Here’s how ZORPHOTOUR kicked off, with the tour’s very first photoshoot at a historical mansion in Ohio featuring dark fashion of Horst Couture.
Let me go back to the coverage of past summer’s ZORPHOTOUR, the 11,000-mile road trip through 31 US states to photograph friends and clients. The very first photography stop happened to be most fashion-driven and among the most striking. Below is the extracts from my PolarSteps trip journal, the full version of this 30-day adventurous RV tour is available here.
After learning about the photo tour, my Cleveland-based peer photographer Jeff Hartman of Bitmod Studios invited me to work with his regular client, Jessica Horst, a.k.a. Ms. Steamy. Her husband Thomas Horst—internationally renowned fashion designer and founder of Horst Couture—and she create high-end avant-garde felt garments for women, pushing the boundaries of felt-making and dress design. They arranged for models (Jessica herself has 15 years of modeling experience), professionally handled own makeup/hair, and got us into an exquisite Five Oaks Manson, home of Massillon Women’s Club. It was built in 1893 and became a historic landmark featuring original museum quality decor and architecture.
We had some 20 dresses and a dozen of Victorian rooms but regretfully, I could only fit two hours of shooting into my itinerary covering 641 miles and almost 11 hours of driving that same day.
We pulled off five dresses on three models and only used two speedlights—one in a soft box and one as a kicker. The collection is a gorgeous and powerful representation of Gothic and steampunk culture. Working with dark fashion is an immensely thrilling experience, as I’ve already enjoyed when working on my earlier commercial shoots (e.g., in an abandoned prison or theater) and even a steampunk wedding.
As expected, the colors of dark fashion are usually just that—dark, subdued, and grungy. This was my original default vision for this Horst Couture collection but a curious fact shifted things slightly. As I finally got to post-processing this shoot, the outdoor temperature dropped to the 10s. Heating is expensive in our new home (I’m yet to talk about this move out of NYC, opening so many additional cool photo opportunities for you!) so I let my home office in the basement cool below 40s. With some clothing, I manage.
The point is that I was conditioned to add some cold tone to the first images in the series. I usually add final coloring/discoloring touches at the end of photo editing process in Photoshop, using my filter recipes. Something made me take a different path now—I started off with dramatically altering the colors in the preparation step in Lightroom. As such, the color temperature of white balance of the RAW file was dropped from 4750K to 2300K and that version served as the basis in Photoshop. I loved the overall feel but the skin tone was too blue for my liking so I created a layer off a natural tone, playing with its masking and transparency on top of the basis. I then wanted to bring more purple to the skirt and brought a third layer in. Finally, wanted to add some aqua touches to the peripherals with the fourth layer. Sort of HDR for color so you can call it HCR (“high color range”). Unlike HDR, though, there are no automated tools for combining colors in such layers. It took manual brushing on the masks, at times rather meticulous at 600% zoom. Once this combining was done, a regular Photoshop enhancement continued. Most photos took 2-4 hours to prepare, a few even longer.
Inspired by the outcome of the cold theme, I thought of contrasting it with a red-hot one. Yellow, green, and purple followed the suit, albeit in lesser quantities in the interests of time. I wrapped up with a shot where all three models grace Horst Couture in a more expected color treatment.
Jeff was superb with lighting assistance and documented the entire shoot, so check out behind-the-scenes at the end! The flow of the shoot was rapid, I might say rushed and lacking full thoughts, so I barely touched on the potential. I would have easily spent two days of continuous shooting there, as some of my earlier grand projects took. Something to re-address and give an undivided attention to this true gem of dark fashion, Horst Couture.
This blog post is among the last for ZORPHOTOUR. My plan is to prepare a director’s cut later—a special compilation blog with some of the best tour stories, moments, and my own favorite photos. Come back later!
Click images for full size. Kindly refrain from re-uploading to social media during the first week of feature. Share instead and give credit!
Models: Jordan Kerr, Kaitlyn Miller, Jessica Horst
Hair and makeup: Jordan Kerr, Kaitlyn Miller, Jessica Horst
Designers: Ms. Steamy and Thomas Horst, House of Horst / Horst Couture
Assistant: Jeff Hartman, Bitmod Studios
Location: Five Oaks Manson
Check out behind-the-scenes generously documented by Jeff. Do check out his work because he is a rare find in Ohio! Not only does he master technical knowledge and terminology to the extent of overwhelming me, he’s passionate, creative, and has connections with cool venues and resources!
Check out some other ZORPHOTOUR published shoots, built on clients’ favorites:
Vivacity: Stylish Underwater Maternity Shoot
Ikara: Epic Beauty Portraits in Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon
Fam Naija: Vogue-esque Nigerian Family Photoshoot
Redress: Bollywood Dance Photoshoot
Icy Hot: Black Beauty in the White Sands Photoshoot
And finally, a big shoutout to ZORPHOTOUR generous sponsors:
Indianica Academy – Immerse yourself In the rich, vibrant heritage of Indian performing arts.
JP REMDL – Improving your home from the ground up.
PHOTOKRAFFT – Continually push the envelope and challenge ourselves to build album, books, frames and other products that redefine quality and style.
Babydoll Beauty Boutique – High-end beauty boutique, specializing in eyelash extensions and makeup for any occasion, specially bridal, and advanced skin care.
Shoff Accounting – Helping photographers and other creatives streamline the financial side of their business.