Somebody’s Angel

Angels come in all shapes and sizes.

Angels come in all shapes and sizes. They can often appear in your darkest hours when hope feels like a meaningless word. Keeping faith in all things you do, stay strong and lead others. Faith in your god, your country and most of all yourself is what strong people are made of. You too could be an angel someone and never know it.

A Creative Morning (The client wanted one thing and the art director wanted something else…)

I haven’t really created anything new and interesting in Photoshop lately. Sure I work in Photoshop almost every day, but it is just that… work! I haven’t had the time to create anything fun or new. However I have always wanted to try this double exposure, illustrative photo look. This was my first attempt and I don’t think it looks to horrible. I actually had a job lined up last year to do three of this style for a client who is a musician and the job was cancelled before it even got started. The client wanted one thing and the art director wanted something else, they both started fighting and before I knew it the client’s agent cancelled the job. Story of my life, some jobs die before they fly. But if the job did fly, I was to shoot three specific skyline shots of Philadelphia and then the talent was to come in studio and shoot the portrait part. The rest of course would be finished in Photoshop. All three “would-be” images were going to be part of an album release.

So anyway… cut to today. I woke up and went on an early morning walk with the dogs. A nice quiet, peaceful walk along the river. I kept looking at the trees in the early morning spring time sunlight. And then all of a sudden I just got that “I have got to sit a create something today” kind of feeling and so I did just that. I sat down and said to myself “it has to be something you have never done before.” I thought of Whan, the model in the image and I never really created a nice illustration of her. Sure I have lots of great images of her, but nothing illustrative. I just sent it off to her as I started typing this post and I’m happy to report that she loves it.

So with that said I think I will work on some more of this style in the near future. This is a rather generic one and using the trees has been done a lot. 500px.com has many of this style. So next I will try a cityscape (another generic style) then I’ll move on to more creative overlays.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Freedom of Creativity (Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”)

By The Sea

I have never before created an image that drew so much criticism and also at the same time was liked by so many others. This is a two element composite that I created in the very beginning of 2017. Actually the image of the model was captured on the last day of 2016 in a studio. Many times when shooting a model session I will have some sort of prop that I will pull out at the very end of the shoot, sort of a surprise. In the past I have used fake hand grenades, fake cigars, and gas masks ect… On this day I had a feathered headdress that closely resembles the kind of headdresses worn by the indigenous tribes of the North American Plains or as many would call them today “Native Americans.” The headdress was purchased online from a dealer in Indonesia where the headdress is made. The headdress is fabricated from duck feathers and either painted or dyed with various colors for decoration. The rest of the material is mostly cheap felt, string, thread and plastic beads. I was actually quite disappointed when I received the headdress because the feathers were rather narrow and distorted due to the painting or dying process. For this reason I did not use it right away and I was looking for a better one. I soon lost interest and the prop was packed away. I then relocated and the prop was in storage for most of the year. I came across the headdress while sifting through my props and model wardrobe and thought “I might as well use it” after all I did pay $60 for this thing. So I brought it to the shoot, pulled it out at the very end, asked the model if she wanted to wear it and she (like me) though it would be nice and rather “Avant Garde” with the juxtaposition of the fitness attire she had on. After all I did know while shooting her on a gray background I would clip her out and use another outdoor background thus creating a “Photoshop composite” as I am so known for doing.

Why? I liked it. It was creative decision based on the look and color of the feathers and the overall feel it would bring to the image. In my years as a photographer I have designed and created my own headdress for models to wear as well as purchasing pre-made items. I have seen headdresses made from everything possible (or so it seems).  Just the other day I saw a headdress with biplanes in it. One was the plane of the famous Eddie Rickenbacker and the other Baron Von Richthofen or as many know him “The Red Baron.” I thought it to be rather funny and odd all at the same time. Some headdresses I do not get at all, such as ram horns, dead sticks, plastic garbage bags ect… But “hey” beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art, fashion and beauty are all “subjective” so while I may look at a model with sticks and deer antlers as a headpiece and think it is idiotic, others could find it artistic.

Now I am fully aware that no matter what I write in the following sentences will be justifiable in the minds of some people. I might add that I am not looking to justify anything nor am I trying to win over the opinion of a naysayer. All I am saying is “there is (in my opinion) no way possible that a model and a photographer standing in a studio and deciding to place a feathered headdress on one’s head and photographing it could bring harm to anyone”… period. The model is dressed in current day fitness attire that in no way depicts her and as a Native American. Upon close examination the headdress craftsmanship shows no possible comparison to the craftsmanship of a “Plains Native” war bonnet. Other than shape and color there is very little that could be comparable between a headdress of a Native American and the headdress that is in my image. There is nothing about the way that my image was created nor in the way the image is being presented that could be contrived as someone or anybody trying to demean or disparage indigenous people of North America who whore feathered headdresses. Now with that said there are still people whom are highly offended and for several reasons. The first thing that comes to my mind is “some people just like to be offended.” There’s no two ways to look at that, they just like being offended, its life. Then there are those who are offended because they have a vested interest.  I know that sounds rather idiotic, but it is true as true can be.

