Monday, May 23, 2011

Tattoo Portraits

The tattoo series of portraits has been one of my favorites to execute. Over a period of about 6 weeks, I photographed 16 different subjects. I originally intended to photograph both men and women, but after finding Model Mayhem, a veritable treasure trove of tattooed women who want their photos taken, I decided to focus on women only.

I will focus here on a couple of shots I felt really stood out in the collection. If you would like to see them all, you can see the entire collection on my website at

I met Vicci Vice (see photo above) on model mayhem. We met up at her favorite hangout in Oakland, CA. Vicci had some lovely photos on her model mayhem profile, but seeing as this was a portrait, I told her to come as herself. She showed up in some very cool black jeans and a red wife-beater T-shirt. We posed her in a teal Naugahyde booth surrounded by graffiti. This shot featured her gorgeous profile. I used an on-camera 580EXII with a Coco flash ring flash attachment. In the final photo, I pushed the color and made the booth more teal to contrast with the red shirt.
I actually had two sessions with Roxy Rage. In the first I met her and her boyfriend at a carnival in Oakland. There were several colorful backdrops on the sides of the game trailers. With the 5’10” Roxy walking around in her mini skirt and blue wig, we drew a lot of offers of free games and entertainment from the carnival employees. We ended up with this shot on a blue background, which I felt really complermented her hair. Once again I used the Coco flash 580EXII combo.
Our second Roxy shot was at Treasure Island in San Francisco. This shot was on the veranda of an abandoned barracks building. The veranda was raised up. I was able to hang a bare speed light above her, using a super clamp on a pipe. It was my only artificial source of light. I then set my camera on a tripod and got back as far as I could using my 70-200mm zoom lens set to 200mm. I tried to get barely above the level of the floor. Roxy did a great job of contorting to show her great legs and those brass-knuckle pumps, while turning to show her upper body and all that great ink.
Jayne Doe met me at Santa Cruz boardwalk one Saturday morning. We retreated under the pier where the light was perfect. I added an Alien Bees AB800 light with an Octobox to get this soft light. I also threw a speed light with umbrella from camera right down low to light her legs and another speed light with a mini soft box behind her to put some rim light on her back and hair.

On all these shots, I increase the contrast on the tattoos by using a partially masked high pass filter in Photoshop. Some shots have as many as 12 layers of adjustments.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Clone Self-Portraits

Being the egotist that I am, I always wondered what the world would be like if I could clone myself. I could get a lot more done. Have work, fun, family and fitness all happening simultaneously. Well, I am happy to announce, I have succeeded in cloning myself - at least in a photo. To date, I have done four such photos. The process is straight–forward, if somewhat tedious. The imagination is the biggest limiter.

In the first photo (below), I imagined myself at home doing the normal daily chores of life. Things like eating, sleeping, watching TV, etc. To get the shot, I set the camera with a 20mm lens on a tripod in the corner. I exposed for the ambient light at about 4 seconds on a f8 aperture. I used the camera’s 2-second exposure delay and a remote trigger to get in place. So this was actually several full exposures with me in the different places. After all the shots were taken, I opened the first one in Photoshop CS5. For each subsequent shot, I opened the new photo, selected all and copied to the clipboard. Then I went back into the main photo and pasted the image as a new layer. Next I filled the mask with black to hide the new photo. Then I painted the mask with white to reveal only the part that I wanted to add. I did this with each subsequent layer until the entire shot was composed. This one was easier than the bicycle shot at the top because there was no overlap between the layers.

For the bicycle shot, I used a similar technique, except for using a Canon TC80N3 intervalometer. I set this on 15 seconds and did a different loop on my bicycle, making sure to be in a different place each time. The camera was again on a tripod. I used my 580Xii on camera for fill because of the time of day. I changed shirts, glasses and water bottle every 10 shots or so, so I could have a variety of characters in the shot. I intentionally cropped some characters in half to show more motion and imply even more cyclists than were in the shot. The girl handing me the water bottle, just happened to walk by and agreed to help out.

The layering for this shot was much more complicated than the other. There were those pesky see-through wheels with spokes. Lots of images overlapped. So selection of images to mask and reveal was much more complicated. Also, several of the characters ended up being moved from their original position. Namely the tire-changer and the front bottom character in the yellow. It was tricky to position them so that they looked correct. The shadow on the tire-changer had to move as well. I lowered the contrast and lightened the tire-changer to make sure he looked farther away.Finally, I showed a shot of me editing photos in my home office. This would certainly make me more productive if I wasn't arguing with myself. Jerseys in this shot, except for the Livestrong Jersey are by 11-gear, my favorite cycling apparel. You can see more self-portraits on my website at