Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Sweet Feast (1024 x 1024)

Sweet Feast at the House of Pink Delights

I’m very pleased to announce a brand new limited edition print release, Sweet Feast at the House of Pink Delights, added just this morning to my Etsy shop! Featuring dozens of happy little kewpie heads waiting their turn to be boiled up in a delectable stew of ice cream and cake, served table-side to gleeful diners anticipating an unparalleled delicacy of sweetness and joy.

Mmmmm! Mmmmm! Good!

Each image has been professionally printed on heavy weight glossy paper using archival inks to bring out bold, rich blacks, and strong vibrant colors. I could not be more pleased with the quality of each and every print!

Here’s the scoop:

Paper Size:  16 x 20″
Image Size:  8.4 x 18″
Edition Size:  100
Priced at $80 each

Personally, this is one of my all-time favorite pieces, so much so that I use it as the banner for both my Facebook page and Etsy store, so it seemed only natural to finally release it was a signed limited edition print.

More information is available on Etsy, right… here!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

In part one of this long overdue update on my creative exploits for 2015, I filled everyone in on the totally mundane effort of cleaning out and reorganizing my studio — a rite of well-meaning passage for pretty much every artist. One would think that a clean well-organized studio would immediately send creative bolts of electricity through an artist and see him or her instantly filled with motivation to create amazing new works of art. In my case, wrong. A clean studio was merely the first step in my 2015 Art Career reboot, and in Part Two of my three (or maybe four) part update on 2015 I’m going to talk about the next step.

If it ain’t broke… it probably is, so buy all new equipment!

The studio process for creating my images has remained relatively unchanged for the past 7 years. I’ve used the same 10 megapixel Canon XTi purchased in 2007, shooting scenes setup inside a 30″ light tent surrounded by three 500 watt photo flood lights. The tent has always provided really great light, and it made a huge difference in my work when I began getting more serious about creating art in 2007. However, this magical little studio cube has a few shortcomings:

  1. The size of the tent limits the size of the pieces I’m able to create.
  2. The tent itself is very confining and it is very difficult to contort my hands, arms, and (quite often) the upper half of my body deep into the tent to make small stage adjustments without bumping the camera, tripod, or precariously balanced objects already in the scene. Disasters are routine. My work is fraught with the perils of alphabet avalanches, and album covers that topple over in an earthquake of pop culture destruction.

These problems are magnified by a factor of about a thousand when creating videos or stop motion animation. Once the tripod is nudged, or the camera is jostled, hours or even days can pass before I’m able to accurately get everything back where it was. Take a look at just a few short moments to shoot a single frame of stop motion animation. 

See? What a pain! So that was the old process. To make things a little easier on my back, my neck, and my patience, I wanted to make the task of building and animating my stage sets much less constrictive, but still have the benefits of enjoying 1500 watts of glorious light. Basically, I wanted 360 degree access to the stage set; if a little plastic Jesus decided to fall behind a stack of books, or a plastic sheep plummeted through the hole in a vinyl 45, I wanted at least a fair chance to retrieve the fallen character without having to rip apart large portions of the construction. So… no more light tent.

No more light tent?!?! But what about all that “glorious light” you’re always bragging about? How in the world are you going to replace that? Huh, Mr. Barely-knows-how-to-use-his-camera?

Patience, please! I didn’t say I was eliminating the light, I was just eliminating the tent. Eliminating the tent, however, meant I’d no longer have the lazy benefit of light bouncing all over the place off of the reflective white fabric. The tent made lighting super easy. Just place a floodlight on the left, another on the right, and hang one more over the top and let the laws of physics take care of everything else. Replacing the tent just meant that I’d have to be a lot more strategic about how my pieces would be lit.

No more light tent. Instead, a soft box!

No more light tent. Instead, a soft box!

