Thursday, July 10, 2008

How I did this... [7]

For the last of this series of posts I wanted to spend a moment to talk about an image that garnered the kind of response an ego-addled-mind can only dream of. This image has won awards, prints have been purchased, and the photo has been viewed on Flickr 7,000 times.

As I was developing my understanding and skills of modern image manipulation tools, I thought it would be good to start very simply. Later, I could work my way up in complexity as needs or desires demanded.

It was winter. It was cold out. Yet, I wanted to make a few images. I had stumbled upon David Hobby's Strobist Blog and was thrilled by the strobe images he described. David links his blog to Flickr, the same community site where I have my photo dump page.

An idea occurred to me make a series of images of a recently acquired mammalian skulls using the simplest of lighting methods. I stumbled downstairs one fine weekend and stood in my light/darkroom and thought awhile. What I came up with was a way to suspend my Alien Bees 3x4foot softbox/B800 between two tables. I then placed white rag board on all sides as a means of filling the subject completely from every angle with light. Then I scrounged through my rag-bag of backdrop materials and hauled out some things suitable. For the background I wondered if a subtle white on white might work well.

After about 30 minutes of fooling around with the light, materials, rag board, backdrop, and subject matter, I was ready to try my hand at making a few images. For the next two hours I had played with different ideas, different skulls, and different camera angles. The thing that stuck me as the most powerful representation was a bare white on white shot from nearly the top view of the biggest mammalian skull I had on hand, the coyote head.

The processing was very straight forward. I brought the image into the free Open Source application called the Gimp. I adjusted the levels slightly and bumped the contrast just a little. The changes were slight, but I hoped effective. Then I added a platinum tint to warm the photograph.

After downsizing the image and posting it on my Flickr pages I thought it might be fun to share this with the Strobist Flickr pool. I didn't think much about it until somewhat later when David Hobby mentioned he had taken a few of the pool images and shared them at Apples latest OS-X release party. People ooh'd and ah'd and seemed to like David's selection. So imagine my surprise when this image had been included in that showing!

Again, time passed and I didn't think much about the photo. This, even after a c0uple friends and colleagues purchased a few prints.

Around the end of 2007, David Hobby announced that he had lined up a few awards for a small contest he was running. David brought in outside help to judge Strobist images and to make a selection of five images from the vast pool of fine photographs. As David shared what the awards would be, I noticed that Alien Bees had offered an ABR800 ring light. I had been lusting after one and said so on Mr. Hobby's blog. It was like rolling dice and I was excited by the possibilities.

At the end of December, David started to announce the winners. My photo had won 4th place. I was stunned. I was shocked. I was amazed. I was very happy.

The ABR800 was eventually mine, and it's arrival led to yet another photoshoot with my favorite models, Sofia and Jane Archer. But that's a story partially told previously...

Radiant Bones - All Hallows Eve

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