Strobing in Shenzhen with Ace Eribal

It’s time to profile another local photographic talent: Ace Eribal. He is a graphic designer by trade, expat from the Philippines, and long-term resident of Shenzhen. I was first exposed to Ace’s artistry as the frontman of his rock n’ roll band, Bolt Action, while performing at gigs around town. Only later did I discover that he is also a talented photographer while perusing a local photographic club website. Ace rocks a speedlight flash pretty well and has a knack for dramatic fashion photos. Dive into to the interview, and click through the photos for more strobist details…

Name: Ace “Disgrace” Eribal (Website – FacebookFlickr)

Hometown: Manila, Philippines

Tell us about yourself:

I came to China in 2002 to work as a senior graphic designer and I was very lucky to have worked with a lot of foreign designers with different influences and art styles. I learned, adapted and executed all this knowledge and try to improve myself as an artist. I hate just sitting down and doing nothing, I would always joke to my friends that I will have enough rest when I’m dead. I never like the idea of sleeping 8 hours a day, which I can’t fight my body to do so. I love working on things, projects and especially creative ones. I want my art to stand out or be different in the mainstream. I want it to have an effect on people and I always believe in powerful visual communication.

I now work as a graphic design manager and play in a rock band called Bolt Action. Music is one of my arsenals to take me away from reality and let me think outside of the box for a newer creative approach. Music gives me peace, madness and artistic vision. Its true when they say I have a lot of things going on in my life…I have the corporate world on the weekdays, my music on the weekends and my everyday art where photography is a part of it. I would always complain how tired I am but deep inside I’m not. I crave for information, experience and ingenuity and most of all being different from the norm.

A professional model asked if we can work together, I never say no. She had a bag full of clothes and found these Hawaiian costumes and we just went on with it. Lighting Info> Top shoot through umbrella and below another shoot through umbrella in one light stand. Its like a clam shell modifier…lolz!

How did you get started in photography? 

Oh, as I remember those old Kodak carton disposables… They are just awesome! I never wanted to be a photographer or planned on being one. Somehow my lust for creativity brought me here and I have enjoyed it ever since. I converted my small home into a small studio space where I can experiment with my lighting and get personally good results from it. Now, I just don’t want to take pictures because I have the equipment for it. I plan my shoots and study the models facial/body features, the pose, make-up, angles and finally the crucial lighting mixing it with the look I’im aiming for. I am thankful for the models that have found me and travel a long way just to be in front of my camera and work with me. I love challenges and obstacles – I learn a lot from it and somehow it betters my photographs the way I planned it to be. Photography is not that easy as what others might think. It separates the pro from the hobbyist. It’s like you’re in a war zone carefully pointing your gun and being responsible when you pull the trigger and go for the kill.

We spotted this location just near where I live and decided to use it for a photo shoot. This picture got on the final 5 for the Digital Photographer Magazine Anniversary. Lighting info> 2 bare flash guns taped together 3 meters high in a boom stand.

Favorite camera and lens? Why? 

Nikon D7000 – it’s a small camera packed with a lot more features than the Canon 7D. The Nikkor 85mm 1.8 lens a great for studio and street portraiture.

If you could shoot anyone/anywhere/anything, what would it be? 

I don’t have any special preferences who to shoot or which location it would be. I have the ability to adapt in whatever situation I am in. All I need is light. The world is so big and there are a lot of things to explore. If a door of opportunity opens I’ll grab it at once and make it my world as how I envision it.

What’s your shooting style? Photographic influence? 

I love portraitures and somehow the photos im taking looks like high fashion to people. What they don’t know that some of the models I shoot are just simple people they meet everyday in the street or at the café. My photographic influence would be the lighting they do in the movies. I have worked for 3 years in the movie and television industry and I would always admire the lighting directors how they make a simple prop set into a theatric one. I bother them with a lot of questions, I assist them and kept all the knowledge they have shared to me. There are times that I will watch a movie and not pay any attention to the story. I observe the framing of the camera, how the scene is lighted, what color of lighting is used, the aperture set up, the transition of the visuals… and after I will open my sketch book and draw every creative look I can think of. Annie Leibovitz and her crew is what I call the dream team!

