Tuesday, December 17, 2013

ENDLESS SUMMER - The Creative Approach to Shooting a Playboy Pictorial

Glamour photography is as subjective as fashion photography - there is no clear definition of what is right and what is not, but he picture must work when you look at it. It is as simple as that. The average "consumers" of these pictures will not spend more than a couple of seconds looking at them before moving forward, so the picture has to grab attention instantly.

The visual approach I chose for this photoshoot with Slovenian dancer and model Ula Šemole in Miami is a modern twist on mixing strobes with sunlight. It is a dynamic style, nowadays endorsed and embraced by many male-oriented publications all over the globe. Editors always want something fresh and new and there is nothing better than pleasing them – it is a virtual guarantee you will get commissioned over and over again.

The key lighting challenge of the pictorial was matching the power of a single strobe with the strong light of the scorching Caribbean sun. The power pack had to be strong enough to match the sunlight and overpower it, so I chose the 2400 Ws and a deep Tele Zoom reflector to make the light beam even super harsh and intense. The shutter speed was mostly set at 1/200 at f/7.1 and ISO 200, so the pack was adjusted to be a little hot – maybe half to one stop over our measured ambiance setting. That got rid of most of the shadows on the model and made her stand out.

The poses she did are all playful and slightly naughty because I wanted my entire pictorial to be going in a very positive, joyous direction. A classic glamour pose or a typical fashion one would not work so well with this lighting scenario. The use of vivid, strong colors in styling and the right choice of location all contributed to the feeling being emphasized even further.

The strobe with a big Tele Zoom reflector was always stationed anywhere between one to three feet from the camera, just enough to give the model a slight shadow separation and make her look three-dimensional. If no shadows were desired I would have used a ringflash, but after several tests it turned out to be too flat for the feel I wanted to achieve.

The power pack we used had an extremely fast recycling time, so the strobe could keep up with the pace of the model changing poses. It is imperative not to lose good poses because of equipment limitations and this is one of the reasons why professional photographers choose sturdy, reliable professional equipment with no compromise.

We stumbled upon several unpredictable variables during the shoot, such as the water from the hose in one of the pictures which was not the easiest for the model to master - she had to stay beautiful and work it at the same time. Occasional clouds covered the sun and we had to wait for them to clear to get the sunlight back, but when looking back at the final images I can only say it was well worth the wait despite the fact that because of the unpredictable summer weather our Florida shoot got extended over three days.

The Ula Šemole pictorial was first published in January 2014 issue of Playboy Slovenia and will be featured in several international Playboy editions in the near future. You can check some of "behind the scenes" footage here and an older shoot of mine with Ula Šemole posing as a page three Playboy model here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

FROM BOLLYWOOD TO HOLLYWOOD - The story of a Playboy photograph

Model Natalija Osolnik is no stranger to fame. She splits her time between partying in the clubs of Milan, Munich and Miami with the likes of Felipe Massa, Erick Morillo or Mel Gibson, and shooting international campaigns from Barcelona to Boston for clients like Lexus, Guess and Gilette – the latter with none other than Oblivion superstar Olga Kurylenko.

I called Natalija (who is a dear friend of mine) one day with a proposal - I wanted her to appear on the pages of Playboy. She agreed and we traveled to India with our crew where we shot the pictorial in the shelter of private locations, away from the public eye, assisted only by a handful of locals. There I was able to focus on shooting without the curious crownds India is so famous for and Natalija was able to concentrate on posing. Her years of experience in the fashion industry helped enormously. 

My India pictorial has been published in eight international editions of Playboy (Slovenia, Poland, Croatia, Italy, Mexico, Czech Republic, Serbia and Greece) with more to follow in the near future.

Natalija's photographs caught the eye of Boštjan Vidmar, a pioneer embroidery master and owner of Ercigoj Embroidery, a family-run private company that recently celebrated 90 years of existence. He approached me to explain his revolutionary and unique invention - a method of making embroidery from photographs via a sophisticated computerized method called e-stitch.

The technique involves weeks of work, millions of stitches and miles of yarn, but the end product is so fantastic that it adds a virtual third dimension to any photograph reproduced this way. Many photographers entrusted their work to Boštjan and he keeps turning their pictures into timeless work of art. The latest big name to collaborate with Ercigoj Embroidery is no other than National Geographic's master photographer Steve McCurry.

