Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Toys In Distress: A Fun Weekend Project

 

I want to share with you a simple and fun project that I shot with my brother, I call this series "Toys In Distress", hit the jump for more information.

My brother (the one with the scary look here) has an artistic and a free creative mind, he always has lots of photo ideas that he wants to create, he loves photoshop and he's quite good with it. I am usually inspired by his ideas that I try taking photos outside of my comfort zone. Today's picture is a result of one of his ideas.

He wanted to take the photo you see above of a man tied by a rope on a train rail while the train is approaching, you've seen this in several cartoons including Tom & Jerry, the setup was pretty simple, a toy train, a lego man, some knitting thread and a couple of toy trees. We didn't want to complicate the setup more than that.

In order to get a low point of view I used my new Manfrotto tripod (which I will review soon), it has the ability to mount the center column in reverse, so that the camera is dangling from the tripod upside down, check this setup picture to get an idea.


 
I used my 60mm macro lens to compress the perspective and exclude lots of the clutter around the train like the brick wall at the back. I was in aperture priority mode with an aperture of f/11 to get a large depth of field, the resulting shutter speed was one second. The swivel LCD of the 60D was a bless in this situation, I was able to easily compose the image without twisting over or sleeping on the ground.

I took a few test shots, reviewed them and decided that I needed some fill light on the front end of the train, so I used the 580EX II, zoomed it to 105mm and adjusted the power manually until I got the fill I wanted, but the beam was spilling light on other areas of the train that I didn't want to light, so I used the rogue grid to restrict the beam to where I wanted. Finally I used a small piece of white cardboard to reflect some fill on the left side of the train, the black cardboard you see below the speedlite is just to keep the flash standing upright. Here's the resulting picture straight out of the camera (just added some vignette):


The picture was not as striking as I wanted, so I started playing with different lightroom presets until I stumbled on one that I liked, I think it was called "yesteryear", but it was too yellow for my taste, the main idea behind this preset is to add a yellowish color cast to the picture (split toning), all I had to do was pay a visit to the split toning tab in the develop module and reduce the saturation of the yellow color a bit, and I like the results.

We also tried a couple of different images, the first one is similar to the OP image but from a different view, and the last one was of the train derailed and the oil car burning. I hope you enjoyed the images as much as we did shooting them. I thought to share them on this blog as a sort of a break from the regular/serious technical posts. :-)




P.S. If you have been paying attention to the links throughout this post, you'll notice that I have linked to a lots of hardware reviews (the 60D, 580EX II speedlite, rogue grid, 60mm macro lens and the Manfrotto tripod). What I want to say here is that this is when all the different tools you have come into play to make the image you want, the tool in itself is not valuable as a collectible item, but how familiar you are with your tools and how/when you use them is what's important.

I once read somewhere that you have to be able to operate your camera blindly, and I am a serious believer in this now, it really pays to be able to operate your camera totally blindly and even upside down like in this example, but that's for another post.