|Damsel Fly by Jamie Brick|
This year, when it came time to start thinking about next year's calendar I had a brilliant idea while visiting Jamie's studio during a stay in his and his wife Annette's rental cottage on their property on Draper Lake.
|This isn't the cottage. It's Jamie's studio which is next to the cottage.|
|Here's a view from the cottage.|
As (almost) always I needed a set of still life appropriate objects that would look good small (the calendar pages being less than 4 inches across) and make for pretty pictures, so I asked Jamie if he'd be interested in collaborating by allowing me to photograph some of his pieces. He agreed, to my delight. We were only at the cottage for a few days at the time so the idea was to do the shoots when we came back later for a two week stay. I needed time to plan, and I was going to need three nights in order to to accommodate two shoots per night (more on timing later).
Once we arrived, after the initial inertia of some long awaited down time, I had some choices to make -- which six pieces to shoot, out of considerably more than six compelling and available options. One deciding factor was shape. As much as I loved some of the more vertical pieces, I knew they would not fit well into the horizontal layout I had to work with, so that helped shorten the list! Then there was the issue of the 3D-ness of his work, it being sculpture, after all. The richness of detail in any one piece could not possibly be captured in a 2D image, so there were some tough choices to make in terms of the best angle to shoot. Jamie's work often features fantastic little 'surprises', so in cases where one special detail featured on the front of a piece while another little gem featured on the back of a piece, I had to pick one to show. This decision making process was somewhat excruciating.
In one case I shot the whole series of frames* of a piece called Here comes Santa Claus, then changed my mind about the angle and had to start again. It seemed that showing the fork antlers to their best effect meant compromising the depiction of the Santa figure. Funnily enough, as soon as I wrote these words and put the final image (below right) beside the base image for version 1 (below left) I suddenly doubted I'd made the fight choice, so went back to the RAW images and 'built' a final version from the frames shot of the first angle. After all that I decided I really didn't like version 1 and had been right to change the angle during shooting, so score one for second guessing!
Backing up a bit, the step following the selection of the subjects was to choose six locations on the property in which to photograph these sculptures. One of the six, the life-sized, Damsel Fly (final image at the top of the post), could not be moved because it was suspended from the studio ceiling. There was pretty much one angle that worked, so not a lot of decision making was required for this image (at least in terms of angle).
|This shows how dark it was by the time I finished photographing. Part of this frame went into the final composition.|
The Mermaid, also life-sized, was pretty much going to need to be shot where she stood, also in Jamie's studio. I photographed her right after the Damsel Fly, so by this time it was getting really dark, and the mosquitoes were out, and inside(!) in full force. I made the laughable mistake of thinking that because I was 'inside' I would be protected from them, so chose not to wear insect repellent (which I hate, anyway), but the studio is not at all sealed. It was hot, I was sweating, I was being bitten to death, and the batteries in my flashlight were wearing out. Fun. Thankfully I just managed to capture the final frame before my light became unusable. (Yes I had extra batteries...I just didn't want to go and get them when I was so close to being done!)
|This shows one frame that went into the final composition. There are distracting elements including a piece of wood on the wall behind the sculpture's shoulder that needed to be digitally removed and lighting artifacts that needed to be excluded.|
|I've lightened and circled the gumball machine that was just barely visible in the shots, but needed to be retouched out later.|
|The final Mermaid image|
The other four sculptures could all be moved, so during daylight hours I scouted the property to figure out where to set up once it started to get dark. I couldn't put them outside and leave them there much before shooting as they wouldn't be safe on the ground. This is another reason the timing was so critical. The ideal window is right around dusk and shortly after, so there's minimal available light, but not a complete absence of it. If I'd had two large, sturdy, heavy-duty tripods and two cameras it would have been great to be able to at least set them in place during daylight hours, but I had one of each with me. Once it gets really dark, the process gets much more difficult, but I didn't want to limit myself to one shot per night and spend six of my holiday evenings working and missing the sunset cruises on the 'floaty boat' (see the final shot at the bottom of the post), so I settled on shooting two per night -- one in perfect circumstances and the second one less so.
|Wide angle view of the location for Go ask Alice|
|Positioning test shot of Go ask Alice as dusk approached|
|Go ask Alice final image|
|Behind Jamie's studio where I shot Beach Patrol and Dragon Fly. (You can see Dragon Fly on my website.)|
|Beach Patrol final image|
I'll leave you with a view of the lake during some unsettled weather right at the beginning of our stay.
|Fun, filtered phone pic from the dock|
And one final good-bye view as I sail off to my next shoot.
|Sunset cruise on the 'floaty boat'.|
If you rent the cottage tell them I sent you! And if I can make something look pretty for you please get in touch!