Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Shipwreck

I'm putting some of the finishing touches on The Shipwreck, a new shot for my portfolio.  I was lucky to have Mark Holthusen in the studio with me to give me some pointers.  Mark works a lot in the studio and he points out how nice it is to have the time and control to do what you need to do.  When you have that much control over all the stages of the photograph you can really take your time and be proud of what you create.

Most of the work I do is shot on location, and in my internship with Mark we've been discussing the process of composite shooting within the studio.  When I had my internship with Erik Almas we discussed the pros and cons of studio-for-composite shooting and it seemed like something that I wanted to steer clear from for a while, but now that I've sort of learned where and when it's a good thing it's become something that I'm pretty excited about.  Basically the cons are feet.  When you shoot in the studio the feet never really match the ground.  

Ways to avoid this?  1) Use the studio for shots where you don't see the feet. 2) Bring whatever the ground is in the shot to the studio (grass, sand, etc). 3) Be really good at retouching and have the feet be a small element in the frame and hope it doesn't get on the cover of a magazine.
In my experiences shooting outside I always shot the person on the ground they were going to be composited into.  This way you don't cut out their feet but rather a big space around them.  Then you have all kinds of room to blend and no ones the wiser.

Pros to shooting in studio?  Lots. 

Really the biggest advantage of shooting in the studio is time.  I spend a lot of time and effort trying to get a crew on top of a mountain at sun down.  Think how nice it will be when I can just go off on my own and scout and shoot locations and then go to the studio to shoot the subjects.  Of course it's just another thing to harness, you really have to be careful when doing so much compositing, you don't want that stuff to look fake.  There's nothing quite like shooting everything in camera, but it's nice to know your limits, as well as the limits to what will look acceptable.  An appropriate step in determining when and where to use the different step is knowing how to do it all.  Once you know how to do it any which way, then you can choose the most appropriate method to achieve the means.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Doing well in Asia/Poetic Translation/Fake vs. Real

So, after having my work at the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China this year I've gotten a lot of attention from different Asian countries.  It's kind of random and unexpected but it seems that the Far East is a fan of what I do - I've had hundreds of hits on my website from South Korea and  the Taiwanese magazine DPI is doing a feature on me that will include some images and an interview.  I got a great response from my images from the PIP festival and it led to this. Cool huh?

There's something sort of magical about the horrible language translations that Babel Fish provides.  I've noticed it especially when it's Asian languages to English.  There's something about the phrasing and language that I really like.  Maybe it's just more direct, more to the core meaning of words, or just closer to the denotation of the words.  Maybe that's it, maybe the translations neglect any sort of connotation with the way we speak English conversationally. Whatever it is it can be really poetic sometimes in a random and surprising way.  I like it.

With that in mind -  here are some comments some people made from that website I just linked. I've translated the interview/comment page using Babel Fish and I like reading the translation because somehow when things are translated it creates something in the English language that no English speaking person would be able to write.  It's sort of unique and interesting.

Oh, there's a bit of criticism by someone who thinks they've noticed some "mistakes".  It's always my mission, when working so post intensive and with so much compositing, to make things look as real as possible - that's when the fantasy can take over, after the viewer is convinced it looks possible - but it's funny that the things he points out as looking unreal (besides the comment about the plane which I have to tastefully disagree with on a conceptual basis) are actually real and captured in camera.  Funny how that works huh? Now that we've gotten so use to seeing compositing and retouching we don't believe anything for being real anymore.  

Without even opening the can of worms of real vs. fake, photoshop vs. in camera, etc. I've noticed that there are plenty of times when shots that are real and captured in camera somehow end up looking "photoshopped" or "fake" before any post work is done.  This was brought to my attention by Adam Moore in a conversation we had about these ideas.  He pointed it out that it's always happened but now that we're so saturated with retouching we just always assume it's fake.  Maybe photoshop has killed those really interesting and accidental or random moments when things were photographed in a way that gave something a really magical and surreal look.  Maybe that look that used to be ineffable is now dismissed as being "photoshopped".

I guess the real question is whether or not any of that stuff matters.  For me, personally, the final image is what matters.  I don't care how it got there, what materials were used, if there was photoshop or not, the only thing that matters is the final image.  So take that, nay saying Chinese guy!