The Wraith

May 25, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

The Wraith Photoshoot

Several weeks ago, Mike Donatello contacted me and asked me if I wanted to start shooting again. This worked out well as I was already doing a photography training class that was helping my alter my craft and I needed to get my practice time in. It also didn’t hurt that we were both stuck at home due to social distancing with the dreadful Corona virus.

wraithgg-1wraithgg-1 We chose Aaron Hayes as our model and met at Fort Shantok (Uncasville, CT) park. It was May 3rd, 2020 around 1:30pm. The sun was out in full glory so we chose to use a patch of pine trees that were littered throughout the area like a pinball machine.

This made it really tough for getting the right exposure for the shot because the highlights were blown out. You would figure that it would be the sun spots on the ground that lit up my highlight alert like the Fourth of July but no, it was the horizon that did me in. I had to get creative to make sure that I could get the picture.

Aaron was suited up in scarves, robes, a baseball cap (to give the illusion of a longer face under the hood), armor, and so much more. The goal was to appear like one of the Wraiths from Lord of the Rings. I also was reminded of grounded dementors as well.

The photoshoot went well and we had it done in about an hour. I tried out some techniques of holding tree branches in front of my lens to get a bokeh look to the photos, but it did not add to the photos in this shoot.

After the shoot, I went home and began editing. For some reason, I felt as though the photos were too bright and green. It made perfect sense as this was taken during the beginning of spring when the leaves are more of a bright green/yellowish look. I choose to do something that I have never successfully done. I wanted to turn my super bright sunny shot (one of the toughest shots to take due to bleaching out scenes) and change it to a night shot.

I was worried that it would turn into the Slipper and the Rose scene where Cinderella is singing and dancing after the ball and you can tell that it was daytime and not night by the patches of sunlight in the background. You are supposed to be so enthralled with Gemma Craven that you don’t notice, but I did after my billionth time of watching it.

Ironically, it came out pretty decent. The photo does appear like a composition due to the gray line around my wraith. I’m guessing it is the sun highlighting the back of my character and it has turned grey with my edits. If I erase it, it will make the photo appear unfinished so I have left it in. I also wanted it to have a painted effect so I used some Lightroom presets as well as Photoshop color lookup filters. I also added fairy lights. I was debating whether to keep it the blue or add more color to it so that viewers can see it better. wraith-8wraith-8

Overall, I am happy with the photo but I may revisit it in order to see if I can fix the line that I mentioned before. My goal is to make my images the best that I possibly can.

It is intriguing how a wraith is supposed to be a ghost or specter according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. They are known to be made of gas or see through form. I believe that wraith means misty and it is of Scottish origin. This makes me think that I should re-do the photo to make it less visible. I could return to the location and try to retake that exact spot, or I can just clone it.

Wraiths in mythology are often made by dark spells. They are known for feeding or attacking other people’s souls.

In Lord of the Rings, the wraiths were the human kings that were trapped due to the rings of power that Sauron gave them. They were known as the Ringwraiths, Dark Riders, the nine, and/or the Nazguls. They had several different forms but one of them is definitely a hooded figure with a dark cloak that has a sword and gauntlets. (5/17/20)

wraith-21wraith-21 wraith-edit-1_pe1wraith-edit-1_pe1

 

 


Eating the Weeds

May 18, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

As I saunter outdoors, I quickly cast an arm across my eyes to protect them from the bright rays of the morning sun. The dew drops sparkle on the blades of spring grass like millions of opulent crystals. As I grow accustomed to the light of the outside world, I lower my temporary shield and gaze out towards the landscape in awe. It is a beautiful day and I am so happy to be alive to enjoy it. I smile in satisfaction as I dipped down to pluck several dandelion flowers from the bouquets of grass and bring them back into my abode…to eat. dandelion-1dandelion-1

Is this your typical way to grab your breakfast? Before this week, it wasn’t mine either. I just happened to discover the edible qualities of dandelions recently, and my curiosity was piqued. Perhaps yours will be as well. Let me tell you a little bit about this flowering weed and let you decide for yourself.

Long ago, dandelions were first spotted in recorded history through the Arabians in the tenth century and the Welsh in the thirteenth century. They were brought over to the United States by the colonists in the 17th century as a farming crop. The name dandelion (from the word dent de lion) is actually French and means lion’s tooth. This is possibly a description of the jagged leaves on the stem as well as the golden mane of the flower.

Every single part of the weed, from the flowering head all the way down to the unforked roots (if the roots are forked then they are young), is edible. This is not necessarily true for all wild foraged foods. Of course, it is important that if you do decide to try out this new delicacy, please do it in an meadow (or backyard) that is free of all pesticides. The flower may be edible, but it is not as good for you if it is injected with poisons. If is also important not to eat it if you have any allergies (especially if you have ragweed allergies). If you have eczema, the chances of having an allergic reaction are also higher.

Now that I have dispensed with all the formalities, I can get to the good part. This weed has so many rewarding qualities. It is truly shocking that it hasn’t been held in a higher regard. The FDA still calls it a weed and states that there is not enough supporting evidence to consider it medicine. Ironically, there are currently several manufacturers that sell it as a vitamin in stores.

