Thursday, May 06, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 31: Ink

The 31st round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt is upon us, and the first word this round is "ink".

When I started brainstorming words around ink I quickly settled on the idea of an old-timey writing... thing... of some kind.  An old quill writing on a scroll, or something similar.  I couldn't really nail down exactly what I had in mind.   That is until the COVID gods smiled upon me.

Almost 2 years ago I ordered a Gandalf 12" figure.  It was delayed at first by normal reasons (as top end figures often are), but then it was delayed again by COVID-19 and its horrible effects on global commerce, especially from China.  

This figure is pretty dang detailed.  Real hair, detailed props, real material on the robes, cloak, and hat... even the eyes moved.  The eyes were posable!  I mean, damn.  
Image from Asmus Toys 

A week into the hunt I was notified that this amazing Gandalf was finally shipping. When it arrived a few days later it did not disappoint.  It was everything an action figure photography nerd ever wanted in a model of one of the most interesting characters from the fantasy realm.   

It also helped solidify my brainstorming as Gandalf has many scenes where he is looking at old parchments.  So I decided to do one of those, but with a twist: Gandalf reading a modern click-baity article but in an ancient library setting.

The first thing I did was write out a scroll.  I wanted it to be a mix of modern and ancient so I made two scrolls - one was a fake click-bait article on the best inks, and the other was an old-timey story - in fact it was just the first few sentences from The Hobbit, in a Lord Of The Rings font.

I printed off the scrolls onto basic printer paper, and then set about aging it.  I first started with some washes made from actual inks, bit I didn't like the effect - it was too aged - like a bad Photoshop job (only *I* am going to do bad Photoshop on *my* images - its only fair).  So I went with the tried and true method... tea.

I cut up the printed paper into scroll sized bits.  Then brewed a strong batch of tea (Earl Grey, if you must know). Then I soaked the paper in the tea, laid it out on a baking sheet, and dried it in the oven (240f, 5-10 minutes until golden brown).
I needed to populate an entire library, so I cut up a whole pile of paper and gave it the tea treatment. Some of the paper I cut to be left as sheets of paper, others intended to be made into scrolls. It took me several hours (an entire NHL game to be precise - Leafs lost, those bastards!)
Once I had my aged paper I set about making the long strips into scrolls.  I started by rolling them up over a  BBQ skewer. (I did this during a monthly Scavengers hangout, so if you wondered what that rustling from my mic was - it was my scroll factory).
Then I beat up the edges with a knife blade, to give it that old torn look.
Rinse and repeat until I had a pile of scrolls ready at my disposal.
All that was left was to set up the scene and take the shot.  I put the main scrolls on a scale work bench I made for a different shot for this round of the hunt (details coming up in a follow-up post).  I used a fake brick background I had lying around for the wall, and a couple un-fake bricks to act as a shelf behind Gandalf.  Toss in a mess of papers, scrolls, and an old book into the background.  Add a couple Lume Cubes to provide light, and a scene was born.
The final shot looked like this.  All in camera, except some cleanup of errant dust and hairs, and a healthy dose of colour correction.

 If you are wondering what that click-bait article said, here is the full text:

10 Best Inks For Wizards That Will Surprise You

1. Elvish Magic ink

The ink made from the tears of Galadriel mixed with the finest Mallorn tree nut juice.

2. Dwarvish Tunnel Ink

Deep in the Mines of Moria is a vein of black tar that makes an ink that flows smoothly out of your journaling pen.

3.  Hobbit Pipe Weed Ink

Made from the drippings of Old Toby, and perfect for genealogical records.

4. Orc Blood and Copper Sulfate

The blackest blood purified by the magic powder makes an ink so dark it will steal your soul and make you long for the better days.

5. India Ink

Available at, use promo code “RADAGAST” for free shipping!