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A Lot From A Little

"Raveling" featuring Tony Matula

Whoa dang, look! This guy is covered in barbed wire, crazy right!? It must all be Photoshop magic you're thinking, because by now I know you've all discovered that I'm a big fat photo-manipulating cheater and nothing is real. But shoot, this looks like it's really on that poor guy... Must be some fake barbed wire that isn't sharp, right? Nope. That's as real and sharp as they make it.  Also, yes we really did put it all over him. Sorta. ALL of this wasn't on at one time, but we did actually put a fair amount of this gnarly stuff on him. Then I used some sneaky shooting and editing techniques to get lots more wire on while still totally selling it as real...at least I hope I did.

Before I get into my fancy tricks, let's back up a bit and discuss where this crazy picture came from. Okay so basically I was getting my hair done did (aka a hair cut) the day before my RAWartist show in June of this year (2014), and I was talking with my charismatic barber, Tony.  (I think he would prefer "Hair Artist" over barber.)  He was making conversation like those crafty hair cuttery people often do, asking about my upcoming show and my artwork. After chatting a bit, he realized exactly what sort of work I create, and then he totally lost his shit. Apparently he's had this idea for like a billion years to do a photo shoot where he's all wrapped up in barbed wire. Several other photographers had actually turned him away, as if that wasn't the coolest idea ever.  When he said he had an idea and that it was kinda weird, I was all, "Try me, I've done some strange things." A part of me was expecting him to say something rather silly and not something I would actually want to be a part of. Then I would have had to put on a fake (but totally convincing) smile and been all, "Yeah...that's such a cool idea, but I'm super busy for the rest of forever, so K bye!".... Then I'd probably have to find a new person to cut my hair, so it was an awfully good thing that his idea was pretty much EXACTLY the kind of picture I would want in my portfolio. Needless to say I was just as jazzed about it as he was. We immediately looked at his calendar and locked down a date for the shoot! Just goes to show, you never know where your next job is going to come from.  

So the night of the shoot arrived and I was buzzing around the studio getting my lighting set up while blaring music and dancing like an insane person, because duh it's super fun. I find this is the best way to get into the right frame of mind before a shoot. Tony arrived with his barbed wire, fresh tan from a Florida vacation and...a speedo. All the things we would need to bring this creation to life! First I had him stand in position to perfect my lighting. I highly recommend you get some test shots to be sure everything is looking good before you wrap a person in pointy metal rope. You don't want them to be standing there getting stabbed all over the place while you fuss with lights.  On many of my shoots, I end up using LOTS of different lights, but for this one I decided to just go for a simple singular light source.

Now, rather than actually wrapping the wire around and around his body, I cut many small pieces that were almost full circles. That way I was able to gently set them around him, and you wouldn't see that all these wires weren't actually connected because the cut ends were hidden behind him. Even with the gingerly placed strands of barbed wire, this was still a tricky shoot to pull off. I asked lots of questions like, "Still ok?" "Getting poked anywhere?" "Crap did that one hurt!?" and Tony was an absolute trooper the whole time. My goal was to get one "main" shot (as usual) with as much wire on him as I could manage, without it all getting too tangled and hard to remove.  Once I had my shot, I slowly took the wire off piece by piece.

Now is where the trick comes in! I knew that I wanted a lot more wire on him than what was already in my base picture. I instructed Tony to start at his ankle with a small loop of wire and hold it in place like it was wrapped there. Then he continued up his leg rotating and turning the wire slightly each time. I had him do this for both legs and both arms while still standing relatively close to the pose we settled on for my main shot. This way I was able to go back during editing and steal all those pieces and place them in. If I had just tried to fake all those wires in Photoshop from a picture of just the wire, it could be pulled off, but it's never going to look as realistic as it does with the wire actually there in the same environment and light. By holding the wire on himself, it created the correct shadows and everything to really sell it to the viewer that the wire was there, because, well, it was. Also, because he was the one holding them in place, he was able to apply a bit more pressure and make some of the barbs dent his skin a little without actually cutting himself. This really added an element of realness that would be so hard to achieve if the wire never actually made contact with his freshly bronzed skin.    

This technique can be used in all kinds of different ways. Let's say there is this REALLY super duper fantastically amazing prop that you just have to purchase for a picture. (For this example it's a very detailed shiny golden bird ornament....thing.) But oh snap the idea in your noggin is to have like 20 of these spiffy birds flitting around your subject in a field and you can't afford to buy that many of them. (Damn student loan payments!!) Well SURPRISE now you can buy just one of them and make as many as you want!!!! Once you have your shot set up, you can lock down your camera on a tripod and hold that nifty bird all over your frame and then just add in all those little pieces later. You can even maybe do a shot with it sitting on your shoulder and get the natural shadow that it would make.  Do you see where I'm going with this people!? The possibilities are endless! If you get just a little bit crafty and a lot a bit creative, you can dream up some amazing images with almost no money. In conclusion, ALWAYS listen to the ideas people throw at you. You just never know if your barber has been hoarding a gem of an idea for years. (Also, I just now made the connection of this image being of a "Barbed Barber." Baahahahah, this pleases me to no end.)

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