Dance Performance

22 Sep

I attended an emerging artists dance piece at The Studio@620 a couple weeks ago, presented by Fletcher Dance Project, Travis Mesman, Erik Wagner, Tai White and The Academy of Ballet Arts. It was breathtaking. I took a lot of photos, so I figured I’d let the photos speak for themselves.

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The Making of “Red Sea”

15 Sep

I was invited to participate in an art show at The Bricks in Ybor City last Saturday, September 10. I had done a couple shows with this group before; they are called Kick Start My Art. When I read the email with the concept of the show, I was super excited! The show was called Time Warp, and the concept was recreating a masterpiece. Each artist in the show had to choose a masterpiece from their favorite artist to recreate in whatever medium they chose.

Being a Gustav Klimt fanatic, of course it was only natural that I would choose “Sea Serpents” (shown below),which I have owned as a print for the better part of my life. Now I had to find my model, makeup artist, hair stylist and the rest of my team. And on top of that, figure out how to get all those little details that Klimt is so famous for. If you scroll to the bottom of this article, you can see the version that my team and I created.

This endeavor turned out to be much easier than I expected, because St. Petersburg is teeming with creative people. I put out a little message on Facebook to my friend, fellow photographer and super gorgeous, easy-to-work with model, AJ Flame. Since I posted it on her wall for all eyes to see, another wonderful artist, fashion designer Blackbird, saw the post and immediately messaged me, wanting to get in on the project. She was to be the stylist, and she brought with her hair and makeup artist Carey Hinrichs, and I had an aspiring photographer / videographer, Eva Hinckley, to assist as well as capture some footage of the shoot for a mini documentary.

So, our team was set! Now for location. I found a wonderful little studio in downtown St. Pete called Rhino Studios, and we rented that out for the night. We met a week before the shoot to discuss our approach, and decided that we would do a literal interpretation of the original artwork by Klimt, so we were going to stay as true as possible to the piece.

And then everyone worked their magic. I had my print of the original painting there with us, and we just taped it up on the wall and went to work. Carey did AJ’s makeup perfectly, and the hair was magical. I don’t know how she does it, but she whipped up AJ Flame in less than 45 minutes to look EXACTLY like the woman in the painting. Super-PRO!

Then for the styling part. Blackbird brought with her a suitcase full of buttons and baubles, beads and lace, so we just spread those out all over her gorgeous red quilt and went to work arranging the pieces in AJ’s hair, on her body and on the quilt. AJ was laying down in the same position as the woman in the painting.

I lit it up really bright with studio lights, as there aren’t really any shadows in the painting, and climbed up my 10 foot stepladder to get the arial shot of AJ laying on the quilt. And then we were done. I edited the photo a litte in Photoshop, then printed it, and transferred the ink onto a birch wood cradled box. I even made the box myself. That took a little while, but it looked super smooth and I was really proud of my craftsmanship.

The process to create this image had a lot of steps, and it probably took several hours total. But now I have this beautiful image that we all worked together on, and I think everyone is really pleased with the results.

When I arrived at the art show, I was really happy with how it looked on the wall. What a sense of joy, to work so hard on something, and then see the final product perfectly lit, sitting happily on a brick wall next to some other really beautiful art! Not to mention the fact that most of our team was there and they were SUPER excited because that was the first time they had seen the finished product. I’m proud of us. Below is the final piece we created.

Instagram Photoshop Actions

8 Sep

I-Phoneography has exploded with Instagram. It’s one of those phenomena that is both cool and scary at the same time. It’s cool because you can take a quasi-good photo with a handheld device that fits in your pocket, and then use an app to make that quasi-good photo look amazing. All with the touch of a button. So simple, even a monkey could do it. It’s really cool to browse the Instagram photos and see all the neat and beautiful photos people and monkeys are creating with this new tool.

What’s scary about it, is that as a photographer, I sometimes wonder what use will people have for me if they can make these awesome photos themselves? I’m sure this same question was asked with the advent of digital cameras in place of film cameras, which I, being of a digital generation, have grown up with. So, I am also going to embrace the iPhone and its easy apps, mainly because I enjoy the resulting images, but also because there is no sense in resisting the inevitable. And even though most photographers no longer use film as part of their core professional gear, there are a lot of photographers that still use film on a regular basis, because there really is something about film that you just can’t create with a digital camera. And I’m one of them.

So, I believe that photographers are safe, and that there is a certain amount of strength in the acceptance of and curiosity about i-Phoneography. Plus it really doesn’t matter how much I or any other photographer resist it. It’s here to stay. And something cooler and better is most certainly soon to follow. That’s just how the human race and technology work.

My hours and hours spent bent over a computer in Photoshop will not be in vain! In fact, I recently discovered some great Photoshop actions, created by Daniel Box, that you can use to make ANY photo Instagram-my. These Instagram Actions will transform your crappy photos into works of art, just like the iPhone!! See below for example of crappy photo turned cool. I used a webcam on my computer to snap this silly photo. My favorite action is Nashville. What’s yours?

Music is in the Air

26 Aug

I love music. I have been known to search for bands’ tour schedules and fly across the country to see them play for one night. This year, a group of my friends and me went to Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL, because I had discovered that one of my favorite musicians, Xavier Rudd, was playing there. We ended up seeing A TON of amazing music. I am currently plotting my next adventure. I want to see Robert Randolph or The Shins. Anyone really. Sometimes at concerts that I am attending just for myself (and not as an official photographer), I like to play around with different camera formats, or just bring my point and shoot and click gaily away. Below are a couple shots I thought were cool.

