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Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Disintegration" Behind the Scenes

I finally got around to edited the behind the scenes footage from the recent themed Disintegration Shoot I had the honor in collaborating with some very talented people.  This shoot was 2 months in the making and about 80 hours of post production.   If you haven't seen the Video on my Youtube Channel, turn up your speakers and lend me 14 minutes of your time.  

The idea came to me one afternoon during my rare times when I was watching TV.  I saw and ad for a shoe company where they had an athletic subject running in slow motion.  He back, arms, and legs were breaking apart and disintegrating in to an aqueous material.  The subject was shot on a simple dark background with high contrast/edgy lighting.  He appeared to be covered in a water/glycerin mix of droplets to further the effect.

I thought I could adapt this concept to a beauty-type hero where we could implement fashion, big hair, and congruent makeup to correspond with the colors of the theme.  I started researching tear sheets, other works, and underwater photography.

I came to the conclusion that I wanted to make a more solid-state effect in which the particles were more dust and debris-like than water.  However, I wanted to keep the color palette similar to if it were underwater.  As a cinematographer and amateur CGI Artist, I've joined the bandwagon of professionals who are creating 3D Particle worlds and dust effects in their motion titles and sequences in motion picture.  It has been the big craze over the past couple years and shows no signs of departing from popularity.
Take a look at any Movie Title, Trailer, Prime Time show, or documentary and I bet over 75% of them have some form of 3D text and particles in their title sequences. Hell, just watch the Discovery Channel's blue motion logo bumper they constantly play.

With the inspiration in heart and the idea in mind, I placed the concept in my black book until I found the perfect model to pull off the job as I had a very particular look I wanted.

The movement of the blue sheet was done by simply having an assistant throw/ruffle the cloth.  Timing was critical and a few hands caught in the frame had to be removed in post for some of the images.

It was at a local film makers meet and greet event where I coincidentally ran in to local fellow photographer Travis Hougland.  Travis and I met a couple years ago at Salt Lake City's first Help Portrait event.  I quickly admired Travis's laid back personality and passion for photography.  He got out of his vehicle with this amazingly unique and beautiful woman.  We started chatting and found out that Marci had recently started modeling with the successful help of Travis.  I gave Marci my card and politely asked her if I may contact her regarding some collaborative concepts I had been working on.
Later, I checked out Travis's work he had shot with Marci and was impressed. Marci has a very unique look as she is not the average "overly tanned blond" that most of the modeling world is accustom too.  Marci has these brilliant freckles, high cheek bones, and perfectly set eyes that make photographers go nuts over.   I knew I had to get Marci in front of my camera and it had better be for a concept more than just a simple glamour portrait as I knew I would have only one chance to get it right.  It wasn't till I had a consultation with Marci a month later that I stumbled upon the Disintegration Concept hiding in my black book of ideas...

With the idea and model set, it was time to find a Makeup Artist (MUA) that could execute the concept successfully.  As we were leaning to a Avant Garde feel, I knew that no matter how good my composition or lighting was, if the hair and MU wasn't up to par, the shoot would be a failure.  And to be perfectly honest, I've had my setbacks with finding reliable MUA's in my area.  Sure, there is plenty of talent, but finding one that will be professional and show up has been more of a challenge then finding reliable models.  As I worked through my list of noteworthy  MUA's I remember Abigail Steele and what an amazing talent she possessed.  Her professional demeanor and stewardship toward her industry made her the optimal choice for such an undertaking.
Marci and Abigail posing for an outtake
Our shoot went better than expected.  As it was the first time I was working with Marci and the location was in my basement studio, I made sure to require her to bring an escort with her to the shoot.  All photographers reading this should follow that guideline as safety and comfort are top priority. After all, if your subject is even remotely uncomfortable, it is guaranteed to show in the images, rendering all your efforts and the final product useless.  Marci decided to bring Travis along as her escort, which was a splendid surprise for me as I had been wanting to work with him ever since our introduction at Help Portrait.

As with all beauty-type lighting, I kept things simple. I feel many artists in our medium try to push our concepts too far which leads to confusion in the final images.  With the shoot taking on an Avant Garde feel, a plain an simple grey sweeping background would suffice.
Lighting would need to be simple to showcase the elegance of the look and flatter Marci accordingly.  I did this with a 3 light setup:
3 Light Setup:  Key light- EL Quadra/silver Beauty dish with white sock.  Rim Light- EL Quadra with strip box. Background Light- SB-800 bare and zoomed in at 1/32 power.
We used a fog machine to give a nice diffuse substance to the background.  The SB-800 mounted to the ceiling provided a bit of light to assist the fog in being seen. The 800 also acted as a background light to give a pleasing natural, radial gradient to the images.  Who  needs to vignette in post when you can do it in camera?

The Disintegration effects were created in Photoshop by duplicating layers and using Layer Masks with a Brush set to shapes of dust, particles, and smoke.

The Brushes were a mixture of legally purchased sets and some homemade ones created by splatter dark paint in a white seamless paper backdrop

Although these images with the black didn't make the cut of the final series, it shows that the more outfits and wardrobe selection you have, the better chance you'll have for greatness.  I always tell models to bring the "entire closet".

Marci did an amazing job.  A good model knows how to position and pose in front of a camera while providing a decent look.  A great model can change it up each and every frame while providing multiple looks.  Marci falls into the second category.

Our second set of images was to simply and tastefully have Marci "disintegrate" while being in an implied nude state.  This was my first time shooting someone with little to no clothes on as the unfortunate truth shows that many photographers are inappropriate perverts seeking only to shoot beautiful and scantily clad women for their own reasons and selfish purposes.  Hence why I have little to no lingerie, bikini, or oiled-up bimbos in my portfolio as every other photographer is shooting just that. Not that I am some evil ultra conservative anti skin person.  The human body is a wondrous and beautiful thing that deserves attention in photography in particular fine art applications.  My goal is to be original and different... I want my images to tell a story.  I had to really think whether or not Marci being semi-nude was going to add to the "story" of my images or distract from the story of the hero.  I decided I wanted the raw and vulnerable vibe that Marci's implied poses provided.  I am open to comment and critique.

Our last set of images was done on a whim from a random tear sheet.  I wanted to further explore the aqueous underwater effect and promote a feeling of motion and fluidity.  This was simply done by suspending the blue sheet from the studio ceiling, shooting vertically, and rotating the images 90 degrees in post.  It was a bit tricky to get the sheet to "wrap" around Marci so the angles and motion fit the composition I was shooting for.  It took the help of Abigail, Travis, and double sided tape to get it right.  I directed Marci to emote as if she was searching for something.

Lighting was also a bit more tricky on this one.  Since the sheets were very close Marci at or on the same focal plane, The key light from would light them equally and make them more flat appearing.  The sheets are flat and smooth without texture which also confounded the problem.  I ended up taking the strip box that was providing the rim light and moving closer to Marci.  I adjusted the angle so it the light would fall off through the hole in the sheets created by her head and hands.  This added a nice rim light to rid the flatness of the key light which gave a more three dimensional look and depth.

These images were shot vertically with the sheets hanging from the ceiling.  The frame was later flipped in post.

The sheets were ruffled to give them the water appearance.

My camera man Chris had to leave prior to shooting this segment, so there is no video for the behind the scenes film.  These ended up being some of my favorites of the set and have since added them to my print portfolio.

I like to thank Marci, Travis, and Abigail for their talents and spending the day collaborating on a successful concept.

Stay tuned as 2012 has much in store.  Behind the scenes videos for the "Zoo Fashion" and "Metric Ton" Christmas card are in post production.


Galen said...


Martin Woods said...

I enjoyed your video as always, I love what you create in the small space you have. It sometimes drives me nuts using a small space and running out of background when my model moves or stretches too far. Why is it always the way that the shot with the best pose or expression is the one where an arm or a foot extends past the background? :D it makes for loads of editing trying to rescue shots so I admire how you get such great images with the limitations placed on you. Don't we just long for our own huge space with multiple shooting areas, an infinity cove, changing and make up area...... Dreams away.....

Martin Woods said...

By the way.. On the blog I find it hard to read the words that go on top of the photographs. It looks good as a design but doesn't function as well in my humble opinion

Sushi for me ? said...

watched it so many times ... it simply looks amazing, your videos are great to. and thank you for sharing :)