It is often interesting to provide a bit of “behind the scenes” insight into what it takes to successfully create imagery that satisfies the client’s needs, a peek behind the curtain, if you will. Recently, we were asked by Senior Living Executive Magazine to create imagery that spoke to the need to balance financial considerations with the necessities of work, food, and energy. The concept of a board on a fulcrum arose, with a symbol of finances on one side, and symbols of the other concerns, balanced precariously, on the other side.

We settled upon a pink piggy bank as a symbol of our monetary concerns. Unfortunately, the one piggy bank that could be found that matched our vision of its general shape also happened to be white in color and wearing both a tiara and a tutu.SAXMAN170914_Argentum-107

The tutu was not a big deal, as it simply pulled off, leaving a couple spots of adhesive that were easily removed digitally.

The tiara, being a part of the overall molded shape, presented more of a challenge. Not removable, it covered a large portion of the head and, at the angle we desired, obscured part of the rear ear. It was clearly necessary to find another portion of the pig that mimicked the shape in that area, photograph it cleanly in that position with that lighting, and then digitally combine with the original image. Rotating the pig so that the front ear was roughly in the position of the rear ear, and creating a source capture, did the trick.

The color shift was done simply by altering settings in Lightroom, masking the color to the perimeter of the pig, and applying to the final photo.PigProgressionx4

These techniques were tested prior to the actual shoot, and then repeated with the pig in the final file.

On the day of the shoot, other challenges awaited, primarily how to “balance” a collection of disparate items precariously, yet realistically. We knew that digital post-production would be necessary, but I wanted to minimize it and capture real shadows and overlap of items wherever possible. Therefore, I ruled out shooting each item independently and simply cutting them together, as that would look “fake.”

I decided to try to combine as many items as I could into one shot, using clamps, wire, gaffers tape, pins…whatever it took to get things together realistically. Real balancing was out of the question, but I knew the support system placed strategically behind the objects could be digitally removed. This was difficult enough, but it also needed to be accomplished with a pleasing composition that fit the client’s design requirements for cover text and masthead.

I had imagined being able to bring 3 or 4 items together at a time and that ultimately we’d have to composite 3 or 4 separate images to create the final file. As it was being built, however, it became evident that it was not only possible to get all the objects together, but preferable, as it would ensure our composition was balanced (pun intended) and fit within the confines of the art director’s layout.SAXMAN170915_Argentum-143

The support system had to be secure enough to allow multiple exposures to be made, as many of the items required slightly different, or specific, lighting. Needless to say, great care needed to be taken around the set, as any bump of the table, any props, camera, or a light stand might send us back to the beginning of the process. After completion of the arrangement, a creative decision was made to swap the butternut squash with a spaghetti squash, so the stability of the contraption proved essential when doing this.4SourceShots

A few extra odds and ends needed to be shot as well, such as source to cover the unfinished end of the plank everything was balanced on, and the replacement of the fulcrum with a large wooden dowel that better fit the color scheme. And, of course, the pig rotated so that the tiara could be replaced.2FinalSource

And the final result…FinalX2As always, all images are copyrighted and any use without prior expressed written consent is prohibited. I appreciate your respecting my work and livelihood!

Please see more interesting images at saxmanphoto.com.

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I had the good fortune to be invited to a friend’s house on the Rappahannock River this past weekend, just near where it feeds the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a beautiful area full of wildlife and scenic vistas everywhere you look. On an average weekend, it is a wonderful place to be, but this weekend we were treated to a particularly fascinating show. Throughout the day Saturday, multiple rain storms rolled through in dramatic fashion, only to yield once again to clear blue skies and sunshine. Clouds on the horizon during our sunset spin in the boat were tall and strong and filled with lightning.

My thanks to the generosity of friends. This was a welcome and much needed time in a sacred place.

Weekend on the Rappahannock River, White Stone, VirginiaSAXMAN180623-7385SAXMAN180623-7470

If this past Saturday in DC was gloomy, chilly and damp, sunrise on Sunday brought the opposite: blue skies, sunshine and (nearly) seasonal temperatures. Our plan had been to roll out of town in the morning, but we couldn’t resist the opportunity to check out the Cherry Blossom Festival on what was likely to be the absolute peak day. So, once again, we put on our walkin’ shoes and climbed aboard the Metro.