The first step in replacing the light tent was  to provide a simple workplace that would give me access to the scene from any direction, so I just laid down a large piece of black posterboard where the tight tent would have normally sat, and erected a sheet of white foam core to act as a visual backdrop, as you see to the left during the initial stages of setting up the first new photo I created with my new equipment. Without the constraints of the light tent, I now had access to the scene construction from all around the table (which actually stands about a foot away from the wall).

Quick Note You see five light sources in the photo above: two photo flood lights, a brand new LED soft box, and a pair of desk lamps. The desk lamps are used to provide illumination to the scene during stage construction; they are turned off when I’m taking photos.

The soft box is now used as my primary light source, providing soft, even light from above. With the lamp mounted to a sturdy boom, I can easily adjust the height up or down to get the coverage a given scene might need. Best of all, the soft box can be moved away entirely so I can easily change the composition of a scene without risk of upsetting the whole cart of apples — something that was not possible within the light tent.

Soft box, flood lights, and translucent diffusers

Soft box, flood lights, and translucent diffusers

But wait! Just like Ginzu Knives… that’s not all!

To supplement the soft box I retained the original 500 watt photo flood lights, but front those with a couple of 20″ translucent diffusers to soften the otherwise harsh light produced by the floods, as seen on the right. Positioning the lights and diffusers is super easy, so I can get the same level of “coverage” formerly available in the light tent, while again having the luxury of moving all of the lighting out of the way to dig into the construction.

Wait! What about that really BIG diffuser you have hanging over the entire scene? It looks like you have even less space than you did with the light tent! And why even use a diffuser and the soft box IS a diffuser? How about that, smart guy!

Very observant, and, true! Suspending that large disc over the whole scene made it virtually impossible to make any more changes to the scene you see buried beneath all those discs and lights — which is why the stands, lights and reflectors come in after I’m completely happy with the scene I’ve constructed. As for why the big diffuser is there…

Oh look! Soft box times a million red beads!

Oh look! Soft box times a million red beads!

During the shooting of this particular photo, and at the point where I thought I was done, I discovered that the octagonal shape of the soft box was being reflected in each and every bead that had been used within the scene! This hadn’t been a problem with the light tent… and, so, the big 40″ diffuser was brought in to better distribute the light and eliminate the reflections.

Why stop with new lights when your camera is 7 years old?

Exactly! As stated in part one, I’ve been using the same Canon XTi since 2007. By no means has this been a “bad” camera; it’s super easy to use and takes very nice photos. But, over the years, as I’ve continued to develop a technique for creating better images, I’ve found the camera lacking certain efficient features. Most notably:

  • Falling behind the megapixel curve. Even though 10 megapixels was a lot in 2007, there are now cellphone cameras that can (badly) capture images at that resolution, and while the number of megapixels may not equate to better pictures, it does limit how large you can effectively print.
  • The lack of an LCD view finder that can display a scene “live” as it is being composed. I didn’t mind using the built-in “by sight” view finder, but I’ve always thought it would be easier to see what I was planning on shooting on an LCD display, or…
  • …view an interface to an external monitor, a feature the XTi lacks.
  • I also felt somewhat constrained by the focusing limitations of the XTi, which provides 9 autofocus points, and for the past few years I’ve been relying more and more on taking multiple shots of the same image, all at different focus points, then “smooshing” those photos together, as layers, to create the final image. I figured, the more autofocus points, the better!

My solution was to take the plunge into much better equipment, so I purchased a new Canon EOS 70D — 20 megapixels instead of 10, 19 autofocus points instead of 9, LCD display with a live mode, and…

Software!

