November 15, 2010

black snake moan


|everything is hotter down south|

Only by attempting the seemingly impossible one can evolve. This is what I thought when I conceived my “Black Snake Moan” homage. But first things first. I met the model, Melanie, at a get together of the german internet platform model-kartei.de. She somehow reminded me of Christina Ricci and I went up to her and asked her if she was interested in a project of mine. I mailed her the poster whose style I wanted to achieve. She was excited and agreed immediately. So we had a month and a half for preparation. She really got into style and outfit, I busied myself with the right lighting and, last but not least, with the composition. The latter would be a hard one for me since I never did any advanced Photoshop composing. So I started reading and watching various tutorials and experimented with composing doing some self-portraits.

The shooting part was easy. I know that “I’ve chained a young girl in my cellar.” sounds a little bit offensive, but that’s exactly what I did *g*. With a little help of a friend of hers we quickly achieved the wanted shots and experimented a bit deviating from the template. After 1 ½ hours we were done. I started editing the results about a week later. First I was trying different methods to extract the subject from the initially white background. Then came the hard part. I knew exactly what look I wanted to achieve, but I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to get there. I tried different textures, filters and color corrections. And after hours and hours of work, a lot of trial and error and many, many layers, I finally got to where I wanted to be. There will be 2 or 3 more pictures of the same style. I’m sure they will not be as nearly as time consuming as the first.

Looking back I probably should have chosen a different, not so difficult project to get into composing. But believe me, nothing is more satisfying than the feeling to have succeeded alone. The learning curve was very steep, but what one has climbed once, nobody can take away :-)

November 4, 2010

getting excited!

Do you know that feeling? You got a photoshoot scheduled and the closer you get to the planned date the more excited you get. Is everything prepared? Are you up to the game? And, in case you haven’t met the model yet, how will the chemistry be?

Tomorrow will be the day. I still have to get me a nice, long chain but I assigned my wife to the task and she knows how to get certain things from time to time. I’ve already met the model at a get-together of the german internet platform model-kartei.de, so no tension there. We will try to imitate the look of a movie poster I like (she’s a perfect look-alike of the leading actress) and I’ve analyzed the reference regarding camera position and lighting. The biggest task will be the postprocessing but hey, I wanted to step up my game, didn’t I? I’ve asked a Photoshop virtuoso and friend of mine (be sure to check out his awesome portfolio at yarik.de) to assist me when worse comes to worse, but I think I’ll give it a try by myself first.

When the final picture is finished I’ll be posting its development on this blog. So stay tuned!

November 3, 2010

quo vadis?

Nothing is as constant as change. This motto has accompanied me all my life and there is probably no more fundamental truth than this. In terms of my photographic journey, I have the feeling of having arrived at a turning point. I gained my experience in studio and outdoor photography, I learned to efficiently use appropriate software for image processing and I think you could say I can handle the lighting and retouching of a portrait.

For a long time, image editing was the necessary evil for giving my images the final touch. A portrait without retouching is still inconceivable to me, but it has more and more become a tool than a threat. The more I learned working with this tool, the more I discovered its creative possibilities. And with these possibilities comes creativity. My head is bursting with ideas right now. Still more in a matter of “What do I have to do in post-processing?” than “What can I do in post-processing?”, but more out-of-the-box than my usual approach on portrait photography. I started making scribbles of my ideas, sometimes not even remotely sure how to achieve them.

But I will go outside the envelope. I will suck up knowledge like a dried up sponge. And I will most definitely publish one or another experiment in form of a self-portrait.

Beware!

November 2, 2010

there is always a "pain" in light painting!

A few weeks ago I had a photo shooting scheduled with Nathalie, former co-worker and amateur model. I fiddled around with the idea of doing some Atton Conrad style light painting, because I was very impressed and inspired by his outstanding work. Have you seen his Hennessy commercial? Great stuff. Anyway. I’ve evaluated some possibilities of imitating his style and I thought going for some glow sticks would do the trick. So I ordered a bunch of them at www.knix.com and did some test shots with a stuffed animal to get a feeling for the camera settings and the movement of the light.

On the day of the shooting I set up my black seamless and told Nathalie to go for a “less is more” style regarding her clothes. I duct taped an array of nearly 20 different-colored mini glow sticks to the end of a rod. I put the camera on a tripod and snapped some shots without light painting at first to balance the strobes. Then I switched to bulb exposure. The following procedure was truly a trial of patience. Nathalie poses on “three”, the light is switched off, the camera is triggered remotely, I move into the picture and try to do some cool looking stuff with my “lighting rod” (half-blind, I might add), the camera gets triggered again. Lights on. That was done countless times. If it hadn’t been for Nathalie’s sister, who was so kind to assist as a “human light switch”, and my wife triggering the camera, I probably would have stumbled to death in the darkness of my small studio.

The results were staggering. The first, and most fatal, problem was the lacking light intensity of the glow sticks. I already chose an aperture of 4.5 and didn’t want to go below because of the desired DOF. As a result the glow sticks had to be moved very slowly to get a visible effect. Therefore I wasn’t able to execute a smooth movement and the light trails looked jittery and very, very uncool. The second problem was the model’s pose. I wanted to wrap the light around her as if she was dressed in it. So she had to remain static the whole time. Of course one can’t exactly persevere in the same position for a few minutes, so there were some inconsistencies regarding the blocked and the visible lighting trails. The latter could have been corrected in post-processing of course. The former, not.

So I’ve learned my lesson that day. I won’t go for another light painting try for a while. Maybe one day, but not in the near future. We’ve switched to some reliable lighting setups that evening and got some descent shots anyway. So at least you get to enjoy her legs… without any painted light…

|those legs|

November 1, 2010

why oh why?

Another blog. Just what the world needed. For what, you might ask? Well, mostly to put down my thoughts on photography in general and on my journey as a photographer in particular.

Inspired by tons and tons of outstanding pictures on Flickr I’ve started getting (seriously) interested in (people) photography in November 2009. It wasn’t long until I stumbled upon David Hobby’s weblog “strobist.com” and that’s when the shutterbug seriously bit me. I got a small loan from a relative to buy my first equipment. A DSLR, two strobes and lightstands. And I redecorated a barely used storage room in our cellar to become my small, but very own, photo studio. I accustomed myself to gear and lighting, moving quickly from photographing relatives to connecting with models via the german internet platform “model-kartei.de”. I don’t know where this journey will take me but I sure as hell enjoy the ride.

Stay tuned!
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