Learning Photoshop and Android Skin

Isn’t it funny what life decides to throw at you sometimes?

Recently, Life decided to throw me a new horse (Which may or may not be the reason I’ve neglected my beautiful blog for two months. I am confirming nothing).

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But Life isn’t always a rude bitch (only mostly….), sometimes she decides to reunite you with an old friend. To the tune of horse manure and setting money on fire, Julia and I were reunited after a twelve year hiatus.

It’s been a fun vacation with Julia and my new horse but it’s time to get my ass into gear and continue blowing people’s minds with my awesome editing skills (Ha!).

So it wasn’t too long before I asked Julia to model for me (It was inevitable yes, but I waited till the third date like a gentleman), because hello, her face is like a warm crackling fire, or a cross between Joan Jett and fresh pumpkin pie (Or apple…if that’s your thing).

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(I mean come on!) 

Julia already boasts a successful modeling career so it tickled my behind to give ONE phrase of direction and we got the shot in five clicks of my shutter. That’s magic, people. Sorcery even.

I told Julia “Your’e an android. No emotion on your face, but you’re seeing your hand as if for the first time” And. that. was. it. She donned a black tube top, sat down and BAM! 

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My original idea was to have an android with all kinds of shiny mechanical pieces and moving parts, her hand would be dissolving into code of 0’s and 1’s. Kinda Matrix-esque only without the crappy sequels.

Buutttt as I sat down to edit my ego cowered in the corner and piddled on the floor. Yeah, I had no idea how to execute such an epic idea. My skills with GIMP are all but maxed out and I’ve been reluctant to venture further into using Photoshop.

Photoshop is hard to learn and I have about six and a half minutes of free time each day to learn new editing techniques (Eight minutes if I don’t poop that day).  So learning how to dematerialize a hand took me For-ev-ver!

I started in GIMP as I usually do, to remove any blemishes, and in this case make Julia’s skin flawless, because it’s 2017 and androids don’t have flawed skin or the right to vote yet. I used simple white lines to make her skin seem shiny and fake and settled on a soft green for the color.

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For a tutorial on how to change eye color in GIMP go Here.

Our next stop was Lightroom where I simply made the background black and made her skin more glowey. eyes1

I enrolled at Youtube university to learn how to dematerialize in Photoshop.

 

It took me about five tries (and some grey hairs and a hemorrhoid), and when all was said and done I still wasn’t happy with the way it came out.

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But I’m still considering this a win for me. I stepped out of my comfort zone, learned a little bit more about Photoshop and made a pretty awesome Android Portrait. Now all she needs is a name and a back story…..

Here’s a side by side because they are fun:

Happy shooting Peons!

 

 

 

 

Photoshoot fun. And Midnight Nudes.

Here’s a life hack: dont ever tell me an interesting tidbit about yourself and expect that I won’t want to photograph it.

I have an obsession with photographing interesting.

So that’s what happened when my friend Dave told me he used to pose nude at the college for art students.

Not a lot of men are comfortable in front of the camera, and even less are comfortable nude. Praise Jesus For such an opportunity! 

I needed him for my portfolio (which is 99.9999% women).

Of course he said yes. Who wouldn’t want to work with me? Who wouldn’t want to strip down (with the possibility of being drenched in fake blood), be yelled at and asked to do awkward things? Nobody! Because as hard as my photo shoots are to get through, the end results speak for themselves.

When Dave came over for the shoot he brought his confidence and his friend Jim Beam. Perfect. 

The great thing about my job is that I’m able to see past the fake smiles and what people try to hide. I make it my objective to shoot the expressions in-between the posed shots. Those tiny moments when real emotion seeps out.

                                         Posed is nice, but pensive is better. 

 

It’s taken me years to develop the skills to be able to bring these expressions out of people. The right questions need to be asked, the right tone, the right words. It’s a unique formula that I am still developing. The result…..

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…breathtaking. (Lets all take a moment to pat me on the back. Come on. Don’t be shy)

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Dave has a beautiful soul and I wanted to capture that.

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I have these moments during a shoot where I completely leave the world around me. My brain automatically takes control over the technical jargon that I’ve spent years and years jamming into my head (Don’t forget the rule of thirds, ISO, depth of focus, shutter speeds, apertures, angles, lighting etc etc). I’m glad my brain doesn’t need much focus for that stuff, because it leaves space for the artist in me to come alive. For me to become the character I want to portray.

