Hot off the digital camera presses, I have a brand new photo and accompanying video to share! And since this piece has been in development for longer than I care to mention (though I will in a moment) I won’t waste any more time with a lot of buildup and hyperbole. So, here it is!
So, yes, I began this piece way back in late July (yes, July), and finally wrapped up work on the photo and video in early November. That’s over three months for those of you keeping score at home. The initial work of setting up the pieces and iterating over the composition took about a month, interrupted here and there by other ongoing projects and setting up my new shop on Zazzle. I shot the final set of photos and a couple of hundred frames of animation over Labor Day weekend. Then… my dad broke his hip, I ran into censorship problems on Zazzle, opened my Fair Use store, and finallygot back to the photo in mid October.
To the right is an early concept shot built around a vintage record player, as if the woman in the background was placing records onto the turntable. This version also filled the space to the left and right of the album cover with pulp paperbacks. As you can see looking back at the final image, both concepts were abandoned as I moved towards the finished composition (but I’m sure the pulps will show up in future photos).
The record player proved too bulky and limiting for the composition I had in mind, so it was quickly replaced by stacks of vinyl records and alphabet blocks to form the basic stage. With the records in place I had room to build five connected scenes: one in the center, and two each to the left and right atop the surface of stacks of 45s. It then became a matter of establishing the action for each scene through the placement of various characters — a process that took a couple of weeks as I wandered my way through lots of combinations of characters and story concepts. Though, to be honest, I never truly understood what the photo was about until after it was actually complete! That’s how things sometimes work in my weirdly, disconnected, make-believe world.
To the left is the final composition as it emerged from my camera, warts and all, prior to all the post-production image adjustments you see in the final image at the top of this post. As previously mentioned, I’d decided to eliminate the paperbacks, and instead wanted the entire background to have the same mauve-ishly textured background found on the album cover. Of course, I didn’t actually have any kind of mauve-ishly textured background material handy, so I
hoped, uh, planned on cloning pieces of the album’s background behind all the other figures you see on the left and right. To make this task a little easier, I placed a couple of additional albums and sheets of pink poster board inside the light tent behind the stage construction. This actually proved to be a mistake for reasons I won’t get into, but art is forever a learning experience, and I was able to work around my blunder.
The final image was actually constructed from 6 separately shot photographs using the “focus stacking” technique I wrote about in a previous post. This time around each photo was shot at a different aperture setting so that the depth of field would vary from shot to shot. I then assembled the final image by masking the in-focus portions of each photo, and layering them all together in a big digital sandwich to create one image with everything in reasonably sharp focus.
The video is another of my simple pan’n’scan slideshow with the camera seeming to zoom around the staging as figures magically materialize into view. Oooooo! It’s a fun and simple technique that’s not nearly as tedious as true stop-motion animation. This time around I chose an instrumental piece of music from Tuatara that nicely captured the drama and tension I wished to convey in the photograph.