Most of us have experienced bullies growing up, every class had one or more. And if it wasn’t in the class room, it was at the park or on the school bus or somewhere in our life. You didn’t have to provoke a bully, just the mere fact that you woke up that morning and now standing in close range you were going to feel the wrath of the bully. Be it physical or verbal you were going to feel the wrath. Myself personally I felt the wrath of a few bullies and I found that the biggest way to combat a bully was to fight back. But not to fight back it the way the bully fought against me, in some cases just ignoring the bully was good enough. However most effective was a flat-out “take’em out quickly and as mercilessly as possible. It could be done verbally or physically, whatever way worked best. Now cut to forty years later we are to play patty-cakes and give blue ribbons and have an after party at Panera Bread or Starbucks. Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”

So what happened on social media? Ok here is the time line of my image. It was initially created a few days after the photo shoot. I sat on it for about a week as I made various changes to the overall color and sharpness. I made test prints and used it as an image to compare different print method. Then after about two weeks it was posted to my blog. There was very little reaction. It had been keyworded with headdress, fitness, feathered and so on. Then after a few months I decided to put the image on Instagram. It was received very well, but no more than other images of comparable quality. Then it received the first comment “this is the dumbest pic I’ve ever seen.” The man was a Native American and I waited about 12 hours and asked back “what is it about the image that you do not like? His answer said “well thank you for asking, as a native it is always disappointing to see models wearing headdresses thereby the stereotype continues, women don’t wear them, it’s disrespectful to us, but people continue to misuse our culture, thanks again for asking, most people don’t care to ask.”  I did not reply and left it at that. Then there were people hash tagging it and those I deleted. The random hash tagger is the modern-day bully whom you really can do nothing about.

While I do understand a little bit of what this gentleman is saying when it comes to native women not wearing headdresses, so I guess to him it would be like me seeing a man wearing a dress. I get that and I can live with that. But this whole “stereotype” thing is a bunch of crap. I literally have no idea what so ever of what stereotype I am keeping alive and how I am misusing anyone’s culture. So I set off and a three-day research binge to try and find what I was doing wrong and how my actions could have brought harm upon this man or anyone else. Yes for three days I spent every free moment reading and researching how the Native Americans feel and their current position in society today.

Here are my findings:

Nearly every single article I could find written on the subject of downtrodden Native Americans was on blogs, and very few were on actual creditable news sites. The articles posted to these blogs were very scathing and dramatic. While most of the facts were correct about the history of the settlers pushing out the indigenous people, the articles are clearly written to be used as “click bait” and it was easy to see why. Every single one of these blog sites were filled with pop up after pop up as well as every pixel of extra space taken up by affiliate advertisements. Essentially these were all “pay per click” sites that generate revenue each time the site is clicked upon. Are they “Fake News?” No I didn’t really see anything fake about them; however they clearly have an agenda to write articles that are jaded to drawing the reader to a predetermined conclusion rather than letting the reader draw their own conclusion.

So now I leave the blogs and head off to message boards where there is no “pay per click” and it is just everyday people talking about everyday stuff. I find that about 75% of the Native Americans who I actually questioned did not care at all about my image or any other involving non-native people wearing a feathered headdress. In fact one man said that the only people who are going to be offended are people who have something to gain by being offended. And I think he’s right. The other 25% really didn’t have bad things to say, they just thought it best to not offend anybody about anything. So let me get that right… you’re not really offended by the feathered headdress being worn by a model… but I still shouldn’t do it. Ok.

So after all the research and questioning, still no one can tell me what stereotype I am keeping alive or how what I have done has brought (or will bring) harm or doom to an indigenous person/s. My conclusion is that the biggest criers are the writers who are posting to “pay-per-click” sites. This is actually the case with a lot of social topics today. While the world is now bogged down with this increasing blight of “Fake News” we are also being bogged down with one-sided dramatic opinions that are being contrived as “facts” and it is all in the name of pay-per-click advertising. For all I know the blogs that I visited may have not been run by Native Americans at all, there really is no way to know. After all you yourself could write a post on any topic, make it as dramatic as possible and post it to your pay per click site and start making money.

For now my image will remain online. People are free to comment although they have to keep comments realistic and on topic.

The Sinister Clown At ESP (I want him to scare the bejesus out of you, but do it without holding a half-eaten arm in his mouth.)

