Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Focus (Photo of the Week project #7)

And now for something completely different: clothed in studio!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dreamy Post Processing

1. Duplicate the base layer (command-j on the Mac)
2. Set the duplicated layer blend mode to soft light
3. Apply a Gaussian blur to the duplicated layer (35 pixels in this case)
4. Duplicate the new layer and set the blend mode to screen
5. Knock down the opacity of the new layer (here it's 45%)
6. Add a Hue / Saturation layer and knock back the saturation (-15 in this case)
7. Add a Curves layer and put a bit of a S-curve to it
8. Select the background layer, go to the curves palette and command-click on the RGB channel to select the luminosity
9. Duplicate the background layer to create a luminous layer
10. Apply a Gaussian blur to the luminous layer (4 pixels here)
11. Adjust the opacity to suit

Of course, sometimes you follow a recipe and decide afterwards that you don't necessarily like the entire recipe. In this case, I decided to turn off the second duplicated layer after the fact and tweaked the curves layer a bit.

Here's the before:

And the after:

Another technique for the books. As with all effects, your mileage may vary and really depends on the subject matter.


Admittedly I haven't been ranting much of late -- likely due to lack of time and energy to do so. I suppose the other reason is that simply very little has attracted my attention of late. One could possibly go on about the inaneness of Canada and the US both heading to the polls in the fall or some other world event but really this is not a place to talk politics or religion or anything remotely civic minded.

As for photography?

Well, one of the reason for the slow down of posts is simply the lack of time means that I'm also not shooting as much. I suppose if anything, I'm anxious to try more variety, more different imagery. This is post is an example of that -- more photomanipulation than normal.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Motion Study (Photo of the Week project #6)

I should probably amend the title but I think I'm actually getting back to doing this once a week. After a bout of family events and general busyness I think I'm back for a bit. I'll be doing a bit of traveling in October and November (alas -- nothing photography related).

This is an experiment in motion and post-processing. Normally I don't incorporate much of either but that's the whole raison d'etre for this particular project.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dressing Formal (Photo of the Week project #5)

In all honestly, I should probably rename the project since I've been only able to do every other week but my intention is every week even if I'm a little uneven (blame it on summer I suppose). Simple concept -- somewhere between Vanity Fair and Vogue with a touch of the risque.

I think it's important to keep concepts simple -- adding complexity for the sake of complexity rarely enhances a photo.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Size matters

I suppose I'm being somewhat unnecessarily provocative of the title but there's a meme going around the sex blogosphere that piqued my interest. Chelsea commented about it a few weeks back and at that time I paid it little attention but now having seen it elsewhere now, I've decidedly formed an opinion about it.

Supposedly this chart gives the definitive answer to whether size does matter to women. I won't go into a discussion of the chart or its implications other than to say that the data in the chart (and all of the supposed facts on the accompanying site) is merely opinion dressed up as fact, that (if you'll pardon the pun) the Emperor does not have any clothes. However, whatever the numbers there is a kernel of truth in that size does matter (to some people some of the time). It's the transformation of the caveat from being a statement of preference (to which Chelsea puts it rather eloquently: "I wish I didn’t have a preferred size/shape/dickly configuration. I am not part of the dick size solution; I am part of the problem. And I am sorry.") to a statement of universal truth that is disquieting. Not in the sense that it evokes a sense of inadequacy on my part (which will not be discussed here as it's not really relevant) but rather in its reduction of the truly wondrous human organ (the brain) from being a complex and individual thing to the common tiny scrap of tissue at the base of the skull we colloquially refer to as the lizard brain.

How does this relate to photography (particularly my photography)? The reality of it is that when it comes to physical parts, we all have preferences. I must shamefully admit that I too have my preferences. That though I've been exposed to enough of my preferential body part configurations so as not to be a slavering idiot when confronted by them in the flesh in the midst of a shoot, when confronted by them in a civilian context where I need not be professional I will stop and stare. I apologize here for my preference and for any unwelcome intrusions into another's privacy that it caused. But it also does play into photographic philosophies as well. I would divide the photographic world into two basic philosophies: those seeking to find the "beautiful" and capture it and those seeking the beautiful in everything. When it comes to photography, my goal is to fall into the latter category more than the former. In that sense, I hold to a tradition of photography more akin to Joyce Tenneson than to Suze Randall. Sometimes, this means that I do quash my own preferences in favor of achieving something interesting photographically that others might find appealing. Other times I do things despite others finding it not appealing simply because it should be done. I think where it matters the most is when a model asks me if her look is what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for anything specific -- I'm trying to find things worth showing the world in everyone I work with. When it comes to photography, my only preference in the body part configuration wars is the configuration between the ears -- a willingness to explore ideas and possibilities.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In the night (Photo of the week project #4)

