A Norwegian Wood Inspired Engagement Shoot
First of all I really want to say thank you to Erin & Chi for being so patient with me. I’m a fan a super fast turn arounds and I was hoping to blog this shoot last week when I was in Vietnam but unfortunately couldn’t due to technical difficulties. SO thanks for hanging in there : )
I’m going to jump straight into it …
A Norwegian Wood Inspired Photographic Love Story …
The whole time we were shooting at this location, I kept getting flash backs of Norwegian Wood. I’ll be honest and say I never intended for it to but the book is very dear to me (it’s been an old favourite since forever) and I recently watched the movie directed by Anh Hung Trang. So the images and feelings in that movie and book have been haunting my subconscious a little. As in … I still think about some of the scenes in the movie. Here are some stills:
Norwegian Wood is quite a heavy, sad, emotionally complex and often conflicting movie and obviously that’s not the essence between Erin & Chi and not what we’ve captured here. One of the things I love about the two main characters in the movie, Wantanabe and Naoko is how gradual their friendship and relationship develops. After the death of Naoko’s boyfriend (aka Wantanabe’s best friend) they went on lots of long walks together. Chatting and walking in nature for hours week after week and very slowly a romance started to develop.
As things get more and more emotionally complex for Naoko she runs away and ends up living in a care centre up in the hills. The only way Wantanabe can see her is by visiting her and again, the only time they can be alone together is when they out and about in nature.
The beauty of isolation
I’m going to great lengths to explain this story because their is something about their isolation from the world that I think is very beautiful. Isolation is the wrong word. It’s more … they had shared and stolen all these beautiful moments from the world by hiding in the safe beauty and vastness of nature. If you watch the movie, you’ll see some very breathtaking scenes of them hidden amongst nature … where no one else can see or take away this moment from them. It’s very beautiful.
Back to Erin & Chi
When I was directing this shoot with Erin & Chi, we had the option of going ‘there’ – by this I mean we had the option of going to a darker more complex place with this shoot. We could have made it ‘more Norwegian Wood’ … but a) we didn’t have the time for it … we only had 25 mins to shoot this whole sequence and b) I only just met them and I didn’t feel like I had permission to take them there … yet (trust me … in the next shoot we take it a completely different space).
So instead … we kept it light and simple. Romantic walks and stolen moments outside in the woods. Using nature as a hiding place just like Norwegian Wood but without the complex emotions : ) We wanted it to feel like we were like we were watching them from afar, like they don’t even know we were there … just as Wantanabe and Naoko felt like they were completely alone in nature.
So here are some stolen moments from Erin & Chi as they were romancing the woods …
More About the Creative Process
(a) So how did we find the location?
We were actually in search of bluebells so I went back to an old post I wrote and looked up where I could find bluebells. We ended up deciding on Pennypot Woods but unfortunately we were about a week too soon. The flowers hadn’t yet opened up yet and in these particular woods, the bluebells weren’t growing densely – so not how I had imagined!
(b) How did the Norwegian Wood theme come about?
As soon as we got there I kept saying to Darren, this reminds me or Norwegian Wood over and over again. Some on the spot inspiration : )
(c) How did we get permission to shoot?
Pennypot Woods is part of the Woodland Trust and we didn’t see anyone else out there when we were shooting. If I did bump into a ranger, I would have just asked him nicely.
(d) Biggest Challenge
The biggest challenge was having the location not looking like I had expected. I had googled Pennypot Woods in the car and it looked like the bluebells grew densely but when we got there it was sparse and not yet in full bloom. So none of the scenes I had in my head worked. It also meant any lying down scenes had to be shot very low and you can’t tell from the images but we are working on quite a steep angle (it wasn’t a flat space). We were also surrounded by prickly plants and ant hills. Honestly, a part of me wanted to walk away from this location but I had to stick to the challenge!
Something strange that I also learnt and I hope Chi doesn’t mind me sharing this LOL. But Chi works out and has very broad shoulders and big arms which makes all lying down and hugging poses very awkward Hehe. We kept trying to make it work but with the time constraint and angle of the woods we couldn’t get it right.
How did I overcome this? The location was not what I expected. I was hoping for dense bluebells so I could do an intimate lying down / picnic scene. But everything had to change based on the location we chose and since I was feeling Norwegian Wood inspired on set, the whole dynamic and angles we chose for the shots completely changed from up close and intimate to much longer wider shots. Basically we improvised!
(e) What I would do differently?
I would have chosen a different place hehe – just kidding. If I had known from the beginning that Chi’s body wasn’t suited for lying down scenes, I would have done more standing and sitting scenes and shot more ‘conversational moments’. I would have also of spent less time on the Barn Shoot (part 1) and more time here. We shot this in 25 minutes and based on that I think we did a great job.
Photographer: Darren Wong
Creative Director: Thaoski
Stylist: Katy Chung of Madame Moi