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

It’s autumn, the smell of fallen leaves fill the cool morning air, pumpkins & corn stalks decorate doorways and porches… apple pie and ginger snap cookies all add up to Halloween is coming soon.

So as Halloween draws near, so does my self-imposed deadline for having completed the edits for the “Sinister Clown” project shoot. Here we see a third edit that I have just completed and I’m very happy with it. This particular image also has a sub-edit where I have cropped in extremely close. If you have followed my blog over the years you know I have a passion for close up “in your face” edits. However usually they are images of a beautiful female face and sometimes a male too, even dogs. But today’s image is that of “Sinister Clown.” And speaking of “Sinister Clown” I wish I had a name for him… yes the clown is a male character although there is a beautiful female playing the role behind all that amazing makeup. If anyone has an idea for a name please contact me.

So for this edit; the cropped version came about because I wanted to showcase Jade’s talent up close and “in your face” and the second reason (as previously mentioned) I love tight cropped face shots. However the full size version of this edit I wanted to put my clown in a decrepit, disgusting, smelly setting. Now of course you can’t “smell” an image on a screen, but I wanted that feel to come through in the edit. So I literally spent hours and days sifting through stock images that could be used for a background. All the while I am going from photo to photo I keep telling myself “you have the image you’re looking for” but I just did not know what. Let me clarify; while I am looking through stock images with my eyes and mind focused on a computer screen, another part of my mind is working diligently sifting through places I have been over the last few years, then of course there is that third part of my mind that thinks of over-throwing the world, sexy women, money and so-on. Funny how much can get done with only two brain cells, but the inside of my mind can be almost as scary as this clown lol.

After days of this… it hits me. Cell block 5 (1829 Creator: John Haviland, Eastern State Penitentiary.) Yes Cell Block 5 is a disgusting mess. Visitors to Eastern States Penitentiary are not allowed to enter into cell block 5. When you stand at the locked gate and look down the cell block, you get a true feeling of the horror that once was ESP in its hay-day. The place looks frozen in time, like an old closet that hasn’t been opened in 200 years, it smells like a grave. The smell is because (no joke) the place has been untouched for decades and has a smell of dirt, cob webs, mold and rotting wood.

While doing a photo shoot there in June of 2015 with Nicole I had stuck my camera inside the gate and captured some really decent images. I have edited one as a cover photo for the Reckless Pixel Facebook page (but is no longer in use). So this was the background that would work perfect for this edit. Not to mention the irony that Nicole is the clown and the background image comes from another shoot she did with me over a year ago.

Now I feel I need to explain that in the beginning I had envisioned this clown being scary, but in an organic sort of way and not in a generic “blood & gore” kind of way. In the first making of the movie “IT” which was actually a TV mini-series the clown Pennywise was never really seen devouring the little children of Derry. It was implied that the clown ate the arms of children… after all it was a movie made for TV. So I wanted my clown to have that same vibe. I want him to scare the bejesus out of you, but do it without holding a half-eaten arm in his mouth. So instead of putting gore props in the images with the clown I would rather put the clown in an evil setting. Now with all that said the average viewer of the image is never gonna know the significance of the background and I’m ok with that. Most of all I’m happy that the background is one of my own images and not a stock image.

I will have more edits of the Sinister Clown up in a day or so and there will be a video blog post too. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Good But Not What I Wanted (realizing you have written nothing but drivel and ripping the half written page from the typewriter)

Nicole Smoke Dress Final

I would like to talk a little about this image that I recently created… well maybe talk a lot about it and what it really is. Ok so the truth be told it is not at all what I wanted to create. What you see here is the “second draft” so-to-speak, but there were four of five more versions and I tossed them all out of frustration. It was like back in the day when a writer would sit at a typewriter trying to make something happen and half way through the page realizing you have written nothing but drivel and ripping the half written page from the typewriter, crushing and crumpling and tossing it into garbage can in the corner. The garbage can that is overflowing with dozens of other half written pages. I saw something that inspired me and it gave be a vision and an idea for a really cool image… well at least I thought it would be cool. So I headed into my stockpile of images and I knew exactly where to look. But when I found the images I was thinking of, the wardrobe was all wrong. I wanted to create an image of a model with a rather “moonscape” like background, but I wanted her dress to be blowing away in the wind and turning to smoke. Similar to the piece I did back in 2013 called “Shattered” where the motocross racer’s helmet was shattering and blowing away.

