Monday, April 9, 2012

How I Got The Shot #29 - Interpretation of Power

I was working on another Project52 assignment and the theme was to have a shot that expresses POWER.

Creative Process:
I thought about ways that power might be expressed.  They can be physical, mental, spiritual, and a whole lot of other things.

I decided to concentrate on the more cerebral aspects and shy away from the physical.  The image I came up with is a conceptual one.

And here it is:


Location:
Reynoldsburg, Ohio  -  My home studio.

Gear:
Fuji X10
Nikon SB-28(main light)
1/8" grid
white board as a reflector
black board as background
Radio Popper JrX trigger/receivers
light stands

EXIF Info:
Shot in manual mode, 1/1500th @ f/4, ISO 100, ~28mm.


Yes - 1/1500th of a second!!   How is this possible?  One of the things that attracted me to the Fuji X10 was the fact that it has a leaf shutter.  Most other cameras have a focal plane shutter.  Focal plane shutters are generally constrained to native flash sync speeds of 1/160th to 1/500th of a second.  The average being about 1/250th.  In order to get faster sync speeds with focal plane shutters, you have to use HSS/FP sync functions in the built in flash or an external speed light.  This generally requires using an OEM flash from your manufacturer.
Leaf shutters do not have this constraint and can sync with a normal flash all the way up to the cameras maximum sync speed.  In this case, the Fuji X10 can go up to 1/4000th of a second.


Why did I pick 1/1500th?  Well, I was shooting this in the middle of the day and was lazy and did not want to black out the house windows.   So 1/1500th at f/4 was a fast enough shutter speed to kill any ambient light.  It was also because I wanted to try it and because I could!!  :)    lol

Lighting Setup:
SB-28 @ 1/64th power, 1/8 inch grid attached.
Added a bit of fill to the back side of the chess board with a white board I had sitting around.

Other Info:
Obviously, this is a composite image.  Lets look at the other images and the composite work.

I took passages from the Art of War and from The Tao Te Ching that applied to our power theme.
The lighting setup was essentially the same as for the chess board.

Here is what the Layers palette in Photoshop looks like for the completed project:

Disclaimer:  There is more than one way to do things in Photoshop.  This is the way that I did my composite, but there are plenty of other ways - some possibly even easier.  So don't take what I have done here as the only way.

What you will notice, is that next to the eye symbol is the representation of the image.  You can see that each of the composite images has a layer and there is an extra white color fill layer(that will be explained here in a minute).  Next to the image thumbnails, you'll see a chain link and another box to the right of that.  Those are edit masks.

Edit masks allow you to do some non-destructive editing to an image.  What they do is hide or reveal what is underneath.  The rule that you need to remember is this - black conceals, white reveals.  Or in other words, the black part of the mask prevents the effect, the white allows the effect completely.  Here is the magic - levels of gray in between white and black reveal the effect in different levels depending on the level of gray.  If it is more gray - closer to black - it hides more.  If it is a lighter gray - closer to white - it reveals more.

So this is what we did - in order to have a canvas big enough to hold the composite, we created a new canvas that was twice the size of the chess board image.  To do that we used the IMAGE --> Canvas Size... menu option.
The top part of the image above shows the original canvas size, the bottom the expanded.  What you do is pick the anchor point where you want the image to stay.  I picked the top middle.  Then, in the height field, I doubled the size.  Photoshop then created the canvas double the size by adding the extra canvas to the bottom.


Now that we have the canvas to the correct size, we can add in out 3 elements.  The chess board and the two images of the book passages.


To add a layer mask to an image, click the layer in the pallet, then select the icon at the bottom of the layer pallet, third from the left.  It looks like a rectangle with a circle in it.
This will not attach a mask to the layer.


I then click on the layer mask to make it active.   I use the gradient tool to start the blending process.  Make sure that you have selected the default black/white color picker colors and  that the gradient option is black to white.
Select the layer you want to blend, and drag the gradient tool how you want the mask to be applied.  Don't worry if it is not perfect - we can tweak the that later with the feathered brush tool!!  Just get at close as you can - let the gradient tool do 99% of the heavy lifting.


One problem I ran into was that the top of the image was a black background, and we can deal with that.....but the bottom of the image ended at the chess board.   This left us with a transparent section at the bottom part of the image.   Easy fix...just add a color fill layer of white to the bottom of the layers.  You don't really need it as it will go white when you save as a JPG - but it helps for you to see visually when building the image.


This is what the image looks like without the white fill:
You can see the checker board at the bottom, but the white - as seen in the final composite at the top, give you a better sense of the finished product.


Now, all that is left is to select the brush tool, make the brush color white and select an appropriate size and a feathering to go along with it and reveal additional parts of the images below the chess board.  If you want to hide parts - change the foreground color to black and paint the layer mask back in.  Remember - by using the layer mask, you can correct any mistakes or change your mind without destroying the pixels of the images.  You are just hiding or showing more through the mask.


Also, remember to make sure and select the layer mask box in the layer pallet for each layer - otherwise you'll paint white or black onto your image.


In this composite - I used a lighter feathering for the bottom text and a "heavier" blending for the top.   I wanted the bottom to have a more airy feel and the top to have a harder, "burnt" feel to it.  I did that all from changing the paint brush feathering and size.


I shot all these images in color and converted then to black and white in CS4.  I also added some grain to the image to make it look more like it was taken with an old B&W high ISO film.


Experiment and find the type of style that fits your project.

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