Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog: Rockin' the Temple Access Tunnel

I am in the process of winging the creation of a "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel"diorama with which to make an image with my Kermit The Frog/Indiana Jones hybrid action figure.

I have no idea what I am doing, and no plan (just a finished shot in my head), but that hasn't been a problem in the past. 

Last post I roughed in the tunnel with foam and sculptamold. It was starting to look good, if I do say so myself (and who else would be saying that on my blog?).  I started this build session by adding in a back wall.
The wall is angled, to give the effect of the tunnel heading off to the right in the distance. I left it roofless to allow in light.  My example image shows there is a beam of light illuminating that back area, so I wanted to make that possible.  The effect works amazingly well.

During my off time from this build I had given some thought to the vegetation I will be adding near the end of this build. 

It was going to be a problem.

I had originally skipped making a ceiling for the tunnel as the ceiling would not be in the final shot.  However I suddenly realized that I needed something to hang the roots and vines from (or invent magical roots and vines, but I am trying Hollywood magic here, not Hogwarts magic, so my confidence was low on the magic front - damn owl never delivered my letter!).  So I quickly added a couple angled bits of foam to act as a roof.

I then added a whole mess more sulptamold to fill in the walls, ceiling, floor, and other bits.
Once that was dry (turns out sculptamold dries in a half hour, unlike drywall putty, which would take days for this amount to dry), it was time to attempt a paint job.

I start as I normally do by adding a mix of Mod Podge and black paint. This is a mix I got from Black Magic Craft, and it both gives a nice black base coat, as well as a sealant for the foam, tying everything together, and making it a bit stiffer. Once mixed its basically paint with benefits, which I applied with a brush to everything.

I then decided to add a base coat of burnt umber. There is a lot of dirt in the scene, and a nice dark brown would be a good start.  I used my air brush for this, since I got a bit annoyed with a bristle brush on the Mod Podge layer.

Once the brown layer was applied, I figured I'd add a dark grey to the places where rocks would be.  I also used an air brush for this.  However I basically ended up making everything grey. Oops.

I then added a couple layers of increasingly lighter grey.  I used a technique called dry brushing, which adds paint only to the raise areas.  This adds some texture to the piece and makes it more rock like.
The photo doesn't really do it justice, but the rock actually looks pretty dang good, if I do say so myself (and who else... oh, wait, I already did this bit...sorry).

So the stone bits are sorted.  It is time to add some dirt.  I decided to skip the paint bits and just jump to adding actual dirt.   Coincidentally we are getting a bunch of landscaping work done in my back yard, and there is a massive pile of dirt just sitting there - and its mine! All mine! (well, once I pay the final bill it will be mine... but I'm good for it... cheque is in the mail. Trust me!). I grabbed some dirt, cackled maniacally to myself (as one does), and headed back to the craft table.

I then strategically added white glue to places where I wanted dirt to be added, then sprinkled on my new found dirt.   The result is this:

Again the photo doesn't do it justice, and it looks better in person, but not a great deal better.   I am not sure if I will need a different strategy or not.  However I need to let this glue dry, so I will decide what my next move is tomorrow.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog: Starting the Temple Access Tunnel

Now that I have a big rolling rock the next thing I wanted to do in creating a "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel"diorama in which to make an image with my Kermit The Frog/Indiana Jones hybrid action figure, was to start roughing out the tunnel. (say that sentence 5 times fast!)

Keep in mind I have no plan. I'm winging the heck out of this thing, and seeing what happens.

I carefully measured (read: eyeballed) the figure and determined that it was about 5 inches tall, and the tunnel should be about 4.5 inches wide.  This seems adequate for my needs.  The image I have in mind is going to be more tightly framed than the screen shot from the movie I am basing it on, so I don't need as much space.  I want to ensure I leave enough to give the impression Indy-Frog can run down the tunnel unimpeded, but still include some of the details on the side of the tunnel.

