A Great Mess of Metal

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A behind the scenes look at how I created a 'false perspective' image.

During the late Summer of 2020 I took part in Round 29 of The Photography Scavenger Hunt  which was declared as "Straight Out Of Camera" challenge (meaning no editing was permitted). This meant doing cool things with the camera instead (shouldn't that be what photography is about anyway?)!  I knew I wanted to take the opportunity to try out a false perspective technique. For several years I had been in awe of this video creation by photographer Bela Borsodi and I wanted to explore creating that kind of work, but paired with portraiture. One of the words the Scavenger Hunt was "metal" – it seemed like it was the perfect material to experiment with. 

Behind the Scenes Metal Shot

First Attempt

The basic premise of the false perspective technique is to attain an effective two dimensional image that is achieved somehow by using strategic placement of elements at different levels of depth. I'd first played with false perspective 18+  years ago when a friend and I, armed with an early digital point & shoot,  were mucking around in LA each pretending to hold the Hollywood sign in the palm of our hand. I wish I still had a copy of that somewhere!


Despite that early potential,  I certainly felt like a first timer going into this challenge. I would have preferred to set the shot up in  a  more interesting  or 'normal' space like the kitchen or the bedroom, but because I didn't  know how long it would take me to pull all the pieces together,  I was worried about disrupting a shared  living arrangement. My home is not very traditional in terms of interior decor,  but I do have a sofa I can move around my otherwise mostly empty space, so I decided to use that piece of furniture as the base for the shot. 


My goal was to stick to something simple so I chose to attempt  the creation of a rotated square shape out of metal.  At first I didn't  know the best technique for lining the shot up,  but my mind was telling me that I somehow needed to work out how to visualize a 2D shape mapped on to a 3D environment. At first I thought of projecting the shape and using tape to create its outline. So I played around with that for a bit, but it quickly became clear that it was probably a finicky workflow at best. I was also limited by the scale of my projector's output with the available distance.


After the projector test, I sat on it for a few days. 


Behind the Scenes Metal Shot

The Camranger & The Overlay

That's when I remembered that my Camranger has an overlay feature. This turned to be the  simple, effective and absolutely perfect solution for this task. 

A Camranger (I'm a huge fan) is a brilliant device that you attach to your camera in order to essentially beams the live view settings of your camera over to another device (I use an ipad). From the device,  you can then see what the camera sees using live mode and you can change the camera settings. Additionally it has an  overlay feature that enables a semi-transparent .png to be superimposed over the live view as you work. This can be really useful for lining up photography compositions with layouts, for example, or when creating false perspective shapes! 


All I had to do  from hereon in was wander around with my ipad adding metal items to the scene, until I filled in the shape in the overlay. Easy peasy! (Although I will confess it took me several hours.)

Behind the Scenes Metal Shot

Compositional Considerations

From the outset I planned for a portrait. So before I started building the set, I made sure that I would fit in the frame. 

behind the Scenes of the Metal Shoot

Side View 

It's only when you see the structure from different angles do you start to appreciate the magic of this false perspective technique.

behind the Scenes of the Metal Shoot

Top Down View

Here is another view, looking down on the scene  from above.


But perhaps the best way to get a feel for how this all comes together, is to take a video tour...

Video Walk-around the Set-Up

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The Portrait Part

As for the portrait part of the image, for that I invented an alter-ego who I imagined as a middle-aged eccentric woman  taking part in some kind of whacky reality TV game show. She wears sparkly sequins, metallic lamé and wears way too much gaudy jewellery and a daft crown on her head. 

In Conclusion

I am grateful for having gone through the process for making this work. However it feels more like a proof of concept than a completed idea, for me. I wasn't fully happy with the location, the composition and the lighting. After all the hours it took to set up, I am kicking myself that I didn't do a better job with the lighting, which simply isn't very interesting nor dramatic  in its current state. I hope that having gone through this process will be a springboard for future artwork, though.  I have some ideas brewing that I'd love to try using this technique, once the Pandemic calms down and I can access alternate locations and spend more time on crafting the light to support the story. 

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