Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 31: Tiny Creatures

The 31st round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt is upon us.  This is my entry for the word "Tiny Creatures."

Given my genre of choice, tiny creatures should not present much a problem.  I mean, all I do is shoot tiny creatures.   I am literally surrounded by them.  That led to the idea of going meta and taking a self portrait with some of my tiny creatures.

I had actually considered taking some BTS photos of the setup, but neither myself nor my wife can locate them, so they are lost to the void of history.  So let me describe how I got this shot:

A simple setup, really.  I took this on my dining room table, with some black cloth on the wall to block out the window light.  I then setup my laptop, and arranged some characters. I set up one light, a 12" LED panel on a C-stand pointed straight in front of me pointing down at a steep angle.  I tethered my camera to my laptop.  This is one of the easiest shots I've done as I used the laptop I was staring at to remote control the camera, so I could literally watch the camera view as I clicked the shutter.

Easy, peasy.

This is the result.

It was only after I took the shot I decided to add the narrator windows, which look like Deadpool's inner-voice from the comics.  I dunno, I think it furthered the plot.

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 31: Window

 The 31st round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt is upon us.  This is my entry for the word "Window" 

Window.  Its like a thing you can see out of... almost like a window to the soul, but not.  So I decided to make a self portrait with a window to my soul....

I tried mocking up something, and immediately hated it.  I mean, can you blame me?

I think I could beat that idea into submission, but it would take a whole lot of work (I even started making a window out of balsa wood to serve as a better mind portal).  However his was about a week before the deadline and I was losing steam.  

So in desperation I looked up to the My Little Pony on my shelf (fun fact: first Christmas I shared with my now-wife, then girlfriend, she asked me what I wanted, and I said "a pony" so she got me a My Little Pony doll.  I had no choice but to marry her after that) ... and inspiration struck. 

My Little Ponies have designs on their asses - they call em cutie marks, I call em ass-tattoos. Throughout my brainstorming for window I kept getting flashbacks to my PTSD inducing IT days brought on by that damnable Windows OS. So doing the math:  pony ass + logo == good enough!

And by definition good enough is good enough, so I grabbed the pony, took it outside and tossed it on a small concrete block retaining wall in my back yard, positioned it for the then setting sun, and started shooting.

One of the straight-from-camera shots looks like this:

Good enough actually turned out to be not that bad at all.  The location was right in front of a chain link fence, and the neighbours house was on the other side.  This made the background a horrid mess (for the shot, the neighbours yard actually looks quite nice).  I played around with a very shallow depth of field to blur all that crap out, and I was left with a rather pleasing photo. 

I tossed a Windows 2000 logo on its ass, and called it a day.  This is what I submitted to the hunt:

Monday, May 10, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 31: Tea

The 31st round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt is upon us.  This is my entry for the word "Tea" 

Tea:  It is a nice drink. One I even enjoy on occasion.  However it may be one of the least inspiring words I've seen in a long while. One might say it isn't my cup of tea (hey-ooo!)

However my wife had an idea for a shot a long time ago that we never got around to shooting.  She wanted me to recreate the scene from Toy Story where Buzz Lightyear attended the nieghbours girls tea party as Mrs. Nesbitt.

So I decided to do that.  Now, because I am a complete and total professional at this blogging thing, and a consumate story teller, I completely forgot to take any behind-the-scenes shots for this. 

Go me!

However its pretty standard fair for my work these days.  My wife, the uber-quiltress, made an apron for me. She also let me use a tea set she has sitting around . I 3D printed a hat, made some scale furniture out of XPS foam and craft paint that I painted the pinkest pink I could,  and set everything up.

The hardest part was removing Buzz's arm.

It's a pretty basic shot overall.


Interesting this sort of led to an unplanned mini-series within the hunt, starting with fluffy, this one, and then teal.





Sunday, May 09, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 31: Sparkle

The 31st round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt is upon us.  This is my entry for the word "Sparkle"

There are some words where ideas come fast and loose, and one is almost spoiled for choice.  Others I have to fight tooth and nail to get even the faintest thread of an idea.  Sparkle was the exact middle - no ideas at all until blind inspiration struck out of the blue.

So when I get a list of hunt words one of the first things I do is write them in a notebook, and then I write some first thoughts associated words beside them.  This helps spark my creative flow.  For example, this is my notebook for Ink:


Contrast that with my notebook entry for sparkle:

So much to work with there, eh?

"Nerts!" I said to myself, and I grabbed my headphones and went for a walk.

I am not sure if it was the muses shining on me or the music of choice or a combination of the two, but I got about half way down the path - right where the path bends to follow the river... you know the place, when the following thought came to mind.  "Tinkerbell has sparkles!  I bet Tinkerbell could become a photo... but,I normally shoot Deadpool.... Tinkerbell... sparkles... shoot... Deadpool.... wouldn't it be great if Deadpool shot Tinkerbell and she exploded in a mass of sparkles?"

Then that became: "It *would* be *freakin' awesome* if Deadpool shot Tinkerbell and she exploded into a sparkle ball!"   Then I started to laugh like a mad man.  I literally LOL'd right there where the path bends to follow the river.  When I laugh at an idea, I know it is a winner. 

