Model: Gerard Reyes Click to Enlarge.
On Saturday I wrote a post about my ideas for using a couple of giant pipe segments in a conceptual photo. I ended up having a couple of lovely friends Francisco Graciano and Eran Bugge come over and play the roles of savior and damsel. Here is the result (Click to enlarge):
As you can see it ended up a bit differently than I had originally planned (as things like this usually do). First, I gave up on the caving idea, no exciting enough, plus I couldn't get my hands on the equipment I'd need to make it believable anyhow. That's when I came up with the idea of them running from the imagined jaws of a cthulhu-like monster from beneath the ground.
The first thing I had to do was move the pipes and gravel pile to a more desolate location, so I co-opted a landscape I took on the salt flats at the bottom of Death Valley at dawn. Much better. Cisco and Eran showed up and we shot about 30 pictures of them if various forms of the pose with Cisco standing on the edge of a table (with my friend Guillaume serving as a counterweight. As you can see I had a soft light from below blasting them to match the light from the pipe, plus one behind to rim light Cisco a little bit. There was also another strobe next to the camera bouncing off the wall to give some overall illumination to the shadows that the other two lights caused.
Compositing the two together was the hard part, along with the random science photos of tentacles. That stuff took a couple of hours. Cleaning up the masks on each element, playing with curves to try to get the contrast and brightness to match between layers.
I posted a version on facebook and G+ last night at around this point. I knew normally I'd spend another hour or two playing with it to really polish things up, but I was tired so I went to sleep. This morning however I added the final touches. Smoke coming up from the pipes, a minor lens flare or two, a lightning bolt, plus a whole lot more 1 or 2 pixel clean-ups.
Is the end result believable? Well it is a giant underground octopus attacking my friends in the middle of Death Valley so let's be reasonable about the answer to that question. That said, I think it's successful and silly, and a lot of fun. It ended up very different than I originally intended, but also much better. Not bad for a weekend project.
People ask me where I come up with the ideas for my conceptual work, so I thought I'd try to answer by walking through a picture making process. I can't guarantee that the shot will come to fruition since my location is very tenuous and temporary, but hopefully I can get this done by Monday morning. The powers that be are doing some construction on a street in my neighborhood. Installing what I can only imagine are new water mains or something. But in the process, they've left large, by which I mean four foot diameter, tunnel segments on the street for the weekend. Here's what they look like:
I know, they don't look like much, but I think they have potential. At first I thought of just doing a silly portrait of someone inside one of them. Boring. Then I thought they looked like something out of Super Mario Brothers and considered doing a send-up of that. Not my style and also boring.
In the end I've come up with an idea of shooting people on the edge with ropes and hopefully climbing gear about to spelunk down into them. It'll be all about the lighting. Speedlights down in the tubes lighting the people from below, one or two strobes to edge/backlight the people, and maybe one around camera position to fill from the front. Probably best to try it around dusk Sunday night, or even dawn.
How many people? I could do it with one climber if I have to. Two would be better, that way one person could be halfway in and the other feeding their rope. Ideally it would be three by adding someone down lower feeding the rope to the belayer. Best would be if I could get some fake smoke, but I'm not going to push my luck.
Potential trouble spots are that it will be illegal. I'm sure a bunch of people climbing all over big dangerous construction materials would not be looked kindly upon, and because of that I can't get a permit. The good thing is that I plan to shoot quick and be out of there before anyone complains.
Again, if I had my druthers, I'd have big lights and an hour or two to play with lighting before having an hour or two to shoot and try stuff out, but that's not what this is about. It's about doing the best with what I can get away with. Maybe we'll be there 15 minutes.
Another option would be to shoot the pipes and then shoot the people at my place and composite the two together. Could do if I have to, but I'd rather try to get all that work done in camera.
Now I'm just got to find 3 people, an assistant or two, and some climbing gear. The things I do for my art.
UPDATE 7:29PM Saturday:
Went to shoot some reference shots. I think it might be easier to do as a composite. Will need to replace the background with a prettier street through. Now I need to shoot some people at my place tomorrow.