Photography Blog

Photography blog of Redski @ Red Town Photography

Six Photographers that have Inspired Me

When I was thinking of taking a career path in photography, I had a thirst for knowledge, I needed to learn the basics of photography and studio lighting and being more of a visual learner I decided to check out whether there was any way of learning online or finding educational videos on YouTube. And what did I find?  Cute kittens? Babies biting their brother's fingers? Might Britain have talent? Well yes, but also there were a plethora of photographers ready and willing to divulge their photographic expertise. Suddenly the world of the homegrown educational video had opened itself up to me. Here are six photographers that educated and inspired me. 

 

Way back in 2013, when I was just a child, or when I knew very little about photography, the photographic world of possibilities was opening up to me. Even before I purchased my first camera (the Panasonic GH2), I needed to learn the basics, the exposure triangle, camera modes, manual mode, metering modes and white balance, etc, etc, etc...  As you all know, this was the very tip of the iceberg. And who was going to teach me these fundamentals of photography? It was Mark Wallace, at Adorama. An excellent teaching technique, bright, charming, Mark Wallace is a fountain of photographic knowledge. He taught me the fundamentals of photography via YouTube. If anybody is starting out and learning the knowledge, I advise you to watch his fantastic videos.

Desperate to dive into the world of Still Life photography, I needed to learn about lighting. I started out with continuous lighting as it was totally inexpensive and readily available. How do you light difficult, transparent subjects such as glass? And how about lighting a wine bottle? And what about metal and plastic object such as headphones? Well there is an endearing, experienced photographer named Phillip McCordall and through his videos he has taught me these complex to think about, but simple when practiced, methods. Fun, light hearted and totally professional. His videos are a great starting point for any budding Product and Still Life photographer.

 

Once I had most of the basics of photography branded onto my brain and I had read the Bible of studio lighting that is, 'Light, Science and Magic’ by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Fuqua, I needed a photographer who was going to reveal complex studio lighting setups for both easy and complex to light Products. Somebody who had expert knowledge, a huge array of softbox and stripboxes and would teach me that probably the most important tool for any Still Life photographer is homemade diffusion sheets. When placed in front of softboxes they create beautiful, soft highlights that softboxes alone do not achieve! That, someone, was Alex Koloskov over on his hub of learning 'Photigy’ and also on YouTube. Alex understands studio lighting. His methods are tried and tested techniques through hours of work. I bought a number of his courses and watched many of his YouTube videos. Without a doubt, it was money and time well spent. I would not have the imagery that exists in my galleries today if it wasn't for him.

 

I caught an introduction to a photography course on YouTube all about Tabletop Photography. This course was featured on the website that has tons of amazing Photography courses by renowned professional photographers. The course that I bought from Creative Live and gained a ton of skills from is hosted by an experienced, effortlessly likable professional photographer named Don Giannatti. It is called 'Tabletop Product Photography'

Don has been in the Still Life Photography game for many years and in the course, he uses speedlights, continuous lights, and white fill cards to light an array of products. The confusion that I had about how to light Still Life products was laid to rest by Don Giannatti. Once you have watched Don in action, your skills will be taken from Level 1 to Level 100. I have also bought a course by him over at Udemy on 'Using a Photographic Light Meter'.

 

Lightroom is relatively easy to learn and become proficient at. Photoshop initially was a minefield. Layers, adjustment layers, layer masking, making selections, frequency separation were like huge, unattainable leaps for me. Only the Incredible Hulk can make huge leaps. Not so! Superman was on YouTube; but not just any Superman. It was the Super Photoshop man that is Aaron Nace from Phlearn. I bought Photoshop 101 and Photoshop 201 from Phlearn and I continue to watch and learn from Mr. Nace, following step by step YouTube videos and I am now making those huge leaps into the deepening depths of Photoshop tools and tasks, thanks to the King of Photoshop, the effervescent and charismatic Mr. Aaron Nace.

Finally, last but not least, Jared Polin, ‘Fro knows Photo’. He certainly does. His excellent teaching style, lively personality, exciting, informative videos are regularly updated on YouTube. I caught him on there years back when he was showing beginner photographers the basics. He now does photographer's website critiques, photography news rants, and discussion, camera reviews, whilst still teaching photography! He currently has an excellent equipment management app and also has online courses to buy.

So there are my six, splendid educators who kicked me into the Photography stratosphere.  I hope that you like and learn from them just as much as me.

Styling a Fantasy Still Life Image

Bound in Time

Bound in Time

A simple model that I purchased on eBay, opens up the wonders of photographic possibilities.

This beautiful, raven haired warrior woman in my fantasy artwork, 'Bound in Time’, came equipped with the gnarly tree trunk that she sits on. The chain that is fastened to her leg, has always been there.

So upon receiving the model, I ask myself, how can I create a captivating fantasy, still life, image from this item?