For reference, the screen shot I am using is here:

I figure the best course of action is to build the rough shape of the tunnel out of foam, then cover it in some sort of drywall putty, or other sculpting material to get a more authentic rock experience.  I likely only need the floor and sides tho, as the shot doesn't show the ceiling.

Looking at the photo it looks like the foreground has a sloping sides, and the tunnel widens a bit.  The background is a longer darker tunnel.  So I figured I'd tackle this in two parts.  

I started by cutting out a base, and drawing in where the tunnel should go. The total width is 10 inches, with 4.5 inches in the middle.

To build up the sides I cut out strips of extruded polystyrene foam, tapered in the right places, and built up the sloping ground in the foreground.  Glueing them in place with a hot glue gun.    I then filled out the back with scraps of foam from my "pile of leftover bits" from previous builds.

So far so good. I then added some crap foam to make a ceiling, with a space for the ball to have come from.  In the final shot I expect the ball to already be down the ramp a bit, but for realism I wanted a space for the ball to have come from.  I glued the ceiling pieces together, then clamped it to ensure everything stayed tight while it all dried up.

I also took some scraps of foam and glued them to the foreground bits. They should make the basis of a rougher ground.  I also carved the edges of each foam later a bit to give it a more smooth organic feel.  Its not perfect, but the next stage should cover all that up.

Now its time to slap on some putty stuff over everything to make the rocks of the tunnel.  While looking around my studio I found a bag of Sculptamold that I thought would be good for this.  Sculptamold is a cellulose fibre based compound that slaps on like clay, and sets up like plaster.  Seems perfect for this.  So I mixed up a batch and slathered it on.  It looks like this unholy mess:
So I learned a few things.  Sculptamold sticks very well to itself, but not so awesome to smooth foam.  It also looks like a good texture that should sell as rock and dirt once painted.  I am going to need another coat of sculptamold to finish off the floor, but for now it will do.

You may also notice I added some walls to the foreground.  I did this as when I framed up the scene in my camera I noticed some spill-over on the sides, and the wall should fill in the edges quite nicely.

Time to let it dry and take a break.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog: The Big Ball Edition

The first thing I wanted to do in creating a "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel"diorama in which to make an image with my Kermit The Frog/Indiana Jones hybrid action figure, was to create the big rolling rock.

Keep in mind I have no plan. I'm winging the heck out of this thing, and seeing what happens.

I started with a pair of  5" hemispheres of foam I bought an Michaels before the pandemic pandemic'd.  They have been sitting in a drawer ever since.  Not any more!

I started by glueing the two hemispheres together using white glue:

I used masking tape for two reasons.  The first was to hold the sides together while the glue set.  The second was to act as a barrier. The glue I used, Eileens Tacky glue, tends to drip a bit, especially when a lot is applied.  The spheres are not perfectly formed, so there are some gaps, so I added extra glue to fill in those gaps as well as to get more strength.  The masking tape keeps this glue from dripping out of the bottom.

Once the glue set, I had a full foam ball. But I don't want a foam ball. I want a bad-ass stone ball of death.  OK, fine, I want a reasonable facsimile of a bad-ass stone ball of death.  The thing that is going to sell this, aside from a clever stone-like paint job, is applying the right texture to the outside of the box.  In short, I need a texture that rocks.

For most dioramas I've made in the past (which isn't a lot, to be fair), I used extruded polystyrene - the stuff they use for insulation foam board.  That stuff can be carved, and textures applied by scrunching up some tin foil and pressing it into the foam.  I have made many a stoney looking object this way.

The spheres I have here are made out of the much less useful expanded polystyrene foam - its the stuff you get as packaging for electronics - the stuff that becomes little balls of hate when its cut, and gets stuck on you by static electricity, getting everywhere, and making you hate all things.  It is like the demon spawn big brother of glitter.  In short, it's shit, and a pain in the ass to work with.  Its biggest sin is that it won't take a texture.  

I am going to have to come up with another way to get looking like a stone.

