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Shaun Tan, portraits in Stockholm

Shaun Tan, winner of the ALMA award 2011 in Stockhom

Shaun Tan is the Australian illustrator and winner of the ALMA award (The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award) 2011, this week he is in Stockholm a couple of days, then off to Munich, Lillehammer and Vimmerby. After that, back again for more events, interviews and finally the ceremony were he will recieve the award from H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria.

My job is to produce press photos from all the events in Stockholm this year for the award office and their PR department. We started today on a small island in the middle of Stockholm called Skeppsholmen, photographing portraits in different locations of the island.

One light on location


Today was one of the sunnier in Stockholm this year, and according to the excellent iPhone app The Photographer’s Ephemeris, the sun would shine hard on most parts of the small island. Unfortunately, it was also quite windy.

app-sunI wanted to produce at least one portrait with a clear blue sky, so I brought a Profoto AcuteB 600R, a large light stand and a Profoto Magnum reflector (mostly because I planned to use it from a distance, and the wind would make any umbrella or softbox into a sail/parachute).

We started with the station that would require a little bit of light testing, after that I did only natural light portraits.

Starting with a shutter speed of 1/200s I had to dial down the aperture to f/16 to get the sky deep blue. After that I switched on the AcuteB and adjusted the power setting until Shaun was properly exposed.

When the more complicated and time consuming part of the photo session was over, we moved around to locations I had walked by before.


For the first photo I used a 24-70/2.8 lens, set on 24mm or something like this to get all the surroundings into the picture.

As soon as we switched to available light and a large silver reflector, I had the 85mm/1.4 on for the rest of the session. I always tend to use that lens for portraits, if I don’t need anything wider.


In total we covered seven different places as backdrops for the portraits, and how nice it might be with a beautiful day, it creates a whole new set of problems that one might have forgotten during the dark part of the year.

For example, always having to look for shadow, and trying to avoid too much colour cast from green grass or foilage. Or sunlight hitting a red wall giving off a light hard to correct in post production.

All in all, it was a very fun and relaxing assignment. Shaun was extremely likeable and easy to work with, he had seen Zoolander and could give me his “Blue Steel” look (even if those portraits didn’t end up being used, too bad).

It is going to be a hectic week, last year with Kitty Crowther was like that, and the year before with the Tamer Institute. Hopefully the weather will continue to show off Stockholm from its best side.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Famuyiwa Oyebola June 28, 2011, 13:08

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