A simple low key, black background, like how I shot the images, 'Octopus Underside’, 'From the Dark’ and 'Alone Again' might look nice, but because of the natural object that she sits on, I thought it would be more interesting to expand on the ‘nature’ aspect, by giving her a ‘living’ world to inhabit.

Amongst my plethora of props, are shells, pebbles, fairly large, fall from the studio table and hurt your foot if you're not careful rocks, and also fake snow, to add a bit of wintery atmosphere.

Toying with different ideas, I replace the shells with skulls, however, they are too large for the scene and they distract attention from the foreground.

I wanted sharpness throughout the scene so I shot at f/16, with a 90mm tilt shift, lens. Originally I was going to shoot in landscape, horizontal orientation, but the model is too large for the lens at minimum focusing distance and would force me to back up, thus rendering the model too small in the shot to create any impact.

So unusually, I create a landscape scene a vertical aspect, which actually works as it creates a tight and dynamic composition.

I position everything to compositional rules. The rule of thirds, I create a subtle leading line with the shells. Yet I am doing this because I felt it 'fits’ in the scene and looks aesthetically pleasing. I am not forcing the composition for the sake of ticking some compositional boxes.

Subtle leading line

Subtle leading line

 

I change out the small background rocks a number of times to find the right balance in height and width and I also work the large rock on the left, trying to get exactly the correct position for it. I then dress the scene in fake snow that I purchased online.

The lighting is a gridded strobe from camera right, plus white fill cards to fill in the shadows. I also attach a deep yellow gel onto a second gridded strobe and shine it on the translum backdrop, behind the scene, to create the illusion of the setting sun.

In order to get the warrior woman exactly in the right position in frame and get the most appealing aspects of the gothic trunk she sits on, I take two shots, where after taking the composition that you see, I lower the camera to shoot the bottom of the trunk (with the little skull) as this is out of frame. I then mold/blend the bottom of the trunk with the rest in Photoshop.

Also in Photoshop, I create a slight Gaussian blur on the stones in the background, to create depth. After toying with a colour photograph, I realise that the gradient that I captured with the deep yellow gel, attached to a gridded strobe, is too prominent and competes with the foreground elements, so I decide to choose a toned, black and white for the final image. I also add some clouds and then dust and grain adding an aged effect to the image.

I think it has a vintage, 1940’s Hollywood movie poster look to it or it could find its way into a fantasy novel.

So once again as with much of my work, I create the final image by way of experimentation rather than a specific design that I had in mind.

The Inspiration - Still Life Photography & Japanese Horror Movies

Don't Open the Door - inspired by Japanese horror films

Don't Open the Door - inspired by Japanese horror films

I have always loved Horror films. From gore fests, such as the 80’s classics ‘From Beyond’, which is based on an H.P Lovecraft novel, and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street series and the comedic Re-Animator. Spanning four decades, I also love the Night of the Living Dead series; and also Japanese ghostly, creepy films such as Ringu, Ju-on: The Grudge, Dark Water and the 1960s classic, Kwaidan.

I love the feeling of fearful anticipation when waiting for Jason Voorhees to pounce on some teenagers deep in the woods, and the moments of sheer dread that the music from The Hills Have Eyes remake gave me. The fear I felt when I was about 13 and saw the Grady twins from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, has never been equaled.

It is the Japanese films that inspired me to create 'Don't Open the Door’. (Spoilers ahead…. )There was a scene in Ringu 2, when Sadako’s dead, ghost mother is brushing her hair whilst looking into the oval mirror, in The Yamamura Inn. She slowly turns around and sees Mai the main character, fearfully, watching her. The ghost drifts across the room behind the door where you, the viewer, and Mai, cannot see her. Her head then very slightly peeks around the corner of the door. Her face looks much darker than how it looked previously. It is a rare moment that sent chills up my spine and it is a film clip that I never forgot.

The same effect is visible in Ju-on The Grudge. A creepy girl ghost creeping out of bedclothes, coming around corners and down the stairs and even under duvet covers. I have to hand it to Japanese movie directors such as Hideo Nakata and Takashi Shimzu, they knew how to create proper, non-gore, edge of your seat, scares. Creepy, fleeting movie moments, using everyday household furniture: having terrifying dead girls with long, dark hair popping out from, and around or down from them. You would then be afraid to look under the duvet at night, or look behind the door!

So this image is kind of an homage to the kind of bone-chilling scare.  This time it’s the screaming skeleton, looking out at you from the stone door opening. I personally think her facial expression is quite chilling, the open mouth shock/scream look. The way the hands are folded over one another looks as if she's just been awoken from a thousand years in Hell’s warm discomforts. The warmish bright light that she is bathed in completely reveals her, in her ghastly glory. So when planning this shoot and creating the Still Life image, it was the concept of having a face peering out at you from a crack in the door, or a crack in the composition, that inspired me.
So if you have looked in my, 'The Dark Art’ gallery you know that I clearly am a horror aficionado. I don't know if there will be a ghost under my duvet tonight, but where my Horror Photography is concerned, one thing is for certain - watch this space, there will be more!