I just couldn't stop! If I wasn't using tonights shot for the project I could have gone for days adding the smallest of details. Details that 99% of you wouldn't even catch. I swear, I spent 50% of the time at 500% zoom. I've got to say… I'm pretty damn happy with the end result of this one.
Back a couple of months I had done the 80's prom for Lifetime Fitness Center in Boca Raton, FL. Karen and her husband were among the fashionably un fashionable . They "fell in love with my work" and from that night on "had to have me take their christmas photos" I was honored to travel south to their south western inspired and decorated delray beach home. The general concept they had was funny, dogs and christmas. The rest was up to me. I had the idea of the dogs wreaking havoc on the tree but the National Lampoons Christmas style shot didn't come up until I was racking my brain, standing in there living room. No doubt, having that stupid look of intense concentration or perhaps constipation (its hard to tell sometimes). Out of nowhere, the lightbulb hit and my mouth just started rambling. "ok, what if you all were posing for a standard family portrait and all the sudden the dog runs, the tree tips over and starts on fire" They loved the idea and we all had an intense sense of motivation. What followed was 2.5 hours of posing and reposing, adjusting and re adjusting. I had set out to shoot this in as many separate elements as possible. This would make getting the cooperation of the dogs much easier since we could work with one at a time. Lazy as I called her was up first. From the moment I walked into the house all this dog wanted to do was flop down and get her stomach rubbed. The other one was like a rodeo bull. "play with me, play with me, play with me" "ahhh, duh, what if I rub my drooling face on your lap… will you play with me then?" he really was a bull dozer of a dog. He would also prove to be the biggest challenge of the shoot. A challenge I opted to leave for last.
Getting Craig to pose was a piece of cake. The face you see is the face he jumped out of the gate wearing. It was perfect and I would of guessed he'd done this before or at least practiced in the mirror over the years! Karen took a little time and that is normally to be expected with women and photography. Funny that when your arguing with them they make Ten thousand amazing expression in a matter of minutes. Yet when you want to cultivate one, you are shit out of luck! They don't want to really open their mouth wide and scream. When I want real emotion I try to get the model to really scream, it makes it look so much more believable. Karen, however, wouldn't scream but did pretty good despite.
Last up was the bull dozer General Lee! He worked for food but was a smart dog. He required a deposit before any work was done. At first, I instructed them to just hold the dog and let him go on my command. Karen had a treat at the other end of the living room. This worked but wasn't giving me the look I was after. Next up was Craig on the ground bench pressing the lug of a dog. You could tell that he wasn't used to lifting the dog like that as he could only do it was a minute at a time. Between the bulk of the dog and the constantly shifting, wiggling and vibrating, I'm not sure many people would be able to lift that monster for too long.
After about 50 shots, we finally got the one we were looking for and not a second too late. Poor Craig looked beat! Next up was random ornament shots and the grand finale… the tree tipping.
Karen and Craig were up till 2am getting the tree up, straight, decorated and ready for me to tip it over! They hadn't had a tree since 2005 since they're rarely home for Christmas. So all you see was for the shot! pretty cool!
To tip the tree was a problem I had to figure out creatively. I didn't want someone holding it as having a body intertwined with the branches would of been a pain in the ass to mask out. The solution was simple. I tied 2 pieces of string to the middle of the tree and had Craig hold one end and Shawn hold the other. they were clearly in frame but I would take a background blank plate for later use to aid in erasing them.
We were finally done and I knew I had some work ahead of me. I got right down to work the second I got home. Masking took no time at all as it seemed like my hand was in the mood to mask. The pen flowed around the edges like a skilled painter creating the perfect sky. 15 min and I was done with all the masking. The compositing is where I spent the next 6 hours. 82 layers later and I had to force myself to say "I'm done" I hope they like it… but I suspect they will, as I love it.
Time to rest up because I have to do the same thing all over again tomorrow morning. This time it will be making kids fly!!! Tough job huh!!
Lighting positions varied greatly but style was the same through out.
AB800 Med Gridded Softbox at around 10:00 and 2:00. 3/4 power
AB800 Beauty Dish Boomed over head. 1/4 to 3/4 power depending on shot.