Translating a Vision into a Photo Concept

I’m somehow drawn to photography – not to necessarily document an interesting or unique view of the world, but to get the picture that I didn’t know existed.  That concept, that image in my head which sits there till I try and make it for real.  This is generally means combining bokeh, focus, and wide angle lenses with a subject to get that certain “look” which the eyes don’t intuitively capture.  And few things are harder for the eye-brain connection to interpret than motion.  That’s why the use of off-camera strobe flash was developed by Harold Edgerton in the first place: to capture motion in ways never before possible.  Adding motion to a static subject can add a certain “something” it’s unexpected and generally produces an image that sticks in my head.  So, I took the concept in my head and set about translating it into a viewable form.
Red Tie and Velvet

Creating a Dramatic Motion Image

When you live in a place that doesn’t include a vast studio space, improvising and designing a shoot becomes important.  It’s the best environment to learn in because you’re challenged to make things look “cool.”  Cool is easy when you’re shooting a Swatch Watch commercial with a full staff and art director, but I don’t do these things – and need to organize things like models and locations and wardrobes on my own.

For the concept, I wanted the images to have movement, some sort of dramatic character, and to look “cool.”  “Cool” is at best a meaningless relative term and I don’t profess to having my finger on the pop-culture pulse of the trend setting world…but I went for the concept in my head anyways.

Floating in the Air

Having no budget or creative vision, I decided to go with my only available model, myself – and capture myself in a dramatic fashion: Flight (jumping through the air).  The apartment has wood floors, so first I set about setting up crash pads (guest beds) to land on and then added wardrobe elements and props which would add motion effects to to the final images.

Wardrobe: Shirt (BC Ethic), Tie (H&M), Jeans (Levis), Olive Jacket (We), Messenger Bag (MountainSmith)

Equipment: Crash Pads, 1 Flash w/umbrella, Radio Trigger (Gadget Infinity), Minolta 7D, 20mm lens, Remote Trigger

Crashing in Action

The crash pads were setup in front of a white wall and the camera went on a tripod.  I started out using the 2 sec. shutter delay function on my camera, but coordinating my jump with the delay wasn’t’ working so well.  Instead I opted for using a wired cable release.  My hand was often out of the frame, instinctively trying to break my fall – but the trigger release could eventually be Photoshopped out of the picture.
Jumping with a Trigger

The wardrobe seemed to work, the jacket and tie floated in the air when needed and a stack of paper added another element, a main focus for the eyes to lock onto and juxtapose against the main subject.  The Mountain Smith courier bag was, well, one of those Urban elements, suggesting the subject is “going somewhere” and has “things to do” – people to see.  I love my MountainSmith bags like I love my ice tools, and try to integrate them into shots whenever possible.
MountainSmith in the Air

Post processing of the images was done in Lightroom and Photoshop, sometimes using some processing elements I picked up in the Joey Lawrence Tutorial DVD.

In the end, I fell short of achieving the vision in my head, mainly because I didn’t have a trampoline and the cielings were too low for one anyways. This meant jumping on my own, and since I don’t jump very high I had a very short time to pose while in freefall.  The jump and freefall where rarely timmed correctly to the camera shutter and my head statred hurting from the impacts after a while.  Still, achieving 1/4 of your vision is far more productive than 2 hours of watching TV.

Drama in the Air

Jumping looks easy, and it is twice in a row, but if you’ve spent the previous day ice climbing and every other photo sucks because the timing is off and you’re out of the frame, well…the jumps add up and the photos session quickly turns turns into a workout fast.  I think of Michael Grecco’s book The Dramatic Portrait – he’s shooting Jet Li doing a flying kick at one point, and the translator says, Jet Li doesn’t need a trampoline.
Velvet and Glasses

4 thoughts on “Translating a Vision into a Photo Concept

  1. Tim says:

    Still, achieving 1/4 of your vision is far more productive than 2 hours of watching TV.

    Amen to that brother! Great post.

  2. The Editor says:

    Cool, I’m glad you liked it.

  3. I’m not really sure how I found your website. But your photography is very good. I enjoyed the read about the photoshop DVD but this was an even better read. Transferring an idea to a photo concept is at times very difficult. Anyways, good work, keep writing. By the way, I like your theme for wordpress.
    Aaron Snyder

  4. Chris says:

    dude i randomly came across a photo or two on flickr and wound up here. i love your blog! haha..it’s really cool to hear the inspiration and motivation behind shots like this. i think they came out great too. soooo much better than wasting it on the motion box (even though sometimes it is just necessary). great stuff man! i’ll definitely be back.

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