Bit n Spurs - beginning to end
Camera - Canon 5DMKII
Lens - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L
Tripod - Manfrotto 055XB Head/496RC2
Lights - Alien Bee 400 Triggers/PCB CyberSyncs
Softbox - PRO Studio Solutions 24x34
Shot Details: ISO160, F/13, 1/125sec @ 190mm
I'm going to try and give you as much detail as I can, including the creative side and thought process. I don't think people do that enough...I want to know WHY you created this image and what the thought process was, in other words, what was going through your head setting this up? That's what I want! If you don't want that part, I think you're missing out on the most important piece. On we go.
This image was a random thought I had at the spur (no pun intended) of the moment this morning. I have a ton of old and used cowboying stuff sitting in trunks. It's been on my mind to setup this kind of shot, and this was the perfect opportunity. As I dug through the stuff, my mindset was on finding rugged textures, worn, beat up stuff.
I chose the spurs because of the ornate heel band and larger rowel, the plus was they still had mud on them. When I pulled them out, I immediately knew those would be the "subject". Everything else now will compliment or enhance the image. The lantern will be an anchor in the image.
After heading in the studio, the next thought was, what do I put these on? I have several old trunks, but the problem there...I have to empty and move them in! I settled on my go-to end table (bought for $25 at a second hand store). Reason being, I like the top of it...it's scratched up and has really cool character with the wood grain, it'll fit with the theme. The next question that went through my mind was: how should I organize the stuff?
Putting the pieces together is...difficult. How do they make sense, how do I make them make sense?? This I did by feel. I first placed the anchor, the lantern. I placed it in the back because it's not the center of attention, the spurs are. The bit that's chewed up and has great texture...that'll be front, it'll provide a great place for the viewers eyes to rest and provide a point of interest. The other bit just to the right of that. The saddle in the back is a backdrop for the overall image.
Setting up the camera/angle
One thought that kept going thru my head was; what angle should I shoot from? I really didn't know. I would shoot from several and see what I liked best. As for the shot details, I knew I needed a relatively deep focus vs selective, and a storytelling aperture. In this case I chose f13 - however, my lights were metered at f10. This was because I wanted a grunge look to this image and using my preset will bring up the blacks, crank up the clarity, etc. Long story short I intentionally shot darker than metered to accommodate for the preset that I'd be using. In total I shot from four different angles, with the fourth being my favorite.
You learn a lot from the first shot! I recently told someone, exposure is like cooking - start with a base and add more/less ingredients after that. Same goes here.
I immediately saw the things I needed to fix and work on. 1) overall, too much light everywhere, 2) reflections, 3) screws on the saddle, 4) camera angle, 5) placement of spurs
First things first, controlling the light. I moved the softbox straight up so the light would fall down on the image, and also remove the large reflection. Next thing, move the items around, look for opportunities to mask things out...in camera! I should say at this point, I took a total of 23 images. In this image I used the straps to cover one screw head, the other covered by fuzz from the floor.
Now change up the angle and move the spurs. New issue, silver rigging ring...grrr. Time to bring out the gaf tape! Still need to address the placement, angle and little reflection.
Once I saw the exposure here, I knew I was where I wanted to be. Now it was just placing everything to compliment one another.
In lightroom, I applied my grunge preset. Then I used a custom brush I made to burn down the base of the lantern. I used another standard brush to add a warm temp to the glass of the lantern. Then I opened the lightroom edited image in CS6.
In CS6, I duplicated the background layer. Then I added in the flame (I shot this from this lantern several years ago). I merged the layers and cloned out the wire in the flame. Next I added a new layer, chose the color picker and picked the orange top of the flame, opened up the radial gradient tool and added some atmosphere. I did this again, just within the glass area of the lantern. Finally, I added a couple layers of Levels to bring the saddle up in the back and burn down the sides of the lantern.
Thanks for reading! I hope you're able to use some of this, or at least inspire you to do something similar. Enjoy, and make sure to share your images if you do!!
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