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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Setting the Scene - Creating the Surreal Seas Series

This is an example of how I set up some of my images. In the image above a scene is set in an all black staging area. Because this image will be taken in complete darkness all the pieces for the scene have been sprayed with an X2 phosphorescent paint. Once the lights go down, the only thing remaining will be those pieces. This gives me a little more leeway to be creative as the wiring will disappear once the lights go out. Using an all black staging area guarantees that only the objects I want to show will be seen. This also gives me more leeway when I am not shooting in the dark to add my own colors and backgrounds after the original image is photographed.

In the case of this scene five images will be taken in the same position using varying types of camera settings. Those five images will be overlaid and blended together to create the final piece of art. When shooting begins, I'll take the first five shots then look at them carefully in the digital studio. I'll then make adjustments for things that I feel don't look right or should be repositioned. I'll add or remove pieces from the scene over and over again, rephotographing each time until the scene is set exactly the way I want it. Even the scaffolding around and above the scene can be changed based on the needs of the shoot and the angles the shots are taken in.

Once I feel the pieces are correct I will begin experimentation with lights. I have some very low wattage lights that I may place behind some of the pieces. This will allow the phosphorescents  to still shine, but give some eerie lighting qualities to the whole scene.

You'll note in the photo above that there are multiple lights burning around the scene. This is to keep the phosphorescent paint fully charged between photos. 

A typical shoot of this kind results usually in only one final image which becomes the piece of art. It may take anywhere from 4-24 hours to shoot the scene (depending on the complexity) and then another day to create the final art in the digital studio. In this case I'll shoot from many different angles, so several pieces of art may result in the end.

After that, the scene is completely changed and the process starts over. I will use and re-use the ships that make up the "Ghost Ship" series in an ever changing set of scenes, each one gradually becoming more complex. You can view the first two images in this series at:


Once the final photos are shot, then everything goes into the digital studio. From here I have the ability to change colors and create a true ocean around the scene. Anything I feel I don't have a prop for can be added after. 

Below you can see an example of the scene above once the lights are out. Already in the hours between the photo at the top and the photo at the bottom, I've changed and repositioned several things. The process is slow, but a lot of fun to work with. 

You will note in this test image that a lot of details are so fine that they are hard to make out. That is where the last step in the process comes in. The image is uploaded to a zoomable website where the viewer can close in on details not easy to make out on a computer or laptop screen. This allows me to put a much finer touch in the detailing of small areas of the final image. If the image were ever shown in gallery it would be shown as a 4' x 6' print so that details can still be seen. 

If you'd like more information on any of these processes, please feel free to leave a message or comment below. 


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