Photography and dreams have always walked this world side by side. From a crazy idea for a photo shoot that just came to life, to a wedding photo that holds the most magical moment of a lifetime, or simply the fact that you get to live your calling of becoming a professional photographer. But what we’re about to tell you today goes beyond any of your wildest imagination – and straight into the stratosphere!
A few months ago, Wix launched its worldwide “Capture Your Dream Photo” contest. We asked all Wix photographers to share the one moment they’ve always fantasized of capturing, their once-in-a-lifetime dream photo. Thousands of people submitted thousands of crazy ideas, but one was so incredible, we just had to make it happen…
When Reiko Wakai, a budding fashion photographer from Japan, was watching a TV program with her father on New Year’s, she never guessed the improbable concept she had in her mind could come to life. Little did she know!
Stumbling upon the “Capture Your Dream Photo” campaign, she grabbed her chance and entered the contest by submitting her stunning Wix website. Her dream? To put together a fashion photo shoot in zero gravity. Imagine her reaction when she found out it was going to happen! Wait, no need to imagine, just watch the winner’s announcement right here:
After overcoming the excitement, it took several months of serious preparations to give the groundbreaking dream its wings. Many challenges lay ahead: finding a zero gravity flight, recruiting the perfect model, finalizing a shooting concept within the strict limitations of FAA (American Federal Aviation Administration) regulations, and many, many more. All within a significant time difference between the photographer and the production crew, while overcoming a language barrier. But nothing could stop this project from taking off!
Several months later, with the best professionals in the industry and model Stav Strashko on board, our hearts were beating with excitement at the speed of light.
Zero Gravity Corporation flights imitate the weightlessness astronauts experience in outer space by flying in a pattern called “parabolic arcs”. That literally means that the plane maneuvers upwards and downwards at an intense frequency, creating short lapses of weightlessness, during which everyone and everything is floating inside the plane. Can you believe that Reiko had only 15 chances of 30 seconds to capture the perfect shot? Not mentioning that if one of the key-participants (including Reiko and the model) got airsick during one of the lapses, they would, under strict warning from the crew, not be able to continue working on the photo shoot.
To bring you more than just a taste, we interviewed Reiko about the dream that came to life and the many more that are on the way. Here’s what it feels like to accomplish an out-of-this-world photo shoot in zero gravity:
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Reiko Wakai, and I am a fashion photographer. I am from Sapporo, Hokkaido, north of Japan. I majored in photography during my Art studies in University.
How did you come to the idea of shooting in zero gravity?
I came up with this idea when I was watching TV with my father on New Years. I saw a program about indoor skydiving and found it very interesting. I am a fashion photographer and I always think about incorporating what inspires me into my work. That’s how I came up with an idea of a fashion photo shoot with a model floating in the air.
Did you ever imagine you’d get to experience zero gravity?
Never! But I have dreamt about it. I found out there is only one place where you can float in zero gravity but it was extremely expensive. So I postponed this dream for when I’d become rich and successful, I thought it would take another decade or two at least… I never imagined there would be a chance to accomplish this so soon.
Why did you choose Stav for this project?
I first saw Stav in a major international campaign she did. I was impressed by her mysterious beauty and started to look for more details about her. As I followed her on Instagram, I started hoping to photograph her one day. For the Capture Your Dream Photo contest, Wix offered me to choose any model I wanted, so she was one of my first choices to shoot in zero gravity.
How did you develop the styling of the photo shoot?
I had several ideas on what background and props I should use. But unfortunately, most of my requests and suggestions were declined due to the strict FAA regulations. Every single item brought on board of a zero gravity flight needs to be approved within several weeks before the flight takes place. There was no room for improvisation.
What were your biggest concerns?
I had a vision of what the set should look like, so I was very stubborn about getting the background and the props needed. I started out with many ideas and suggestions, but most of the requests were declined due to FAA regulations, especially since the shooting happened inside a commercial aircraft. This process of submitting a request and getting declined was repeated over and over. It was only a couple of weeks before the flight that we could finalize the concept of the photo shoot. On the test flight, just one day before the photo shoot, I found out that I would be able to use only one light, instead of the two I have planned for. It was very hard to compromise what I wanted to capture due to these technical limitations. But eventually it just worked out, and I am so grateful that everyone here made it come true.
