Building a Composite with Beer, LaBier to be exact… and the Boys from Pine Street Brewery.
Alright, I have had many people ask about my “Photographs” asking if they are sometimes photos or paintings, and well, the answer is neither, not entirely anyway. My interest and experience in drawing and painting spans my entire life, and after embarking upon my Master of Fine Arts Degree, I soon found that story telling was something I loved to do within my Photographs. As my degree continued, I took every Photoshop class I could, and studied the mechanics of Photomontage, Compositing, Advanced Lighting, and Concept. I was inspired by people like Tim Tadder, Erik Almas, Dave Hill, and Chris Clor. One thing that the Academy of Art University does well, is require you to seek out and work with people in the field that are doing what you want to do. Will Mosgrove, the Director of our MFA Program introduced me to George Fulton, strangely enough I had a copy of a Photo Publication I bought before I started my degree and his image was on the cover. Working with George was a great opportunity. As my work progressed, I was called into James Wood’s office, the Director of the entire Photo Program at AAU. I had popped up on his Radar, and he wanted to have a little chit chat. The meeting was a great one, and he turned me onto Chris Clor’s work. I was driven to work with him! As I began to plan for my semester abroad in South East Asia, I contacted Clor in the hopes of doing a Directed Study. The likelihood of this seemed somewhat of a long shot, after all, he was a PRO! Doing amazing work, why would he want to work with me, he probably didn’t even have the time. Well, I swung for the fences, and he responded in less than 24 hours!!! We met on Skype and I was blown away by this guy! It was going to be a great semester.
One of the biggest things I learned in working with people like Clor, was that an image needs to be well composed. This may sound easy enough. But in photo composites, or hell, commercial photography in general, OK… every photograph… people seem to think (my favorite expression) “Just Photoshop it!” Got a plane, got a model, got a sky, well why can’t you recreate WWII? I mean can’t you just Photoshop in hundreds of planes, gunfire, explosions, a setting sun… oh yeah, they had that in Pearl Harbor the movie with Ben Affleck, yeah, oh, and lets put that picture they had on the Enola Gay on the side of all the planes too…. BLAH BLAH BLAH… Photoshop is a tool, a helper, and one you need to wield properly, trust me, I have built many many BAD composites, but through each one I learned a great deal. As Clor said to me once, “Don’t force it, if it ain’t working… move on, nothing should take more than 5 minutes in Photoshop.” I easily multiply that by 5 and give myself more time, but in the end… if it ain’t gellin’… ABORT MISSION.
So, back to story telling. A good friend of mine… we’ll call him Mah-kus (Boston Accent). He calls me up one day and says he knows some guys brewing beer in an old mansion in Pac Heights that is under renovation. This mansion is supposed to be one of the oldest in all of San Francisco, it has been the residence of the rich, the powerful, and even served as a brothel at one point, true story. Needless to say it took little convincing, Beer, Mansions, Old Brothels, sounds like a great way to spend Friday night. So the guys over at Pine Street Brewery really threw together an amazing event. Jay, the Brewmaster, was elbow deep in hops and barley as Dave, the jack of all trades, answered questions, sterilized gear, and ran tours around the mansion. After seeing all the work these guys put into their craft, and being able to walk through such a historic brothel, I mean mansion, with an Oyster Stout in my hand… the story told itself.
So what follows is some of the work that goes into creating my imagery. At the root of it all is great people, awesome environments, my fantastic crew, and a little beer.
I begin every project with a sketch of what I would like to do, a general overall placement of the elements, sometimes it is really dialed in, other times more loose. Here is a sample of a piece I did with a Boat Captain, I knew I wanted to have a very texturized and gritty look and feel. I had an approximation of placement, and some great Cinematic Fire References.
After that, I find the proper angles I want to work with. I had been to the mansion previously, and the rooms were constantly in a state of rearrangement. I knew that the beer machine and the guys were the main theme, so when I arrived on the day of the shoot, I scouted for a suitable backdrop. Here were three angles of the same room I explored.
After I found my angles, I capture a series of images, usually anywhere from 3 to 9 images, shot from a tripod. This is similar to an HDR capture, however, I am trying to avoid a straight HDR look. I had wireless flashes lighting the Fireplace, the upper stairway, and ceiling. All of that in addition to the strange ambient light in the stairwell, back bathroom, and exterior of the building.
Once I get the angles of the background set, my multi frame capture complete, I capture my models performing a variety of poses. Here are some of the model and assistant outtakes.
The one thing that is super important when compositing is lining up of camera angles, and trying to capture your pieces with similar lenses, focal distances, f-stops, etc… however, that isn’t always possible, and the brew kitchen was TINY, so here you can see where I had to capture the beer machine, and the alterations I had to make to it in order for it to fit into my background. Additionally, there were large parts of the background that I had to “create” from existing pixels, the floor and staircase leading upstairs to name a few.
With the background coming along, I had to pick my foreground character from my shots. Since Jay is the Brewmaster over at PSB, he was a logical choice, however I did get shots of Dave, after I tested my lighting on my Assistant.
With the chosen model images, background configuration, and direction I wanted to continue all mapped out, it was time to render organic elements like smoke, fire, shadows, and lighting effects, as well as correct any distortion issues. This is never quick, and is often very laborious, requiring the most time during the editing process. This is what some people call the “Just Photoshop It Phase.” A lot of attention and time is spent here, and all I can hope for is that I continue to master the various techniques which will allow me to continue to deliver a high quality product in a more efficient time frame.
These are the two final variations I began to dial in, as you can see, some spherical distortion was removed, and the beer machine was detailed, and the background finalized.
At this point, I needed to finalize the organic elements and mood of the background.
And here it is… ladies and gentlemen… “The Pine Street Brewery – Story of Creation!”
If you made it this far, thank you for hanging in there. Hopefully I have added some insight into my process of Photo Illustration Creation. It is not a simple journey, and I appreciate all of the help, guidance, and inspiration I have received along the way, especially from CLOR!
Happy New Year!
You will see a lot of new work in 2012 from Daryn LaBier, and that’s a fact!
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- January 4, 2012 / 10:14 am
- How it's done.