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January 21, 2013

A couple week ago, I was invited to accompany Mike Adkins on a photo trip.  Mike described it as photographing "a costume maker", one that he said made some of the most fabulous creations I would ever see.  Mike was absolutely right, however I would describe Dale Morton and his assistant Travis Morton as being true artists in every sense of the phrase.  The photograph above is Frankenstein, though the creation is very early in the design if I understand it correctly.   The sculpture will progress with further details and once finished, it will form the mold to make a flexible mask.  The head is formed from an oil-based clay that never hardens and so can be worked and shaped easily, however is also easily destroyed during its ultimate use as the mold.    Dale and Travis also design and make custom mascots for businesses, universities, or anyone in need.

There is a conundrum in photographing the art of others, one that I've never resolved or become comfortable with.  You have one of two paths to choose, the first one being to make a photograph that exactly depicts the art piece as it looked to the camera such as you would do for publication in a trade magazine or website..  That seems the easiest but often is the most difficult.  The other path to take is thinking that you are photographing the artwork as a basis for your own piece of art.   That gives you a lot of freedom of creation and after thinking about this for awhile, that was the path I took for this shot.  At first, my intention was a high-key black and white image but the final image was missing something vital and I finally decided it was the eyes.  The final image here is a lot lighter than the color of the clay and this, to me, emphasizes the eyes and the nature of the character depicted in the sculpture.   So, in a way, it is a derivative work.

I learned a few things with this image, mainly because I was undecided during most of the processing.  I thought I'd keep it in Lightroom from start to finish but ended up jumping it to Photoshop when the black and white didn't look proper.  When jumping an image from LR to PS, it seems the best course is to open it as a smart object.  Lightroom's Develop module will then pass all the settings over to Photoshop and this will allow you to return to the RAW image to correct anything you may have messed up during the initial development back in Lightroom.  I didn't do this and had to deal with some poor local adjustments I made to a dark area in the corner.  I had over-corrected and couldn't then go back to LR to fix it without loosing my Photoshop adjustments.    For this image, I blended a black-and-white layer into the color image to get the colors and tones I was looking for, then to mask out the eyes to let the full effect come through.  Also several layers of curves to adjust local areas and a blur to soften up the background even more than the lens had captured in the first place.  I also used what I call a micro-contrast method to bring out the details in the face, that being an unsharp mask adjustment where you use a really high radius and a lower amount- this makes details pop.

I think I like it, my wife said "ewwwww....." when she saw the image.  When you get any response to a photo, that's a good day.

 

Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.

Epicurus
Greek philosopher, BC 341-270