What the camera sees, I see

What the camera sees, I see

Absolutely the best feature of the new camera is the ability to tether the camera to my MacBook and control every aspect of the camera (aperture, ISO, focusing, pressing the shutter, etc) from my computer, all the while seeing what the camera is seeing on the laptop display! And why is this so cool? Well, let’s take a look at the process I used to take to setup my images using the XTi:

  • Setup a scene in my studio (which is outside, across a small patio, in my guest house).
  • Take a photo.
  • Remove the camera from the tripod, take it into the house and upstairs to my office.
  • Plug the camera into my iMac and import the photo into Aperture.
  • Analyze the image, writing notes on a scrap of paper: turn yellow kewpie clockwise by a little, nudge blue buddha to the left by a smidgen, replace small goat with small lamb…
  • Go back to the studio
  • Make the noted changes
  • Remount the camera onto the tripod (and hope that it is in the exact same place as it had been when I took the previous photo)
  • Take another photo
  • Repeat ad infinitum…

Toss in several clumsy disasters dealing with the iron-maiden-like constraints of the light tent, and… well, you get the idea. But with the new camera and Canon’s software, I can see the scene live, zooming around the entire composition to immediately evaluate where one figure stands in relation to all the others. Even better, I can fine tune the focus since the software also allows me to control my L-series lens — and, I’m able to see the eventual histogram in real time, so I can adjust things like the shutter speed or the lighting conditions on the fly to produce the best image possible. Needless to say, this has cut down the above steps drastically! So, does that mean I’m going to be able to produce work faster than in the past? Ha!! Don’t jump to conclusions… We’ll get to that in part three.

Read Full Post »

Isn’t it about time I release a new print? Maybe one of the landscape images from Tales from the Vinyl Dimension? Of course it is! Well then, just in time for the frantic madness of the holiday shopping season…

She who creates Good Fortune, one of the most popular images from my summer show, is now available in a fine art edition of 40 prints, on high quality, heavyweight, Hahnemuhle photo rag paper! Each 19×13″ print (the image itself is 12×9″) comes signed and numbered, along with a certificate of authenticity and a limited edition exhibition card. If you’re nice I may also throw in one my extremely limited Frankenstein stickers (as supplies last, of course).

This may be my best print release yet, and the images look great!

More info about the print can be found in my Etsy store, and if you’re interested in the process behind the creation of the photo, here’s a link to my behind-the-scenes blog post.

Spirit PrintShe who creates Good Fortune — $125 available now!

But wait! There’s more!
The little elves in the Wind-up Dreams workshop have been very hard at work creating an incredible array of gifts designed around the portrait panels that were on display in Tales from the Vinyl Dimension including mugs, buttons, watches, mouse pads, coasters, iPhone cases, and a bazillion other things. Yes, they are exhausted little overworked elves, but as long as we continue to feed them candy corn and marshmallow peeps they seem to remain happy and productive. You can see the full lineup of gifts in the Portrait store on Zazzle.

But wait, there’s still more!
Finally, I’d be completely remiss were I not to remind you that original 12×12″ portrait panels from Tales from the Vinyl Dimension remain available, along with a wide range of limited edition prints, album editions, and postcards.

Read Full Post »

During the run of Tales from the Vinyl Dimension this past summer at the Pannikin, La Jolla, a VERY terrible thing happened…

One of my toys went missing!

IMG_6835

Wolfman taking a swipe at a kewpie car

And not just any toy, my vintage Wolfman flashlight figure purchased a few years ago from a dealer at Comic-Con. Wolfman has appeared in a handful of my photos, most notably terrorizing a kewpie car as it exited a funhouse tunnel in Financial Freewheeling and the futile pursuit of the American Dream (right).

As part of the gallery installation I’d placed toys in front of each of the 12 x 12″ portraits that rimmed the highest walls of the space. With the actual toy present, visitors to the gallery could better sense the true size of the faces that were looking down from the walls. Where these portraits were printed “life size”, the subjects were little tiny toys shot with the digital macro setting of my Canon Elf (using a tripod fabricated from Legos).

IMG_1621

Each toy standing below their portrait was pretty much on its own without much in the way of safety or security. The Wolfman was one exception, as his clawed feet did not balance will on the wooden ledge, so he was held in place by a small mountain of modeling putty.