Boštjan Vidmar turned the opening picture of my India pictorial into two very special embroideries. One was presented to Natalija (she loved it so much she hung on in her bedroom wall) and the other went to Playboy Slovenia where the editor already had big plans for it. The embroidery was soon bound for LA, heading straight to the Playboy Mansion on 10236 Charing Cross Road, the iconic home of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. 

We received a photograph of Mr. Hefner in front of my picture-turned-embroidery (Credits: (C) Elayne Lodge/Playboy) as a proof that all of us did a great job. I am thrilled to have my photograph hanging at the Playboy Mansion and look forward to see it in person on those legendary walls again soon.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Goddess of the Aegean - Anatomy of a Playboy pictorial

As a Playboy photographer I travel a lot. Sometimes it is impractical or even impossible for me to use heavy-duty studio lighting gear on location. Luckily, no matter where I am, inside the studio or outside in the field, light follows the same laws of physics.

Learning about lighting is a process that lasts a lifetime. Very few people can confidently say that they know all about it. The key to great lighting is not to accurately simulate reality, but to create the right environment for visual storytelling. Using daylight and continuous lighting in photography is a consistent and predictable affair. But no job can be done without a proper understanding of your equipment and knowing how the light performs.

For this pictorial of Katarina Benček, just published in Playboy Slovenia, we used nature's greatest gift, the sunlight. Large white surfaces that make those Greek houses look so sexy were used to reflect the light in a very natural way. Good lighting should be like good plastic surgery -you never can tell it is there. All the light that was not provided from the environment was brought in with the reflectors. Sometimes four feet of reflective surface was enough, other times we used 8x6' for the desired effect. 

Shooting a pictorial like this would be impossible without a great team of people that helped on the way. They were all skilled photographers yet always ready to give a hand, eagerly grabbing the reflector or carrying heavy equipment across steep staircases of tiny boutique hotels. It was a true team effort and many thanks go out to STC for making it an amazing experience. It is a perfect case of turning ideas into actions and bringing home results that can speak for themselves. Regardless of what happens, you have to deliver. The editors cannot publish your excuses.

Photographers of today are challenged as they never have been before. The imaging industry increasingly requires them to have a wide-ranging skill set, combining technical proficiency and creativity. The value of an aesthetically pleasing product is bigger than it ever was because there is a virtual flood of average images out there filling our everyday lives. There always has been and always will be high demand for great photographs. Great, not “less average”. So remember to always add sparkle to your pictures. And a touch of your soul.

Check out the "Making Of" video here!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

FASHION FOR PASSION - The new era of Playboy Photography

Back in 2008, everyone was outraged after the radically redesigned Playboy France started publishing simply lit and somewhat trashy nude pictorials of top fashion models shot by several leading fashion photographers. Playboy’s core philosophy was breached and faithful Playboy readers and editors labeled the bold move from the land of fromage and escargot as anarchy. However, those hot and juicy fashion photos of Lily Cole, Lara Stone and Bianca Balti’s nude bodies also spawned a huge fan base and a revolutionary new chapter in Playboy visual content was inadvertently born.

I decided to move from photographing Playmates to shooting fashion models for Playboy in 2009, almost 10 years after my first Centerfold appeared on the pages of the magazine. The decision was quite daring for the time due to (at the time and still rather strict) “traditionalist” Playboy philosophy that fashion photos are reserved for fashion magazines. Over the past few years, I have traveled to more than 20 countries and shot in some of the most beautiful corners of the world. What was once a pioneering idea turned out to be a big success story and my “fashion meets glamour” pictorials continue to be published in Playboy editions all around the globe.

There is a new book on lighting coming out very soon featuring some of these images straight from the pages of the magazine.

What fascinates me most is that Playboy US is joining the fashion pictorial bandwagon as well, following the foundations set by its French counterpart years ago. The trend seems to be a very catchy one and names like Lohan, Jagger and Ecclestone that appeared in the magazine are a solid proof of change. According to Internet gossip and testimonials, Playboy shot a pictorial with supermodel Kate Moss back in March, which is set to appear in Playboy’s 60th anniversary "jubilee" edition in January next year, just in time for Kate’s 40th birthday.

