Friday, May 13, 2011

Levitation Photography and working with Textures

Die Fliegende Französin: The Midnight Craving

Last weekend I convinced a good friend of mine, Tess, to do a levitation for me. What a great sport! I really need to get a large stool or step ladder to do more of these, but she said she'd have some around the house.

I got there and she said, "how about this one or how about this or this?" I might have been pushing it a little, but she knows I'm looking out for her safety and said, "how about this one on top of that one?"

Next thing I knew she was teetering on a laundry hamper on a stepping stool. Awesome....

If you missed it, we've seen Tess before-sort of.... She asked me to take this picture of just her outfit one time quite a while ago now while we were at a party. Since she didn't actually want to be shown in the photograph it gave me a chance to try out the "render people invisible" function on my camera, which worked surprisingly well! Hard lesson learned though NOT to use cheap UV filters....

The Light and the Levitation

Natural light only from window camera right
It took a few minutes of walking around and looking at the room to find the spot where I wanted to setup the camera. It also helps to look through the viewfinder and see what the camera sees as well.

It was 7pm and there was still plenty of natural light with east-facing windows=no direct light coming in. The first thing was to take a shot of the available light in the room. The fridge is right beside the window's white, so it came out a little hot, but gave me a good idea of the light in the room from the camera's perspective.

Then I wanted to cut out some of that ambient light and knocked down the light in camera to near black and worked my way back up in 1-stop increments until I got the amount of available light I wanted in the scene:

Background shot used in final composite
One more stop brighter this time with a Nikon SB-26 speedlight in the hallway at 1/2 power bounced out of a 45" reflective umbrella. This is a really great flash with an optical slave for between $100 - $150! We also stuck a Nikon SB-24 in the fridge at 1/8 power gelled blue (also a great flash for $70, but no optical slave). And this was one of the two images used in the final composite:

The next thing was to get the light coming out of the fridge on our model. To soften that light, it was facing away from our subject (I also didn't want to blind anyone...).

Ambient light with speedlight gelled blue in fridge
Then with our laundry hamper in place on top of our step stool, Tess grabbed her stuffed beaver that she brought all the way from Germany as a great prop. I ended up using one of our very first frames (though we ended up taking a lot of variations).

And to actually put the two final shots together in photoshop using masking techniques in layers, see the Matrix post from way back when I didn't even have any lights yet!

2nd photo used in final composite image (straight out of the camera)
Using Textures and Effects

texture by  JoesSistah
Miguel suggested exploring textures a little further a week ago or so. Glenn also asked about "movie effect" colours, so I thought I'd combine them here.

Here's the first texture I used from  JoesSistah... (pictured left), which is a great resource for textures by the way, although mine's a little lighter (click the image to get it in full resolution). I added it in a new layer on top and blurred it using the "gaussian blur" filter at 19% (filter-->blur-->gaussian blur), changed the blending mode to "overlay" and reduced the oppacity to 77% - to taste. The blur took out some of the sharp lines and turned them all into colour blobs essentially.
Click image for full res version

The next texture I'm sure I got off of, but I've had it on my computer so long and didn't take note of the author - sorry about that.... I have a better system of labelling my textures now so that I can give credit.

In any event, I turned it around 90° of course and again changed the blending mode to "overlay" and reduced the oppacity to 19% - again to taste. Try also experimenting with "soft light" (less contrast) and "multiply" (darker) blend modes.

This texture was not blurred and you can see it working on the walls and on the fridge. I didn't want it to show up on the model though, so you can just mask away any areas you don't want to show up in your final image.

More on textures here in the Screwhead Gets a Tune Up post.

Another thing I have done, which I find adds a little extra is to run the image through Photomatix and make an HDR image out of a single RAW file. More on HDR later. This step is not essential, but I think it does add something if not totally overused and over processed. There's a little bit of that effect that I used in the Cohiba image and The Matrix for example. In this image I used some light Photomatix goodness and toned it down to about 40% also on "overlay". It can look like quite painterly, so it can be very effective to blend into the mix.

There was another effects layer I used, which I talked a little bit about in the Geek! post. Make a flattened copy of all layers (while retaining all the layers below) by using the Photoshop shortcut: command option shift e. Now desaturate it (optional, but your colours might come out funny if you don't) - the shortcut is command shift u. Then apply a high pass filter at somewhere around 150 (under filter-->other-->high pass) and change the blend mode to either "soft light" or "overlay" and reduce the oppacity to taste for a little extra punch.

The very last thing to add was a vignette - lots of people have different techniques in varying degrees of complexity. Use the filter if you like (filter-->distort-->lens correction), but what I really like to do is grab a giant soft brush, create a new layer, turn the brush strength down to 50% or so and simply paint around the image. Then change the oppacity of the layer to taste.

And that's it! Try your own levitation experiments and get creative with textures and send me your results.

Tune in next week for some hula hooping fun in Toronto's High Park during cherry blossom season!

For more on textures tune in to creativeLIVE for Doug Landreth's 2-day class June 10th & 11th on using textures and cool processing tricks and download his cool Texture Pack right here!


Anonymous said...

This tutorial is fantastic! Thank you so much for posting this, it answered a lot of my questions on how to achieve the levitation effect.

shayne gray said...

Glad to help! Send us a link once you've had a chance to try it out.

New blog coming soon....

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