Monday, 24 August 2020

Shooting Horrors from the Beyond with Eliza Sica, Part 2


Castaway, with Eliza Sica

Not too long ago, I created a storyboard depicting a female astronaut who had just swum ashore from a crashed spaceship. Piled on the beach beside her, where the few things she had managed to save from the spaceship. When Eliza Sica and I looked through my storyboards, she decided this was a picture she wanted to do.

As I am sure you have noticed, the picture is way wider than most photos. I decided that, because it was meant to have a cinematic look, it would be best to create it in anamorphic widescreen, 1:2.35, format.

Because the picture is so wide, it does not fit Facebook and other social media very well. On the other hand, the format works great for printing. This is one picture I want to print on canvas, and see hung on a wall.

The picture is very loosely based on Jack Vance's Tschai novels. I read the novels many years ago, when I was in my teens. Then I started rereading them while I worked on the storyboard, and I finished the last book just yesterday.

If you liked this picture, you might also enjoy the first blog post in this series.

You might also want to check out Eliza Sica's Instagram account, or even mine.

Be seeing you!

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Shooting Horrors from the Beyond with Eliza Sica, Part 1


When the Sleeper Awakes (a.k.a. The Frozen)

Eliza Sica (Instagram: @eriizas) is an actress and model I had contact with before the pandemic. Recently, we decided to have a carefully socially distanced photo session.

I maintain a catalog of my storyboards in PDF format. I sent it to Eliza, and we set up a meeting at a café in Gothenburg. (Again - a carefully socially distanced meeting.) We went through the storyboards, Eliza selected the ones she was interested in shooting, and we discussed what preparations we needed, and how to do the shoot itself.

We also discussed our contract. Even for a non-commercial shoot, a contract, although painfully boring, is important. Due to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it is a legal requirement in the EU. Beyond that, a contract makes clear the rights and responsibilities of both model and photographer.

I am slowly gathering material for a book about creative photography, and a contract is important for that reason too. When I send my book manuscript to a publisher, I want to be able to show the contracts too.

 The shoot itself went well, despite a mistake on my side: I hadn't made a shot list! This created extra work, because it meant we had to move the studio flashes much more often than we would otherwise have had to do. Eliza was patient though, so it worked. Next time, a shot list will be a priority on my part.

I got the idea for When the Sleeper Awakes from two different stories, both by by H.G. Wells: The Sleeper Awakes and The Time Machine:
What if a group of people are cryogenically frozen, and forgotten forgotten for many millenia when our civilization collapses. Eventually, the cryotubes begin to fail, and only one remains, when it is discovered by Morlocks...
There is one more source of inspiration: I re-read Morlock Night by K.W Jeter some time ago, and that that inspired me to work on a set of Steampunk Time Travel pictures. That got me thinking about H.G. Wells and his stories, and that eventually lead to When the Sleeper Awakes.

You might wonder where I got hold of an old run-down cryogenic facility, a Morlock, and a couple of desiccated skeletons.

I built the environment using commercially available 3D models. I did quite a bit of customization, adding rust, fungi, and molds.

I created the Morlock by mixing commercially available morphs of a Genesis 8 base character. As for the desiccated is probably best you don't know.

Creating the Eliza's frozen look was fun. I studied videos on how to create a frozen look, but in the end, I discarded those methods and went my own way:

I rendered the door of the cryotube separately from everything else, because I wanted to build layers of frost on the body and on the door separately. First I matched luminosity and color tones of Eliza and the cryogenic tube. Then I desaturated Sica's skin, and added several layers of frost to skin and hair. After that, I added frost to the cryogenic tube door in the same manner.

For pictures like these, I often use Dynamic Auto-Painter to create a very colorful digital painting version, which I then blend in with the original picture. That gave the picture its final, very strong colors.

The Horror in the Library

The Horror in the Library is of course inspired by H.P. Lovecrafts Cthulhu mythos. Again, both the thing lurking in the shadows and the library are commercial 3D models.

The main thing to get right here, was the light on the monster. I wanted to show that it was definitely not human, but I also wanted to hide the face. What we do not see can be more frightening than what we do see.

There are many more pictures coming up the next few weeks, and perhaps months, given how slow I am when editing.

Long medium to long range plans for the pictures include the book I mentioned, and also exhibitions. For now though, I'll focus on editing the other pictures from the photo session.

Be seeing you!

Sunday, 14 June 2020


Castaway version 2
Over the past two years, I have said now and then, that I want to do more Science-Fiction genre pictures. Each time, I have continued doing more Fantasy, and sometimes Horror, pictures.

This time, I just might be able to switch gears a bit.

I have had an idea for doing a picture with an astronaut walking away from a crashed spaceship for quite some time. Early drafts, which were only inside my head, involved an astronaut in a spacesuit walking away from the crash site in a snow covered mountain landscape.

As you can see, I went from that idea to nude woman on beach instead.

The version above is the second version of the picture. The first version looked like this:

Castaway version 1
There were three things that bugged me about the first version:
  • The hair was dry
  • The skin was dry
  • The position of the woman's left foot was slightly off.
I wanted it to look like the woman had just managed to get ashore with some supplies and equipment.

I drew part of the inspiration for the picture from the Sword & Planet sub-genre of Science-Fiction, in particular from Jack Vance's Tschai books. While working on the pictures, I decided to re-read them, so I bought the Kindle edition from Amazon. My original paperbacks are long lost.

I also decided to make a 360 panorama version. Sadly, Blogger can't show panoramas, and embedding third party panorama viewers have proven quite unreliable in the past. I uploaded the panorama version to ArtStation instead.

