Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 72 of 365 - "If you'll excuse me please... some men are here to take my life."

Photo by Andrew Kufahl

Lots of things to talk about with this photo.

Let's start with one of the obvious ones (that is, obvious if you follow my Flickr photos)... This photo is similar in nature to my "Day 17" photo from my 365 project. Similar, but not the same. One of the problems I have with doing self-portraits is that it tends to take quite a while to do them. On average, getting one good photo takes at least 2 hours (that includes coming up with an idea, deciding on location, deciding on props and wardrobe, lighting, etc...) Because of that, it is difficult to do more than one variance of a theme/concept. Therefore, one thing I've decided to do throughout my 365 project is to essentialy extend the theme/concept over multiple days (not necessarily successive days). In other words, tell a story with each individual photo, and then a more complete story with all the photos together. Currently I have two such stories in-progress in my 365 project.

How this photo came to be... Today there was no intent of doing this particular photo. I was actually making good headway on another idea I came up with yesterday. But, some things happened and I lost my momentum. The other idea I was working on did involve the briefcase, and I knew I wanted to do one of the "gangster" photos with that briefcase, so I decided to switch gears and go after that. I'm glad I don't lose my drive in these situations, but I have to tell you that it is very, very frustrating.

Lighting... There was a lot of temptation to use a similar lighting style that I used in the "Day 17" photo, but the natural light coming through the window was too stellar. The problem however, is that by the time I got to going with the "gangster" concept, the daylight was fading very fast. And, to make matters worse the sky was completely cloudy. One thing though that I believe is always on my side, is that my neighbors house is about 20 feet from mine, and it is white... so it makes some beautiful light coming through the window (sunshine or no sunshine). I ended up shooting this one at ISO 800 (to keep noise minimal) and a shutter of 1/25.

Camera positioning... Camera angle was a little tricky on this, because I wanted to shoot this from a low angle. However, at 38mm focal length, my right hand was looking a little huge. So, I opted to raise the camera up, then tilt it down so that it kept everything relatively undistorted looking. I also purposefully chose to use a "dutch" angle on this, cause I tend to think of "dutch" camera angles when I think of the "noir" style.

Composition is usually an extremely crucial thing for me. I'm not saying I'm great at it, I'm just saying it is very important to me. The gun leading straight into the extended left arm (I'm not left-handed by the way). The briefcase at an almost parallel angle with the left arm. The right arm bent so that the forearm points back toward the briefcase. The upper-arm out slightly. The stairs in the background leading right down toward the subject. And you can't really see it, but there is also a corner (two walls converging) right behind the subject's head in the background. All these elements are purposeful, to create a nice flow between all important things within the frame. Towards the end of this shoot, I considered repositioning the table so that the edge of it angled more toward the subject, but moving the table had a domino-effect on lighting and posing and props... so I just said "to hell with it" and ended the session.

Somebody on Flickr commented that the image is "too clean". I would agree. Even though I did my "grunge" post-processing on it, it lacked some of the elements that really allow that technique to grunge a photo. I did take a number of photos during this session where I was smoking a cigarette, and while that did create some interesting changes in the atmosphere of the photo... I wasn't getting a good look from it, so I snuffed it out. In the end though, noise and grit can be added at any time, so I'm leaving this as-is... and I'm okay with that.

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