Making of “Ephemeral dreams”

To create this work, I mixed a 3D rendered labyrinth with some photos. The final photo is composed by these three kinds of images, created in this order:

Hands: I used a Canon 17-40L lens at 17mm, f/20 to get a lot of dof and flash on the right with a small softbox.


 Sand falling:

I needed to get some photos of sand falling and merge them together to create the parts where the labyrinth was melting. My photoshop skills are very limited so I had to get a good perspective and shoot at 17mm too in order to facilitate the edition. I did some tries using a shutter speed of 1/30, also f/20 and natural light to get a kind of “silk effect”, but when I joined the captures with the 3D labyrinth, the result looked like plastic. I repeated the sand captures using flash to get the opposite appearance (freeze the motion), and I stuck with that setup for the rest of the photos I needed (just 3 or 4).












Labyrinth: Modeled with 3D Max 2014 with iray. First I created in Photoshop a 2D image in black and white with the labyrinth I wanted, until I got this:


I added some layers and used the gradient tool to darken the corners so that the labyrinth appeared that was melting when applying later the “displace” modifier in 3D Max (depending on the shade of gray, the height of each wall will differ).

Then in 3D Max, applying the modifier “displace” I used the displace map created to get the 3D appearance. With the modifiers melt, noise, wave and bend I added some imperfections, and also edited the mesh of the labyrinth to melt much drastically the middle part and the sides. Result:


Each part was processed with Lightroom to add some dramatism by using clarity and blacks, and changing the temperature of the captures, and also desaturating to have a similar appearance in all of them and facilitate the Photoshop part.

Final photo:


Making of “Pens and Swords”

Today I’m going to start a little project about how I make some of my photos or build my light tools, usually using materials that can be found at home, because sometimes there’s no need to have an amazing studio to create decent photos. I won’t describe the details in each case, and the making of photos will probably be made with the smartphone, but feel free to ask if you have any doubts 😉

The idea was suggested by my friend and photographer Xavier Carol, check his blog if you want: lalquimista.com

For this first photo, I used a feather I found on the street. With a cutter, I carefully cutted the feather to the point I wanted, and then I placed a decoration sword I had at home inside the feather. I wanted a dark background but also emphasize the details of the sword and feather, so I used my computer screen and a polarizing filter in the lens, rotating the filter to a point where I saw a black background.

With some exposure time, I could illuminate the objects and also keeping a dark background. Also, although I knew the final capture would be vertical, it was much easier to make the photo horizontally due to the working area of my “soft box”.







DIY Water Balloon Photography Tutorial

One of the interesting techniques I hadn’t still tried until now was to capture an exploding water balloon just in the moment the plastic breaks, but the water still has the shape of a balloon. I didn’t want to invest any money in laser barriers or something similar, so I built a very simple mechanism that wouldn’t give me the perfect timing but maybe an acceptable approach.

Materials I used:

  • 2 sewing needles
  • A pice of plastic of about 20cm of length to build the lever.
  • 3 meter camera cable (for ease, depending on camera position)
  • A plastic washbowl
  • A small flash with wireless remote
  • A bag of small water balloons
  • A hot glue gun if possible (or just glue)
  • A tripod to hold the mechanism and water balloon, and another to hold the camera.
  • A mop!

Camera and flash settings:

  • Shutter of 1/100 or similar is enough, because we’ll illuminate the water balloon with the small flash only.
  • I recommend using an apperture of f/8 or narrower, because sometimes water goes in many directions and this way we’ll get more dof.
  • For the tests the flash was at 0.5m approx, at 1/64 of power. I recommend using the lowest power if possible to get a more sharp result.
  • Camera focus must be set to manual and I also recommend to adjust the frame for each photo since the size of the water balloons is not always the same.

Shutter trigger construction:

About the shutter trigger, my Canon 5D MKII uses an N3 connector, so I cut an old shutter cable to build the new one. It has three wires (Ground, Shutter, Focus) that will allow us to make a photo by doing a short circuit between Shutter and Ground wires. I’ve marked with a green dot the two necessary pins in the photo of the N3 connector. It’s not necessary to use the Focus wire since the camera will be in manual focus.

To build the other side of the wire, I welded each wire (Shutter, Ground) to a needle. Then I used the hot glue gun to attach the needles to a long piece of plastic with a little inclination so that if the needles touch a rigid surface they will touch each other. My initial idea was that the water of the balloon would short circuit the two wires, but at practice it didn’t result in my case, so with a little inclination in the needles they also touched each other when breaking the water balloon.

To hold the lever I used the materials I had at home, but it’s possible to hold it in many other (and better) ways.

Once the setup is mounted, a water balloon is hold with a string in front of the lever so that when the lever is released it will break the balloon and the needles will also touch each other to activate the camera shutter and make the photo, so the only thing we have to do is hold the lever in a higher position and release it to make each photo.

Photos of the parts and results:




























Video of the mechanism in action:

As you can see the results are quite different between each other, because the timing was a little unpredictable. There are a lot of ways to improve this first test, trying to anticipate the explosion by placing the shutter cables in another place in the lever or changing the way the wires touch each other.

Opinions and questions welcomed 😉


RAW Quality Infrared Photography

One of the typical issues I had when doing infrared photography is that when shooting in RAW format, when we import a photo in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, everything turns reddish again, as if we hadn’t used a proper white balance.

That happens because at least both Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom aren’t capable of using temperatures lower to 2000º K, and when we import a RAW file that had a lower temperature than that (which is usual in infrared photography lol), Photoshop sets the temperature to 2000º K because it can’t go lower.

We need a quite lower temperature so even if we swap red and blue channels to get the proper colors, the result will be still much worse than what we could have obtained when processing with the correct temperature.

(See image 1 for bad temperature example)

The solution? Use another software, at least to import the RAW file.

When I saw this problem I tried other applications and I personally like Oloneo PhotoEngine (www.oloneo.com), which is more a HDR Software than a RAW processing tool, but works great to solve the problem with infrared photography (They offer a 30-day trial).

In Oloneo, we just need to import the RAW file and adjust whatever we want, EXCEPT temperature.

As soon as we touch the temperature slider, Oloneo will try to change the temperature to the original and in this case the result will be horrible again, because Oloneo’s lowest temperature is 2500º K, still not enough! Then, do not touch the slider and change whatever you want (I find very useful the detail strength slider, it really enhances a lot of details).

Once done, we export as TIF format.

(See image 2 for good temperature example, exported with Oloneo, imported in Photoshop and then swapping red and blue channels)


Now we can import the TIF file in Photoshop or wherever we want without temperature problems and with RAW image quality!


Here’s a different perspective of the same place, using some split toning done with Lightroom:

Natural leading