Oh, happy day! I have much to share with the blogging world! A new post (which you are reading), a new photo and a new video!
Back in February, while out on the vinyl prowl, I found a really great album at one of my favorite record stores, Nickelodeon Records located on Adams Avenue in San Diego. I knew, at the time, that the cover had great potential as the backdrop to one of my photographic creations, with a cherubic newborn gazing up at her unseen mother, from the cushy comfort of her frilly bassinet. Surely… this cover image must be defiled!
Here’s an audio sample from the beginning of the original LP, in all its early 1960’s glory!
Looking at the cover, I envisioned all kinds of things that potentially could be commanding the gaze of this unspoiled infant: baby heads, paratroopers, astronauts, a big scary devil head (which, of course, I’ve done before)…
No matter what I decided to place just beyond the reach of those chubby fingers I would first need to devise some kind of rig that would allow me to suspend objects before the baby’s face, and not have those objects subject to vibrations that would blur the finished photo. Fishing line? No. One touch and I could anticipate waiting three and a half hours for a plastic paratrooper to stop swaying in the imaginary. Putty? Sure, the devil head would be fixed and motionless, but it would also look as though it’s just been stuck to the background and lack the illusion of floating in space before the baby’s watchful eye.
My solution was to build a tower out of Legos behind the stage construction, and from the Legos extend stiff, heavy gauge electrical wire (the kind of which you’ll find inside the walls of your house) to suspend objects into the foreground, brushing out the wires during post-production. Genius!
As I was building the Lego tower a story began to take shape in my mind where the baby on the cover would be using telekinesis to make a series of blocks float in the air to spell out her thoughts, all the while imagining the life she saw for herself — while, counter to her thoughts and on the other side of the composition, would be the life intended for her by her parents. (Yes, this is how my mind works… I know… it’s a problem)
Setting up the remaining objects took about a week’s time until I was satisfied with the composition. Post production consumed another 4 or 5 days as I painstakingly painted out the electrical wires and background text, and generally punched up the colors, vibrancy and definition to give the photo more impact. I also spent a lot of time applying digital repairs to the cover of a book I’d placed in the frame, which otherwise was peppered with pretty gross looking spots of age.
Here’s the final result!
Ta da! I decided that the baby should be named Haley. On the left are the influences brought into her life by her parents. On the right are her own Generation Y (Z, maybe?) self-indulgent aspirations for a Me! Me! Me! future of fame and fortune.
With the new photo complete and still set up in the light tent with all the staging, Legos and electrical wire still in place, I had an opportunity to give Baby Haley a brief taste of fame in the form of video animation. In the past I’ve created similar video using a variety of animation techniques to create the illusion of a photo stage being constructed from the ground up.
How is that possible?!?!? you wonder in mock amazement. You just told us that the photo is already done!
Well, yes, it is. I create my animations in reverse, starting from the finished piece, then moving or removing objects from the scene as I shoot frames. When I’ve finished I load all the frames into my computer, reverse the order of the images I captured, and the resulting video looks as though it is running forward — from empty tent to the final, pop culture filled scene. Get it?
That’s exactly what I did with the video for Baby Haley. The original photo was shot using a Canon XTi DSLR, which lacks a movie mode, so for the video I placed a Canon SD1000 point’n’shoot on the tripod and set the movie mode to capture one from per second. With the camera running I then slowly began to remove objects from the scene, reaching over the positioned camera to snatch away each object. After the ol’ switch-a-roo, it appears as if I am building the scene piece-by-piece, as if I had the entire scene and the position of every object clear in my mind as I constructed the scene for the photograph. But we all know that isn’t true… As I said earlier, the development of the composition took the better part of the week.
The final step in creating a new video is adding music and title credits. The music is fairly important (he said, stating the obvious). I select music that fits the theme of the photo and the pace of the animation. For Baby Haley I chose a track from the debut album by The Toy Dolls, Glenda And The Test Tube Baby, which would be fast enough to match the rapid pace of the video, and the lyrics would be a nice compliment for Baby Haley and her moral adventure.
I hope you all enjoy this glimpse into the process I use to build and shoot my photos. Feel free to share with your art and film friends, and jump on over to YouTube to see more of my video creations.