It has been used by many different cultures for many generations to help with liver problems, kidney disease, heartburn, UTIs, appendicitis, and much more.  The leaves contain the vitamins A, B, C, and D. It also has iron, calcium, zinc, protein, dietary fiber, folate, magnesium, phosphorus,  and potassium. There is ongoing research that it may be able to help with cancer.

It has been seen in old school recipes for salad where just a few young leaves are thrown into a basic salad mix for some extra kick. The flowers are great as a wine. The stem is not the best tasting thing in the world, but it is edible. 

If eating it is not your cup of tea, there are other uses as well. It is great for garden soil if you chop it up and use it as fertilization. People used to smear it on their cheeks for makeup as well as creating a potent color dye. The milky white liquid in the stem is also used to get rid of warts. Oils made from the flower are good for the skin and sore muscles.   

dandelion-2dandelion-2 There is so much more to the world of dandelions. The things that I have written on this blog are just a mere drop in the bucket compared to all the uses that have been discovered out there, and they are everywhere! We’ve spent so much time buying all of our products from the grocery store, it is intriguing to know that there are some wild items out there that can be used for good causes. Sounds a lot more adventurous than saying: “I went to the supermarket today and bought some strawberries, doesn’t it?”

I am always searching for new information and ideas. Please feel free to add comments on any other uses or resources that you believe would help further our knowledge on dandelions and their uses.  

Resources:

https://www.naturallivingideas.com/things-to-do-with-dandelions/

https://www.trybackyardfarming.com/eat-dandelions-the-whole-plant-is-edible/

https://www.herballegacy.com/Chhabra_History.html

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-706/dandelion

http://untrainedhousewife.com/dandelion-uses-and-health-benefits

http://www.actforlibraries.org/plant-history-how-dandelions-came-to-north-america/

http://www.ourherbgarden.com/herb-history/dandelion-history.html

https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/12-things-to-make-with-dandelion-flowers/

 


Three Graces

June 12, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Three Graces

After my original Three Fates shoot, I desperately wanted to make the Three Graces as perfect and beautiful as possible. I had many changes that I wanted to make for this shoot, and although I did many of them, not all were completed and I felt as though it showed in the photos. Honestly, I was pleased with the photos through a fine art perspective, but it did not come out the way I had originally imagined. It wasn’t perfect, but I am a die core perfectionist so I highly doubt anything would be perfect to me. grace1smnologograce1smnologo

Model

 My model for this shoot was Bethany McMahon. Although this is my first time working with her directly, I have actually known her for years and have seen her working firsthand in both fashion shows and photography. I could not think of a better model for this shoot as I needed someone that could act as well as look pretty for the camera. Some of the embodiments of the goddesses needed to be young and innocent, while the others needed sneaky and arrogant personalities. Beth is one of the few models I knew would be able to pull this incredibly tough job off….and she did it in spades!

Concept

The original concept for this shoot was the three Graces (also known as Charites) from Greek mythology. They were three minor goddesses that usually hung around Venus/Aphrodite (Goddess of Love/Beauty) and represented charm, beauty, and creativity. They have been painted/sculpted many times by master artists like Botticelli, Raphael, Antonio Canova, and many others, and are usually viewed as blessings for a wedded couple. 

When I created the concept for the shoot, I really wanted to evoke a similar idea to the goddess Hecate where she represents the maiden, mother, and crone in one form. I would make the three of them into different attributes of a woman. To further this concept, I chose to use one model to represent the three as if they were triplets. 

fates graces small-5fates graces small-5 I was also doing this photo concept directly after a different shoot called the Three Fates. When I shot the Fates, I purposely used the same model as the Graces because I wanted to have a chiaroscuro (dark and light) feel to the entire thing. I envisioned them sitting side by side at a gallery event: one in white and one in black, contradicting each other with a beautiful allure. The Fates were photographed in black fabric with a black background while the Graces were photographed in white fabric using a white background. I wanted to embody light, purity, and simplicity in these photos and give them a ‘clean’ feeling. I also wanted the Three Graces facing each other as if they were going to dance because they are usually dancing or embracing in most depictions of them.

Location

Originally, I thought of using the beach for the shoot on a cloudy day, but I wanted to practice using floating lights so my studio at home was the best idea. The Three Fates shoot was done in the studio so Three Graces needed to mirror the original shoot. It also made since to choose a location where I could easily place the model (Beth) in three different spots easily while controlling the elements.

Settings and Angles

The camera was placed on a tripod and I set the ISO/aperture/shutter manually so that the settings would remain the same for each set of photos. Beth stood in the center of the room and I had the white background a few feet behind her. The photos were shot straight on and we changed her clothing/hair/position for the two other Graces and then took the photo again.

