Boudoir in a cave?? What the...

While it might not be everyones cup of tea, we wanted to push ourselves to try something different - and hopefully make it beautiful. Some of you watched the recent episode of [FRAMED] that chronicled 3 of our photo shoots - one of which was us photographing a bride, on a trampoline, in a cave. When we did that shoot, we also tried some light painting on the bride, but really wanted to be able to spend more time on it, so we hoped we could plan another shoot to come back and work it - this time for a boudoir session. 

Of course, not everyone has a cave in their home town, but what DO you have that is unique? What can you use or do that nobody there has done? In Bend, we have these lava tube caves that go on for miles, sometimes. They are popular for hikers and explorers, so we scheduled our shoot for the middle of the work day so passerby traffic would be as light as possible. We only had one group come through while we were shooting and we laughed imagining they must be thinking we were holding some kind of sacrificial ceremony! (Disclaimer: no virgins were harmed in the making of this photograph).

Ben originally shared with me the idea of shooting in the caves, and I knew it could be an epic (if not challenging) location. The first image was done via light painting with flashlights. We used an L.E.D. diving light for the streaks of "lightning" coming from the throne. I put a Rogue FlashBender around the front of the light to create a snoot and funnel the light like a paintbrush. Ben walked around behind the throne, (which Alycia rounded up, along with the crown, at our local theatre company), aiming the flashlight towards camera to create the light streaks. 

I used another small flashlight in front to "paint" Suzanna as she fed herself grapes on the fur lined floor. I was careful NOT to aim my light toward camera so that it wouldn't streak like Ben's light. Both of the flashlights were covered with tungsten Sticky Filters (another one of my favorite photo accessories) to match the warm light of the many little candles scattered around. (Disclaimer: be careful when you play with fire)

Getting just the right exposure when you light paint takes some experimentation. I used a 30 second exposure and moved my flashlight over various parts of the scene during that time. It took us about 5 takes to get it just right. I shot with a Nikon 24mm F1.4 lens. The image, "Queen of the Universe" and the setup behind it are below:


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For the next shot, which we've dubbed, "Sleeping Beauty", I used a single Photoflex diffusion panel hovering above and just slightly behind Suzanna. I fired a Nikon speedlight through the top of it (also with a Sticky Filter warm gel) triggered by a PocketWizard wireless system. After the first take, the back of the cave was just a black hole. I wanted something to add more depth or texture back there. Ben came up with a great idea of putting a bare speedlight back there and when we saw the result we loved it! One of the cool things about the Nikon speedlights is the star-like pattern of the bare bulb when you aim it at the lens. It's quite different from the look of a monolight or studio flash. We use this quite a bit in our images as it looks cool and adds a great "twinkle". I felt it really completed the lighting, making the warm light wrapping her body feel like it was coming from a distant setting sun - or another planet ;-)


This time I used a shorter exposure, 1/25th second, to capture just enough of the candle light, but to keep the ambient darker and moody. I used the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 lens zoomed to 100mm.


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Both images were finished off with my Lightroom Presets and Dashboard Tools in Photoshop. I used my all-time favorite effect for boudoir, Lord Of The Rings, to soften her skin and add a gentle, romantic glow.


A big thank you to Suzanna for being such a trooper and lying there in a 44 degree cave in only a nightgown! Women really are much tougher than guys. I was complaining even with a jacket on!

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