And while I was shooting Dave, my brain ran absolutely wild with ideas. The mood shifted. And suddenly I had a story I wanted to tell.

“Don’t freak out” I told him. “I have an idea”.

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I am so grateful to him for not ruining my vision with awkwardness, and for not questioning my professionalism. Bless him for following my directions so perfectly (even when I was slightly manic).

Pretend you hate me. Pull my hair. Put your hands on my throat. Pretend you love me. Don’t worry about the pain. Squeeze my arm. Perfecto!

I become quite bossy when I have a vision.

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But Dave didn’t actually need too many instructions. As though being naked hieghtened all vulnerability and he was standing there with such raw emotions only inches under his skin.

Great stuff.

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This shoot could have gone south a bajillion times over (I mean, come on), but Dave’s natural theatrics came through and we were able to tell a beautiful story. These photos leave so many questions unanswered. They leave you feeling split open, melancholy (Hi Ali!), self righteous, angry. All the good feelings. All the bad feelings. All of them. And if I can do that, then I did my job. People say art needs to SPEAK. I say NAY!! ART NEEDS TO SCREAM. ART NEEDS TO SLAP YOU IN THE FACE. ART NEEDS TO LEAVE YOU BLEEDING. Because how else can you confront those emotions? Art, baby, art.

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My Aunt Zoila tried hard to get me into modeling when I was younger. That was until I found my calling behind the camera, and a style that might have looked a tiny bit out of place in a Sears ad. But I suppose I could be called both. I enjoy taking self portraits, I love conveying emotions in my pictures. Lately I’ve been trying to find models other than myself (I’m sure my readers are getting tired of seeing my face over and over again). But its nice to jump into a photoshoot every once in a while knowing I can put into it exactly what I need. Nicer still is to find people who can throw me such raw emotions, especially knowing what I usually put my models through.

Bravo Dave! 

P.s. I need to learn how to hide my shutter release remote better. You can see it in almost every picture! *face palm*

 

 

Shooting macro. And finding detail.

See these bad boys?

(click the image to purchase them for pocket change. You won’t regret it!)

These tiny things help me see into another world.

WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?! You ask.

Allow me to explain: These lenses screw onto my camera lens and open up a whole new world.

An alien world.

A world so full of the most minute detail that it gives me the heeby jeebies.

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Ewwww!! Who knew the Soul’s Window could look like a butthole!

Macro changes EVERYTHING. It brings out details that our own buttholes can’t see normally.

But macro photography is hard. I’m still learning the technique and what I’ve gleaned is that you MUST autofocus and you MUST NOT use flash. So when I have my subject in frame, even the smallest amount of movement ruins the focus. Usually I just lean forward or backward about 0.67354 of an inch at a time until my focus is tack sharp…and then I try not to move. Or breath. Or pass gass. Or blink. Or anything that would cause me to move and lose focus. 

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This little fellow was smaller than my pinky nail. Bask in his cuteness.

My garden hosts lots of tiny creatures that look like horrific beasts under the macro lenses. Unfortunately, the photos in this post are all I have as far as macro photography goes.

 

I don’t claim to be an expert in all areas of Photography. In fact, I probably know the least about macro photography. It’s a niche I have touched on but it didn’t hold my interest (for now).

For those of you who are interested in actually learning something from this post, head on over to Click it Up a Notch where you can get some real information about Macro Photography. Courtney has such a knack for the technical aspect where, sadly, I lack finesse.

Enjoy Peons. And Happy Shooting!


Photographing hair. And Rebecca.

My cousin Katty called me one day to tell me about a wonderful photography opportunity.

Rebecca.

Rebecca, she said, had the most glorious waist-length hair. And was actually willing to let us photograph her. (Some people balk when they see my wild eyes and hear my even wilder ideas).

I love when opportunity calls. Or rather, I love when opportunity calls Katty, who then calls me. 

The Walking Hair showed up at my house, shiny, soft and connected to a shy, exotic face. My mind went full tsar bomba and exploded with possibilities.

We can have the fan blowing her wonderful mane around her face!

We can splay it around her head and shoot her from above! 

We can strip her naked and have her black tresses shield her private parts! 

As with all idea that come from my brain, some worked great! Some did not…..