I pulled another trick I've learned - drywall putty.  I slathered it on to make a stone texture on the outside of the ball.

One benefit of the putty is that it filled in the seam along the equator of the ball, making it look like a solid chunk of stone, instead of two solid chunk of stones. I was (mostly) successful at this.  There is some seam left, but I should be able to keep that out of frame  (movie magic is very forgiving for things not directly framed in camera)

Once the pall was puttied up, and dried completely (I left it overnight), I covered it in a coating of black paint and Mod Podge.  This should seal everything in, and leave me with a nice base coat to start my paint job.

Since I am winging this whole thing, I really don't know what colours I want to use to paint this stone.  I imagine I'll have a better idea once the rest of the diorama is complete.  So for now I am putting the ball aside. and will move on to building the temple access tunnel.

But that is an adventure for another day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog, Day 1

I am sometimes asked where I get some of my action figures from. This post isn't about that - its about diorama making,  but the answer may surprise you just the same.

I have recently come into possession of an Indiana Jones/Kermit The Frog hybrid figure by a sneaky technique I like to call "giving my credit card number to Amazon and selecting 2-day shipping" (shhh, no one tell anyone my secret!)

(image shamelessly stolen from amazon.com)

Now that I have the figure I decided I should do something with it (this is where the diorama part comes in).  I looked around my crafting area and saw that I had cleverly purchased two half-spheres of foam.   The classic "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel" scene immediately came to mind.

I found a screen grab online, and printed it off for reference:

Now I have no idea how to create such a thing as an ancient temple access tunnel.  I have done some minor diorama-ing lately, but that was all clean brick work.  This is gonna be messy, jungly, and old.  Foam and craft paint are not going to cut it here. I'm going to have to create non-square shapes. I'm going to have to create vines, vegetation, and even maybe a cob web or three. However nothing ventured nothing gained, so I am going to throw caution to the wind and see if I can free-wheel a diorama I can use as a set to recreate that scene.

I am not going for movie-realism here.  I mean, it's a kermit the frog dressed as Indiana Jones so how realistic can we reasonably expect to get here?  I am going for a riff off that scene that is both hopefully instantly recognizable, but also my own style and personality. 

I am also not afraid to use Photoshop to polish it off, but this is an exercise in crafting a diorama, so I want to get as much in camera as I can.

I can't stress this enough:  I have no earthly idea what I am doing.  None.  This is me winging it, live on this blog.

Strap in.  It's gonna be a wild ride.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Behind The Scenes: Keys

The 28th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt was the first one where I made all my own props and backgrounds.  This is a behind the scenes look of how I made the image for the word "keys".

The concept was a prisoner in a dungeon trying vainly to reach the jailors keys, and failing. Leaving only a skeleton behind.  I wanted to highlight the keys so the image would focus on the skeleton hand and leave the rest in the dark behind bars.

The final image looks like this:
The skeleton arm came from a Grim Reaper I bought several years ago (and has featured in several previous hunt photos).  The keys are from a charm pack I bought at a craft store several months ago.

The majority of this shot was constructing the dungeon.  I knew my framing was going to be low and tight so I didn't need to build an entire set.  So I started by putting a chunk of foam in my lightbox, frame up the shot, and measure out the edges of the build.
Once marked, I proceeded to build the dungeon.  I used foam for the bricks, and straws for the bars.

Once everything was painted up, I figured the dungeon would be thick with dust, so I created some.  My dust is a mix of sand from the kids sandbox, crushed up sidewalk chalk, and crushed up bits of dried drywall compound.

I then sprinkled the dust around, tossed in the keys and the skeleton arm, then moved it all to my light box to take the shot.

Post processing is just basic colour adjustments.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Behind The Scenes: Connected

For the 28th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt I decided to only use props and backgrounds I already had, or made myself.  My entry for the word "connected" is a good example of this.

The concept is Spider-man hanging from a bridge, which is a bit of an homage to the Spider-Man: Far From Home poster.  Except he is talking on a cell phone, and hanging out in New York City.

