Surreal Pop with Gel Lighting Techniques

One of my favorite ways to get the kind of surreal pop I love in my photography is to use the simple combination of colored gels and LED lights.  Here we look at a few ways to use gels and why they are a valuable addition to any art and portrait photographer’s toolkit.

All images in this video shot with the Fuji X-T2 and the Fuji Neo Classic Instax Mini 90, models include Shasta Wonder, Kaila Stone, Mckenzie Eckels, and L. Shima.

Out of Control Photography

I usually cite 1997 as the year I started taking photography seriously as my main form of artistic expression, so over the last 20 years of creative practice, school and teaching others I’ve absolutely internalized a lot of photographic rules and commonly accepted wisdom.  It’s very easy to make a photo that ticks all the boxes of what’s supposed to happen in a photo- which is why I’ve been stretching myself in the last few months to make work that surprises myself.  One of the main strategies is to use a camera where I can’t 100% full compose the picture, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic, and I shoot material where either I’m in motion, the model is in motion, or we do some random effect to it like double exposure or damaging the film.

Inevitably this leads to some garbage shots, but no higher percentage than the ones I would say I get by doing straight “composed in the viewfinder” type of work.

The above images were shot with model Kaila Stone in my Tempe studio, and we had a blast getting crazier and crazier with the instax- tossing them in the air, doing non-portrait portraits with the leg jammed through a backdrop.  These were voted favorites over all the more straighter, “everything in its right place” type images.

A few words about Ren Hang

It’s been a week since one of my favorite photographers, Ren Hang, apparently took his own life at the age of 29.  Ren made very stark, minimal, ring-lit images of people in piles, nude, doing strange things with animals or genitals, but all very unsexy.  It felt to me like a statement on the weirdness of just being a walking organic mess.

I’ve been showing Ren’s work to everyone I work with for the last year or so- a Pinterest board full of loose, random, colorful, “unposed” poses- and to some extent I’ve gotten some successful images, but nothing like the kick in the balls that Ren made with every image.  He left behind such a mountain of images, each one a masterpiece.

Rest in peace, Ren!

Minimal Monochrome Model Instax

I’ve come to the conclusion that instant film is the ideal format for my photography – minimalist, strange, shot with “what you see is what you get” style lighting.  These were shot with Fujifilm Instax Mini Monochrome Film – 10 Exposures on my Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic Instant Film Camera, and here’s a little tutorial from my YouTube on how to get the double exposure effect you see in Shasta’s image!

Minimalist portraiture with Mckenzie Eckels

I was in LA earlier this month and had the opportunity to shoot with a model long on my wishlist, Mckenzie Eckels.  One of my gimmicks during this trip was a diffusion filter roll bought 2 years ago but never used; I was inspired to chop holes in it by 1950s Vogue photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, and we took advantage of messing up Mckenie’s makeup towards the end on the diffusion.

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This ended up being one of my favorite images from the trip, one that barely shows the model but shows a lot of personality.  Shot with the Fuji X-T2 with the magnificent Fujinon XF35mmF1.4 R.

Bernardo – new video art with Meredith Adelaide

Some video pieces grow out of a plan, and others form organically; “Bernardo” is definitely one of the latter.  I had shot with artist Meredith Adelaide, and it went so well we scheduled another day the following week.  I had used up my more fully fleshed out concepts on our first day, so we ended up visiting the Phoenix Art Museum and shooting around the Salt River based on 2 ultra-basic FX ideas I had written in my notes (“light painting in firefly room” and “hovering with trampoline”).  There was a random encounter with a frog at the Salt River that seemed to shape the experience- Meredith randomly dubbed him “Bernardo”, and somehow he ended up being the focus of this particular video art piece.     A random encounter between a woman and a frog leads to a cosmic experience for both.  Filmed on the Fujifilm X-T2 Mirrorless Digital Camera> and effects in Adobe After Effects.

New on Udemy- Making Motion Comics

motion-comics-coverI’m proud to announce my first Udemy course – Making Motion Comics: Animating Illustrations in Adobe Photoshop and After Effects!   This is a specialized form of animation using portions of original artwork to animate a story rather than individual drawings for each frame or cgi characters.  By animating in this style, we are able to keep the aesthetic of individually drawn panels with complicated foregrounds and backgrounds; we are able to make our comics into films.

I used this technique in my short film, Innocence of Seduction.  It allowed me to utilize hundreds of drawings from public domain comics into my own animation:

For a limited time, the course is on sale for $15, normal price $35! See you in class!