I met Olivia sometime ago on a shoot for NFocus magazine with Lana Wilson. She is super tall, blonde and demands attention with her presence, but outputs a sweet energy. Her confidence doesn’t overtake her personality, because she is one of the most humble models I’ve ever worked with.
Olivia Ross was our backup and reinforcement. We had a lot of scheduling issues and just in case a model fell through, we had Olivia ready to rock. However, the more I spoke with Micah the more we wanted to include her in the series with her own song. It was an easy choice and it didn’t take long, after a short conversation, “Love Game” was born.
I wanted to wrap up the GAGA series in March, but with the addition of Olivia I knew we would be going into April. After tossing a couple of dates back and forth we finally landed on Monday, April 9, which gave Micah and I plenty of time to prepare. Shooting nearly every weekend for a month and a half can take its toll, time quickly passes and next thing you know you’ve got 4 days to prepare for the next song.
Micah had found a dress while shopping at a local thrift store and we decided to go shopping at lunch one day a week before the scheduled shoot. It was my first time shopping for women's clothing and honestly was a bit awkward. Nevertheless, we ended up picking up some really cool pieces and had some great plans for the final two shoots. It really made me wonder how much shopping Gaga and her team do at the local NYC thrift stores; $2 glasses and $6 dresses. Micah quickly reminded me that all of pieces are expensive designer clothing. Even the ripped up leggings? Yes.
I wanted to shoot in Waterfront Park Place, the multi-million dollar high-rise condominiums right on the Ohio river. I had made some phone calls regarding the “Love Game” location weeks ahead, but all came to a dead end. A good friend really stepped in and tried to score a condo, but fell short about a day before the shoot. I was frantic. I had no location, it was Easter Sunday and the shoot would begin at 2:00pm the next day. After meeting about our cross promoting concept “Searcher/Specter” Josh Eskridge and I ended up driving around the town looking for random parking garages, architecture or anything that could be used for my vision. During our “adventure” I was able to gather a list of phone numbers and names of various lofts and contemporary condominiums. But it being Easter Sunday, contact would be pointless and the calls would have to be made in the morning during hair/makeup. Talk about nail biter.
I stumbled out of bed at 8am Monday morning, 2 hours before hair and makeup and immediately started making calls. I contacted 4 relaters, an engineering firm and construction company. I had seeked out Glassworks, The Ice House, ZirMed Terrace, Fleur De Lis Lofts, Waterfront Park Place(again) and finally landed The Merchantile Lofts, thanks to the kindness of Colin Underhill, the buildings management. But, we would only be able to use the foyer and game room, which was perfectly fine with me. It was 9:30 and Olivia was on her way. I had to grab a quick shower and get ready for the day.
We had some very cool plans for Olivia, but with Micah’s work schedule and mine, some elements couldn’t come together in time, so we had to improvise. Insert $20 disco ball. I had originally bought the disco ball for a simple light experimentation on the “Paparazzi” shoot, but the more we dove into that shoot the less fitting it would become, so when “Love Game” came around, I knew we had a match made in heaven. Little did I know how crucial of a role that purchase would become. Honestly, the disco ball saved the shoot!
I realized that with a small screwdriver I could pick off each individual mirror on the ball and there was still enough glue or sticky tape on the back of the mirrors to stick it onto another surface. In this case it would be some $3 sunglasses and with the help of eyelash glue, Olivia’s face. While Olivia was in hair/makeup I was picking off each mirror and sticking it onto the front of the glasses, with the help of Micah’s vision we came out with some killer GAGA glasses.
We were running a bit early so we decided to kill some time down at the waterfront fountains which was my backup location. Me being the guy that will do anything for “the shot” decided it would be amazing to have a kicker light exposing the water running down the steps of the fountain. The pool of water below said steps was a full blown mirage and when I stepped in I didn’t expect the pool to be up to my waist and I fell in the water, luckily I held my speedlight above my head, but I was soaked from chest down. While Olivia and Micah we’re laughing, I shrugged off the big time fail. Unfortunately, during this set, I made a crucial mistake. Not shooting on a tripod and getting the flowing motion blur of the water, that simple mistake led me to scrap the shots of this set entirely, even though Olivia performed flawlessly. With wet jeans and a damp shirt, we hopped down the street and began our sets at the Merchantile Lofts.
I had a vision for “Love Game”; I saw light everywhere, cool colors and punchy contrast. I wanted to do this a bit different then the others and really experiment with light. I wanted to spray light everywhere and create lens flares and orbs that was unlike anything anyone had ever seen, well that was the goal anyway.
Our first set would be against the contemporary wooden walls in the foyer. I knew my friend and photographer Joey Goldsmith had done some amazing stuff with Amelia Gandara in the Merchantile foyer sometime ago, so I wanted to be careful not to replicate his shots in anyway shape or form. I posed Olivia about two feet in front of the wall and placed the disco ball on the ground and sat a SB-600(Manual, Full Power) speedlight behind the ball with the bulb facing me. SB-800,(Manual Full Power) 45 degrees, camera high right with a softbox diffuser. My normal start settings; 1/200, f/8, ISO 200. And I clicked the shutter expecting nonsensical light everywhere and a under exposed joke.
When I looked at the back of the camera, I saw flares, orbs and a perfectly lit expression that eventually made it to the final roundup of shots. The cool white balance and milky layer that I would normally apply in post was already composed on the shot. I was pretty much floored, but gained my composure and gave myself a quiet pat on the back.
In came the reflector for more experimentation, we used it in a couple of shots, but then Micah came up with the idea to use the gold side as a garment! We draped the reflector over Olivia’s head like a hood. Seen in the BTS shot below, the back side of the reflector hung down behind the speedlight reflecting even more spherical flare and more orbs into the lens.
We rocked out 6 more sets, some with the GAGA glasses other without. I used the Paul C Buff ABR800 ringflash a lot more during these sets then any other GAGA shoot, using it off camera quite a bit. When we reached the last set in the elevator, the “less is more" mentality raised it’s hand. When the light setup I prepared just wasn't working, I popped off the strobe transmitter, boosted the ISO and began shooting natural light. Amazingly, the results were far cooler with ambient light then I could of imagined. The overhead lights and silver reflection of the elevator doors we’re creating a perfectly dramatic exposure on Olivia’s face.
Olivia Ross was an absolute pleasure to work with. Her talent and experience are far beyond her years, a senior in high school she already has tearsheets for days and I’m super happy to of had to opportunity to work with her on this series. Her emotional expressions and classy aura reek through images and captivate the viewer, these images, without a shadow of a doubt, surely show that. She is a true professional.
We wrapped up 15 minutes before our scheduled time and we walked out with heads held high. Arriving back to my office I busted into my office and began the editing process immediately, damp jeans and all.