One afternoon after strolling down the hill with my laptop I entered the Pannikin to discover that the Wolfman was gone — vanished into thin air! I searched the ledge where he had been standing; no luck. I inquired with the staff; nope, he had not been found and turned in. Not cool. Nope, not cool at all. This would require drastic measures. I headed home and created this:

Missing Poster

The Pannikin sees a LOT of traffic — regulars buying their morning coffee, students studying in the afternoons, plenty of moms and dads pushing strollers. Had Wolfman fallen from his perch I thought there was a good chance that he’d been picked up by one of the stroller kids, whose parents might find it odd that there precious toddler was shaking a hairy beast instead of his or her rattle.

I tacked up the poster next to Frankenstein, hoping that my stab at humor might motivate someone (like a stroller mom or dad) to recognize and return my beloved missing Wolfman.

A few days passed and, sure enough, the Wolfman was returned! If I am to believe the story that was related to me, one morning a homeless man stumbled through the door and without saying a word placed the Wolfman on the counter, then left. Wolfman was back! I pulled down my MISSING poster and in its place pinned up an replacement: FOUND!

Anyway, in the wake of this trauma I began to imagine a whole series of “missing” posters for each of the portraits I’d shot for the exhibit. Take a look!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Horror ShirtSo, what do I plan on doing with all of these crazy posters? All kinds of things! The first is to make them available on shirts through my Zazzle store. I currently have 30 or so designs available featuring most of the toys and figures I had on display during my show. More still to come and I’m hoping to extend the line to include other products.

Stay tuned!

Read Full Post »

Time moves quickly in the world of Wind-up Dreams, and where I’ve had a host of posts planned around my springtime trip to Los Angeles, it’s suddenly summer and almost July, and does it really make sense to write up a review for a couple of concerts I attended back in April? No, of course not!

Ah! But that now long ago trip north did yield a pair of fairly amazing vintage finds that have found a life together and forever in a brand new photo and video animation. Where some may direct their travels to resorts, tourist destinations, and upscale shopping districts, I’m a bit more adventurous, wandering into odd little shops, swap meets, or tiny indy record stores where (my kind of) treasure surely awaits. One such store is Permanent Records, a fantastic little record store on the main drag in Eagle Rock with an incredibly diverse selection of new and used vinyl, plus a very knowledgeable staff with great taste in all kinds of music.

“Lazy Rhapsody” Lou Busch and his Piano Orchestra, 1957

In the stacks at Permanent Records I found Lazy Rhapsody, an album released by Lou Busch and his Piano Orchestra (imagine the stage required for that!) in the late 1950s. The record had loooooong been included on my Records Want List, a comprehensive spreadsheet I’ve maintained for many years to track the album covers I see on various vintage vinyl websites that have good potential as background subject matter for my photos. The best are those covers with a glamorous gal of the 50’s gazing off into negative space where my devious mind can construct an alternate universe for her to contemplate, and—for obvious reasons (I mean, just look at it!)—Lazy Rhapsody was VERY high on my want list!

Vintage books have made several memorable appearance in my photos, and I’m always on the lookout for old texts with unusual titles or fancy gold lettering on the spine. The day before my trip to Permanent Records I discovered the Cosmopolitan Book Shop, a jam packed used bookstore on Melrose Avenue, east of La Brea. Wow! Inventory, inventory, inventory… Floor to ceiling and wall to wall. It would take days to fully appreciate their stock, and I basically found the store while filling 10 minutes before heading off to  other locales. Luckily, it took only 9 minutes to spot an absolutely incredible vintage book! Crazy title—gold on the spine. Yay!

“The Influence of Women… and its cure” John Erskine, 1936

To the left is The Influence of Women… and its cure by John Erskine, a non-fiction book published in 1936 as a call to attention to men across the land that, basically, this whole business of (gasp!) gender equality could screw up the good deal that men had enjoyed since the beginning of recorded time. Oh, the horror! Inside is a stern text bemoaning the perils of women’s rights, the outlandish notion that women could be teachers, and that men have sadly allowed their wives to control the purse strings of family wealth. I’m convinced that I could leverage the book into a career as a standup comic by merely taking to the stage and, in a serious and knowing tone, recite passages to my delighted and far more liberated audience.