Ok -- we missed another week. Bad weather and general busyness. This one didn't turn out like I expected (not surprising really) but it's still valuable. I'll probably revisit the idea with a wide angle lens.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tutorial: Layers and Overlay Blending

I'm slowly starting to use Photoshop more and more -- not because I want to create a whole bunch of fake looking images but simply because photographer is two parts: the part behind the camera and the part in the darkroom. Digital has meant that the darkroom has shifted from a place of acrid smells and eery glows to monitor glows and sterile air.

Here's a tip for changing how light falls in an image.

Consider this image:

This lighting is flat and despite the foreground face being the most important element, our eyes are drawn to the guy in the background because he has a white shirt and is lighter than the overall tone of the image.

So in Photoshop, we create a layer above the image and paint the layer like so:

Then we set the layer to blending mode overlay and change the opacity to taste (in this case 30%).

This gives us this image:

The effect is subtle but keeps our eyes on the foreground face as we've changed the tonality so that now it's a gradient from light in the foreground going to dark in the background (which is what we generally expect to see).

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Presenting... (Photo of the week project #3)

I've been busy with prepping for a show that I decided not to do a project for the week. However, since I had Mahria there alongside her photos, I thought I'd document the event. Not the best photo in the world but sometimes, it's about the moment.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Portrait (Photo of the week project #2)

The photo for this week is the classic portrait -- perhaps spiced up a little bit with the lack of a top on the model.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gasmask Mannequins

Here's some more images in progress, this from my gasmask mannequin series:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Change...

I've decided to make a change with the blog (and a subtle one since it started two posts ago) -- rather than making the blog get the image after everywhere else that I post images to, the blog will actually get the first cut of any images I do. Making this a work in progress blog.

It's important to capture work in progress -- while I'm not as much about the process as the end result, reflection on the process is important. My process is fluid and ad hoc -- I generally come up with a concept or an idea and pitch it to the model. When we get in studio, sometimes the concept materializes the way I expected it to and sometimes, it becomes something else. Like the above image -- this is captured really setting up for the later work. The shoot itself was to be more fashion oriented as an experiment -- so the earlier images were more about getting the initial lighting the way I wanted it to. But I think the image captures a different side of Dru than my previous shoots with her -- it's some how softer. I've been doing a lot of high-key imagery lately -- I suppose as a counter-balance to the spate of single light, low-key figure studies I did in April and May.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In Praise of Older Women

I might have mentioned it before but I tend to avoid mixing sexuality with nudity -- one of the problems is that we tend see nudity and immediately assume sexuality. I suppose for that matter, I tend to avoid depicting sexuality at all. If it's sexual, it's usually accidental rather than intentional.

I've come to suspect that one of the reasons for this is that the majority of my subjects are young. While age alone does not give you true insight into the fullness of the sexual being, age as the byproduct of experience and maturation does. This struck home most with a quote I read from New York magazine. In it, Debra Winger discuss where she is at in life:

"Yesterday, a photographer was shooting me for another magazine, and he said, "Ooooh, I love that freshly fucked look!" And since it was eleven o'clock in the morning, and I'd just gotten out of bed with my husband, I actually had been. I had that look. Love that morning stuff! At the same time, one of his assistants was saying, "Wow, you're my mother's favorite actress!" (link to full article)

It's the comfort with embracing your sexuality -- not as an act of rebellion, not as experimentation, not as identity formation but purely as an expression and extension of your natural being, this is a view of sexuality I can get behind. Too much of photography with sexual elements has the churlishness of youth -- it acts out for the sake of acting out. I may be dating myself but anyone who has seen the love scene in An Officer and a Gentleman (and what a scene it is!) has seen something that is on one hand clearly manufactured and yet on the other hand has a naturalness to it. Perhaps when there is an opportunity to capture that would I experiment with sexuality in my photography in a stronger way.

At the very minimum, I wish I was the photographer of that shoot with Debra Winger...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Longing (photo of the week project #1)

I've decided to start a new project -- my photo of the week project. The goal of this is to break me out of a creative funk I've had the last little while and to really refine my technique. One of the challenges of a shoot is that it almost feels like I have to cram a ton of photos in. But for this project, the goal of each shoot is to get one concept, one basic pose / position, one lighting approach to produce one image. No more, no less.

