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    Friday, 18 March 2011

    TTL Group Shoot....... a Making of....

    17 March 2011
    Mohammadpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh

    It was 20:00hrs on Wednesday (16th March 2011) when AKA came to my place with Kamal (Shadow of Dark) to plan this. Shudipto called me up earlier in the evening and told me to plan a group shoot with AKA, who just arrived from KL several days back. We knew that it would be a challenge, not just to execute this, but to make it unique. Unique is a word we’ve learned to love over the last few years with TTL. We’ve made all our effort to make our work stand out; to be used by others as reference; something of a trendsetter. Last year's group shoot before "Bangladesh in Frames II" (BIF-II) exhibition was a marvel. BIF-III had to set a new trend! With less than a day to go, this was more than a small challenge. We didn’t even finalise our ideas or place. It had to be executed within Thursday, which was a holiday.

    We rejected a couple of venues because of some obvious complicacies. Martyred Intellectuals Monument at Rayerbazar came up top as the most feasible and relevant venue. When AKA proposed this place, it took us some short calculations before we communicated this to Shudipto, Faisal Bhai and Kamrul as the final one. They handled the organizing part very well indeed! It was a hard ask for them to gather 50-plus shooters with one night’s notice.

    AKA wanted it to be a first timer in Bangladesh. And he thought it may be great if we could use artificial light to illuminate the whole group! Well, that may be a unique idea, but to execute that, you really have to know what you are doing, let alone having the equipment on location to execute this. AKA wanted the shoot to be done in the blue hours. In addition to this, I was thinking whether it would be possible to get the sun in the window on the structure. I got the sun there once couple of years back, and knew that was one of the most unique features of that monument. That was the month of April back then, so, it was pretty feasible to try that in March. The thing that we were concerned about was the placement of the group. There are some interesting patterns on the pavement there that can act as friend or foe. We needed to reconnoitre the place before making the final decision on the placement of the group. We also planned to take some ‘safe’ shots first up, just in case the unique shot didn’t work out.

    The structure is huge! So, it had to be a wide angle lens to execute this. I thought about my 20mm on D700, but also thought about backups with 11-16mm on crop bodies or 16-35mm on FF, just in case 20mm doesn’t work out. Lighting was a bigger challenge. I was thinking of using the Elinchrom Ranger with A-head as the main light, and possibly using some SB-900/SB-800 or 580EX-ii or YN-560s as fill lights. I also thought about creating one huge light source with a 12’x8’ white seamless with all the lights. I kept all the options on the cards. Called up several other photogs to keep their flashes as backup. To get the proper vantage point, a ladder was a necessity. We called Farhan Bhai organise a highest possible ladder. Getting the light high enough was also a potential challenge, as we needed to illuminate the faces to 50-plus people without overlapping shadows.

    Failed to join in an early morning reconnaissance mission there because of too much sleep. So, in the afternoon, had to show up as early as I could. Gazi Bhai helped me out with the equipment. It was just past 16:00hrs. My first intention was to look at the unique angle that I had been thinking of from the day before. The sun was yet to reach the structure, but it surely looked possible, albeit with some challenge.

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    16:19hrs..... I was looking for the feasibility of the unique shot.......

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    16:41hrs...... the 'safe' shot was already being planned.....

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    16:44hrs....... AKA organising the group........

    By around 16:40, the ‘safe’ shot was being organised. The sun was still high. We decided to take a place almost at 90-degree angle to the structure. Its not the most creative, but its ‘safe’. AKA started to organise people in his usual manner. It was hard for anyone to ignore his words! Kamal and TM joined him in the effort. Raian was also there doing some policing jobs! A public place like this was supposed have a lotta people, and to clear the whole place was a virtual impossibility. We tried to clear up the foreground, as that would be the cause for distractions. People way back near the structure were not real issues, as I was basically underexposing the scene. Started at f16, ending up with f18!! Sensor-dust apertures!! Needed that depth and also needed to control the exposure with the sun so high. And how well the Ranger unit stood there! Wow! We started with just the Ranger unit with a 9” reflector; bare light! And that actually was enough! Didn’t even have to use full power! This was the first time I have used this much power on the Ranger. And it blew my mind, including all others’!

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    17:04hrs...... the safe shot was done!

    By around 17:04hrs, the ‘safe’ shot was done, and I started to look for that unique one. AKA and me decided to use a round pattern on the pavement to keep everyone confined. That would automatically create a pattern in group that we had been looking for. Our group had been wearing red and green dress mostly. We wanted it to look more like the national flag, or at least create a notion like that.

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    17:10hrs...... New angle under consideration..... the sun was yet to come down.....

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    17:14hrs..... AKA feverishly organises the group...... race against the sun....

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    17:23hrs..... a lotta policing had to be done to keep the frame clean..... TM is doing it here.....

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    17:35hrs...... an exclusive portrait session with AKA, TM and Shadow of Dark..... special feature: a full-powered beauty light solution....

    It was surely a lot more challenging with the sun coming into the window from a specific angle. That angle created problems with the circle that we had been planning use as a pattern. The circle went more to the sides. But it was still bearable. In fact, when the sun actually started to move into the window by around 17:38, the placement of the round pattern was in perfect position. We kept the same one-light solution, but this time the light needed more height. The round pattern required the light to create a sort of a spotlight with the minimum spill outside the pattern. Tahmid Munaz and Kamal did their best to hold the A-head up there. They held the light with the lightstand up into the air for some time to make this possible. The 8-ft lightstand needed that boost to make it happen. It wasn’t possible to use any other higher ground.

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    whats in a picture if everyone's sleeping??

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    whats in a picture when you can't even see a face??...... this is what it looked like without the Ranger blazing.....

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011

    17:43hrs...... its a wrap!!

    We were done by 17:43. It took just 5 minutes’ real shooting to give this much pain to everyone for such a long time. It just had to be done. An on top of that, they had to bear with AKA’s brutal directions, without which we could never accomplish this! Around 71 faces ultimately came up in the frame, and looking at that final output, we really thought we achieved something!

    the madness.......

    From TTL Group Shoot, 17 March 2011
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