I just could not get it to happen and keep it looking like a dress. Why? Because in this particular image the model is not actually wearing a dress, she is wearing a shirt and a skirt. So now after two nights of working I end up going back to the second version that I created in about 30 minutes and I said “done.” Done, but not at all satisfied. While many people love this image and I received good feedback across all platforms of social media, I myself am not satisfied. Not satisfied because I wanted something very different. With all that said… this is a good image. Model Nicole Gallagher is striking a stellar pose as she can so easily do and I have blogged in the past about her eyes and her talent of “posing with her eyes.’ This is a perfect example, I mean all we see here of the model is her arms and her face and her eyes. And for me the eyes say it all in this pose. So to recap, there is nothing wrong with the model or the pose, but the wardrobe is not right to complete my vision. So we know what that means… “project shoot!” If I am going to complete this vision I have in my mind I need to shoot the model correctly with the correct wardrobe. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.

Independence Day (The bravery of our men & women in our armed services will always be our power. )

Ryan Flag Over Shoulder

Independence

It’s the 4th of July, it’s Independence Day and today those words really weigh heavy in the air and in the hearts of many Americans. As we go about our celebrations of parties with food and beer, as we go about our travels to entertaining events, we do it all in the name of “Independence” and while many Facebook and other social media memes will try to make us out to be bad people for having a party or drinking a beer (or two or 10) while we have troops who are away from their families, I feel differently. I feel we should celebrate as we see fit.

It is because of our forefathers and our troops that we have independence. So we must pay a deep respect to our troops as well as our forefathers. The bravery of our men & women in our armed services will always be our power. Sure we live in a time of drones and robots, but it is still (at least for now) the bravery of an American to stand up and fight for what he/she believes in, to put their selves in harm’s way so that we can have that party on the 4th of July. Our freedom was not given to us and many times we have heard it said “freedom is not free” and nothing could be truer. The price for freedom is not paid in gold or silver, diamonds or gems; it is not bought with checks or currency. Freedom is acquired when we fight for it and in that fight, simply put… humans die. Both men & women give their life because they believe in freedom. It really is kind of strange to think of it that way, but there really is no other way to look at it. The bravery of the American who stands up and answers the call to go and serve is paramount and deserves the utmost respect. Say a prayer, shake a hand, buy a coffee, give a hug and help their families. All of the aforementioned are miniscule to the price that a brave soldier is putting forth for his country… and for you. Also take care of him/her when they return with visible and hidden wounds that will stay with them for the rest of their life. The battle for many soldiers does not end on the battlefield and many have hidden wounds that we’ll never understand. There wounds hidden or visible is “the price” that they have incurred. Don’t try to understand it, but rather comfort it and most of all give respect.

So it with that feeling I created this image montage to celebrate this year’s Independence Day. The model Ryan McNally is a former soldier himself and it was his idea to bring this American flag to the photo shoot. The very first thing I said to Ryan when we first connected on social media (Instagram) was “Thank you for serving our country.” His reply was “Oh no problem, I was happy to do it.” Ryan is an awesome young man and a pleasure to shoot with. I was also amazed at his knowledge and respect of the flag. While yes we did use the American flag as a photo prop at no time did it touch the floor or was disrespected in any way.

So here we have a six element montage. A young American patriot draped in a flag with our fore fathers, our eagle, our constitution, troops on patrol, a returning soldier holding his daughter up high and lastly the long dreary road behind the soldiers. All of this put together as Ryan gazes over his shoulder while looking out over the heartland of America. My thinking that goes into this kind of montage is a kind of “make it as I go.” When starting I did not really have an idea other that it had to say something about independence. While it may not be the most striking image I’ve ever created I do like it because it conveys what I wanted to say.

Happy 4th of July weekend everybody. Please be healthy, be safe, have lots of fun and shake a soldier’s hand and say “thanks” they’ll know what you mean.

Into the Light (…he has to step into the light and be seen, be heard and most of all be felt.)

Two element composite with model Ryan McNally.

Two element composite with model Ryan McNally.

It has been awhile since my last blog post and if my blog falls silent it usually means “busy” as in too busy to sit and type out a few sentences and talk about a photo. So yes I have been busy to the 10x and then some. Mostly with personal life stuff like “moving” from one apartment to another. But today I had time to sit and edit a photo from the shoot I had done with Ryan McNally a few weeks back. As I edit these images of Ryan I want more and I think of more… more stuff that we can do at the next shoot. Ryan is new so we have to work him up to the good stuff. I would like to do a series of action shots with Ryan. So we’ll just have to wait and see what the next shoot brings.

The feeling or inspiration that went into this composite was “the light.” Any gladiator or warrior has to step out into the light of battle. The warrior can hide and be stealth like all he wants. He can even keep his back to the light of battle. But at some point to advance the battle and turn the tide to his favor he has to step into the light and be seen, be heard and most of all be felt. He has to have game on and he has to have the game face. Be it a fighter pilot, a boxer, a cyclist, base jumper or soccer player… when he steps into the light of battle is when he must show his mettle. Game on!