The final image looked like this:
The cell phone is a simple square of foam painted with silver paint, to look like an iPhone-ish type device.  I didn't worry about getting it too smooth since I figure Spidey is going to rough up his phone pretty badly while doing his superhero stuff.

To get Spidey hanging upside down I suspended him from a wire that was held up on a Platypod with a couple gooseneck attachments.  I used a couple Lume Cubes to give him a rim light.

I then compositied him into a background I took form the Highline in NYC back in 2015.
I originally thought I'd make a bridge out of foam, which is my go-to diorama material, but it didn't work out so I used an archway from PixelSquid.  I did use the brickwork I made to act as a background for the web.  Using the brickwork saves a lot of time in post trying to match the brick colour cast on the web.

I then composited it all together.  The one additional artistic touch was to replace the black flag on the left with the Oscorp symbol - Oscorp being a company that features prominently in the Spider-Man universe.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Behind The Scenes: Mirror

The 28th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt was the first one where I made all my own props and backgrounds.  This is a behind the scenes look of how I made the image for the word "mirror".

Then concept is simple, tho a bit surreal.  Deadpool stepping out of a magic mirror, with all sorts of dramatic light.  It is inspired by a movie poster I saw a while ago, tho I don't remember the movie (I never actually seen it).  The final looked like this:
This is by far the most complex image for this round, and done in two parts.  The first part is making the mirror.

I started making the mirror by cooking up a template of the complex shape of a Baroque style mirror in Photoshop, then using it as a template to cut out a thin piece of foam.  The mirror ended up being 4 inches tall.
I then cut out a second piece to thicken up the walls and add a back for where the "glass" goes.  Overall my cuts were pretty janky (I never claimed to be good at this crafting stuff). Then I painted them with some black paint and Mod Podge:
To get the mirror I decided to simply pour in some silver paint and let it dry flat.  This wouldn't lead to a super reflective or smooth surface, but I knew I just needed a hint of mirror, so it would do.  I took a page from physics and floated the foam in water so the mirror would be truly flat as the paint dried (which took almost 24 hours).
Once the mirror was finished, I put it in my light box.  I mounted it with some wire to hold it up straight in the air, over a floor tile to represent the floor.  I then aimed a Lume Cube at it to get the strong shadows on the floor.

Deadpool was more straightforward.  I simply posed him in a way that looked like he was stepping out of a mirror, and drawing his katana (ya know, for dramatic effect).

I then took multiple photos of Deadpool, shining light with a Lume Cube on various parts of him to get a complete coverage of dramatic light.
In Photoshop I started by merging all of the Deadpools together to get the right level of light that worked for the scene.  I then merged him onto the mirror, added a lot of light rays for more drama, and to give the "coming out of the mirror" effect.  It took a lot of finessing (like, hours), but I finally got it to the look you see it now.

This is my favourite shot of mine for this round.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Behind The Scenes: Meal

The 28th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt was the first one where I made all my own props and backgrounds.  This is a behind the scenes look of how I made the image for the word "meal".

The concept was simple:  Two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a sewer, one with pizza, sharing with the other.  The final shot looks like this:
To make this shot I need the sewer diorama background, and the pizza boxes.  The diorama background was simply foam and paint, made inside a cardboard box to add some strength to the piece. 
The tricky part of this build was figuring out the angles to make the circle of stones.  The rest is pretty straightforward: carving in brick work, add some paint, done.

I downloaded plans for a model pizza box from the Internets. I replaced the logo on the box with the Dominos logo, because in the 1990s movies they ate Dominos (just going to show living in a sewer means you'll eat even third-rate pizza with glee).  I printed off a bunch of the boxes on card stock (for strength), cut em out, folded them up, and then glued the ends (else the paper folds up, looking meh).
I aged the boxes with some paint, and added them to the scene.

