Monday 19 August 2013

Portraits, personality, and punch

Stefan Högberg
A few days ago I photographed Stefan Högberg and Lennart Guldbrandsson. Stefan and Lennart wanted pictures for advertising a presentation on copyright.

Lennart is a writer, his speciality is ghostwriting. Stefan works at the Region Archive in Gothenburg. We shot at the Region Archive, because the environment there relates to the subject matter of the presentation, and to Stefan's and Lennart's jobs.

Lennart Guldbrandsson
To capture a person's personality, you need to get to know them. Lennart and I know each other from before, but I had not met Stefan previously.

Before the shoot, we had a cup of coffee and talked about what we were going to do. We decided to try  a couple of different locations. We ended up shooting at three. It is important to get a variety of photos, so that the client has material to choose from.

For the portraits above I used a fairly wide aperture, f5.6, to blur the background a bit. I used three flashes: Two were set to the left and right, at an angle of about 30-40 degrees. The third flash was put behind the subjects, and used to light the background a bit.

The catchlights in the eyes are important. They make the faces look alive and friendly.

No books were harmed while creating this picture!
We had a fun session, and could not resist getting a bit whimsical. We had not planned to make a levitation photo, but suddenly, it seemed a good idea, and we did.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Planket Photo Exhibition

Planket (The Fence) is a yearly photo exhibition in Gothenburg. We were 130 photographers who exhibited our work along a wooden fence in central Gothenburg.

I'll make a brief presentation of some of the exhibitors here. You will find more photos in the slideshow above.

Cornelia Schmidt showed off some of the artwork from her forthcoming book Just People. Cornelia is doing some stunning work, bringing out character and personality in the people she is photographing. The photos are both respectful and funny, a difficult thing to bring off when everyone is photographed nude.

Kjell Nilsson showed his large scale macro photography.

Tim, my son, was my assistant for the day. He wants to exhibit his own work next year. I have promised to assist.

Lina Wennström setting up her photos. I show more of her work in the slideshow.

Jan Kwarnmark is a street photographer. His work shows a great understanding of composition, and timing.

As for myself, I had picket five candidate pictures for the exhibition. Then I asked my son Tim to pick two of them. He picked the one of me levitating, and the dinosaur.

In all, it was a fun day, I got a lot of photo inspiration, and some ideas about what to do next time.

Friday 2 August 2013

Butterfly Dreams

I got the idea for the butterfly dreams picture a couple of months ago, in early spring. I knew the perfect location for the shot, less than a hundred meters from where my mother lives. Unfortunately, the trees had no leaves, so I had to wait.

When my son and I visited my mother recently, I got the opportunity I had been waiting for.

My son and I went for a walk. When we got to the right spot, I checked the light and took a series of test pictures. It worked very well.

I needed clothes that matched the light, so I bought a pair of green trousers and a green t-shirt. Shooting at the right time of day was also important. I decided to shoot early in the evening. The sun was still up, but low in the sky. This provided me with the green color I wanted, soft shadows, and ambient light I could control with my camera settings.

I used two remote controlled flashes. Both had green gels to match the light filtered through the tree leaves. I put one of the flashes behind me, on my camera tripod, to provide a glowing edge, separating my body from the background.

The other flash I mounted on a Gorilla pod, a small tripod with flexible legs. I put the Gorilla pod in a tree to the left of the path. I wanted the flash to have the same direction as the sun.

Finally, I mounted the camera on a second Gorilla pod and put it on the ground. By putting the camera close to the ground, I ensured that my feet would be above the ground line. If the camera had been higher, the final picture would have looked as if I was standing on the ground.

After taking the shot of me, I removed all visible equipment, and took a background photo. The Gorilla pod in the tree provided a bit of extra brightness in the foreground.

I wanted a splash of light directly beneath me on the ground, so I took a third shot where I hold a flash and aim it down, towards the ground.

Combining the three images in Pixelmator was easy, just a matter of creating masks and painting out the parts I did not want. The picture above shows the first version of the image. I thought it looked a little bit boring, and there was no clue to why I was screaming and hovering in the air.

Originally I had considered adding a crackling energy field, but looking at the picture, I thought that would not fit very well, so I went for a softer glow and butterflies instead.

To get the glow, I duplicated the layer containing the picture of me, loaded a selection from the mask, disabled the mask, inverted the selection, and erased the background. I the used Pixelmator's Glow effect. I moved the Glow layer behind the layer of me.

I used three butterfly layers, each with butterflies of slightly different color and size. The butterfly is a brush from Pixelmator's built-in Nature set.

Finally, I played with the layer modes, changing the butterfly layers to Screen and Linear Dodge to get the effect I wanted. I also erased a few butterflies that were covering my mouth and eyes.

In all, a fun exercise. I will probably do more variations of this picture, just to try a few ideas out.