When I got back to my studio I hopped into Photoshop to play around to see if I could get a sparkle effect I was looking for.... turns out I could.  So I took a shot of Deadpool to composite into the shot:


If that shot looks weird, its cause it is.  I have been playing around with an idea I've had to shoot figures in front of a TV screen, with the background I plan on using projected behind them.  This allows me to get scale, and more important, angles (light positioning, but also camera angles, and posing) correct for whatever I am going for.  I then still comp out the character as normal, but this way I know the figure is correct for the background.

I comped it together, and I laughed again.  I showed it to my wife, and she loved it.  And the coup-de-grace - I showed it to my 7 year old daughter, expecting her to revolt and the idea of Tinkerbell exploding, but she literally doubled over laughing.  Then she said something that makes me know she's my daughter - "Uh, Daddy... the wand is wrong."

I scoffed at that... then I did research, and dang it, she was right!  So I changed the wand, polished things up, and came up with the final image that I submitted to the hunt.

Ironically this was the first photo I had finished for this round of the hunt.

BTW if you are wondering if Tinkerbell deserved it, I refer you to Peoples Exhibit A: https://peterpan.fandom.com/wiki/Tinker_Bell#Personality. In which you will find she attempted to murder Wendy, and as an adult fairy has dubious intentions towards the minor, Peter.  She is one naughty pixie.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 31: Float

The 31st round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt is upon us.  This is my entry for the word "Float"

I knew pretty much right away that I wanted to have Deadpool floating in a pool of some sort.  I just didn't know how to do it.

I googled doll sized pool floats and was pleasantly surprised to find that, not only do these things exist in the scale I needed (1/6 scale), but there were tons of options at reasonable prices.  Turns out they are also used as floating drink holders.  I picked a pack that looked the most like what Deadpool would want, and two-day shipped those suckers post haste!

There is a pond in a walking park near my house that I thought would be perfect for this sort of floaty scenery.  I took this photo on a scouting mission:


Before I sent my $200 Deadpool figure floating across a pond, I wanted some assurance I'd get him back in once piece.  So I tied some fishing line to the float so I could hold on to him from the shoreline.

And I tied Deadpool to the float with some more fishing line. I tried to position the line so it wouldn't be in the shot, but it would be easy enough to remove in post if some of it snuck in.

All I needed was to wait for the right time and go take the shot.  I waited out a rain storm and the first time the sun came out I grabbed my wife (as an assistant) and my kids (for play time) and headed over to the park.  I tossed the float onto the water and....  it worked!  Well, except for one thing: damned dirty nature.

This was the height of spring, and the local trees were flowering...so the pond was full of flower petals.  As a result my float was covered in nasty nature dandruff!  Way, way, (way!) too much to Photoshop out.

I packed up, retreated, and bided my time.

[not pictured: me biding my time]

As Hamilton once sang "I'm not gonna miss my shot." (also "Holy shit, Burr shot me!"- Hamilton is one crazy mofo) 

I was in the park taking my daily walk a week later and noticed the pond was much clearer, so I grabbed my wife again and rushed over.  This time things were almost perfect.

I got my shot...
... and Burr didn't shoot me.  So I got one up on Hamilton.  Go me.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Photography Scavenger Hunt Round 31: Fairy Tale

The 31st round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt is upon us.  This is my BTS for the word "Fairy Tale."

When I first saw this word I knew I was able to come up with something.  There are so many fairy tales, and so many takes on them, both modern and ancient, that something had to stick.  However the problem with things like this is that one gets spoiled with choice, and settling on a single concept is harder than it seems.

I was searching the Internet one evening looking for models to print with my 3D printer.  I came across a rather detailed model of Pinocchio, that plucky puppet with a heart of gold and a nose for the lack of truth.   I decided I'd grab the model and print him off as he seemed like a decent fit for the category of "fairy tale".

[not pictured:  Pinocchio being printed on my 3D printer]

I still needed to put Pinocchio into a scene.  I've never really watched the movie (just enough to know it gets *really* dark and an LSD trippy half way through).  But the scene that comes to mind is Geppetto making the damnable psycho-puppet in his workshop.

I decided to use Deadpool as a Geppetto stand-in, cause, you know... Deadpool.  

Of course Deadpool isn't going to paint up a puppet as a normal version so I decided to make a Deadpool painting a Deadpool puppet.  The model has Pinocchio wearing a hat, but I decided to cut it off, and use some wood putty to recreate the top of his head (including that thing that sticks out the back of his mask)


I needed some props for the workshop, so I made a work bench (the one Pinocchio-pool is lying on above) out of XPS foam.  I also printed some tools on the 3D printer, then painted them all up.

I also needed a paint brush, which is simply a real brush cut short.  I also used some prop jars to make some old paint containers, filled with actual paint (extra points for thinking inside-the-box on that one. I'm clever that way).

Then I set up the scene, using the same brick wall from "ink", and a Lume Cube panel for light.  I decided to use the Wade Wilson head for Deadpool, as its hard to see out of those masks, and he is doing some detailed work.

The final image is what you see here.  It turned out pretty much as I envisioned in my head.

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 Staples.com, use promo code “RADAGAST” for free shipping!