The fusion of fashion and glamour photography with more models and less girls-next-door seems to be the roadmap for Playboy’s visual narration style of the future. The 50-year-old formula, albeit proven and solid, cannot withstand the modern flood of Internet content and the dramatic visual revolution created by the likes of Instagram and others. There is a whole new generation of iPhone snappers that are uploading as much as 300 million photos to Facebook daily. This social-visual revolution demanded that Playboy put its thinking cap on and embrace the cultural shift.

I know … watching Playboy change is probably the last thing you want to see, but here’s why you should be excited: As a photographer, it will give it a chance to reset and again emerge as a frontrunner with a whole new generation of faithful followers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

CLOTHING OPTIONAL BEYOND THIS POINT - Shooting a lookbook for Slovenia's biggest textile manufacturer Mura

Just a sneak peek into one of our recent photoshoots...

MURA SS14*Lookbook
Models: Ines D. and Miha D.
Make-up: Luka Luka
Mura team: Chris Woo, Štefka Varga
Styling assistant: Alenka Birk
Photographer's assistant and BTS: Anže Godec

Friday, June 28, 2013


The Sea is my Land – artists from the Mediterranean 

Curated by Francesco Bonami and Emanuela Mazzonis
Press office Paola C Manfredi press@paolamanfredi.com

4. julij - 29. september 2013
Museo MAXXI, Rim


Nešteto pokrajin, a le eno morje. 46.000 kilometrov obale, ki povezuje tri celine. Križišče narodov, civilizacij in zibelka najstarejših kultur. Ob stoletnici italijanske Banca Nazionale del Lavoro BNL, članice ene največjih svetovnih bančnih skupin BNP Paribas, so v duhu povezovanja kulturnih in umetniških dialogov pripravili multimedijsko razstavo »THE SEA IS MY LAND«, ki presega fizične družbene meje, verski pluralizem in etnične okvirje. K sodelovanju so povabili po enega avtorja iz vsake države, ki meji na sredozemsko morje in nastal je skupek dvaindvajsetih vizij Mediterana, ki povezujejo Španijo, Francijo, Monako, Italijo, Malto, Hrvaško, Bosno in Hercegovino, Črno goro, Albanijo, Grčijo, Ciper, Turčijo, Sirijo, Libanon, Izrael, Palestino, Egipt, Libijo, Tunizijo, Alžirijo, Marko in kakopak tudi Slovenijo. Kot predstavnika naše države sta priznana kuratorja Francesco Bonami in Emanuela Mazzonis izbrala Aleša Bravničarja, ki bo na ogled postavil sredozemske podobe iz njegove nadvse uspešne serije miniaturnih svetov Miniverse I in II. Miniverse I smo premierno predstavili v Galeriji Fotografija na razstavi leta 2008, Miniverse II pa leta 2010 v stavbi Letališča Jožeta Pučnika.

Razstava, ki jo bo pospremil tudi mednarodni fotografski natečaj, bo na ogled v Narodnem muzeju umetnosti XXI. stoletja MAXXI, enem najbolj prestižnih in sodobnih rimskih muzejev, od 4. julija do 29. septembra 2013.

The original text in English:

The Sea is my Land, Artists from the Mediterranean
"A thousand things together. Not one landscape, but countless landscapes. Not one sea, but a progression of seas. Not one civilisation, but a series of civilisations piled one on top of the other".
Fernand Braudel

The Mediterranean: 46,000 km of coastline linking twelve inland seas, the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa, and two cultural hemispheres – east and west. As well as being a geographical entity, the Mediterranean Sea is a crossroads for peoples, cultures, religions, languages and political and economic systems. Its coasts are a point of encounter between civilisations that are constantly coming together or moving apart, communicating or clashing, forging relations that are not always peaceful.

This area was the cradle for the world’s most ancient cultures: Western Christian, Greek-Slavonic, Jewish, Arab and Egyptian, and its coasts are dotted with historic cities that played a key role in economics, commerce and culture: Barcelona, Seville, Venice, Genoa, Istanbul, Marseilles, Tunis and Alexandria.

This basin is home to the world’s richest artistic heritage, from archaeological sites to the cities of art of the past and future, that continue to bear witness to urban and cultural transformations. The migration flows that since time immemorial have invaded and crossed the area from north to south, east to west, mingle the many racial identities present in these areas and give rise to encounters that can lead to new understandings, or discord and tensions, forging new social and cultural trajectories.