CocoRosie – point and shoot

Langerado Music Festival – 35mm Nikon F4

Langerado Music Festival – 35mm Nikon F4

Langerado Music Festival – 35mm Nikon F4

Tutorial: Eva and Blackbird

14 Aug

This is a quick explanation of my process to create this photo. If you are not familiar with Photoshop layers, selection tools, and filters, it will be a bit difficult to follow, as I do not explain in detail all of the actions I used. An intermediate user who is familiar with Photoshop tools will find this a challenge, but simple enough to follow. An advanced user won’t even bother to read this, as they should already know the general idea of how I created this composite.

1. I started with the photo of Eva and a photo of the blackbird. When I was searching for a photo of the blackbird, I made sure its leg positioning and body positioning would make sense in the photo with Eva.I used the photo of Eva as the original layer, and then went to the photo of the bird and selected the blackbird using the pen tool. I feathered the selection by 1 pixel, then copied the selection to a separate layer on top of the original blackbird photo. I used the lasso tool to select all of the tiny details, hairs and feathers of the bird, then copied that layer on top of the blackbird selection layer. I then used the eraser on that layer to clean it up. This is a time-consuming process; if you want it to be perfect you should spend the majority of your time on this selection. Selection techniques vary, but I like to use the pen tool. Try your hand at magnetic lasso, lasso, etc. There are even ways to use the color channels to make a selection. I will not get into that, as it could be an entire tutorial on its own. Merge the bird selection and feather layers, but leave the original photo as the background.

2. Next I dragged the bird onto the photo of Eva. You may need to resize the bird in order to scale it properly. Use the shift key to maintain the dimensions of the bird, otherwise it will appear skewed and thus, AMATEUR. I positioned the bird over her hand, and made sure the legs aligned with her fingers. I had to use the transform tools to get the bird’s feet to appear wrapped around her hand. This is in the Edit>Transform menu. Also, I used the Liquify filter to nudge the feet and get them perfect. This is in the Filters>Liquify. Use the Smudge Tool under the Liquify filter in this instance, although this is a powerful filter and can be used in a variety of situations. Again, the Liquify filter is a tutorial on its own.

3. The layers are still separate at this point. I burned Eva’s fingers under the bird to give the appearance of shadow, so it looks like it’s really there. Everything casts a shadow. VERY IMPORTANT thing to remember when compositing. Many a Photoshop fumble has been made with the failure to give things shadows. Also, I used the dodge tool to lighten up the bird, so that the lighting on the bird and Eva was about the same. Try to look at the photo as a whole and make sure the lighting matches. This is key in making the composite blend and look natural.

4. Next I adjusted the color of the bird. The original photo of the bird had a very warm tint, with gold in the highlights. I used the Adjust menu to lower the saturation and then used the color balance to bring some more blue into the bird, until the blacks and highlights of the bird matched the blacks and highlights of Eva.

5. You can add a Photo Filter to warm it up or cool it down and further bind the composite together. Also, adjusting color, saturation and hue on the whole photo helps to blend it. Use your own judgment and preferences to adjust color on the entire photo.

And that’s it. Pretty simple. This process may take a few hours, because there is a lot of precision work involved in the selection.

Blackbird Photos

6 Aug

Here are the first set of photos from the shoot with Blackbird. All are lit with a softbox from the ceiling coming directly down. Key is an umbrella strobe camera right and forward. Fill is umbrella from left. I also lit the back wall to eliminate harsh shadows. This is a version of Rembrandt lighting style. In post process I added brush strokes to give the impression of an old Victorian-era oil painting.

Carey Hinrichs

Sierra Dawn

Eva Hinckley

Shooting Blackbird Style

2 Aug

On Sunday I did a shoot with the amazing Blackbird, a local designer with an edgy urban meets Victorian style. Our models were AJ Flame, Sierra Dawn, Carey Hinrichs and Eva Hinckley. Carey also did hair and makeup. Eva shot video of the makeup and getting ready. We were at the studio for nearly 5 hours. I used several different lighting techniques, which pretty much varied depending on pose and style of clothing/makeup.

AJ Flame took this behind the scenes photo.

We also did the shoot for a piece I’m working on for a show in September at The Bricks in Ybor City, called “Time Warp”. The concept of the show is to reproduce masterpiece artworks by master artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, etc. I chose Gustav Klimt, who just so happens to be one of my favorite artists. I will reveal the final piece and the title of the work that I chose as inspiration on the day of the art show. It looks amazing… AJ Flame was my model and she is PERFECT. For so many reasons, but especially for this concept. Blackbird was instrumental in making this piece come together. Her vision made this work soar to a level far beyond what I could have done by myself, so I am really happy that we collaborated. The entire thing was absolutely serendipitous. Long story. Let’s just say that we were both in the right place at the EXACT right moment.

Sierra Dawn took this photo of me shooting Carey Hinrichs.

We had music playing all night, a little bit of wine and fruit and veggies just to keep everyone fairly happy and not starving out of their minds. It was an awesome shoot, with beautiful clothes and jewels all over the place! We definitely made use of all the space that was available, and everyone pitched in whenever an extra hand was needed. I love a good team who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and who love the creative process enough to do whatever it takes to make a shoot successful. Amazing photos are always the result of great teamwork, so we all deserve the beautiful shots that are going to come out of this one. I will post the results soon.