Oh. My God. Those clothes are absolutely phenomenal. How did you find that amazing costume?!

In this case, it all began with me posting out a call on Facebook: “Anyone cool I should work with in San Francisco while I’m here?”

I got a bunch of responses but the one that stood out was a lady that replied: “You should check out my daughter’s work! I think you’ll like it!http://www.serpentfeathers.com/

I did, and she was right. I LOVED it.

Though they don’t get enough credit for it, our families are quite often our biggest fans and supporters. Even when no one else believes in us, they do. And while we may not always see eye to eye, it’s good to know someone always has our back. This week’s BTS video is dedicated to all the mothers and fathers out there with crazy artsy children without whom we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Video courtesy of Empty Duck Digital ft. soundtrack by Jennifer Thomas

A couple months back, I found myself in San Francisco for a couple assignments. I had scheduled extra time to hang out with my buddies from SmugMug so I found myself with a couple free days. Rather than take the time to explore the city and be a good tourist, I turned to Facebook and asked if there was something interesting to shoot with the couple free days I had remaining.

Discovering Ka’s work was a journey on it’s own. I was immediately enthralled by her amazing feather costumes and was even more impressed to learn that she had hand made each and every one of them on her own. After only 30 seconds on her site, I knew I had to work with her. I reached out to her on Facebook crossing my fingers that she would be available the few days I had remaining in San Francisco.

Leaf Credo 80MP Digital Back Kit with 645DF with Schneider 80 f/2.8 LS | ISO 50, f/5.0, 1/1600 sec | Broncolor Para 133 | Move 1200 L Battery Pack| 90×120 Softbox

Behind the scenes 12

BTS by Carmine Di Dinato ft. yours truly directing as Paul Goodsin keeps the light from blowing off the cliff. Using the Para 133 to block the sun and cast a softer light of it’s own and using the soft box as a directional light source.

It’s always an interesting thing to reach out to someone that you admire. You never quite know what the feedback is going to be. Though I am fairly comfortable with my portfolio I have a massive respect for talented artists. That fear of maybe being turned down never truly leaves, but I learned a long time ago that you missed a 100% of the shots you didn’t take. Taking a deep breath, I introduced myself.

“Hi, my name is Benjamin Von Wong and I am a photographer…”

Leaf Credo 80MP Digital Back Kit with 645DF with Schneider 80 f/2.8 LS | ISO 50, f/4.0, 1/640 sec | Broncolor Para 133 | Move 1200 L Battery Pack| 90×120 Softbox

After only a couple hours of waiting impatiently, the answer came: she was excited and down for it!

I was exhilarated. Mind racing, I started running through all the things I would need to lock down. Dates. Location. Talent. Assistants. All the typical variables that would be needed. Things I knew that I could figure out fairly quickly. Yet somehow, with that exhilaration also came a familiar underlying layer of stress. I was going to be working with someone amazingly talented who was going to give me her time and trust. what if I didn’t get the shots? What if she was disappointed?

Despite the years of experience I’ve accumulated shooting, and the amazing equipment I had access to (A brand new Leaf Credo 80 to try out with my Broncolor Move kits coming up at almost 50k worth of gear) the tension and that glimmer of self-doubt still hovered.

Thankfully, I didn’t have much time to invest in worrying and as I started to focus on all the things that needed to get done the worrying got kicked into the back seat and excitement settled in.


Leaf Credo 80MP Digital Back Kit with 645DF with Schneider 80 f/2.8 LS | ISO 50, f/4.0, 1/640 sec | Broncolor Para 133 | Move 1200 L Battery Pack

Makeup artist Dinah Raphaelle flew in from LA to be a part of the team and brought her unique skill set to the table completing Ka Amorastreya‘s beautiful costumes.

Finding the right location was quite a challenge – not only did it have to be exotic, it also had to be accessible. I reached out to my fans in California asking them for suggestions for a location that would be rocky with dramatic cliffs and while they had some amazing suggestions, a lot of them were extremely hard to come by. We eventually decided, the day before the shoot, that the Sutro Baths was going to be the perfect place to pull the shoot off with a nice combination of rocks, water and trees despite a ridiculously steep climb. It would give us the variety needed for the three different outfits that Ka was going to be bringing.


