Saturday, 25 December 2010

Vamping Around

Vamping Around 13Another of the very creative Halifax Photo Outing's themes was "Vampires". This shoot was set, quite appropriately, in Stefano's Victorian-style home in Halifax. Toss in the usual very creative cast of characters and we had a wonderful time exploring photographic possibilities.

I usually start these things with a general direction that I want to take the images in and then I just play with the concept as I go. This time I couldn't decide on a final approach for the images. Did I want a "normal" photograph as if it were for a magazine? Did I want a black and white style, as if it were an old B-horror flick? Did I want some funky cartoon-style treatment? I decided to see if I could light for all three and make the final decision when I got to post-processing.

First off, I decided to light each scene using off-camera flash. I used my SB900 on an iTTL wire, which I find totally awesome for allowing me to focus on composition and less on working out flash ratios. In most cases I set the SB900 to EV+1, as I wanted the faces of the vampires to be pasty and white.

The first scene I had in mind was a "Vampire's Management Meeting". This one I quite like in black and white.

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I wanted all the models to gather around the great table in Stefano's dinning room, but the image had to be "ghostly". I set the exposure to f20 and 30 seconds at ISO 200. I had all of the models pose in place and hit one of them in the face with the flash. After 15 seconds, they all slowly got up and moved out of the frame. I then repeated the entire process for the next model. For my final shot, I had them all pose at the back of the room for the same exposure but did not use any flash. I used this last shot as the first layer in PS and put each of the other images as a layer on top of it. I then flattened the image using "lighten" blending. In hind sight, I could have posed each model individually rather than collectively.

There is something about vampires and mirrors in folklore and I wanted to see if I could capture it. I first shot Stefano framed in this mirror in the hallway, which while a nice composition, it really doesn't get to the mythology of a vampire's reflection not showing up in a mirror.

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So I tried shooting using the dining room mirror with both Stefano and Jenni. My idea was to have Stefano not appear in the mirror part of the image. Jenni, as the victim, appears in both.

Mirror Mirror


I didn't think most people would catch the idea of this shot, though, so I tried it the other way. Stefano appears in the mirror only and Jenni appears in both. In this shot, I did a lot of "high pass" filtering in post-processing and the result is more of a cartoonish style than the previous shot.

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Again, I didn't think most people would pick up on the fact that Stefano is violating the laws of physics in the photo, so I tried using a colour / black and white combination. The first was to look at the mirror as colour and the rest as B&W.

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This was OK, but I think the flip works much better, as if Jenni is actually having a premonition about being a victim.

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In the ebb and flow of shooting, I was taking a break and noticed the others were shooting some interesting scenes, so I shamelessly leached on and shot over their shoulders. This time, these were all shot using ambient lighting.

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I noticed Stefano had a wonderful chair and with a few other props, I proceeded to shoot portraits of both Stefano and Melanie. Here I used the SB900 (iTTL wired) on their face, and an SB800 (CLS remote from the SB900 Master) on the prop skull.

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For the final scene, I wanted to explore Stefano's wonderful couch that had an interesting painting above it. I thought I could get something to work between the idea of the exposed flesh in the painting with the stereotype "exposed neck" in many vampire movies. I used the SB900 again to light the models, but I used a very slow shutter speed as I wanted to create some blur, or "ghosting", on the models.

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I really like this shot, which I call "Exposed" to reflect the theme of the exposed flesh in the painting, Melanie's exposed neck, and the exposed emotion as the little tear in the corner of Melanie's eye reveals.

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I also quite like this alternate composition that works well in black and white.

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I'm still not sure which style I prefer and would like you to leave a comment below as to which you prefer. I have packaged up slide shows of each style for you to review.


Here are the "normal" shots.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


If there are problems with the slide show, or if you want to see a larger version of the slide show, click on this link.


Here are the black and white shots.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


If there is a problem with the slide show, or if you want to see a larger version of the slide show, click on this link.


Here are the "not-normal" processed shots


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


If there are problems with the slide show, or if you want to see a larger version of the slide show, click on this link.

As always, thanks to the gang at Halifax Photo Outings for the creativity and patience that goes into every event.


EDIT: There seems to be a problem with Flickr at the moment and the slide shows are not working. YOu can always click on one of the photos above and go to my Flickr photostream and see all the photos from there.

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