This particular photo was inspired by an old Marilyn Monroe photo. While I don't think I captured the same essence -- that's fine. It's not about slavishly copying another photograph but taking the general idea and then transforming it with the essence of the model and the circumstances. I doubt I'll use a reference image for each of these photos but I think it's important to acknowledge influence where influence exists.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cool stuff

Joshua Hoffine must have had a lot of nightmares as a child because they're all reflected in his work. It's amazing stuff though -- check out his website. Brought to you courtesy of soothbrush.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Finding meaning

Ok -- I think I need to get something off my chest -- this is probably an extension of the art theory discussion.

Consider the image above. In the hands of a skillful art theorist, I'm sure many levels could be projected onto the image. Surely this harkens to the classic Madonna praying imagery. But what does the nudity mean -- is this a debauched Madonna? Surely it speaks to the artist's disillusionment with modern religion. This must be amplified by the gas mask -- a symbol of the toxic society in which we live. The contrast of the white on white (symbolizing purity) must be contrasted with the relatively obscene subject matter -- perhaps signifying the dystopia in women's roles and reflects the photographer's discomfort with the dual conflicting ideals of woman as whore contrasted with woman as Madonna. What do the green eyes mean? Since green reflects envy -- perhaps it speaks to the destructive power of sexuality and how we envy those who feel free to express sexuality while at the same time castigating them.


What do you think it means?

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Sometimes you have to highlight someone with amazing talent (that you will of course shamelessly copy -- of course that would be way too transparent). Anyways, Koray's various galleries:


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Art Theory

Ok -- not doing a lot of shooting at the moment as I'm out of town. It's depressing to come from shorts weather to parka weather. Spent a good chunk of the plane ride absorbing two new media art theory books, neither of which I care to enumerate at this moment but suffice to say that I'm convinced that art theorists embody the idea that one talks to hear one's self. I can envision bespectacled, black garbed, pseudo trendy theorists quivering at the thought of doing their verbose treatises as spoken word performances in front of rapt audiences, letting each word flow out in rhythmic repetition. Who are they kidding? I am definitely not a fan of art theory -- I doubt I could use Marx, dialectic, hegemony and valorisation all in one essay let alone one paragraph.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

RIP Gary Gygax

It's been about a week now so most of the sound and fury has passed over. The day after Gygax died, most of the major news outlets covered his death -- this should stand as a testament of his impact. I note his death because more than any other celebrity or famous figure who has died in the recent past, Gary's death resonated on a deep level for me.

I've never met the man. Never been anywhere near close. I haven't followed all of his work. Yet for some strange, inexplicable reason, I feel as if a portion of my childhood has disappeared. I recognize that there has been some controversy about his legacy -- that Dave Arneson has claimed the moniker of "father of role playing". Ultimately, I suspect that neither man can truly make the claim -- by all accounts, there was a nascent movement interested in the style of gaming both men pioneered and while their actions catalyzed the movement, they by no means invented it. But E. Gary Gygax ultimately was the force that gathered together most of the disparate strands of the movement into something that pushed itself into the consciousness of the mainstream albeit not always in the most positive light.

Moreover, for an eleven year-old boy, RPGs were the precipating force behind catapulting one fevered imagination into realms beyond. I suppose this is what makes this tribute relevant to my evolution as a photographer -- that in the back of my mind, much of the source of my mental imagery still remains largely in that realm. Sometimes those images explode into explicit manifestation. But more likely, it's in the subtle composition and image choices that the beyond finds its way out. In fact the RPGs were also a rich fount of visual imagery and often what I love to look at remains firmly rooted in fantasy and science fiction (which explains a passing addiction I had to this site).

So to Gary Gygax, I salute you for the impact you've had on my artistic vision and my world view. Godspeed to you into the next plane.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Dooce" glow

It's been awhile since I last posted. Since this is mostly for myself anyways that's ok. Here's the "Dooce" glow effect. She didn't originate it but that's where I discovered it from so it'll do.

Here's the original photo:


1. Duplicate the image layer
2. Gaussian blur (in this case 19 pixel diameter)
3. Set the blurred layer to blend > multiply
4. Adjust since it'll be darker (I used an adjustment layer here using levels)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Body Painting

Body painting seems to straddle the line between commercial and fine art in a somewhat ambivalent way. Most people are exposed to body painting at a show of some sort usually involving vehicles for some strange reason. Yet it embodies ephemeral art in its ultimate form -- it cannot be reproduced as each work is brand new, it is temporal and finite and yet it challenges the viewer and forces the viewer to consider whether it is something that they are comfortable with.

Here's Marla Singer body painted.