Leaf Credo 80MP Digital Back Kit with 645DF with Schneider 80 f/2.8 LS | ISO 50, f/5.6, 1/1600 sec | Broncolor Para 133 | Move 1200 L Battery Pack

My team of assistants, makeup artist Dinah Raphaelle, as well as the video crew from Empty Duck Digital, showed up a good 2 hours early in order to get our scouting in. Since things had been pulled together so last minute, there had been no chance to get any scouting done so I made sure to get there bright and early in order to check out the location and see which locations would be the best to pull off the shot.

As it so happens, the place I was most excited about shooting also happened to be the most treacherous to get to.

Behind the scenes 6 copy

Behind the scenes CN 24
BTS by Carmine Di Dinato ft. VonWong performing manual labour

Unwilling to be deterred, we picked up stray bits of metal that were lying around in order to dig a series of footholds so that we could lug 80 pounds of gear across the side of the cliff.

All so that I could shoot from one end of a cliff… all the way to another.

Behind the scenes 10 copy

All that hard work though, was completely worth it when we managed to capture the perfect wave that just swept in looking like a water horse or dragon. Hands down, my favourite frame of the day.

Leaf Credo 80MP Digital Back Kit with 645DF with Schneider 80 f/2.8 LS | ISO 50, f/5.0, 1/1600 sec | Broncolor Para 133 | Move 1200 L Battery Pack| 90×120 Softbox

And just like that, I finally had something tangible within my grasp that Ka & Dinah were happy with, all the initial unspoken dread and worry that I had accumulated within me that was carefully hidden all throughout the day vanished within me.

It was back to directing, having fun and experimenting now that I was certain I had at least one amazing piece in my grasp.

Leaf Credo 80MP Digital Back Kit with 645DF with Schneider 80 f/2.8 LS | ISO 50, f/4.0, 1/640 sec | Broncolor Para 133 | Move 1200 L Battery Pack| 90×120 Softbox

This was my first outdoor photoshoot where I was going to be using the Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 and the fact that I could get my ISO as low as 35 and my shutter speed as high as 1/1600th was something I had never experienced before. Combining that with 1200 watts of power out of my Move packs meant that I could have an unprecedented level of control that I never had in the past – No need to hypersync, no need to jerry rig up some bedsheets for shade, and no need to worry about the sun not playing nice.

This meant that I could focus on other things such as figuring out how to get my lights from one edge of the rocks to another, having Brandon and Paul struggle to not fall over as they balanced precariously on the rocks and having Ka Amorastreya balance from one challenging location to the next while making sure to not get any feathers wet.

Leaf Credo 80MP Digital Back Kit with 645DF with Schneider 80 f/2.8 LS | ISO 50, f/6.3, 1/1000 sec | Broncolor Para 133 | Move 1200 L Battery Pack| 90×120 Softbox

All the fun and excitement finally began to come to an end as the sun inevitably began it’s final descent and so with the last little bit of battery remaining, I captured the final frame for the day, with my camera plugged into the laptop so that it could charge on the go.

And only then, as the shutter clicked for the final time did I finally feel a sense of accomplishment and safety. There was no turning the clock back now, and I had done the best that I possibly could have. That regardless of how the images turned out, everyone had given it their all and that no matter what happened, we all had… at the very least… a great experience.

Leaf Credo 80MP Digital Back Kit with 645DF with Schneider 80 f/2.8 LS | ISO 100, f/4.0, 1/1250 sec | Broncolor Para 133 | Move 1200 L Battery Pack| 90×120 Softbox

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  • Srap Dsign

    Marvelous shot bro. Credits also to the costume designer, make up artist and others for making a great team work. Respect!!!.. 🙂

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  • rollee

    Kudos VWong! Your 1/1600 sync speed caught my attention. That magical horse wave is divine, you cannot have it better even by paying $$$! Making the beach picnic with your leaf and para worth all the while. Thanks for sharing your thoughts process, few will know what goes through in our minds before creatives.

