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Kenji Aoki’s Lighting Approach and the Mantovani Sound

May 22nd, 2013 No Comments

Kenji Aoki is a lighting master – the proof is in his picture of glasses.  What’s more, he’s also a generous soul, for he teaches you exactly how it was done!  The highly unusual perspective reduces the glasses to a monotone abstract image composed of interlocking and adjoining circles with gentle texture, accented by a lone ornamental glass.

As simple and artistic as the end-result is, the lighting setup required to achieve it is fiendishly complex and it is explained in How To: Experiment with Subtractive Lighting Using Glassware by Peter Kolonia in Popular Photography.

Evenness and precision was the foundation for the setup.  To achieve this, six Profoto Pro-7b heads were bounced off a white floor while the surface on which the glasses were arranged was so perfectly lit that all throughout it was illuminated “to the exact same brightness to within a tenth of a stop.”

Mantovani, whose strings sound has never been replicated, was reputed to include a vibraphone caressed with brushes on some orchestrations to impart an aural shimmering ‘top’ to his overall sound, though no-one could detect the presence of a vibraphone!  The same principle applies in the way a couple of techniques have been used, subtly and unobtrusively, to achieve the specific final effects of the photograph of glasses.

Undetectable but apparently necessary for the final effect is a very mild amber filter to produce the mere touch of an antique photo effect.  Next, note that the glasses were placed on a pane of glass that itself rested on wooden blocks on an acrylic sheet (not unlike the principle behind insulation) for double diffusion.  Finally, there was no light whatsoever other than the strobes’ reflected light – even the room lighting was switched off.  Result: an artist’s sketch.

The lighting diagram is so easy to understand once you see it but it would have been well nigh impossible to reverse engineer that same lighting and effect simply by looking at the photograph – just like the Mantovani Sound.


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