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

Only a Year Late (So being a guitar player in another lifetime I pulled out my trusty Fender Strat…)

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm
Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

It has taken me well over a year to complete this “behind the scenes” video of a shoot I did with model Nicole Gallagher. Why? Because I am stubborn and when I want something to be a certain way… well I want it that way. Childish? Maybe. So the problem was… ok so here is where you can laugh, smack my head and call me crazy. I couldn’t get the music right. I wanted a certain piece of music, I wanted Santana/Everlast “Put Your Lights On” and while I have that version done, it was done two days after the shoot, I could not get it uploaded. And rightfully (pardon the pun) so because Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook all threatened to ban my accounts if I tried to upload it again. What a bitch and I really can’t complain because I know the copyright laws very well when it comes to intellectual property, after all I’m the guy that makes everybody sign a model release to protect my images.

But then I had an idea… ahhh… what if I record the song myself. All I wanted was the music and not the vocals. So being a guitar player in another life time I pulled out my trusty Fender Strat and fires up my GK amp and laid down a fairly decent instrumental version of  “Put Your Lights On” and edited it using Adobe Audition CC (which by the way I love Audition CC). But still no luck, YouTube slammed me with even nastier emails. …oh well I tried.

So then I got discussed and I set the project aside. I revisited the project no less than 8 times since June of 2014 and to no avail. So my last attempt was the other day and like all the other attempts I crashed & burned after an 2 hours of sifting through clip after clip of “royalty free” music. However tonight I hit on a song that I liked and the video has been uploaded. Did I win?.. hell no, but I do like the song “Hey Girl” and it seems to work. Check it out and hit “Like” if you would please, you can also subscribe to the Channel too.

 

Magic at Lockridge Park ( I try to get out to Lockridge a few times a year…)

Fitness/Fashion model Whan 1.250 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 95mm

Fitness/Fashion model Whan 1.250 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 95mm

Shooting at Lockridge Park in Alburtis Pa is a photographer’s dream if you like textures and stones. The site of a former iron ore furnace first built there in 1868. All that remains now are these partial stone structures that appear as beautiful ruins and set the stage or rather a backdrop for photo shoots. On any given day you can find a photographer out shooting amongst the ruins. A nice setting for a wedding ceremony or just a fun model shoot, I try to get out to Lockridge a few times a year, once in the summer and again in the autumn season.

It really can be a fun and magical place for model shooting, the juxtaposition of a model’s beauty back dropped with the textures of the stone and cracked cement are a lot of fun for me. In this image we see Whan giving us an awesome fitness look with a classic pose of negative space in the arms and legs, I then edited the image using split tones in Lightroom to enhance the textures of the stone and cement. The sky is bright blue above her so the stone is holding the blues although our human eye cannot see it… until the color is saturated a bit. I love split tone editing as long as it is not over done. In this case I made sure none of the split tones are on the model, just on the textures. Most times when I use split tones I use it very sparingly on my images. However today I wanted to go a lot stronger to give a little surreal or magical feel.

Whan was a lot of fun to work with, she has a classic Thai/Asian fashion look and style and she can shoot fitness to. She’s dedicated to a healthy lifestyle of fitness and exercise as can be seen by her body. Follow her in Instagram https://www.instagram.com/whannasert/

Till next time… and thanks for stopping by and reading.

Creating With Analog Efex Pro (It’s like this is where Instagram created their filters.)

Double exposure made in Analog Efex Pro. Self portrait at my house in Thailand. I love the wooden window shutters.

Double exposure made in Analog Efex Pro. Self portrait at my house in Thailand. I love the wooden window shutters.

Let’s talk a little about Google’s Nik Analog Efex Pro plugin for Lightroom or Photoshop. I myself had over looked this at first. In my last post I talked about how I had bought just two products from Nik, but soon after Google acquired the Nik collection they sent download links to previous Nik customers for the whole Nik collection. This was long before Google made the collection available to the public.

So when I downloaded the whole collection I seen Analog Efex Pro but I thought I had no use for it. Actually the truth be told I never even opened it. Not until one day I was trying to open Color Efex Pro in Photoshop and I accidentally opened Analog Efex Pro in the fly out menu. It was at that time I started to explore this fun little gem. It basically gives you all these old camera kits from the film era and lets you create some really awesome stuff. Now I know if you are a Photoshop user your first thought might be that “it can all be done in Photoshop” and I would answer “yes & no.” Well actually “yes” but Nik’s algorithms are a lot different from Adobe’s and seem to produce the end results in a unique way with a different feel. So yes you could do it in Photoshop, but the feel of the end visual seems different to me.

The double exposure effect is a lot of fun and again one might think the “masking” in PS would produce the same effect, but AEP is so much more fun. It could be a “one click” and your done edit if you use the presets, but I really like to play with the controls and see what I can create on my own.

