Monday, 4 April 2016

Sword, Rose, and Hexagram – A Quick Deconstruction

Model: Anita Pecaver, Photographer: Henrik Mårtensson
I shot the model in the picture above, Anita Pecaver, some time ago during a photo meetup in Photo Meetup in Gothenburg. I had arranged an Angels & Demons themed photo & coffee meetup.

There is a distinct shortage of castle ruins and scorched plains in the Gothenburg area, so I had to do a composite. I'll walk you through the parts.

The model: Anita, with a sword and rose


Anita Pecaver
I shot Anita in a café, during a photography event with about 30 people, and chaos everywhere.

These events are fun, but also cramped and chaotic, so the shots are rarely studio quality. The idea is to have fun, meet people, and learn things, not to take perfect photos.

However, we often manage to create quite interesting pictures during these events. The chaos forces everyone to be creative, and to use a minimum of resources in new and unexpected ways.

It was Anita herself, and another model, Peter Markusson, who asked me to take a shot of Anita with a rose and a sword.

Note the angel wings. I removed them from the final picture, because they did not quite fit. I considered replacing them with a much larger set of wings in post, but I'll save that for another day, and another photo.

The Ground: Scorched earth, and a hexagram


The lawn in the photo above is the basic ground in the picture. I masked out the buildings and the sky, and removed the trees and other things.

The ground looked a bit boring. I wanted to make both the color and the texture more interesting, so I added...


A photo of one of my notebooks. I like the color, and also the fake leathery texture.

I removed the pattern, except for the hexagram in the middle. When I composited the images, I changed the perspective, and used various blending techniques to bring out the color and texture.

The Castle: A Ruin Most Sinister


I didn't have a real castle handy, so I went out and bought one! To save a bit of petty cash, I made do with a model. I bought it in a pet shop.

The Mountains of Madness: Hellboy Would Feel Right at Home


I shot the mountains from the third floor of an apartment building in Partille. This shot looks utterly uninspiring, but I did not shoot what it actually looks like. I shot the picture I had in my mind.

Actually, the picture in my mind wasn't exactly crystal clear at this time, but I knew I wanted something in the background, to help me transition from the flat plain, to the sky.

The Sky: Now You See It, but Mostly You don't!


The sky sucks where I live! Most of the time, it is a uniform, grey, 100% cloud cover. It is like living inside a giant softbox! Not only does the sky look boring, it also kills all shadows, because the clouds spread the light. It also mutes the light.

A couple of years ago, when I bought my DSLR, I thought it was broken at first, because the light was so bad. Now, I have learned to live with it, and to always, always, bring a couple of flashes with me.

On the rare occasions when there is a break in the cloud cover, I shoot anything even remotely interesting, just in case I will need it later.

Compositing: Just Do It!


When I had the pieces, I composited them with Pixelmator while sitting in a cafeteria at a local Laserdome. My son was invited to a birthday party, and I decided to bring my own fun.

I finished the picture later the same evening.

One useful little trick:

I match the light in the composite photos by adding a white layer on top of everything, and setting the blend mode to Saturation. This turns the picture black and white.

I can then change the light in each individual part, to roughly match the other parts.

Then, I match colors in a separate step, and add shadows where necessary.