Bringing to life "The Miner 49er & His Darlin' Clementine"
I've been super busy and it's been a long while since I have had a chance to write one of my BTS posts. Thank you for hanging in there with me!
It was the most extreme privilege to have had this image, "The Miner 49er & His Darlin' Clementine", awarded 1st place honors from judges +Alan Shapiro and +Jacob Lucas and a 2nd place from +Derek Kind in +Chrysta Rae's Photography Scavenger Hunt 2013 Summer edition in the category for Campfire. What a thrill! … and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity from +Chrysta Rae … hugs to you all!
I was limited to shooting most of what is in the images I created for the past Hunt with a non-dSLR (I have a Canon G12––essentially a "point & shoot"; fixed lens). It does have the capability of shooting in raw format (more information to work with) and in manual. However, almost everything I have done to create these images could be done with a "point & shoot" and Ps Elements (usually $99) or GIMP (free). I want to bring this message to some of you that may want it, there is no limit! Imagination and drive level the playing field here.
The making of "The Miner 49er & His Darlin' Clementine"
Getting the idea.
It is straightforward enough; the idea for this shot came about in seeking to overcome the liabilities of my small camera. "Small", in this instance, meaning "not fast"––shooting fire shots with my camera has always been a great disappointment to me. While, I do have the option to shoot manually, adjust ISO, etc., to work with low light, my nemesis with the G12 is digital noise. I did try shooting a real campfire for this category, but was very unhappy with the results. So, on to "Plan B" … ;o)
I decided to imply a campfire instead of having an actual fire in the shot––and that's where these two characters and their friends came into fruition. Initially, my idea was to simply have two people on a log and the implied firelight. The entire image evolved based around my extreme pleasure at making people smile or laugh. The phrase "wouldn't it be funny, if" pounced upon my mind repeatedly as the work evolved and elements of the image peppered their way throughout.
It is good to base your ideas on a solid understanding of composition and the best ways to support your main focal point in your image. For this, I knew I wanted a background that would help to point to and frame my "main actors" in the scene. Since many campfires are enjoyed in the mountains, that's where I decided to place my characters. I went to our local mountains to shoot and searched the perfect spot to capture:
This view had just the right elements I was looking for. The sky between the crook of the far mountain acts as a pointer to the main characters and the upward rise on each side helps to frame them as well, leading the viewer's eye directly to the main part of the story.
I chose to take multiple exposures of this. The primary reason, and something to always consider when trying to get a bit more from a smaller camera, is the more you shoot of a given scene, the more image information you have in the end to work with. This makes for a higher quality image with a camera that typically delivers lower quality images from a single shot. Using multiple exposures, and blending or merging them together in post-work, you gain a fuller dynamic range of shadow and light in the final piece. As I've mentioned before, taking multiple shots, specifically of an unmoving subject, and merging them in post is also how I manage to eliminate the higher noise I get from the smaller sensor of my camera.
The mid- and foregrounds were shot in the same mountain area; a large log on the roadside. I pulled all of the background from the following shot, but left the trees in as more framing to my main characters. Later on, as I was putting the final composite together, I ended up removing the tree on the left to keep that lovely light in the left background.
The next layer was the main characters, the miner and his lady. This was shot in my cleared out living room. Using the back wall to help me in creating the mask later. This is me and my boyfriend (the morphing of my body for the plumpness seen in the final composite was done in Liquefy in Photoshop, but I will admit to having an entire sweater stuffed down my top there ... ;oD … Liquefy was also used to create more extreme alterations to noses and other features towards more comical looking characters.)
A light with a blue gel is reflected off the ceiling for the moon light eventually needed for the final scene, and two lights (down quite low, like a campfire on the ground), one with a red gel and the other a yellow. A clear plastic bottle was placed in front of those to scatter them a bit (again, like the light of a campfire would be.)
The "models" are merely seated on the coffee table, which is covered in a red blanket (this is a bit of thinking ahead to the final composite for any color scatter that might occur from light bounce). Small boxes were placed underneath the feet area to get the right bend in the knees that would match how they would be seated on the log in the image referenced above. (Amazon boxes, size "A3", in case anyone wants a reference on the highly professional equipment that was used … ;o7)
The idea of the critters in the shot came partly from my "wouldn't it be funny, if" thoughts and secondarily from my wanting to add other "camp" and "fire" suggestions to my implied campfire scene: the "warmth" of stalwart and friendly companions (the old horse and the raccoon), and the "fire" of excitement should the bear decide to attack eventually … ;o).
I had the idea about the critters early on, with faint hope of finding the shots I needed. However, we did find a very small zoo out of town, with the bear and raccoon inside, and a petting corral outside with the horse. It was pure luck I suppose––however, I had set my mind on having them, so it was a mixture of luck and persistence.
As you can see, they were quite a bit of work to extract them from their "homes."
If you've made it this far, and looked through the linked images, you will have noticed the variability of color of all the images I used. A key thing to remember in creating a successful composite is pulling it all together with a tight color palette and color correction. As I mentioned in one of my earlier BTS posts, know the color wheel and about color harmonies and you will make more successful composites, as well as improve your general photography.
All compositing work should be supported by RESEARCH. With research and sufficient observation you have all the basic visual information you need to pull off a successful image composite. The "Care & Feeding of Your Muse" articles I posted earlier gives you the base you may be looking for to create your masterpiece … :o)
The Care and Feeding of Your Muse part 1 | robingriggswoodart
The Care and Feeding of Your Muse Part 2 | robingriggswoodart
Happy compositing, everyone!
You have been notified of these posts that I am sharing with the Autumn round of the Scavenger Hunt because you asked to be included in my BTS circle. Please let me know, if you no longer wish to be notified.