Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The more things change...

I spent some time studying the images of Joel Grimes. I also spent some time studying the Canadian photographer, Renaud Bergeron, and the European photographer, Eugenio Recuenco.

Tungsten Bob a mange' la Poule

What attracts me to their work is the quality of light they have each achieved. There seems to be a sense of balance between the strong off camera lighting and their somewhat subdued shadow details. Eugenio Recuenco's work reminds me of film set lighting. Perhaps something from a colorized film noir feature. Renaud Bergeron's work is stunning for his mastery of his subject matter. I found Joel Grimes through his Flickr images.

My own work seemed flat and boring by comparison. Perhaps it's that competitive streak in me. Or perhaps it's my continual striving for "perfection". I don't know, but something needed to be done about my boring lighting.

Estella Zephyrine ~ Bogville ~ Gypsy Dust

After WWII certain fashion photographers working in Paris, France made wonderful use of north light. That's where a large bank of north facing windows spilled light onto a subject. It is gorgeous, this kind of light. But the three photographers who's work I admire did not seem to employ that kind of light.

William Mortensen (St Ansel's arch nemesis, for reasons I have never understood) wrote a series of wonderful books back in the 1930's. They helped photographers understand their craft as a means of improving their work. William encouraged the use of two kinds of lighting. One gave an iconic, Byzantine tile mosaic kind of light. The other gives a more "familiar" kind of lighting effect. I have followed William's ideas for the past four years. Perhaps it was my flat lighting approach which led to boring images?

Courtesan in Teal

In any event, I reviewed my lighting equipment along with my approach and came to feel additional controlled light sources were required. Alien Bees had a PLM parabolic umbrella light system that was back-ordered for many months. One day I saw that their new materials were arriving and I ordered a PLM64.

What I came to realize was that my shoot-thru umbrellas were spilling too much light onto the backdrop, and that my main light could not be controlled in the manner I wanted. I also realized I needed to begin varying the intensity of my various lights to enhance the textures of a subject's clothing as well as to gently spread the shadow areas in certain ways.

Pensive Child ~ Bogville ~ Gypsy Dust

It took awhile and several shoots for me to gain confidence in the new approach. Yet the goal was attractive enough that I felt it was worth pursuing. By the time Ivy Slime of Wigslitters asked me to help photograph her wigs a second time, I felt I was ready. Quickly on the heals of that shoot, Tiare Tashnick asked if I could make a few images of her Bogville ~ Gypsy Dust cast.

The results are, hopefully, conveying the change in direction in a way that makes my work subtly more dramatic and approachable. It's only been two years since I submitted work for publication in "1000 Steampunk Creations." The book was very recently released and I am fortunate enough to have two pages of work printed as part of the large, beautiful compilation of Steampunk-themed work. While this is quite thrilling, I realize that I'd love to have another shot at it. I'm much more pleased with my latest images.

Ms. Alvida Wicketstitch ~ La Reve

Perhaps this is what drives me, then. Not competition. Not "perfection". Rather, perhaps what I'm really involved in is a continual exploration of the craft and art of image making.

It's a real joy, photography.