Ernie Chang is one of my fans from Taipei, Taiwan. I stumbled upon his work after he sent me a message on my Facebook Fan Page. One of the pieces in particular that he had shot intrigued me and when I inquired about how it was done, I was blown away by its sheer simplicity.
Before reading away, I challenge you to take a guess on how it was done!
Long before I started photography, I was always a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy art. I remember hanging on DeviantArt all day, and never missing an issue of ImagineFX. I was especially fascinated with themes that dealt with paintings or virtual creations coming to life, so naturally came the desire to portray them. Never did it occur to me that I could use photography to tackle this theme because I assumed it would either lead to terrible cosplay, or cheesy photo-manipulation. I tried to learn painting and illustration but I just had no talent for it, eventually I moved on. I went on to study Industrial Design in University, and had photography as a hobby.
When I decided to take photography more seriously about two years ago, I started shooting tons of portraits, products, and fashion, and learned to appreciate the great masters such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Steven Meisel. It taught me a lot about lighting and fashion photography, but never quite suppressed the desire to create. So I started conceptualizing ideas what would integrate some of my inspirations to create something fresh.
I wanted to portray a virtual 3D body coming to real life under exposure to light. The first image I pictured in my head was a half-virtual, half-real person done in the same shot. It’s an analogy to a child being born. The light represents exposure to the outside world, resulting in the loss of purity and innocence. I planned it so that the viewer only sees the grid of a body in the first shot, which later reveals itself to be an imperfect nude figure.
The flash lighting was simple: one cheap flashgun coming from the right, and behind the subject. Where the light doesn’t reach, I am left with areas of black which I fill with dotted ambient light. The dots are just round label stickers
available at any stationery store which I spray-painted with a coat of glow-in-the-dark blue paint that you can purchase here
. The glowing stickers, aligned rigidly, create a grid-like effect when the lights are turned off, which was what I needed.
and the setup…
Finding a Model
The shoot required a fully nude, skinny, long-haired model. Since I was on a tight budget, I tried to find someone that would be interested in my project to shoot without any compensation. So on my Facebook fan page I half-jokingly posted: “Looking for someone to sacrifice their body for the sake of art,” and didn’t think much of it. But eventually my classmate picked it up and passed it on to her friend who contacted me to talk about it. It turns out that she was a fine arts student photographing a series of her own nude body as a graduation project. When I told her about my idea, she was quite happy to help out. Moral of the story: ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE!
Setting the Camera
Flash/strobe lighting is significantly brighter than the glowing stickers so to compensate for that, I exposed for the lowest flash intensity and dragged the shutter for an eight-second exposure to capture the glowing light. During this time, the model had to be completely still to avoid any motion blur. When I fired a first test shot, I forgot to change the white balance (left at 3000K), and it produced the exact blue tone I was looking for, no gels or post-production required! The whole set is shot using the Fujifilm X-E1
with XF 35mm f1.4
lens. With an ISO set to 400, and an aperture at F5.6, with a shutter speed of 8 seconds, I shot away:
I am quite pleased with how the results came out am now currently looking for more models to take this concept further. If you’re interested in getting involved, do send me a message on my fan page! I’m also quite curious to see what Von Wong’s going to do with my technique, as he’s promised to do something with it!
I think it doesn’t take that much to carry out an idea. Just keep it simple and use your resources effectively. The lack of gear or funding does not suffice as an excuse to be unproductive. With a little knowledge and some planning, it is not so hard create something unique. Just experiment and have fun with it!
Model and I
For those of you who are curious, here are a couple other projects that I’ve been playing with. I’m slowly starting to develop my own methods in finding new ways use them in commercial photography.
Smoking Speakers concept design. For this shot, I used light painting to accentuate the pitch-black product, while having strobes to light the product nicely.
Atrox concept car design. Light painting by Ernie Chang, lensed by Joe Russo.
More of my work can be found at www.lightmare.net and www.facebook.com/lightmare.ec