    • Yeah hasselblad can unfortunately only go to 1/800th. There’s a big difference there! Glad I could share things 🙂

  • Natasha Heredia

    As someone who deals with CONSTANT fear, BOOKMARKING THIS UNDER INSPIRATION. Thank you!

  • Joanna Sandra K

    wow I admire you SO MUCH! For your work, your talent, determination and basically living free while being the true definition of an artist. So much love to you. I hope I can one day reach your potential 🙂

  • Uwe

    Really outstanding work from the hole team. You are right time and hard work is needed but I think also necessary is dedication and avocation and you have a lot of them, I admire it 🙂
    Keep on going and sharing your work/experience here- thanks a lot

  • Zimara

    I am really excited about your work and the way of sharing.

    This pushes my creativity much more than the most of German photographers

    In this case you are my hero 😉

    So go on and thanks for your kindness to share and it’s a pleasure to read your blog

    Happy greetings
    Jan Christian Zimara

  • What you wrote in the beginning about parents made me a little sad. It’s actually not like this for everyone. My parents are wonderful people but they are really conservative and they don’t like me doing art and blogging at all. They’re telling me to stop it for years now. But I don’t want to stop. I love them and I get that art might not have a “real-job” worth in their thinking and for that they want to protect me. But I’ll find it often hard that I cannot share work I am proud of with my family because they’ll than would fight over it and that ruins the experience of pride for me completely.
    But I will always continue on 🙂 I am absolutely looking up to you and your work Ben. In these new pictures the costumes look stunning and they make you instantly realize that someone put all their heart in there – even when you didn’t read about that. I love pure creativity!

    • Sorry to hear that, but there’s always a chance to prove them wrong 🙂 I think it’s about figuring the parts that they value and proving that you’re capable of doing things! An uphill battle but never impossible 🙂

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  • Subhadeep Dasgupta

    Tremendous work!
    Your pyro techniques first drew my attentions and since then you have really kept surprising me with all your fantastic and challenging projects.
    I often watch your videos, maybe not as a guide to photography, but mostly for the fun of it 😀
    Thanks for sharing your work with the world and inspiring us to be creative in our own areas.
    The costumes here are simply fabulous… I can imagine just how much time and effort the designer(s) put behind those!

  • Anni

    Thank you for that motivation 🙂 I will never stop working even if my motivation gets down really low! I also won’t let anyone get in the way of my blogging because I feel like I have important things to say and as long as people still write to me that I motivated them, I don’t see why I would ever stop going on with that. 🙂
    Here in Germany some people get really mad because they feel that it’s not right for me to write in English, but I don’t care too much about that! If you ever have any time to spare (I bet you rather sleep, when you do 😀 ) but just if, then you can absolutely check out my blog http://positiviphy.wordpress.com/

  • Zuzana Wallace

    Amazing work! Everything from make-up and hair, costumes, to the incredible photos! Looks like this shoot involved a lot of people working long hours, but the results are so worth it! Congrats! Keep up the amazing work you do!

  • nicsnana

    I came upon your work by accident on the computer. It has been my greatest gift of 2014. The emotion I feel when looking at your work is beyond explaining. I love to take photos and that is what they are for now, my goal in life would be to close to your ability. Please keep working and posting. I would love to purchase one of your works with the woman I call the book lady. I really love the one with her in the tree.
    Again, thank you for your visions.

  • Inspiring stuff Mr Wong. Anytime I get a chance to read something related to accomplishing a fear, I get the tingles.Thanks for the share.

  • catpea33

    Stunning once again!

  • Greg Royar

    Love the video and what you’ve done. I was in a google hangout with you a few years back and have followed you since. You’re always so positive and a pleasure to listen to. Keep up the great work!

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  • Allan

    Your words are as inspirational as your images! Thanks for sharing your insight and creativity!

  • christine allen

    OMG … these images are gob-smackingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing your awesome work!!