I did photography for Emmy Kosgei’s traditional wedding; she is married to a Nigerian and had had a whole Nigeria delegate attend the traditional wedding. These Nigerian women that were in attendance were the motivation for the head wrap series. They looked so beautiful in their blend of traditional outfits (head wraps) with authentic jewelry and accessories. Looking at these women, I knew I wanted to recreate that look in my own way.
Two years after Emmy Kosgei’s traditional wedding, I shot the first installment of the head wrap series with the ladies of Elani. This was in January 2015. I got the head wrap materials from a lady called Jackie Chirchir who also provided ornaments for the photo shoot, one of the ladies of ELani (Wambui) provided some of the head wrap materials too and I ended up buying a few more.
Over the course of shooting the series I have worked with amazing creative people:
- Mukami who designs accessories sourced the ornaments for the shoot and also was the head wrap stylist.
- Ruth an amazing makeup artist who ended up being one of the models.
- Michelle an amazing makeup artist who also helped in the head wrap styling.
- Rehema was my assistant, from lighting to making sure I was hydrated.
A year in, the head wrap series is still ongoing for I feel I can still do more.
My lighting wasn’t complex and wasn’t simple either. I used four studio strobe lights, my main light was a 70cm octabox with a grid, beauty dish with diffusing material, and two more lights without light modifiers but with colored jells (red, blue…..) fixed on them.
The Octabox was the key light, placed half a meter and 45 degrees away and above the models face giving me a mixture of both hard and soft light to sculpture the models face bone structure and collar bone while the grid on it helped in directing the light to its intended spot. The beauty dish was used as a fill light (odd? I know) placed half a meter below and away from the models neck, in other shoots of the series I used it to soften the shadows on the collar bone and the neck. Remaining two lights fixed with colored jells were placed half a meter away and behind the model. This jelled lights were the key lights to lighting the smoke (from a smoke machine placed one meter directly behind the model). Apart from lighting the smoke, I placed the jelled lights at an angle search that it did spill on the models shoulder, neck and on the sides of their face while using V-flats to prevent the light from spilling on my background, see the diagram below:
I have used different types of cameras on this series which are Nikon D7100, D610, D800 and Canon Mark III. Lens of choice was 85mm, it doesn’t distort the structures of the models face since most of my images were tightly shot (portraits). It was still used for the mid/full length shoots too.
Shooting this series has taught me improvisation, developed my lighting skills and seen me
learn how to tie a head wrap; the future wife is sorted.