Everything else was pretty much shot as one image, except the pizza itself, which is a PixelSquid model.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Behind The Scenes: Cozy

For the 28th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt I went a bit further and made all my own props.  This is a behind the scenes look at how I made the image for the word "Cozy".

This was a hard word to come up with ideas for.  I had nothing for the longest time.  Then I decided to just go with Fat Thor, dressed in his bathrobe, drinking a beer (the nectar of the Norse gods) while looking out a window at a sunrise.

This is the image:

The first step was to make the background.  I used foam and craft paints to make the wall, and a floor tile for the floor.   This is a fairly involved process, but its basically draw in the brick, and cut out the window.  

I used a couple Lume Cubes on a Platypod and some gooseneck arms to make the morning light.  Most was done practically, with just a few minor adjustments in Photoshop.

This was one of the most straightforward shots this round.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Behind The Scenes: Toilet Paper

For the 28th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt I decided to put myself on a purchasing diet and only use props I already owned, or I made myself. This has led to some interesting design decisions.

This is a behind the scenes look at one of those images, for the word "toilet paper."

I wracked my brain for a concept I was happy with.  I pride myself on having unique ideas for my entries in the hunt (at which I am largely successful), but I couldn't think of anything for toilet paper that hit the magic sweet spot of "unique" and "tickles my creative urges". 

Then in a flash of inspiration one day as I was walking up from a long nights slumber I thought "I wonder if they make paper toilets". 

Turns out they don't make em, but there are plans online to make one of my own.  I decided to make that my concept:  making my own paper toilet...

.. and by me, I mean Deadpool ('natch).

This is my final image:
I started by downloading those plans for a paper model of a toilet, printed them on cardstock, and started assembling them.

[not pictured: me assembling the model.  Picture in your head the image of me smacking my forehead and exclaiming "doh!"]

The rest of the image is really just posing Deadpool assembling the model, with some of the detritus from my own attempts at assembling the model toilet.  At the last minute I decided to add a crack in the bottom that was leaking glue (cause leaking toilets are funnier than non-leaking ones).  I put a popsicle stick in Deadpool's hand to make sure it stayed open:
I did the glue falling in two stages.  First was to get the falling stream of glue:
Then I took a photo of the bottle itself.  Doing it in two parts just made the merging easier, and the bottle to fit into Deadpools hand better.
Finishing off the piece was just compositing in the glue bits to the image, then doing some basic colour grading and lens spot cleanup.  The typical photo post-processing gig.

I am happy to say that this image was indeed unique among the hunt entries.  Win!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Behind The Scenes: Matches

The 28th round of the Photographer Scavenger Hunt is currently in its reveals stage, so I can start showing off the work I did for this round.

This round I decided to not purchase any props, and make everything my self.   I started with the first image, matches.  This is a behind-the-scenes look at

The concept was a poker hand being reflected in the sunglasses of the poker player, The hand itself would be a royal flush.

The final image went through some iterations, but ended up in this final form:

I decided to use my Fat Thor (from Avengers Endgame) for the figure, as it had both sunglasses and a beard - basically it looked most like what I imagine a rogue poker player to look like (yay stereotypes!).  So I started by taking his portrait:

To get the cards I decided to simply make a scale set of cards.  I found a template online, printed them off at the correct 1/12 scale to match the Fat Thor figure, then fanned them out and glued them together.

I picked the suit of hearts because I thought the red would contrast against the dark glasses better, and I liked the rounded shape as opposed to the angular diamonds.

To get the right angle of the cards being held in the hand I had to remove Thors arm. I then put the cards in the hand, and posed it on green construction paper. Originally I thought more of the table would be visible in the glasses and the green looked like the felt that covers many gaming tables.

The rest was just merging the two in Photoshop. I originally had both eyes in the shot, but decided it was more impactful to have just the one eye, so I cropped it down.  

Thors face is rather smoother than I like and that close up lacks detail, so I added some rough textures to the image to roughen things up and make it look more like an old cracked painting.