Can you describe your feeling the night before take off?
I was quite nervous. I slept well, but I woke up a couple of times.
The big day has arrived! You boarded the long awaited Zero Gravity flight with more than 40 team members, including Stav, the production team, the flight crew, and others. Was the flight everything you expected?
To be honest, it was much more chaotic than I imagined. There were so many things that I couldn’t control and I wasn’t able to carry out the way I planned. However, a photo shoot is a photo shoot. So I kept my focus as usual, aiming to get the best results.
Once you were in midair, what were the challenges of shooting in zero gravity?
There were quite a few! Besides the limitations imposed by the FAA, there was the language barrier – I had to communicate with the production team and everyone on set with the help of a translator.
But the biggest challenge shooting in zero gravity is definitely zero gravity itself. The location of the light, the model and the camera are all moving around, which is unlike anything I’ve experienced so far. In regular circumstances, the position of those three elements are fixed. In zero gravity, obviously, this was not the case: both the model and I kept floating in unexpected directions. These were the most difficult moments. But in spite of everything, I’m very happy with the quality of the photos I got!
What was the scariest moment for you?
I wasn’t scared about zero gravity at all, but once the photo shoot started, I felt like a lot of things didn’t go as planned. We’ve spent months preparing for this day, I was worried that I might not be able to achieve the result I dreamt of.
And the funniest thing that happened?
It was a photo shoot with the sensation that I have never experienced before. I enjoyed both the unprecedented feeling and the messiness on set. The most amazing moment was when we used water. In a zero gravity environment, water drops float in the air shaped like round balls, and this is what I always wanted to shoot. It was so beautiful and I wanted to stare at it infinitely…
How would you sum up the experience?
It was very hard but it was a lot of fun! I’m very satisfied with the end result, and I would definitely love to do it again.
What is your next big dream?
Two days before the photo shoot, I went to see the Cirque du Soleil in Orlando. I am originally a big fan of circus and I was very inspired by the show. So I felt that one day, I would like to shoot an acrobatic performance on a trapeze to capture and express the dynamism of human body. That’s another way of defying gravity!
Also, I am going to move to the U.K. next month, so I hope to continue pursuing my career of a fashion photographer. Eventually, I would like to open a photography studio of my own.
Is there anything you’d like to say to all the beginner photographers out there? Maybe a piece of advice?
I am not sure I am in the position to give tips as I am still a junior photographer… I definitely want to tell everyone they should not hesitate and take action immediately to make their dream come true. They might grab a chance just like I did with Wix.
Now comes the hard part: choosing the perfect shot. Photographer: Steve Boxell – ZERO-G
Do you think it’s important for a photographer to have a website?
Considering today’s remarkable advances of the Internet and social media, having a photography website is an absolute must to promote yourself. If you have an online portfolio, your work can be seen by anyone, anywhere, anytime. In fact, these days I often get to work with people I’ve never met before – they contacted me via my website.
Do you have any tips for photographers who need to create an online portfolio?
I make it my policy to include in my portfolio only the photos that I’m satisfied with. I also delete old photos which I think no longer represent my current level of quality. It’s a common mistake to leave a website as it is, once completed. I would recommend to update your works on a regular basis, or even change the web design completely, all depending on your mood in a certain period.
According to you, what are the necessary elements for a photographer’s website?
There are so many photographers out there, both amateur and professional. Everyone has a camera or a smartphone… That’s why it’s critical to shoot and deliver photos that are truly original and unique. When creating an online portfolio, you need to choose a design that will reflect your unique style in a second. It’s also important that you like the design and colors.
That being said, I’d recommend keeping the design and structure as simple as possible. If your website’s design is too intricate, or the navigation is complicated, impatient visitors (like me!) will not stay to look at your photography.
A last word or thought to share with our readers? You have carte blanche!
This photo shoot wouldn’t have happened without everyone here at Wix. Also, it wouldn’t have taken place without the people whom I worked with for my Wix site. I am very thankful to everyone!
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