Like the day before, I found myself focused on people watching, but it was even better. So many cameras! So many selfies! So many smiles and poses and serious photographers!

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My wife and I spent the past weekend in Washington DC, enjoying the sights with our son and his girlfriend. I hesitated bringing a camera because of the added responsibility it requires and the prospect, as we are running from museum to museum, of merely capturing what has been captured countless times already. Plus the weather was not looking to be very cooperative. But at the last minute I decided to grab my 5D MKII, sans bag, with just a single prime lens (Canon L Series 100mm Macro– love it!). I figured I’d stuff it in my jacket if the weather turned wet.

Our itinerary for Saturday included the National Portrait Gallery, where I expected to take somewhere around zero photos. However, as we walked the gallery my attention was drawn toward not just the artwork, but the interaction between the gallery-goers and the artwork. It was, at times, intimate, as if I were invading a private conversation between a former president and an art lover. Other times, it called to mind the cult of personality, and the attendees were merely subjects of the larger than life representations. From Washington‘s grandeur to Lincoln‘s indifference at having his photo taken; from James Buchanan‘s stern admonition to John Adams‘ secret; From Chester A. Arthur‘s attentive listening skills to Obama‘s calm in the space between the adoring crowd and his life’s foliage, it was an interesting and challenging approach to recording my time there.

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In the beginning of 2016, I self-assigned a project of photographing food in various ways. At times, I did them in a straightforward fashion, sometimes with a unique perspective, and occasionally just weird. Once, I just did it so that I could buy a sixer of beer on a Friday (ok, it was a Thursday).

I stayed with it for about 5 months and it helped me to push myself, to try different techniques and approaches to what has become a relatively common occurrence at the studio. Certainly aided in my growth as a photographer.

Whether directly related or not, we ended the year with a series of jobs for clients in which we had a chance to create some fun food photography of which I am proud. Each of these jobs was different from the others, from a controlled studio environment with multiple days of planning to a day in a busy restaurant shooting and changing setups as fast as the chef could plate his beautiful food to a an editorial pictorial in which we tried multiple things as quickly as we could think of them (and which featured my debut as the next great hand model).

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Beautifully plated app, entree and dessert shot on location at LaGrotta in Richmond.

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We had a chance to work once again with CF Sauer on some images for the Duke’s Mayonnaise website…

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And, with Richmond Magazine, we made some fun photos with pizzas from various restaurants around town and their unique toppings. If only I could control myself from grabbing a slice before the photo is finished…

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And so, 2016 comes to a close. Now excuse me, I’m hungry.

I’ve tinkered with high speed flash photos of splashing liquids here before, and recently we were provided an opportunity to use the equipment and techniques for a client. It proved to be a fun and exciting process, if a little wet. Fortunately, the studio floor can handle it.

We started by arranging our hero fruit, kiwis and strawberries, into a shape that fit the layout. I had thought we would need to set this up in multiple arrangements and bring them together digitally, but I found a way to defy gravity in a way that would keep them stable enough to stand up to the drenching they were about to receive. The set, fruit arranged in front of a textured stainless steel sheet, was lit with Einstein E640 heads that were rented for the job. These are nifty monolights that can generate flash durations as short as 1/13,500 sec. I found that a power setting yielding about 1/4,000 sec provided us with sufficient stop motion, yet enough light for adequate depth of field.

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The base image was shot, and then the water began flying. This was the fun part. I found pouring the water into a large spoon at the edge of the frame provided a nice splash that had a bit of an upward motion to it, and spread out nicely. Timing the exposure was done manually, and their was some hit-or-miss, but, happily, more hits than not.

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Selected portions of the splash images were placed onto the base image, and unwanted areas were masked off in Photoshop. Subtle movements occurred with the impact of the water, but fortunately, nothing too large or disastrous.

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The final resulting image required about 40 captures, about a quarter of which were used as elements.

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A second image was created for the upper corner of the layout in a similar fashion, with just a single piece of kiwi and strawberry…

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The two final photos were blended together after having rotated the second 180 degrees, and dropped into the layout comp (along with a third photo of fruit for the lower corner), which looked like this…

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After much fine tuning of images, composition and masking, the final files were delivered to a happy client .