Unfortunately these encounters often run the risk of turning into civil conflicts and generating interminable political clashes. This basin of social, economic, political and cultural revolutions spawns radical, ongoing transformations that continue to reflect the complexity of cultural integration between different peoples. In this milieu of constant change, the Mediterranean is also an arena for cultural dialogue, where the impartiality of art has the power to overcome social barriers, religious pluralism and ethnic dispersion, and foster peaceful communication among those concerned. The exhibition The Sea is My Land came about with these ideas in mind, bringing together 22 artists from the 22 countries that are bordered by the Mediterranean Sea: Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

The aim is to foster dialogue between arts, countries and people, exploring the distances and relationships between different geographical areas. The exhibition looks to photography and video to reveal the ongoing interactions between these numerous nationalities: the works reveal how artists originally from one country migrate elsewhere to study, analyse and narrate events going on in countries similar or different to their own. The works go beyond political and geographical confines, as the artists grapple with critical situations to reflect on local identities and the changes wrought by every revolution. As the etymological origin of the word Mediterranean shows – medius, ‘middle, between’ + terra, ‘land, earth’ – this area is a crucial intersection that lies at the heart of complex social and cultural mechanisms, multiple ideologies, singular affinities and heterogeneous harmonies: forces that make it an enduring source of inspiration for art.

 The Sea is my Land
Artists from the Mediterranean

Ammar Abd Rabbo (Syria)
Yuri Ancarani (Italy)
Taysir Batniji (Palestine)
Mohamed Bourouissa (Algeria)
Marie Bovo (Spain)
Aleš Bravničar (Slovenia)
Stéphane Couturier (France)
Fouad Elkoury (Lebanon)
Mounir Fatmi (Morocco)
Dor Guez (Israel)
Mouna Karray (Tunisia)
Panos Kokkinias (Greece)
Adelita Husni-Bey (Libya)
Irena Lagator Pejović (Montenegro)
David Maljkovic (Croatia)
Mark Mangion (Malta)
Mladen Miljanović (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Moataz Nasr (Egypt)
Adrian Paci (Albania)
Christodoulos Panayiotou (Cyprus)
Agnès Roux (Monaco)
Arslan Sukan (Turkey)

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Driven by an unstoppable hunger for great pictures and epic locations, photographer Ales Bravnicar and his team recently set their course for India to shoot another beautiful top model.

You may not know it, but Ales Bravnicar is not only the master of light and shadow, he is also a master in researching and selecting amazing locations and integrating them into his glamour work. He handpicks every GPS coordinate as meticulously as he does his subjects. For many years now, he has been photographing scantily clad top models in all four corners of the world. When asked if this is his version of a true dream job, he laughingly replied, “If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life. I do not take it as a job, it is just fun.”

The Indian photoshoot happened away from the public eye in the shelter of private locations assisted by just a handful of locals. There, Ales was able to focus on the shooting without the curious crowds India is so famous for and the model was able to concentrate on posing. Her years of experience in the fashion industry helped enormously.

The 26-year old model Ales photographed is no stranger to fame – she splits her time between partying in the clubs of Milan, Munich and Miami with Felipe Massa, Erick Morillo or Mel Gibson and shooting international campaigns from Barcelona to Boston for clients like Lexus, Guess and Gillette – the latter with “Oblivion” superstar Olga Kurylenko. Being a part of the elite model team, she knows very well how to put the “show” in showbusiness.

Ales used to travel with portable strobes, but stopped bringing them on assignments after the Pelican case they were in never got opened for three consecutive trips. “Why not use natural light, the one gift we have available for free? I absolutely adore the play of shadows and highlights created by available light.

It is amazing but only if you can control it!” says Ales. “The key thing I have to concentrate on to get the most out of the situation is no longer how to position the strobes, but how to position the model. After the model strikes the perfect pose we add the missing light with reflectors.” He carries at least two zebra/white California Sunbounce reflectors and swears by them. “Unlike circular reflectors that shimmer even in mild wind, these never bend and are ultra light. Just perfect for any situation.” The reflectors are used for much more than just bouncing light. Ales has an assistant cover him and the model with one when reviewing the pictures. It also gets spread on the floor to protect the equipment from sand and moisture. “There are at least a hundred uses for a fabric reflector. That’s why you always need to bring more than one,” says Ales. “However, avoid the cheap ones. Remember, in our industry, lighting is everything.”

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. After the shoot, the team sets off to visit some of the local sights and attractions, most notably the palace where Christopher Nolan shot scenes for his latest Batman movie. Aleš celebrated his birthday on the way back to the base camp and it was on this four-hour drive down slow and treacherous Indian roads that their car got hit by a raging bull. “India’s most sacred of all animals must have hated the loud Bangla music from the car’s screeching speakers,” jokes Ales. “We were in the middle of the party and our driver was doing the Flash Gordon speed of at least 10 m.p.h. when something with horns hit our car from the side. Nobody was hurt and the bull proudly walked away really slowly, head raised and all. We laughed for hours.” In India it is a crime to hit a cow with the car… but what if the cow hits you?

As you read this, Ales’s Indian pictorial is being published around the globe. Aleš, who as a true Canon Ambassador used two EOS bodies for the job, plus one compact PowerShot G for BTS footage, will share his experience on traveling light and getting high-quality results at one of the upcoming Shoot The Centerfold seminars. Meanwhile, you can check out his very own posing guide and lighting diagrams in the iTunes store. Watch this space!

Friday, April 26, 2013

ZEISS COMPACT PRIMES – The Most Versatile Cine Lenses Around

When a second generation of Zeiss Compact Primes was launched several years ago no-one could have preditcted the success these lenses have achieved in the digital film industry. 

The first generation of Compact Primes was a hybrid of Zeiss ZF still photography lenses and their big motion picture counterparts – a true cine lens in a completely new housing, built for the merciless life on the set and equipped with 14 diaphragm blades to produce the beautiful round bokeh and out-of-focus highlights. The huge focus throw helped focus pullers do their work with precision and a de-clicked iris with matching 0.8 gears ensured easy pulling. The housing was standardized in size for all focal lengths and the optical performance matched Zeiss' ultra tight tolerances for low distortion, color rendition and excellent sharpness. Some focal lengths even came in T1.5. The lenses only had one major drawback – no interchangeable mount.

So Zeiss did what had to be done in the era of DSLR revolution and designed a new generation of Compact Primes based on their predecessors, but this time with – wait for it – interchangeable mounts. The CP.2 series became the ONLY LENS SYSTEM ON THE MARKET covering full frame 24 x 36mm format with cine-style housing, color-matched Carl Zeiss T* coating and a relatively easy mount swap with 5 choices to choose from, including PL, Sony E and Canon EF. The CP.2 lenses thus became one of the most solid equipment investments a digital cinematographer owner/operator could make, making a jump from one mount to the other a seamless and future proof procedure. 

This is what Zeiss says about the CP.2 lenses on their website:
“One of the most important aspects of a successful production is the competence and diversity of your team. Whether you’re shooting a commercial where exquisite color rendition and high contrast is important, or a tense, dramatic sequence in low light situations for a feature film, Compact Prime lenses offer you the performance you need to get the scene right. With a wide range of focal lengths, full-frame coverage, fantastic image quality, great flare suppression and precise focusing through the large rotation angle, Compact Prime lenses give you a flexible set of tools to make your film shine. With its long history in both photo and cine lenses, Carl Zeiss is dedicated to supporting filmmakers and allowing you to benefit from the highest possible image quality in any situation.”

The CP.2 family is growing steadily. The latest members are the 15mm and 135mm focal lengths and two full-frame Compact Zooms. Zeiss also listened to DOF junkies and demanding DP's and re-introduced the Super Speed line - three lenses consisting of the proven 50mm and 85mm focal lengths and the newly designed 35mm, all sporting the ultra wide T1.5 aperture for low light work and minimal depth of field wide-open.

Just by looking at a CP.2 lens cut in half (Zeiss has a couple of them available for demonstration) you can see the quality and craftsmanship of these optical cathedrals. The CP.2’s are assembled by hand in Oberkochen and proudly bear the “Made in Germany” tag on their barrel.

We use Zeiss Compact Primes religiously in our video production and they are a perfect match for the CanonC300. I sometimes put the much beloved CP.2 100mm/T2.1 on my EOS 5D Mark III and shoot portraits wide open. The quality of this lens is amazing – they say even close to Zeiss Ultra Primes.

More first-hand account on these Zeiss rockets will follow shortly. Meanwhile, back to work...