If you click the link and have a look around, don't forget to look up.

Is this the beginning of a new series? Maybe. I do have a couple of ideas.

Be seeing you!

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Golden Girl - A Frank Frazetta Tribute

The original Golden Girl by Frank Frazetta is one of my favorite paintings, so when I saw that another very accomplished Fantasy artist, Regis Moulun, had made a Frazetta tribute painting based on Golden Girl, I thought I'd give it a go.

If you look at the original, you will notice that the picture has a square format, and that is where I started.

First attempt at a square format picture
The original does not have any dinosaurs in it. In addition to the woman, there is a black panther and three wolves. I briefly considered doing a picture like that, but decided to go with dinosaurs instead. That way, the picture would fit in nicely with my Cavewoman style pictures.

When I tried it out, I liked the initial results, but as you can see in the picture above, the T-Rex is quite large. There is not room for tree more dinosaurs, even if they are smaller than the T-Rex.

I slowly began to realizeI had to let go of the square format, if I wanted to stick with dinosaurs in the picture. I googled a bit, and found that someone had already done a tribute picture in landscape format, and with dinosaurs.

It was Budd Root, of course. He has made a Meriem Cooper version of the picture.

I got to work on a new version of the picture. As I was finishing it up, I did a bit more googling, and found that at least one more artist, Scott Blair, has made a version of the picture.

It pays off to pay attention to the work of other artists. For example, if you clicked on the link to Regis Moulun's picture above, did you notice what happens in the bottom left corner of the picture? I didn't catch it until I had looked at it a couple of times. Changes the tone and meaning of the whole picture, doesn't it?

My final Golden Girl, or rather, my final storyboard.
 I finished a second version of the picture. You can see it above. It's not perfect, but it will do as a storyboard, until the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, and I can start photographing models again.

If you have read this far, I hope you have checked out the links. Frazetta's original is amazing, and the homage paintings are also very good. If you haven't checked them out yet, go back to the top of the article, and start clicking on the links.

Be seeing you!

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Lost Worlds - A Presentation video

This is a video version of a presentation I held at the Volvo Photo Club in Gothenburg about a year ago.

I talked about my pictures, why I make them, my sources of inspiration, how I make them, and very important, the people I work with. I could not have made them without the models I talk about in the presentation.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

The Triceratops Rider - Collaborating with Miss Cacci, Part 1

Triceratops Rider
Some time ago, Miss Cacci and I had our second Cavewoman genre photo session. This time we mixed it up a little. We shot mostly new stuff, but we also went through some of my old 3D scenes, and decided to recreate part of my Kyla series of photos.

Kyla Rising, Digital Painting version

Kyla Rising is based on an earlier version that was done all in 3D. When I did the original, it wasn't my intention to use it as a storyboard, but I am very glad we did.

Over and over again, I find that working with a live, real person, who brings her own experiences, personal preferences, opinions, and style, brings immense value to the whole experience.

Kyla Rising, Photo Composite version
I mean that quite literally. For example, ever since I began doing photo composites, I have struggled with a number of things, not the least of which is perspective.

When you are creating a new image out of two or more source images, matching perspective can be a real challenge.

Working with Miss Cacci helped me develop a new technique for matching the perspectives of a 2D photo with a 3D scene. It is a simple technique, but I have never seen it described in a book, video, or blog post before.

I'll describe the technique in more detail later in the shooting with Miss Cacci series of blog posts.

Until next time:

Be seeing you!

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Jackie O'Lantern: Come a Little Closer

Jackie O'Lantern: Come a Little Closer. Cropped version.

I was a little late with my Halloween picture, but I choose to consider myself very early with my 2020 Halloween picture instead.

I came up with the idea for Jackie O'Lantern partially because I studied Halloween pictures at ArtStation, and partially because I wanted to do a Halloween picture with some cross culture connections. In this case, Halloween -Voodoo. The Voodoo influence is not nearly as strong in the finished picture as it was when I started. Well, maybe next time around.

Jackie O'Lantern: Come a Bit Closer. Uncropped version.

Here is the full, uncropped version. This version wont be on Facebook, because if you look closely, you may spot a werewolf nipple. Because it is a female werewolf, Mark Zuckerberg, and presumably a large number of Facebook users, would go bananas if they spotted it.

I built the basic scene in Daz Studio, as I often do. You probably aren't interested in what the image produced by Daz looked like, but I'll show you anyway.

Image rendered by Daz.
As you can see, the original looks quite different.

I am an amateur photographer, not a 3D artist, so I do not build 3D models from scratch. On the other hand, I do a fair amount of kit bashing.

For example, look at the throne Jackie sits in.

The original throne is from Mort Augur, A commercially available 3D scene. I combined the original throne with a new stone texture, then layered three algae and moss textures, added vines, a rock, and a couple of skulls.

The throne has skulls carved from stone in the armrests, but I wanted more detail, and more control over the textures.

Just adding the skulls actually looked fairly good, but I wanted a bit more.

I added a layer of blood, and then a layer of moss on top of that.

When I render a scen in Daz, it usually comes off as looking a little too clean, a little too perfect.

Rendered 3D images often look a little too clean.
After compositing the image in Affinity Photo, where I also added the fire to the pumpkin head, I saved the image.

Then, I used Dynamic Auto-Painter to turn it into a painting.

Image painted with Dynamic Auto-Painter.
I like the painted version a lot. Sometimes, I like the painted version more than I like the more photorealistic end result.

In this case though, I added the painted version as a layer on top of the photo realistic version in Affinity Photo, and blended them together.

Final image, with painted image blended in.
That is it, for now. Be seeing you!