Props and Clothing fates graces sullen-1_pe1smallnologofates graces sullen-1_pe1smallnologo

There really was no costumes made for this shoot. Beth wore a simple piece of fabric that was draped in different ways on her body. The necklace was something old that I’ve had around the house for years and the crown was a piece of metal trim that I found and bent into a circle. I did have a crown in mind for this shoot, but I was not able to locate it. Also, at the beginning of the shoot, Beth wore a beautiful nose ring that had a thin chain that attached to her ear. We ended up taking it off because it looked like a stray hair in the final photos.

Editing

When it came to editing, the three photos were merged into one using photoshop and as steady of a hand as possible. I really did not do much for editing other than nudging an upper arm here and there, and chaging a frown into a smirk. For several of the fine art pieces, I used textured layers and Smart Photo Editor.

Learning for the Future

If I had a third shot on this shoot, I would have done it at night with a single light for the scene to make the shadows darker. Although it was smart to do the dark photos in daylight so that I would have little to no noise in my photos, the drama in the photo was decreased in the process. For the lighter Grace shots, I had a happy accident and overexposed my first four shots. The results were actually some of my favorite photos and I may repeat it in the future as I loved the high key angelic appearance of Beth in these photos. The photos that were the correct exposure were nice as well, but they didn’t hold the same kind of ethereal magic in them.

 


Three Fates

June 10, 2019  •  2 Comments

Three Fates

After several months off due to surgery and the business of family, friends, work, and other related events, I finally got back on the wagon and decided to do creative shoots again. The first one I wanted to do was one I did not think would be too difficult. Boy, was I wrong!

The Understanding of the Three Fates fates sm-1fates sm-1

The photoshoot was titled the Three Fates (also known as the Moirai). It revolved around the Grecian myths about Clothos, Lachesis, and Atropos, the three goddesses that were in charge of human mortality. Clothos spun the thread, Lachesis held it, and Atropos was in charge of cutting it.

Although many of us remember the three Fates from Disney’s Hercules movie as old crones that shared one eye, I decided that I wanted to make them younger appearing, and far more beautiful. Many quotes have included saying things like death is a seductress in the night and I wanted to embody that concept within the photo. I also wanted it to be one model that would be used to photograph all three, similar to the concept of the Greek goddess Hecate (maiden, mother, and crone) or the characteristics of one individual. I liked the idea, since the three Fates are always seen together and rarely anything else, that they could be triplets clouded in darkness.

The Concept and Shoot

Being that it was my first shoot in a while, it took a long time to prep and I didn’t do it the way I liked. I wanted to dangle a lightbulb in the photo as if it was a soul and have the three Fates be back to back in the photo like a reflection or triangle. Unfortunately, I noticed that putting the light bulb in the picture changed the lighting in the photo and exposure. I turned the lightbulb off and on for different poses and this also messed with the exposure. I plan to try this photo again and when I do, I will take the picture once and mimic the same settings in manual mode. I would also like to set up my tethering to the computer so that I can see my photos in a bigger picture (the braided Fate in the photo was slightly blurred due to me throwing on a light during the shoot).

3 fatesIMG_8276-Edit_pesm3 fatesIMG_8276-Edit_pesm I also plan to try a prime lens and a zoom lens for the shot. I could try to decide on directional light (soft) but I should probably practice that beforehand. I do like the way the light bulb illuminates the characters but wouldn't mind putting a small light near the bottom of the photo and darkening the background a bit so that it is easier to dodge and burn later on. I can also keep the light in one spot, regardless of which character is there, and see if there is more blue added to them.

I want to also see about dangling the light in a few areas so that there is more than one light in the photos (like souls surrounding them). The nose chain was pretty, but it was lost in the photo later on so it should probably be ditched. I also need to make sure none of the dresses have sleeves that could cover up another arm in the photo. I could also spray paint the scissors and make the thread thicker and more noticeable. It did come out as a decent photo, but I am convinced that I can do better...and I want to do better. This is about pushing myself to be the best, even if I have to repeat myself and fix my mistakes in the process. 

I have already talked to Bethany (the model for the shoot) and she has agreed to come back and redo the shoot. I hope to prep the shot beforehand so that it is quick and easy to get it all in. I think one of my major problems during the last shoot was that I was lazy and didn’t prep beforehand so instead of focusing on the shoot, I was running around grabbing pieces instead.

What to do for next time:

Preset up everything * fix background (make it wider and get a white one as well) * try using grey as one of the backgrounds and add clouds * link computer to camera (aka tether) * have her hold light inside of dangling it or tape it to a low stand * take all photos in manual mode

The Three Graces (my next shoot to work on) should be easier because I can flood the room with light and use that to my advantage. Regardless if I use all white or a sky background, the background for the photo will be white.

In my quest to understand what makes the best picture, I have placed two photos from this shoot with completely different edits. The one on the left has a natural edit in photo style whereas the one on the right was geared to appear more like a comic book or graphic novel. Please let me know which one you think is better in the comments below.

3fates - 2_pe1sm3fates - 2_pe1sm 3fates-shadows_pe-dragon noise controlsm3fates-shadows_pe-dragon noise controlsm

Archive
January February March April May June (2) July August September October November December
January February March April May (2) June (3) July August September October (1) November December
January February March April May June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December