Photo by Andrew Kufahl
This photo has been mulling around in my brain for a number of weeks. I've had lots of different versions of what I wanted to attempt, but couldn't really focus on any one idea in particular, so I just left it stew in my head for a while. About a week ago I decided it was time to acquire a mirror so that I would have it available for whenever I decided it was time to do the shot.
(I'm going to sidetrack for a second and talk about mirrors and photography... I highly recommend that when using a mirror for photographic purposes that you stay away from the mirrors that have beveled edges. Bevels cause a lot of problems because they show things along the edges of the mirror that aren't in the composition. I'm not saying you CAN'T get them to work, I'm just saying they can cause a lot of frustration that's just not worth dealing with.)
I still didn't really have a good solid idea on the day I decided to use the mirror. I mean, I had kind of whittled it down to one or two versions, but neither was necessarily better than the other. In the end, the final shot wasn't really any of the top contenders that I had floating around in my brain. In other words, the session was more improvisational than anything... which I'll talk about in a minute.
Breaking a mirror... I'm a somewhat skeptical and cautious person. So when it comes to breaking a mirror, I'm not necessarily thinking about "how" to break the mirror, I'm thinking about "what could go wrong" as a result of breaking the mirror. So the first thing I decided to do was search the internet to see if anybody out there had advice about breaking mirrors. The first tip I found was to duct tape the back of the mirror. I was pretty sure that needed to be done, but this was good confirmation for my skeptical nature. Without the duct tape the pieces will all be loose and will just fall out all over the place. The duct tape keeps it all together. Outside of that, I really didn't find anything else on the Internet that pertained to my situation. It took me about 30 minutes to duct tape the mirror (because god-forbid the pieces of duct tape not be properly aligned). First I ran strips side-by-side vertically across the back of the mirror, then I did the same horizontally just in case. The next biggest struggle was deciding where I was going to hit the mirror. It was actually quite frustrating, even though it seems quite simple, but where the mirror is struck could play into what the story of the photo is. For example, if I was going to punch the mirror I would probably have the main break in the middle, or if I wanted it to look like I hit my head against it I would have the main break higher. But, as I said before, I hadn't really decided what the story was going to be, and that's why it was a struggle. You have to remember too, that once it is broken it is broken... you can't do it over without going and buying another mirror. So in the end I decided to put the break a little higher, and I would just make it work somehow. The physical act of breaking the mirror was more difficult than I expected. I thought just a firm tap on the back with a hammer would do it, as I wanted to make sure I didn't put a hole through it... but it ultimately took quite a whack to get it to break.
Once the mirror was set I just needed to figure out what I was going to do. I went through a series of setups, but none really inspired me until I did the fist-punching one. I spent probably 30 minutes figuring out the hand, elbow, body, head, and eye positions in the composition. I use visual cues to help me line-up consistently each time, and it usually works pretty well. For example, I always put my feet in the exact same spot, I place my knuckles in the same place, I close my right eye and just use my left eye to look at a particular crack in the mirror and make sure I can see the camera lens line up a certain way in relation to that crack. I got a couple keeper (safe) shots, so I moved on to doing shots with more facial emotion, such as laughing deviously, yelling, etc... Again, I got a couple keep (less safe) shots, so I moved on to one more idea I wanted to try. I grabbed a bowl of sugar and proceeded to use my right hand to throw a small amount at my left hand immediately before the shutter released. The hope was to make it look like a little bit of mirror debris was flying through the air. It actually looked decent, but I wanted more variety in the size of the debris, so I used some purple crushed glass. That's right, I said "purple"... it's all I had available. Looking at the preview on the back of my camera, I decided not to stress about the purple crushed glass, because it was the only purple in the photo and I figured I could adjust the color of it in post-processing (which is exactly what I did). The diffcult part of throwing the crushed glass isn't the timing, because I've done enough throwing of stuff in my 365 that I kind of have the hang of it. Instead, the problem I ran into was that the physical act of throwing something made it very difficult to keep my head position steady so that my left eye was in an intact area of the mirror (that is, that my eye wasn't landing on a crack). But in the end, once I realized this was a problem and focused on trying to stay still while throwing, it only took a handful of shots to get some keepers. So I decided I had enough, and it was time to wrap it up for the night. I took a photo of the lighting setup, then headed to the computer to select an image and process it.
Post-processing was actually very straight-forward. I don't think I did any blemish correction on myself or anything in the scene. The brunt of the post-processing work was really spent getting the colors the way I wanted them to be, and making some adjustments to shadow areas so that things looked good from a contrast-perspective. Then, of course, I had to deal with the purple crushed glass... so I added a "hue/satuation" layer, set the color I wanted to affect to "magenta", adjusted the range of magenta I wanted to affect, desaturated it, lightened it, and shifted the hue slightly until I had something more neutral (gray/white). I didn't need to mask anything off in order to change the crushed glass color, because (as I had mentioned earlier) there was nothing else in the image that was purple. I did sharpen the photo a little heavier than normal, as I wanted to cracks in the mirror to really pop and look sharp (literally), but overall the post-processing didn't take very long at all.