Best, though, is the inscription inside the front cover:

To Roy,
with best wishes,
from Lea — 1936

 What a lovely gift! Doesn’t it make you wonder about Roy and Lea? Was Lea a strong independent woman sending Roy a message? Or was she subserviently giving Roy a gift that in present day would have been on his Amazon wish list? In any case, The Influence of Women seemed like it would be perfect as a treatment in one of my photos.

I ended up combining both of these LA finds in a new photo and video. Behold!

Malcolm was never a popular boy, until he won The Irish Sweepstakes

This was actually a very simple photo, as it involved only a single background image and very few foreground elements, whereas most of my recent work has involved much more elaborate staging. Still, building the narrative and getting the overall composition right took a fair amount of time.

Added bonus… As I’ve done with many of my recent photos, I created a video animation of the photo during deconstruction of the set! For the video I tried to imaging why Tuxedo Guy might be surrounded by all those women, and tried to find music that would sort of carry the story—though from the perspective of the women, rather than the perspective of Tuxedo Guy. Many songs were auditioned; none of them worked. And then I recalled a number one hit from 1970 that ruled the airwaves to such a heavy-rotation extent that, now, decades later, there remain people suffering from the annoying effects of an “earworm” as this invasive slice of bubbly pop drivel continually spins inside their heads. Not daring to use the original and perhaps risk the peril of worldwide audio infection, I chose a harder edge 1991 cover version from Voice Of The Beehive.

Enjoy!

Read Full Post »

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t post new blog entries anywhere near as frequently as I would like. Ideally, I’d be blogging on a daily basis, sharing news about new photos and videos, art exhibits, great books, cool records, and posting articles that dive deep into my creative process. Trouble is… I have a difficult time churning out prose without laboring over every word, sentence and paragraph. Plus, just to make matters a little worse, I can’t… stop… writing. Simple topics—hey! I like this record!—turn into exhaustive (but still, of course, interesting) accounts worthy of a short chapter in a book.

Yes, it’s a problem, but now… a solution!

RIP Jonathan Frid—the “real” Barnabas Collins!

I now have a super cool Tumblr account where, throughout the day, you can find quick and interesting posts from me and the merry minions at Wind-up Dreams Central. Everything we post is, of course, Super Cool. Take, for instance this scary photo of the recently departed Jonathan Frid. Oh, sure… I could have dedicated a 4,000 or 5,000 word blog post on Dark Shadows (and, come to think of it, I may do that), but I could spend a week or more in Creative Writing Hell in an effort to produce a Pulitzer caliber post on campy daytime horror. Instead, as quickly as a vampire could sink his teeth into an alabaster neck… there it is on:

Vintage Vinyl

My official Tumblr site!

While the Tumblr focuses on cool vinyl records, in recent days we’ve also made posts on awesome art, vintage advertising, weird toys, pulp novels, and outer space.

I hope you enjoy this foray into more frequent sharing of interesting things, and if YOU have a Tumblr, don’t be shy… feel free to reblog any of the images you find on Vintage Vinyl. We’re scouring the universe for cool finds to share with our followers, so let us know about your interesting finds!

Read Full Post »

[Updated 4-4-12 with a short note on focusing options]

In our previous post I presented a lot of background information about the process I use to take my photos, and a problem that arose with a recent session where the stage I had constructed exceeded the limits available to my lens to achieve satisfactory focus. To circumvent the problem I decided to experiment with focus stacking, and see if it would be possible to create a single, seamless image from a series of separately focused photographs.

Going in, I had it in my head that I would take 9 separate photos—one at each of the nine auto-focus (AF) points supported by my camera, a Canon XTi. Each of these photos would, therefore, be focused on a different area of the target scene, and (in theory) I’d be able to somehow mask and layer these images in post production to create a single image where every object would be in sharp focus.

