Sci-fi chic inspired by Blade Runner


I really enjoy shooting portraits. All the portraits I have shot to date were made at home where space is limited so I have mostly produced head and shoulder shots. Also the choice of background is limited so it gets a bit tiresome. So I really wanted to shoot portraits on location and location shooting in Montreal during winter means indoor.

I asked a friend who is very fond and knowledgeable about sci-fi movies in general to participate. We settled on a ”sci-fi chic” theme for the shoot inspired by the makeup and bangs worn by Pris, the ”basic pleasure model” replicant portrayed by Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner. My friend is also very capable at theatrical make-up so I thought it would be a perfect theme to capture her personality.

I did some location scouting and settled on the Nordelec Building, an immense brick structure comprising eight floors and five wings located in Pointe St-Charles, now housing commercial lofts. The tall windows everywhere and the apparent service ducting struck me as ideal for the industrial look I was seeking. Because the building is not fully occupied, I thought it would be easy to infiltrate and find a secluded spot somewhere in there to shoot. I figured out that we would need washrooms for the makeup and noted that there are some at multiple locations on all floors.

The day of the shoot, we pack light as we want to look reasonably inconspicuous. We strut along to the hallway I had spotted but we soon encounter the first obstacle: the washrooms require an entry key that only the tenants have. We asked whether there are open washrooms and are told that only those vis-à-vis the security desk are accessible without a key. We head down to the lobby and ask security whether we can shoot inside the building. We are told that we need permission from the building administration. So while my friend is preparing her makeup, I head back up to the 6th floor to secure said permission (thanx Marco!). Now we are all set.

We select two locations for pictures: a dimly-lit hallway leading to the main lobby and the middle wing on the 6th floor. One good thing is that traffic is low as most people have not yet returned to work from the Holidays. I brought only a battery-powered portable flash, a light stand and a 25′ E-TTL cable as lighting equipment. I want to make sure that the images capture the ambient light as well, otherwise what is the purpose of shooting in situ?

I do not have much experience directing people for poses but thankfully, my friend is a natural at posing. I think that the resulting set of images captures her bubbly personality as well as her breadth of poses and attitudes. For example, for the image at the beginning of the post, she carelessly draped the chain as if it was a scarf. I love the gesture and it produced my favorite picture from the set.

Now that I check out the images, it occurs to me that I have deviated from the initial goal of ”loosely inspired by Blade Runner”. I plan on watching the movie again and focus on lighting, tint, contrast and film grain that define the visual imagery of the movie. I sense a rework coming in the near future!

I enjoy all aspects of portrait shooting, from the planning, scouting, infiltration if need be, but most of all, the best part is just the sheer fun during the shoot: the chit chat, surprise poses, discovering angles and the joy of checking out the LCD screen and knowing that you got the ”money shot”. I use the term loosely since I do this for pure enjoyment. The lack of pressure of producing a real money shot probably helps keep things from becoming tense and retain the fun aspect.

I am definitely hooked on location shooting and will do some more scouting to find other interesting places for various themes. All I need is some more faces to shoot. Any volunteers?

The gallery below shows the images retained in the chronological order they were captured.

Equipment: Canon DSLR 5D Mk II, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX lens, Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX lens, Canon EF 135mm f/2L lens, Canon Speedlite 580 EX II flash, RAW conversion using Lightroom 4.1

9 thoughts on “Sci-fi chic inspired by Blade Runner

  1. Absolutely love this photo shoot. Blade runner is one of my favorite movies of all time. No, I didn’t get the nick because of the movie (grin). Thank you for sharing.

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