catch the details of the Hassleblad system.. wish I was able to show you the prints. they are incredible with detail and color!.. we selected a young male adolescent elephant to fit in the image.. the scaling was to show a non over powering giant that we are used to imagining with large tusks and stature.. the feeling was more about the connection and lean of the giant to our model.. two diffent beauties speaking emotionally.. hope that makes sense :)

I appreciate the comments and viewing of this short video... would love to hear more thoughts from viewer of Fstoppers.. I am stil learning on a daily basis and am thankful we have a great channel here to do so.

Jimmy's picture

David, you have two chances of seeing a BTS video from me and they are none and none atoll :) I don't have any recording device and do not regularly work with a team, it all depends on the project. I am just starting out on my own, every day I learn new things not only about photography but also about the business side of things.
I had the pleasure of using a HB in my final year of study back in 2008 and I was amazed with the images, I would love to get one of my own one day. I understand what you were saying about the elephant and its nice for once to hear what the actual intent was by the image creator. I look forward to seeing more BTS videos from you.