If you like Instagram and all the filter choices, you will love Analog Efex Pro. It’s like this is where Instagram created their filters. I really would like to see more people use it and play around and get real creative. You have so many options available; from light leaks, to dust & scratches, bokeh and many more.

So if you are a Photoshop or Lightroom user download the collection and dive in.

Ghostly Forest

Ghostly Forest created using Analog Efex Pro.

Google Makes Nik a Free Download (…for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow”)

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

As many photographers may have heard Google has just made the Nik Collection a “free” download. Many photographers already know about the Nik plugins, however I personally have met many photographers who never heard of Nik plugins, even after Google acquired the Nik collection from Nik. I guess I was naïve to have thought everybody knew what they were. I have been using Nik for many years now. I had purchased Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik and then after Google acquired them one day out of the clear blue I received an email from Google giving me a link to download the whole collection and this in turn moved me up to Color Efex Pro 4. Google stated because I was a current Nik Customer they were dishing out the love and it really was a beautiful day for sure.

Now real quick for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow” especially Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.

I fell in love with Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) for making black & white conversions. Although I have several methods for making B&W images SEP2 is by far the best and most creative. I love my color images, but at the same time I can get lost in playing with SEP2. Most important to me when working with images that have a face, is being able to see the zone mapping so I can apply my personal recipe for zone mapping human skin. I’m not going to go into all the details about the zone system, but for those who know about Ansel Adam’s zone system… well you know what I’m talking about.

Most important (in my opinion) is that if you want to create amazing black & whites you need to first create a great color image and then move into SEP2. So for those of you who have Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you need to get these plugins and get started learning how to use them. For me… if you asked me to choose one tool or plugin for Photoshop and nothing else. Hands down the Nik collection would be my choice, mainly Color Efex Pro.

Another source that increased my wanting for using SEP2 was famed photographer Vincent Versace’s book “From Oz to Kansas” but you must first read “Welcome to Oz” because it is all about making cinematic edits that can stop at being beautiful color images or… move to the next book “From Oz to Kansas” and that is taking those awesome color edits and moving to black& white. The books truly are worth reading, however so many people I meet who want to call themselves a “photographer” want instant gratification and reading a book is just too much trouble, or so it seems. Sometimes I will mention that I learned “this or that” technique from a book I read and I get looked at like I have two heads.  I want to be the best photographer I can be and when I look at anybody who has ever succeeded at anything I many times see people who know their craft inside and out and many will tell you that part of knowing your craft is studying the people who have traveled the road before you. When you think about it it’s a “no brainer,” but seems many have no brains. Every photographer out there in this big ole world wants better images and the Nik collection will get you closer to that holy grail, but do yourself a favor and read a book or take a class that is written or taught by a true master of the trade/art. Fuck those stupid Facebook advertisements and find somebody who is a master. I live in NYC/Philly area and when I know Joe McNally or Cliff Mautner or Lindsay Adler are in town speaking or teaching… well you bet your last dollar I’m gonna be there. And those are just a few of the masters photography has to offer.

So down load the Nik collection from Google and let your creativity move of to the next level. I did!

Dark Days (when the creative light weakens)

Dark Days make you create what you feel.

Sometimes you just create what you feel… literally. Mood is the major factor in “what, when and how” most people are able to create. Stresses (or the lack of) from the outside world help set the tone or kill the creative spirit all together. Internal stresses are just as incriminating because we all know demons never sleep and they rarely take a day off. But for the strong healthy minds and souls demons are kept at bay, although there are those times we let our guard down and the demon within will rise up unexpectedly and quell your ability to create.

For me right now it is the outside stresses of the world that have all but extinguished my creative fire. You cannot control your outside world. We try to and we feel we can, but as we all know life can really come down on you sometimes and like a rainstorm it can be hard, real hard and when it’s real hard and you’re hurting from the rain… it gets even harder and yet again harder.  You feel as though you’ve done something to make God angry with you. When in reality you really cannot complain. For if you wake up breathing with two good eyes, legs, feet, hands and arms your still in the game. You just need to be stronger. Love the most those who love you back. Most of all love God and yourself.

I could list my problems and try to invoke drama but my problems are mine to solve. After all what is life? Just one problem after another, they key is to “solve the problem at hand and wait for the next one.”

Digital Art Rendering (Outside a Paris Doorway 16×20 digital print.)

Outside a Paris doorway.

Outside a Paris doorway.

I worked on this last night and late into the night. Spending hours just trying different techniques fo making this image fall somewhere between a painting and a photograph. I’ll have to wait for the proof to return from the printer before I can say yay or nay to the process I used in the end. It seems strange to put Kendall into such a dark eery setting after putting her in so many light, heavenly visceral images. But I like it. The whole process has been creative, from the actual photo shoot with the makeup and headpiece to the editing. Adobe Photoshop really is such a large and vast universe with options, processes, actions, filters, plugins and on an on…

I was falling asleep in the wee hours of the morning and when I woke I couldn’t wait to see what I created. lol.