Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NettieM houses project continued

Earlier this year, in May 2014, when NettieM asked for a few photos of her houses project. Since then she had produced many more. In this instance it was an opportunity for me to trial a more technically ambitions process.

Here are some notes.
  1. Carefully set up the tabletop so that the immediate background is perfect white.
  2. Fine tune the lighting to work for light and dark subjects.
  3. Configure the camera and laptop as a tethered shoot, with a cropped image area to get good speed performance, in RAW.
  4. Shoot each house individually from a common spot on the table.
  5. Use batching to crop, curve adjust, saturation, etc. and export to jpg.
  6. Open as layers in photoshop/gimp.
  7. Use the magic wand and free select tool, set to the same feather setting (4px), to remove the backgrounds.
  8. Play around with copies of the file.

In essence this was a highly systematized shoot as would normally be applicable catalog products, but applied to fine art ceramics. There are several advantages to doing it this way.
  1. You can rearrange the subjects any way you like later.
  2. You can create large crisp high resolution composites, with pixel resolutions that exceed normal photography (100MP plus, compared to 40MP of a normal shot).
  3. All items just happen to be catalog ready or can be curated into styles and favorites, as creative ideas are identified down the track.

Also, here is a link the a previous installment of this project,  http://www.notnewman.com/2014/05/little-houses.html

Monday, September 1, 2014

Zenix building to poster / postcard to building

When you climb to the top of Sydney Park and look towards the Sydney skyline, one of the beautiful features that imposes itself is the high rise building of the 221 Zenix apartment complex (225 Sydney Park Rd Erskineville NSW 2043 Australia).

As a backgrounder, in 2013 I was experimenting with producing graphic mandalas, then esoterically referred to as Project Y for lack of creative wordplay to come up with a meaningful term. The source material for each graphic was a high resolution photograph of an object, which then underwent an iterative process of symmetrical duplication, rotations, and other tricks, to create an appealing high res graphic to be printed as a poster.

One of the subjects on the hit list was this building. With my studio space being located close by, I was constantly reminded to follow up the building idea. My hunch was that it should work well, having countless sharp lines, great geometry, and richly colored sunset reflections. So its turn came up eventually. After photographing (August 2013) and playing around with it, the first results were not what I expected, and not so good at all. I was not to give up, but rather walk away, comeback to it and try again until it kinda worked.

The final result was something of a lead light, like a large circular feature window one might find in a cathedral. Like the subjects before it, I printed on an A1 size large proofing poster, and it started to grow on me. Someone in passing asked me if I had a background in chemistry, because this piece looked a crystal lattice. Well, no, but thanks.

After some months had past, and late 2013 meandered to early 2014, Sean aka Mister SQ1, did an SQ1 artist call out for submissions for sculptures. This was as fine an excuse as any to make a lamp out of one of the graphics -- what else can a photographer submit? After all, I indulged myself in making lamp like things since I was a kid, don't really know why the appeal but regardless. In this case, and after scratching my head for a few days about it, the structural material of choice was an Ikea pedestal lamp. The light source was a multicolor LED gadget from ebay. After trialing some configurations, and then combining with several posters, it had become clear that The Building was going to be my best bet for this challenge. What was working better than expected was the variety of colors and geometries in this poster and how it all interacted with the color rotation of the LED. The effect was that it looked like it was moving! After a month or so on exhibit, like all good things, it was time to wrap it up and move on.

These geometric mandala posters were a solution looking for a problem, and after considerable rumination about what to do next the project was shelved as I was busy with other work. But like all good things, it's never over. One day I was overjoyed when one of my posters was sold, not even as a ready to use mounted print! But eventually we got there, and it was an impressive B0 size print and mounted on lightweight foam core! More time had passed, and another brainwave happened. Within this next chapter (almost a year after the original photo was shot) and a bigger idea, I thought it would be nice to give a gift to the people, namely give a postcard of the graphic to the residents in the tower. The reason is not yet clear to me, but who needs any certain reason to give gifts and to communicate with strangers, we just do. Well that and the fact that all artists are shameless self promoters.

The picture at the top of this post is the final result that I opted to rest on. The photos below are the lamp sculpture and prototypes, the original photographic material and a mixed bag of development snapshots.

The pictures above are hardly a step by step illustration of the progress from start to the finished piece, but it should hint at what is going on.

What I found was that you just don't get good outer, mid, and center areas out of a single transformation progression, but had to combine range areas from several progressions, based on feature niceness. Ideally, the finished piece should be complex and colorful throughout.

In this case we start with a 36MP 3:4 photo and end with a 36MP 1:1 square image. In later such projects the end result tends to explode to a resolution that really pushes your machine to the limit. At some point in the future I hope to work on a far more powerful workstation, where a gigapixel will be the norm.

It is worth a mention is that these are not kaleidoscopic or fractal. They can be described as mandala-like, with a combination of algorithmic repeating steps regulated by a keen artistic eye.

(Note that the files on this blog are quite good, at 1600px, with a free CC0 license. However full res files are available, with a resolution of 6000px squared, which is excellent for large format fine art prints.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ceramic lotus lamp by littlewhitedish.com.au

Back in January (2014) I ordered my first custom made ceramic gift for someone very special, designed and made by Deb Taylor (aka littlewhitedish.com.au at sq1.net.au ). We can say that the gift was very well received. Fast forward to the present (August), Deb asked me to photograph her new line of lamps, The Podcasts, modeled after a lotus seed pod. The design is based on a winning functional sculpture at The Hunters Hill Art Prize 2014 ( huntershillarts.com/gallery/2014/Selected-Works/9894-original ). To me this is one of those moments where life comes full circle.

More information can be found one Deb's website ( http://littlewhitedish.com.au/lighting.html ).

The album should give Deb a good amount of high quality images to pick and choose from for developing promotional material. Here are my favourites. I think they are quite beautiful but that's no surprise.

And if you are curious about the setup, here is how it was shot. As Deb already had a variety of DIY pics, and a planned outdoor shoot, I had two ideas to bring to the table. They were, to shoot it as a sculpture as it is a sculpture prize winner, and then as a lamp as that is the main purpose and prospective buyers need to be inspired appropriately.

Photographing as the pods as sculptures, was fairly straightforward. What is not shown above is that I had a softbox on each side, set to full power, pointed at the white paper background. Also not shown is me experimenting with a speedlight to highlight features. Later I noticed that my perspex sheet has accumulated quite a few scratches. This is usually not a problem under more direct light, but in this case shallow angles bring out shadows. Consequently I had to do a bit more retouching. A new takeway from this shoot was finding out about the magenta issue that causes a faint pinkishness instead of 255 white, even after automatic highlight reconstruction, but this was easy to fix with calibrated and saved color curves applied to each image consistently.

With the lamp turned on and needing to capture enough light, this was the next challenge. At ISO50 and f11, the speed had to come down to about 1/5s, so it was important to wait for the pendulum motion to stop before shooting. With a speedlight for background effect and playing with the whitebalance, we got a nice dusky sky look. Later, with the perspex sheet fully illuminated by two softbox strobes behind it, we got our flawless white background look.