Since I shoot my images from a camera mounted on a tripod, and because the objects inside the light tent don’t move (ha! we’ll see about that…) capturing the images would be simple. I used an aperture of f/9 for each photo, set the camera to auto exposure, and carefully reselected nothing more than the AF point from one photo to the next. While I could have chosen a larger aperture to insure even greater sharpness at the point of focus, I decided to go with the much more conservative f/9, as my lens works very nicely at that setting, and—fearful of going too shallow—I wanted a reasonable amount of depth at each AF point, which I theorized would make the post production effort to seamlessly combine the images a little more forgiving.

The image below illustrates the nine AF points as viewed through the camera’s viewfinder. You can click on the image to see a larger view and better distinguish each point of focus.

AF points using a Canon XTi (click for a larger view)

As you can see, focus points fell on:

  • The train in the very back
  • The woman standing at the base of the log cabin
  • The dancing girl on the right
  • The “lizard woman” just below and to the left of the dancing girl
  • The “scorpion woman” emerging from the records at the bottom center
  • The “snake woman” at the left center
  • The middle devil playing the yellow-ish horn
  • The leg of the woman in blue (Tammy Faye!) riding the train
  • The right hand of the girl emerging from the record hole at the center of the composition

Note that two of the 9 AF points fell on the record album, while none fell on any of the objects that were closest to the camera. This was an unfortunate residual effect of the stage construction and the vantage point from which I chose to shoot the photos. The points falling on the record album are on the same plane, farthest from the camera, so I’d only need one when it came time to eventually create my focus stack. The objects in the foreground that fall below the lowest AF point would be slightly more problematic.

The photo above was taken with the AF point set to the top middle, falling on the people sitting inside the train. It is worth zooming in to see how the image is focused at this point relative to other areas of the photo:

Left: Detail at AF point
Right: Detail at foreground, far from AF point

At the point of focus everything is nice and sharp, while in the foreground 14 or 15 inches away from the AF point the image is unacceptably blurry. That’s okay, of course, since in post production the blurry part of the photo will be replaced by in-focus imagery from a completely different photo.

Recall that the objects in the foreground (like that very blurry “spider woman” above) did not have the good fortune of falling within any of the AF points supplied by my camera. We’ll pause momentarily while those of you with superior camera equipment snicker.

::: snicker! :::

There.

Okay, back to my nine measly AF points. To bring the “spider woman” and other foreground objects into focus I took one extra photo with the AF point on the “scorpion woman” at the bottom of the photo, though for this photo I set the aperture to f/18 to get better near focus depth.

Focus on “scorpion woman” at f/18 to bring foreground into focus

Though I’d wanted to keep the aperture constant throughout the stack of photos, I really didn’t have any choice on the foreground image, as f/9 would provide only about an inch and a quarter of acceptable focus in front of the point of focus; roughly from the face of the “scorpion woman” to the right (hidden) side of the “spider woman.” At f/18 I was able to extend the near focus to almost two and a half inches, bringing nearly everything in the foreground into an acceptable range of focus. Yes, by deviating from the aperture used in all the other photos I’d face some other challenges during post production, but I found this to be an acceptable tradeoff.

Note
It was my choice to use each of the nine AF points as the basis for my focus stack, as it suited the composition of this particular photo . You may do just as well choosing to use only two or three points of focus, depending on the conditions of the scene you are shooting. The techniques we’ll discuss in part three will work just as well with a stack of three photos as they will with a stack of 9 or 27. Also (and this did not occur to me at the time), I could have brought the extreme foreground imagery into focus my using the often ignored manual focusing controls of my camera. Tsk, tsk, tsk… I rely too much on auto this and auto that.

Stay tuned for Part Three of the series where we’ll dive headlong into the post production lunacy that is creating a single image from 9 separately shot and edited photos in Aperture.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: