Throughout Negotiated Studies 1 I have researched Composite Photography and Contemporary Artists within this field across different genres. I have looked at what they create, why and how through tutorials, interviews and workshops. Using what I have learnt I plan to further my compositing skills and start to build my portfolio and eventually have a substantial body of work worthy of a Gallery.
Before starting this I knew basic compositing techniques but I wanted to fast track my learning. To do this I set myself a 7 Days 7 Composites Challenge. This become a really worthwhile exercise, I learnt so much regarding lighting and how important this is, as well as perspective and how this has to be perfect otherwise the composite will not work. With only a day for each composite, time was an issue and there was definitely days that were a struggle and needed more careful planning therefore more time.
For future composites having one or two contingency plans will be a necessity because sometimes an idea just isn’t going to work. The weather plays a vital part also, something you can’t control and if planning to shoot outside then several days need to be scheduled just incase it decides to rain or turns foggy (Coronation Blue Project)
The image below is a composite that I created for the KOOKIE Magazine launch which they now have as their Website Homepage:
Christmas Advert on my Facebook Page and christmas cards for clients & friends:
The next project was a collaboration with Roy Barry for his Coronation Blue Project. I was to create something using the Coronation Blue Ink as one of the artists involved, more information regarding this can be found on his website: http://coronationblue.com
Again I learnt a lot, this was a really good stepping stone from the 7 Days 7 Composites Challenge because I wasn’t restrained to the restrictions involved plus I had more time to come up with the concept for my image. In saying that, it still didn’t quite go to plan. Even though I put more time and thought into the theory behind the image when it came to shooting it unfortunately I didn’t have any ‘back up’ days available to re-shoot. The weather has been awful over the past few weeks and I kept waiting for a decent day which didn’t come and then had to shoot on the last day before it needed to be sent off for print. Which lead to a very panicked recovery plan and I had to change the whole idea for the image and shoot it indoors. I was fairly happy with the outcome but ultimately I didn’t achieve what I set out to do therefore I hope to look at this project again in the summer.
Angel Wings is the next project, this involves compositing with more theory behind it. It will be a series of images that will take inspiration from children’s novels & films. They will be a realistic realm of fantasy, my daughter will be the angel with handmade wings and she will be featured in beautiful sunset/sunrise scenes. I will be working with my daughter, as well as making the wings so there will be prop design involved which will have to be researched. It will also require going out location scouting and I look forward to heading off on foot and exploring.
In each project there is always a need for further learning and experimenting, this is important for my growth and shows that I am keen to try new things and always looking to improve. I love taking an idea and turning it into reality and I can see myself working for commercial clients, creating bespoke images for their brand.
When i found out that we had an extra few days before we have to present our images at our Summative Assessment i knew i had once thing i must do….re-edit Coronation Blue. I remover the distracting background, lifted the blacks a little using CURVES, increased the contrast, highlights & added some depth to the blue. I much prefer the image now, Sophie in the glass takes centre stage. Below is the before and after re-edit:
I have had the first image printed A2 and it came out fine in this size, i was intrigued at how the image quality would turn out. Now that i have done a re-edit to where i am happy with the image i will also have to get a re-print done.
Entertainment Tonight (Dec 2015) EXCLUSIVE: Anne Geddes Reveals How She Gets Babies to Pose in Those Insanely Adorable Positions [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=8vmZYGbl8pE [Accessed: 12 December 2017]
This online course is instructed by Aoife (Efa) Millea from Cleare Photography and hosted by Meg Bitton at her studio in the U.S.
Efa runs her business Cleare Photography from her newborn studio in Waterford, Ireland.
I was so excited to find this course because i have followed Efa for a long time on social media always amazed at what she creates. Her work is similar to Anne Geddes with a heavy focus on babies within nature scenes and her attention to detail is immense. Her composites look so real, the lighting is beautiful, great use of light and shadows as well as a warm ambient feel to them.
The course looks at:
Shooting for the background plate indoors and outdoors
Using small items and making them look like large props
Backdrops & Lighting
Dressing and posing baby with minimal transitions
During the Newborn Posing Workshop that i attended with Kelly Brown there was an element to compositing involved for safety reasons, positions that the baby could not be in unsupported so several images had to be taken and layered together in Photoshop.
Throughout my education i am beginning to fine tune what i shoot and how i shoot, compositing has become an essential part whether it is for safety reasons or for more creative freedom.
This Newborn Compositing Course contains new methods that i haven’t used before which i am very excited learn.
‘It’s very important for photographers to grow. I think that if you don’t challenge yourself somehow in the pictures you take you will very quickly become irrelevant in today’s increasingly visual and restless culture’
Given a camera by a relative when he was 12, never planned to be a photographer it was just something that he thought would be a fun thing to do. At the age of 22 flew to US to study photography at the Academy of Art University studying for 4 years to get his Degree. Graduated in 99 with Best Portfolio in the Spring Show. After graduation he did a 3 year apprenticeship and a further 4 years as a Photographer / Retoucher. In 2004 he received an Honorary Degree of Outstanding Alumnus, this was the start of a long line of international awards & clients such as American Airlines, Absolut, Microsoft & Nike.
Transport your emotions and feelings into your pictures and you’ll really have something. If you don’t challenge yourself you won’t go anywhere.
Inspiration comes from everywhere, not just imagery. There’s inspiration in music and in words. Reading helps conjure up pictures in your mind and then you’re not privy to something you have seen before.
Input equals Output, inspire yourself with music and books.
Cultural influences that you are faced with, help carve your style
Use your surroundings, make the most of what you have around you and draw inspiration from that.
No1 in compositing – same light quality and same light direction for the different pieces and correct perspective.
Strive for images that look seamlessly put together and don’t look like composites.
Design Approach – When he looks at a landscape he will ask:
What does this place feel like? How does it make you feel? Lonely, Quiet, Provocative, Awe-inspiring? Decide how to bring that back into the photograph then analyse further.
Does it remind you of anything, anyone? Film Actor etc? Put them in the scene and work with that, adjust the colour palette to suit the mood the scene sets.
Erik Almas has a beautiful book to showcase his work with high gloss pages and weighing 36lb it’s seriously impressive! In the interview he talks about the process behind them.
In this image he took the sky plate first, this was taken from an aeroplane. He always shoots his own backgrounds and is a collector of skies. 100% of the components in his images are his except for small details like birds & smoke etc. The grounded blimp with the model inside was photographed by Erik who climbed up a 16ft ladder to get the right angle for the shot and then both images were put together in post production.
To create large commercial images he takes several images and stitches them together to build a bigger scene (plate):
I often wondered how his images contained so much detail and now i understand it is because he takes long exposure images for the plate and then stitches several images together creating files at least 60MB.
In these images below he shows how he adds all the different elements in using in the layering process :
Again he shoots the landscape (plate) first. You can’t change the way the light rises and sets on the landscape so you shoot everything in relation to that. If the sun is rising setting in the left of the image then all the other components you shoot to put in the scene have to be taken with the light coming from the same direction.
I absolutely love his work, such clever thought and application. They are really pleasing to the eye and all have a feeling of serenity within.
I am used to making newborn baby outfits and miniature beds and other newborn related props for my own business but never made wings before. So this is going to be a challenge and i love trying new things i haven’t done before.
Not one for taking my time with anything i was just planning on going straight into making the full size wings. Thankfully Karen Heald suggested making a a smaller model first…. which makes much more sense, no doubt there will be lots of mistakes to make along the way.
Here is my mood board for this project:
The wings i plan to make are folded not outstretched as in flight, because when Sophie is wearing them she will be sitting or still in the images so the wings need to be relaxed. I researched bird anatomy to look at the structure of a birds wing and how the different feathers lie and fold.
There is several layers of feathers of different sizes that overlap each other. The image below shows a couple of options, i can either have the wings separate to her arms or her arms can be a part of the actual wing:
Having her arms separate from the wings is the way i will make them, she doesn’t need to be a half bird human, fictional angels and fairies all tend to have separate arms:
To begin i looked for a set of wings that i could print and use as my template, the ones below from Deviantart were exactly the shape i needed so printed them onto 2 pieces of A4 paper. I used one set to cut smaller which was going to be the wing base for sticking the feathers onto and the other set was for feather placement reference:
Once i was happy with the template i cut it out of thin card, i didn’t want to use anything too thick because it was important that i could bend and shape it. The next step was to sort out the feathers into size order, the ones i had were all around 7 cms with a few longer ones which were going to be for the Primaries.
Using the reference images on my mood board and my helper Rolo (who leans against me during all tasks …. it must be to make sure we both don’t fall over?!)
I carefully set to sticking on the feathers (and making a royal mess with hot glue everywhere) and soon realised that the 100 feathers that i bought for this were quickly running out. I wasn’t going to be able to finish both wings at this rate so i decided to sacrifice a wing and concentrate on making one complete one…as this was only a gauge anyway.
This was the final wing, covered on both sides because this will be required on the large set.
This is why it is good to do a practise run because it makes you realise what might go wrong … in this case, i had totally under estimated the amount of feathers this was going to use.
The large feathers that i purchased for the large wings cost £11.50 for 100, you can see these in the image below:
These will barely cover 1/10th of the wings (front & back) so i’m estimating i would need to spend another £100 to get enough which isn’t feasible.
So unless i can find a big bird to donate its feathers to me i am going to have to think of another idea!!
There’s always cardboard or paper plates 😐
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Angel Wings Project will carry on into Negotiated Studies 2
My Coronation Blue Project has taken a little twist and a turn, which i was honestly freaking out about because i spend so much time focusing on a specific idea the thought of changing it makes me panic but i think this is all part of a creative process. I’m beginning to understand that any piece of art doesn’t have just one ending, it can change and grow along the way and this is what has happened to my project.
As i began to put my new images together in Photoshop i instantly felt awake because my creative juices were flowing, i had that spark that this was going to work and that i could make something of it.
There isn’t lots of screenshots because my laptop is running on very limited space at the moment and every time i did one Photoshop seemed to freeze up for a few minutes so i’ve had to keep them to a minimum! (I do have a brand new 5K Imac waiting for me to use but i have only just paid for the software and still need to install it as well as all my presets etc so its is just having to sit and look pretty for now until i have a spare few hours to devote to it)
I began by choosing one of the images of Sophie from the blue dress shoot that worked well within the glass. I also had to use a separate shot of the jug pouring so that i could have it come from higher up and from the opposite side.
Once i was happy with the basic alignment of those parts i then chose an image with the stem which i altered to make it longer (Tower).
I also had to get another image of the glass top with more of the blue liquid in it so that i could blend her dress and make it look as one. The blending was done by laying one image over the other and carefully painting away areas that i did and didn’t want with a layer mask. This was quite time consuming and took almost 2 hours to get right, it was difficult to make her look like she was inside the glass, i had to make a copy layer of the glass and overlay it over the top of her dress and in tiny sections paint away what i didn’t want whilst leaving enough so that it looked like the edge of the glass.
The ink images that i had weren’t going to work like Mark Mawson’s, i hadn’t managed to capture any that looked the way i wanted them to for this dress so i had to come up with another use of the ink…. splashes.
I needed to separate the ink from the background so again i did this using a method from PHLEARN
You use the Colour Channels to choose which is the most contrasting layer, make a copy of that and turn it into a selection. You have to use Levels and paint in some areas that the selection misses but it gets quite an accurate selection doing it this way. Below i added a black background behind my ink selection to get an idea of how it would look on the black background.
Next, i played around using lots of different parts of the ink to see what worked within the glass, once that was done i needed to cute Sophie out properly from her background. The hair was especially tricky, i used the same method as cutting out the ink but there wasn’t as much contrast in colour to make the selection easy and i kept getting left smudgy bits as you can see in the image below.
In the end i just carefully hand painted those out whilst zoomed in really close.
For the next part i somehow needed to try and get her arm to wrap around the pouring ink liquid…this took lots of experimenting and trying things that didn’t end up working (which is where most editing time is spent). I ended up using her arm from another image which was wrapped around material and piecing that in over the top.
I don’t have anymore screenshots after this point, but what followed was more editing of Sophie’s arm with the liquid which i eventually settled on removing her fingers and making her arm become the liquid rather than her holding onto it which make so much more sense.
There was lots of cloning, healing stamp, curves, colour edits – hue/saturation, matching all the blues to the ink, adding contrast, clarity & sharpening etc.
Until i got to here … ( My almost finished piece, i’ve gone all Picasso with the background but it just took shape that way and i actually was quite intrigued with the play on arrangement whilst still keeping the correct light directions.
How do i feel about the change of direction?
At first i was gutted because i’ve had this vision of the dress in the river for a while now and to not be able to bring it to fruition (yet) was disheartening, but it just shows that things don’t always go as you plan them and you need to be willing to take a new route and try something else.
This might not be the Fine Art type image that i was aiming for but it just wasn’t meant to be and it had it’s own agenda and ended up being a much more commercial image, i could see this in an advert….perhaps for a new Blue Gin like Bombay Sapphire 😀
But if i didn’t have to order the print today then i think i would definitely have another attempt at the edit, just to make sure i have explored more possibilities with it.
Before i started i created this mood board with an idea of how the dress was to look and some shooting inspiration:
Mood Board Images collected from Pinterest, details at end of Blog
Using the Blue Tulle that i purchased i began to create a blue skirt by simply knotting strips of tulle around a waistband of tulle. This is where the project began in my tiny living room where me and the kids do our thing…
… it soon spilled out into the hallway as it was taking shape! I made 2 layers, one longer than the other so that i could play with the length of it once Sophie had it on. It needed to be long so that there was lots of excess material that i could composite into the river.
I used 3 rolls of tulle for the layered skirt and left myself one roll for creating the top of the dress.
I used the black backdrop because it would be a good contrast against her skin and her hair when it was lit which would make it easier in post production when she needs to be removed from the background.
This consisted of one Jinbei EF-200 LED Continuous light with a large ball diffuser. I used this set up because i plan to have a sun setting in the background so i only want her to be lit from that direction. I blocked off our windows and used a large reflector to bounce a little bit of the light back onto her face so she wasn’t in total darkness.
Nikon D750 + Sigma Art 50mm 1.4
1/200 F4 ISO 800
Roy also sat in on the shoot to record some behind the scenes for his Coronation Blue Documentary.
Shooting the ink.
Before i delved into shooting something that i haven’t done before i thought i’d have a little search through other artists work that involved ink in water.
Mark Mawson, creative photographer from London specialises in shooting inks in water and has won many awards for his images as well as having his Aqueous video projected onto the wall at Buckingham Palace for the Queens Diamond Jubilee Concert.
It felt really strange when i was looking through his portfolio and coming across his royal blue aqueous dress because that was almost exactly how i had pictured using Roy’s ink with Sophie’s dress. No surprise though, so many creative minds in this world we are constantly stumbling over our ‘original’ ideas that turn out to be not so original after all.
Today Roy and i went back to the studio where he gave me my bottle of Coronation Blue Ink to use in my creation.
Roy brought his pop up studio so we could bounce the light into the fish tank and i used my Jinbei continuous light over the top. My camera was set up on a tripod and set to Burst so i could take lots of shots continuously once the ink was dripped in.
The idea was to set up the fish tank and using the bottle dropper to drip ink into water and photograph it’s movement which i can then use to link the dress with river that i plan to put (digitally) Sophie in.
(Image By Roy Barry…. behind the scenes)
Camera Settings: 1/200s F5.6 ISO 800
These are a selection of the images that i took, at the time i was happy with them (viewing them on my camera) but once i looked at them properly on my computer i realised that i should of used a much faster shutter speed to freeze the motion and get a much sharper detailed capture. But i had no option to go back and re shoot because i only had one day left to shoot the river plus edit and get ready for print so i had to make do with what i had (as usual lol).
Today i was to find the perfect river …. sounds so easy
BUT it was sods law that unlike the past few days of cold but sunny and lovely blue sky weather that we have had today decided to be dull, foggy and with what we call in Scotland ‘Smirry Rain’ the stuff that gets you soaked even though it’s not really raining!
Unfortunately with the completion deadline looming i had no other option but to just go out and do the best i can.
So i set off on my hunt for a river, the River Dee through Erbistock isn’t far from where i live, about 1.5 mile walk so that was first on my list. I was full of cold and my throat was killing so this wasn’t an enjoyable trip and the fields i had to walk through were so muddy i felt like i was walking in treacle but i was positive it was going to be worth it as i was about to find the perfect background for my image.
After walking a mile my positivity was feeling as sloppy as the muddy field! I couldn’t find an area of the river that would suit my image and then i found a big puddle in the field which looked like it had potential so i took some shots of that in the hope that i could perhaps merge several of the images together to create what i needed.
Then i got distracted and found some interesting spots that i might revisit for future composites:
I decided to call it a day then so i walked home and couldn’t wait to take my muddy boots off and have a hot drink!
Before i turned my computer on i knew in my stomach that these images weren’t going to work but i had to give them a go anyway so i spent an hour trying to assemble something similar to my vision and it just wasn’t happening.
And my gut feeling was right….
It didn’t matter how many bits of the puzzle i tried to put together it just wasn’t working but just before me meltdown commenced after spending almost my whole day on it i remembered something i had read:
“If something isn’t working, start over. It should be easy, if it’s not easy you’re probably doing something wrong” – W. Morgan Rockhill
SO in light of Mr Rockhill’s inspiring words it was time to start over….
…. yet i only had ONE HOUR before it was time to pick the kids up and i was meant to have everything shot by then GAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
The concept of Sophie in a river was not going to happen today, i had to slap myself across the face “wake up and smell the coffee Suze you’re wasting time on something that’s going to require more time that i actually have”
So i changed my mindset…..I had to modify my original plan, keep the idea of the ink pouring through Sophie’s dress and becoming one but the concept had to change. If i had been commissioned by a client to produce this piece of work then i had to create something which was another twist on the original idea so that i could deliver.
Subject – Coronation Blue Ink
CORONATION – CELEBRATION – CROWNING – TOWER
Aha… Sophie being poured into a tall tower like glass in celebration of the coronation via the blue ink! ….perfect
Problem 1: No studio, less than an hour to shoot before i pick the kids up
Resolution: Make-shift studio on my kitchen worktop using flashgun, black card as backdrop and white paper in front of flashgun as a softbox.
Matching the studio light set up:
Problem 2: No blue ink (Roy accidentally knocked it down the floorboards in the studio)
Resolution: Watered down blue toilet cleaner will have to do!
Problem 3: No tripod and no assistant to pour
Resolution: Get on with it!
The process wasn’t easy i was having to slightly squat whilst pouring toilet cleaner accurately into the glass whilst taking the photo and trying to hold the camera steady… not my most clever idea but it was desperate measures! I took some full length shots of the glass first from varying angles:
Then moved on to the tricky pouring:
This was with the flash on the left and then i moved the flash & diffuser to the right but a bit further away just to get some shots with a bit of fill light on the right side to match the light on Sophie and her dress.
I took a lot of shots….. but i have a much better feeling that this is going to work, so now i just need to make it happen in Photoshop!