VISION I had a vision of an abstract jumble of forks floating around in mid air, dreamy and ethereal with a shallow depth of field. I went to the local antique market and bought some old forks. Mostly they were a dollar or less per fork. My initial plan was to tie them to fishing wire, hang them on something and swing them around. After spending at least 3 seconds trying to tie a fork to a string I realised it simply wasn't going to work out that way and I would have to find another method to achieve my vision.
SOLUTION My solution was to throw handfuls of the forks up in the air, over and over and over again. I was holding a remote trigger in one hand and throwing the forks with the other. I soon fell into a rhythm where I would feel the right point at which to trigger the shutter. I was also using a Camranger which allows me to control and view the images on my ipad. This enabled me to visually assess the progress I was making without having to get up from my kneeling position after each shot. I put a bath mat on the floor so that the falling forks would not damage the polished concrete.
LIGHTING TESTS The first tests took place in the dark of night using speedlites. Even for a non-high shutter speed of 1/160 (which these were), if you use speedlites on low power (less than 1/32) you will be able to capture sharp freeze motion of fast moving objects without blur. This is because in addition to being shorter than the time the shutter is open, the duration of a low powered flash is shorter than a high-powered one. For flash power above 1/32 of a second the flash burst takes longer and so is more likely to light the movement of the object, resulting in a blurry object. Because I was shooting this first test at night, in the dark, I was able to use a very low power flash. This enabled me to have a shallow depth of field and make nice crisp captures. The images you see here are very rough composites, created as a proof of concept, so I didn't spend a lot of time finessing the masks.
LEARNING AS YOU GO ALONG
Two things I noticed during the test phase were:
1) Your hands get kind of grubby when handling old silver cutlery.
2) The bright blue bath mat was reflecting back into the forks, an undesirable effect.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED The next day, I decided I wanted to do start over. This time, instead of speedlites I used Profoto B1s. I sat and did this fork throwing thing for 1.5 hours over and over again until the battery on the light failed. I tried all sorts of different throws and hand movements, flicks of the wrists and twists, etc to try and coax different results out of the falling forks.
SACRIFICE Instead of the blue bath mat, this time I used a piece of black foam core for the forks to land on. As you can see on the right, the poor foam core suffered greatly in the name of art.
BEHIND THE SCENES SET UP The image below shows the simple set up for this shoot. Note how the camera is mounted as low as it can go on the tripod, almost touching the ground. There is one soft light in front and another harder light behind. A piece of wrapping paper is taped to the background to allow for some texture although in the end the depth of field was so shallow the texture didn't contribute much to the final result.
POST PROCESSING Once the shoot is completed, the next stage is to choose which images will go toward creating the final image. This involves scrolling through the hundreds of results in the image library and marking the fames which have potential before heading into Photoshop to start editing.
LAYERS & MASKS The last image in this blog shows elements of the selected images that I chose to make up the final result. In Photoshop, each image was treated as a separate layer with its own layer mask. These screen shots were taken during the 'work-in-progress' stage. Later, the final masks were painted more accurately. I always start with rough masks to make sure the overall composition and concept is going to work out as I intend it to before going back in to finesse. For the final result, head back up to the top of this page.
How would you have approached creating a shot like this? Would you have done anything differently? Do you have any tips and tricks of your own you'd like to share?
Sam Breachon September 14, 2016
I will have to look into the subscription question Heidi, thank you for your kind words!
Heidi Anne Morrison September 13, 2016
Superbly crafted post Sam ♥ really love the creativity ♥ and the blog looks GREAT ! Is there a way to subscribe to posts. Would love to follow along :)