The sky wasn’t my friend that day, and neither was the sun. I mean, I woke up, looked out my bedroom window, and there it was, staring sardonically back at me—a sky so cloudy it looked like it was falling. Not overly overcast or anything—just that there was no hint of blue at all! And the sun wasn’t its usual bright self, too! I was this close to calling the whole thing off, but I knew I couldn’t: one, this was my last solo shoot before I was going to start my apprenticeship (at Shutterfairy Photography, in August of this year); two, I couldn’t bring myself to let a best friend down.
Paolo, the groom-to-be, is my best friend Andre’s younger brother. It was Andre who’d asked me to do this, and I’d said yes because, well, his family was like my second family, plus it had been years since I’d last seen Paolo—and I’d never met his bride-to-be! I’d offered something that was young, a bit messy and hard-edged, in the same vein as my grunge-inspired first solo shoot (for an Ormoc-based couple). But Andre had had something else in mind, something more “mature” and sedate—“They’re parents now,” he’d reasoned. Fair enough. A stylist himself, he’d been visualizing his future sister-in-law’s look for days. “I want modern, floor-sweeping gowns,” he’d shared, “but set against the mountains!” He’d proceeded to show me photos from a recent road trip with friends to Busay, and further up the Cebu Transcentral Highway to Balamban. “Glorious, isn’t it?” To which I’d nodded, for indeed they were breathtaking pictures, but I’d had to warn him that “I’m not very good with these nature-y locations” (you might remember me talking about this in a previous post, about how deathly afraid I was of vegetation and anything countryside/bucolic). But I’d had to compromise—Andre had made it clear he was going to take care of the styling aspect of it, and so here was a chance for me to focus on just taking pictures, something I’d been praying for for so long! And so, mountains it was.
Which was why I’d hoped for “blue skies” to be “smiling at me.” I’d wanted to give them “glorious,” like Andre had described. Laugh all you want, but in the days leading to the shoot all I could picture in my mind’s eye was something that looked like that generic Windows XP wallpaper—you know, sprawling verdant hills against a vast blanket of cerulean skies. But, alas, cerulean had decided to take a day off, leaving us with nothing but a canopy of cotton. “Well, we will have to do with what we have,” Andre said. “Let’s just be thankful it’s not raining!”
I was in for a pleasant surprise, though, when we got to our first location, a grassy cliff tucked behind a small market where local flower and vegetable growers sold their fresh picks to drivers passing by (it was the makeup artist Owen who led us to it). The sky may have been cloudy and devoid of any trace of blue, but that was alright because the grass was in a lovely shade of yellow-brown! Looked kind of dull, actually, when I took my first few shots, but just a few experimental adjustments to the white balance, and I was able to add a yellow cast and kill some of the greens (of course, the vibrance I would work on later on in Photoshop). As I followed Paolo and Kiselle around as they traipsed on these fields of yellow, I couldn’t help but call to mind these beautiful lines from Sting’s “Fields of Gold” (one of my favorite songs from when I was a child, and still one of my favorites now—I kind of like Eva Cassidy’s rendition, too): “You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky/ As we walk in fields of gold.”
Also loved how I was able to spot a solitary tree. Swear to God, I am getting good at keeping my eyes open these days. You should’ve seen me that day, I almost broke my neck darting my head from left to right as Paolo sped through the highway, on the lookout for a lone tree, and I think it freaked everyone out when I screamed “OK, stop!” as soon as I spotted one. Well, at first it wasn’t really solitary, as there was this colossal water buffalo grazing right next to it. My friend Inez, who tagged along for this assignment, wanted to place a bet that there was no way I could get the thing to scoot over—to her dismay, I was able to, and I didn’t even have to pull my sleeves up! I don’t know if everyone was impressed with my “buffalo whispering” skills, but I knew I was impressed with myself. Nice to know I have a way with these four-legged creatures!
Speaking of four-legged creatures, perhaps the biggest treat that day was when Andre was able to get a gorgeous horse into the picture. I love horses. To me, they’re the most beautiful creatures on earth (next to Kate Moss, of course), and few reflexes are as pleasant as the gasp that escapes my mouth upon seeing a horse throw its head up, arch its back, and whip its tail. This was perfect timing, because I’d missed taking picture of horses. It had been almost a year since I’d last taken pictures of these beauties (at the Kentucky Horse Park, in August of 2010, where I’d spent some five or so hours clicking away at every single horse I’d bumped into), and what a refreshing experience that had been! Even more exhilarating, though (and I think I wrote about this in a previous post), is when you get to know—and call them by—their names. This beauty right here was named Athena, after the Greek goddess. At first Kiselle was hesitant to get up on the saddle (antiquated leather!), afraid she might topple, but the caretaker was quick to assure us Athena was very neighborly and always treated her riders kind. Before shooting I spent a couple of minutes caressing her mane and touching her face, and I couldn’t help but notice there was a tinge of sadness in her eyes. Mr. Caretaker proceeded to tell us the story of how, just a few weeks back, Athena had lost all her three or four siblings to a mysterious equine illness—that explained the sullen look in her eyes. Despite this, though, she carried on like a trouper, and made love to the camera like a pro. Before we said goodbye I felt the need to whisper in her ear—you know, that she was going to be OK, and that her eyes were going to regain their sparkle one day.
Speaking of expressive eyes, I simply couldn’t take my eyes of Kiselle’s. I liked the way they disappeared into tiny slits every time she laughed—whether out loud, or silently, in her head. She was a woman of very few words, and instead relied on her eyes to do the talking. I loved how, when she needed Paolo to do something, she would just give him a certain look, and then he would set out to do it. Yes, they had that kind of chemistry, and it was enviable. Kiselle’s father would touch on the subject of her eyes and their convincing powers three months later, at the wedding reception. “I don’t like speaking in front of people—when I was in school, I would pretend to be sick on days when the teacher would ask me to recite in front of class,” he shared during his father of the bride speech. “Only Kiselle could get me to do these kinds of things. I wasn’t gonna do this, but it’s her special day, and she’s looking at me with those eyes… Kiselle’s eyes are beautiful. They’re the eyes that she got from her mother. And now Kiselle’s daughter, my granddaughter, has them.” Nice to know there’s plenty of them to go around.
Jun Paolo Dedamo and Kiselle Ibones | Photographed by Angelo Kangleon in Busay, Cebu, on July 24, 2011 | Styled by Andre Emmanuel Dedamo | Hair and makeup by Owen Taboada (to book Owen, click here) | Sittings assistant: Inez Reformina | White strapless bias-cut crepe de chine gala gown, black strapless draped silk-georgette gala gown, and scarlet strapless bias-cut silk-georgette gala gown with laser cut detail, all by Owen Taboada
Behind the Scenes Instagrams Clockwise from top left: The hairstylist/makeup artist Owen, who is also a designer (he made all the gowns that Kiselle wore for this shoot), fixing Kiselle’s hair; Inez and Andre scouting for a good spot; Owen keeping our special guest star Athena happy by feeding her with corn husks; Andre and Owen on the simple suspension bridge at this place called Island in the Sky Resort in Balamban; me holding on for dear life as I tried to photograph the couple on the simple suspension bridge (the photos came out bad because it was just too foggy that afternoon); test shot with Owen and Kiselle; we all just had to have a photo with the beautiful Athena. Behind-the-scenes photos courtesy Andre Dedamo.