Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are you a God?

Gozer: [after Ray orders her to re-locate] Are you a God?

[Ray looks at Peter, who nods]

Dr Ray Stantz: No.

Gozer: Then... DIE!

[Lightning flies from her fingers, driving the Ghostbusters to the edge of the roof and almost off; people below scream]

Winston Zeddemore: Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!


Flame outInspiration strikes at the strangest times. No, I wasn't watching Ghostbusters at the time, but I was staring at my big, beautiful 54" DLP TV (that now has one lovely pixel that's stuck in the on position). It's a nice TV. Has a great picture, especially when the high def channels are running on it.

I was watching something on one of the Discovery channels when inspiration hit. I had been thinking about backgrounds because of the cookie setup I used for some recent portraits (written about in Boot to the head!). One of the things I look for now is an interesting background. Ok, maybe not interesting ... different. Something I haven't seen or done before.

So, this particular TV show has some very colorful moments in it when I realize that, if unfocused, would make some unique and easy backgrounds. I wouldn't have to do much to make it work. But, what about a subject?

We have this statue in our living room. It's a glorified candle holder. My wife says it's some sort of Buddha-ish thing. It has quite a bit of detail in it. Bumps and curves and folds. Faith
Plus the candle, must not forget the pale green honeydew candle sitting upon it's lap. In other words, something curious and attractive photographically.

Background. Check.

Subject. Check.

What's next? The lighting! I've been playing with collapsing my umbrella to help control the light a bit more. I wanted something more directional than shooting through a white umbrella (which has WAY to much light, I'm finding). But, without access to a softbox right now, I make do with what I have on hand. So, collapsed umbrella with the flash bouncing into it, as opposed to through it. The light was certainly a bit crisper in the shadowline.

Toss in a flickering flame and you have something where the light is sculpted just enough to bring out the detail in the statue.

So, Background, check.

Subject, check.

Lighting, check.

Setup for the StatueThree simple things needed to make a good photo. In this particular case, I tossed the light to camera right and feathered it away from the subject. Pushing it so it was directly on and above put too much light and killed too much of the shadow for me. You can see it a bit better in the setup shot. The hanging edge of the collapsed umbrella is lined up so it would be just on the edge of the face.

One of the things I'm finding is that it's worthwhile just trying something. Using the TV as a background was a stroke of chance (and man, timing the shot so the background was something useful was quite a pain in the ass). The two shots I have above were taken shortly apart from each other and you can see the big difference in style. I love the separation of the head and background made by the green sliver combined with the smoke trails vaporing off into nothing. I also love the fiery red background of the second combined with the single flick of orange flame. It works.

Oh, and the TV show? I think it was some documentary about the solar system, how it was formed, and how it would all come spiraling in to a despotic end, crushing our tiny little Earth. Makes for a cheery day, doesn't it?

So remember: try it. It might work. It might not. And if it doesn't, you've still learned something: how not to use a light, a background, or an idea in a particular way.

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