Dreaming of Sant Joan

By Rafael Pons

While I am writing these lines, I fight the terrible heat wave with a good "gin with lemonade", very chilly, the typical drink of the festival of Sant Joan in Ciutadella de Menorca, a mix of Gin Xoriguer and lemonade.

The festivities are already very close and I begin to notice that there is more joy in the atmosphere. The 23rd and 24th of June are just around the corner and people begin to get somewhat excited.

The photo? I do not have a clue whose idea it was, Antoni Cladera’s I believe, but someone mentioned the words Sant Joan, horse and Milky Way and neurons began to work.

The idea

We wanted to make an unusual picture, a tribute to the festivities but also the historical and natural heritage of Menorca. So we decided to make a cocktail with ingredients typical of the island:

  • A horseman or "caixer" as we call it in our land, and his horse performing a jump, both dressed with the traditional clothes of the festival of Sant Joan.
  • The countryside and one of its most characteristic buildings: the stone hut to shelter livestock.
  • The darkness of the night, stars and our majestic Milky Way, properly planned with PhotoPills.

I say it and always will: Antoni Cladera is a photographer with many resources. Who else could have pulled a real horseman out of the hat, one of those involved in the festival of Sant Joan, willing to participate in a crazy photographic experiment.

Let's watch how the originator explains the idea… don’t miss it!

The stage, an unbeatable location: Son Mercer de Baix. An agricultural and cattle farm located in the municipality of Ferreries, owned by the Mascaro family. Family known worldwide for having created the now indispensable PrettyBallerinas.

The farm is also known for its magnificent handmade cheese. Fact we could confirm when visiting the cheese factory with Magdalena Bagur "Sa Madona", our hostess and mother of the horseman.

The stage is right next to the farmhouse. A place with very little light pollution and with the southern skies completely cleared of obstacles that could blocked the view of Milky Way. Upon arrival, we inspected the area and removed the larger stones to prevent the horse from getting harmed when jumping.

We enjoyed the collaboration of Miquel Arguimbau, the patient horseman. Turning into a model for one day and wear the traditional habits of the festivities is already complicated, but having to make the perfect pose dominating a horse under the orders of Antoni Cladera is too much.

The other lead actor, and also dressed up for the occasion, is called Verí, a breed of horse indigenous to the island of Menorca. A breed preserved over the centuries and for over more than two hundred years used in the festival of Sant Joan.

The plan

To recapitulate, we have the stone hut, the rider and the horse... we just need the Milky Way. How do we find out when we have to take the photo?

A few months ago, we used the Night Augmented Reality tool of PhotoPills to calculate when the Milky Way would be in the desired position, with the galactic center near the stone hut across the starry sky.

It turned out that the photo had to be taken on May 31, 2014 at 11:14 pm, after moonset and at the end of the astronomical twilight, in complete darkness.

PhotoPill’s Augmented Reality representation of the Milky Way at the time of the photo: May 31, 2014 at 11:14 pm.

But... how do you plan it? Don’t worry, this week we’ll post a tutorial that will teach you how to use the Night Augmented Reality tool to plan the Milky Way, step by step.

The shoot

We are in favor of always shooting single exposures, even when shooting night portraits. We like challenges. Obviously, in this case, shooting a single exposure was impossible because the horse couldn’t stand still for 30 seconds while jumping. So we decided to shoot a double exposure: one for the horseman, the horse and the stone hut and the other for the Milky Way.

First, we took the photograph of the rider and the horse doing the typical "bot" or jump. We used a full frame camera (DSLR) and a 14mm fast lens. To freeze the models, we used an octobox 47'' with a 300W flash connected to an autonomous generator 2000W, shot at full power.

The greatest difficulty was to get the horse jump in the desired direction. Luckily, Miquel is an expert horseman and made things much easier.

Here's one of the shots in which Verí refuses to jump in front of the camera.

Miquel Arguimbau and Verí | 14mm, f/5.6, 1/90s, 200 ISO

The photograph of the Milky Way followed up, with the same camera and focal lens.

Milky Way | 14mm, f/2.8, 30s, 3200 ISO

The final photo is the result of a post processing job, blending the photo of the horse and the stone hut lit by the flash and the starry sky with the Milky Way.

Dreaming of Sant Joan.

Finally, we couldn’t resist shooting a portrait of Miquel, leaning against the stone hut and the stars as background.

Miquel Arguimbau | 85mm, f/1.4, 30”, ISO 3200

Here's the making-of video, compressing 2 hours of shooting in a few seconds.

More photos from the shoot

Anna and Germán showing Miquel the exact jumping spot.

Miquel and Veri, pre-jump moments.

All photographs were taken by Antoni Cladera.

I wish you a great Sant Joan 2014!

Happy Shooting!

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