I’ve never had long hair before so I wasn’t aware how heavy it would be. My tiny fan was NOT cutting it. Coupled with the fact that it was freezing that day, so my beautiful Hair (connected to Rebecca) was cold.

We stuck a space heater on Rebecca AND the fan, set up lights and got to work. (I’m surprised she didn’t leave my house with the sniffles).

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We are about 0.325 milliseconds away from blowing a fuse here. We used two umbrellas and an accent light, aka a hair light, to add a nice sheen to her hair.

I wished at the time the fusion of hot and cold air would create a tornado and swirl around Rebecca’s hair magically, but no such magic happened…woe is me.

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It was extremely difficult to get her hair to cooperate, and I remembered why I’ve always kept mine short. Still, the beauty of it, the flowing chocolate waves, were mesmerizing to watch. And she seemed to know how to tame it.

It took some finagling with the fan and positions but we finally managed to score some beautiful images.

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Soon after, we abandoned the idea of blowing hair (pouty lip), and took some glamour shots with her hair down and natural.

And then….oh! 

Magic! 

Rebecca reiterated over and over how she was not a professional model. That she didn’t know what to do, how to position her arms, her face, her hands. I was shocked by this. I thought she did amazing. Or maybe it was her quiet, shy nature that really made this shoot. 

I didn’t give her much direction with her face, somehow knowing her eyes would speak (which is usually the case with quiet people). And a reserved melancholy oozed from her skin.

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Suddenly the shoot wasn’t about her hair anymore. She was no longer a walking wig. Instead she became Rebecca, quiet, sweet, and full of a secret sorrow. Rebecca, who’s face tells the story we all want to hear. She was Rebecca, who just happened to have long hair. Ahh, the sweet bliss of a photo shoot transforming itself. 

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I am ashamed to say that I didn’t see it. I hadn’t met Rebecca before this day, I didn’t KNOW her, so I was dead set on shooting a beautiful girl with magical, Rapunzel hair. I never imagined it would turn into something more, (you’d think I’d know by now that my shoots never go as planned!). I’m not sad that it turned out differently. Just ashamed that it took half of our allotted time to see that this young (barely legal) girl could portray such emotion, and throw out such epic shots. Goosebumps.

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A waterfall of chocolate hair walked into my house, and a sweet, sad and brave girl walked out.

I only met Rebecca that one time. It’s been a year and I haven’t seen her since. But she taught me a lot!  Don’t assume. Don’t hold so tightly to ideas in your head. Don’t judge a book by it’s hair. 

 

I’ve been so fixated lately on finding models with an aesthetically pleasing quality. When the truth is, that beauty really IS on the inside. And sometimes it oozes out in time for me to photograph.

A Lesson in Perspective. And Head Tilting.

 

Photography can teach you many things.

Besides being an outlet for creativity, photography can help heal wounds, cope, organize your thoughts and teach life lessons.

It can also help you with perspective.

Have you ever had a problem so overwhelming you felt drowned? In the thick of a problem you sometimes feel there is no way out, no way around it, no other way but to trudge on through. And that my peons, blows. Blows hard.

Ass! No not ass….butt! No, not butt. BUT…BUT there is another way.

It’s called PERSPECTIVE friends. How you perceive something can completely change the outcome.

I suppose this is the part where I throw in a nifty example that totally correlates with this life lesson…hmmm…I got nothing.

Oh wait, I’ve got something. Once upon a time Brett and I made Hotel reservations in a part of the state we were not familiar with. Upon check-in we realized we’d accidentally booked a nice cozy little death trap smack down in the middle of Ghettosville. Our door had kick marks in it, three dead bolt locks, half eaten food on the bathroom floor and a TV that only half worked. Literally. Only half the screen worked.

All night we could hear fighting and stomping around the halls. And when we got in the elevator we gazed, in horror at a sticker above the floor buttons. It read: EXPIRES 2012. Here we were standing in 2016 hoping the whole elevator didn’t come off it’s hinges, sending us crashing to our collective deaths. (Or maybe it was just me that thought that. I can’t remember).

Time for that head tilting, perspective thing I was telling you about. We could have run for the hills, screaming of bed bugs and expired elevators. But we did not. Instead we were kind of excited. Death was imminent. We were being adventurous. We don’t do much of the whole dangerous thing. Suddenly our trip was kind of exciting and we drove home with PTSD and the proverbial “I survived” mentality. Not to mention a cool story to tell.