This was the time I only had 2 flashes, with few available equipment. I splashed a red color gel to my curtains and used it as a backdrop. And used a small lumiquest softbox to light her on camera right.

What’s your “off camera flash philosophy”? 

I use a lot of flashes; it’s a great freedom than on camera flash, unless im just using my on camera flash as a trigger. As soon as you take off your flash from your camera there is a big, bigger, biggest playground waiting for you to have fun with. Never stop challenging yourself.

How does your graphic design work affect your photography? 

My graphic design affected my photography in a better way. I have been working in an advertising industry for as long as I can remember. My graphics team have manipulated hundreds of stock photos to be used for international promotion and marketing campaigns. I tend to separate my photography with my graphic designs. They are both in a love and hate relationship. My graphic designs are probably for corporate and branding works. And as for my photography 101% of it is personal.

The model is a dear friend of mine, and also the fiancé of my friend in Shenzhen. She was about to go back to her country when I asked on the last minute if they can stay for a 1 hour shoot at my place. I like skulls and everything about it, and the fact that she like skulls too we came up to have skull inspired accessories. Lighting Info> Apollo softbox on camera left and a backdrop of white bed sheet. I light it up with 2 flashes and went on supernova. Now I have a seamless white background.

If you could be a photographer instead of graphic designer, would you?

I will get bored if I stick to one profession. I would just like to be called an artist than any of these two titles. I love art and that is my fuel in life…

Tell us about some of your shooting projects, especially your favorite one…

It was last spring when me and my girlfriend “ TAZ” [who is also doing freelance modeling on weekends] was walking our dog at the park. We saw this wall full of flowers and on the ground some grass and dried petals and it created this atmosphere of like a set-up in a theater. She joked that I should shoot her there just for fun, so we went there on the next weekend. I just have my brother to assist me and we started taking pictures and after checking the lights I just thought of placing the light on top and not putting any diffusion on it. I took around 40 pictures and went home. After a few weeks I posted the picture on digital photographer magazine website for their anniversary competition. Of all 400+ entries one of my photo was chosen for the top 5. Im really happy with the results.

The model came up to me to do a different shoot, he is a very simple guy so I kinda asked him if he is ok if I make a concept shoot for him. I bought a newspaper for 1RMB/0.7 Cents USD for a background. I asked my girlfriend to put some rockstar make-up on him and did the shoot. He was so happy and wanted all 80 photos we did. Lighting info> Beauty dish as key light / Shoot through umbrella as a fill light.

Please guide us through one of your favorite lighting setups and how you accomplished the photo: 

I like dramatic photos, I usually use a soft box or a beautydish as a key light. Its just the glow of these modifiers that put an extra pop in my photos. I always work with a one light first and then look at the photos. From that I would add on some accent lighting back, side or whatever fits the creative. I use different color gels to blend with available light.

What kind of special photographic opportunities do you find living in Shenzhen? 

One of the great things in Shenzhen is getting photographic and lighting gear at grey market prices. Photographic equipment’s are very expensive and hard to find in some places when you have a small budget at hand. Shenzhen is a fast growing international business city, and there are a lot of people would love to find the right photographers for their projects – personal or business cases. I also like the people of Shenzhen Photographic Club where photographers come together for workshops, lessons, photowalk or just hanging out and learn a few tricks from each other. Its fun and exciting here, and I can say Shenzhen is my 2nd home and I would love to continue my career and stay for a while in Shenzhen.

This is a funny concept my girlfriend was playing around one time. She used a red bubblegum wrapper and shape it in to a lips and put it on her mouth… I was like brilliant lets go set the lights… She thought I was joking. Lighting info> A falcon eye softbox on top of her and a grid yellow snoot to splash a color on top of her head.

What is the best thing about photography? Worst? 

The best thing about photography is learning the rules and breaking them in the end. There is no limitation! And you have total freedom how to express your photographs. The worst thing is Auto mode and TTL… hahahaha!

What does the future hold for you?

Im hoping for more opportunity and great projects! Im just going where my creativity takes me and have fun with it.

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