See! See how perspective changed the way I viewed the problem and in turn changed the outcome? So let’s go ahead and relate this to photography, shall we?

Sometimes just tilting our heads a little, tweaking and turning, can completely change a picture. The photo of model, Leilani, jumping in the air was lackluster at best. I wasn’t even gonna use it….UNTIL I turned my head a bit, squinted my eyes and imagined it differently. Simply turning the picture upside down completely changed the feel of this picture. What once was a picture of a pretty girl jumping in the air (i.e. blah), transformed into a photo that makes you think. Is she falling to her death? Is she transcending gravity? How does one fly?

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With this picture of Jessi I struggled for hours on perspective. Each version spoke in different ways. Was the Jessi on bottom the real Jessi, trying to communicate with her own downtrodden self? If I flipped it to the side it seemed she was on the other side of a door, begging to come in. Flipping it again made it seem as thought she was listening to herself cry.

See what I mean about perspective peons? Taking a simple image and flipping it, or looking at it from a different angle can change is so drastically.

I encourage lots of head-tilting in these next few shots (and in life!).

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This demon, to me, seemed to be begging for something. Much like a dog. A demon dog begging for scraps. No one likes begging. Flipping it changed the direction the demon was focusing and now it seems as though she is gazing longingly at her own death.

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Turn your head to the left. That’s the original. It shows physical strength yes (How does she hold her whole body weight up??). But it is not as pleasing to look at. At the current angle it shows strength of a different kind. Like the whole world is pushing down on her. Like she is giving her all to hold the world up, and it could come crashing down at any moment. Crushing her. Splat.

In Photography, and in life, sometimes all it takes is a simple head tilt to see things from a different angle. And maybe things aren’t as hopeless as they look.

Different angle. Different perspective. Different outcome. It’s easy, peeps.

 

This Blog Post is Untitled, Okay?

Y’all sounds so stupid.

So Un-American.

I’m embarrassed for you. Like hot-faced, curl in on yourself embarrassed.

Really, most of you have no idea what you’re talking about: Shitting Facebook posts like a white boy after Mexican food.

You sounds really, really uneducated.

Just thought you should know.

Photo Shoot Fun: Let’s slap some blood on that shit.

I don’t do impromptu.

The fickle (and brightly colored) parts of my brain that controls my nerves don’t appreciate being rushed. They tell me that everything must be planned out, in perfect order, first. For my comfort, things must be thought out, from every angle, planned, dissected, and then written down. If I could make an itinerary for every day of my life, I would. 

I like lists too.

Bu sometimes things just happen.

And by happen I mean my cousin coming over and saying, “Hey I brought my camera, let’s take some pictures”

WHAT?! Pictures?? Right NOW? What about my lists!? We haven’t planned anything out yet! We don’t have outfits, or makeup or even SOME kind of direction! We just can’t! 

Of course I didn’t say that….Instead I cooly shrugged my shoulders and said “Sure”

Meanwhile my anxiety had an aneurism and died on the floor. 

So yes, this photoshoot had no direction, or aim (I know! Awful right?!), but it still somehow turned out to be pretty gosh darn amazing.

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Katherine and I got half naked, slapped on some cool makeup and brought out my trusty (and well used) bottle of fake blood.

Folks, it was messy, it was sweaty and the fake blood burned our skin after a while.

We took turns using each others cameras so that all the good shots would be on both of them. (I think there may be some blood on my lens. meh)

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Shots of me courtesy of the lovely Katherine.

For editing I threw beauty out of the window. These shots were incredibly raw from the start, so I continued that theme when I sat down to edit. I didn’t edit out the flaws: The bags, freckles, pimples, age spots, blackhead, what have you. (It wasn’t laziness I swear! It was VISION! Honest…)

Instead I amplified the flaws. Mostly because I didn’t want these photos to turn into glamour shots, but also mostly because that’s just how I roll. There is a time and a place for blood and glamour, this night was not one of those times. 

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I didn’t want editing to take away any of the detail, to smudge, and heal the rawness from these. To me they are messy, and ugly, and REAL and beautiful.

And no, they don’t have a message or a meaning, because I didn’t plan them. But they SPEAK!

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This was one of the last shots and I think it is fitting. It was after 1am by the time we filled our memory cards.

After showers, we crawled into bed with visions of blood and awesomeness.

Amen peons.

Amen.