Monday, October 15, 2007

Collage and the American Hero

It turns out that I have an American Hero and a heck of a great guy living across the street from me, and since I was asked to shoot a Veteran's Day cover for a local magazine, I decided that John Mogan would be the perfect candidate. He came over and we did a photo shoot with very hard light, which I always use on people that have great faces...People who don't have very even features and high cheekbones and widely spaced eyes aren't candidates for hard light, but hard lighting on people who do have great faces really brings out their best features. John has really blue eyes, so I shot him from above to let his eyes get really wide. I painted in even more blue and took the edge off his suit with a blending brush, and he looked great, but something was still missing. My art director, Jonathan, said that I could do what I wanted, so I asked John if I could borrow some of his scrapbooks. He had pictures from when he was young, letters from his relatives about how awesome he is, tons of war shots and a framed shadowbox his awards and medals and his Colonel's bars, which was really cool. I brought about 64 pictures and leters into Photoshop, because I was so entranced by the story of John's life, but then I realized that this had to fit on an 8 1/2 x11 sheet of paper with cover writing on it, so after a lot of angsting, I pared down to things that I couldn't live without, that I felt showed the life of a hero. There was one particularly touching letter from a cousin, Margaret, I believe, whose letter said "I always knew that John was my mother's favorite, but it was all right, becaue he was everyone's " I don't know why, but I had to keep it, because it just spoke legions about the kind of guy that would spend 30 years defending his country and remembering stories about every soldier that had been lost during his duty. I took the blue from John's eyes and made that the background, then I layered the shadowbox of medals on top and took them down to about 25% opacity. Then I took every medal and bar, and placed them individually so that they could make triangles, which I'll talk about later. John didn't feel right about wearing his uniform for the shot, and I felt that it needed a little more that said "Veteran's Day". I remembered a picture of a flag that I had taken in Telluride last July 4th, (photograph everything!) and painted it with a blending tool to make it look like it was blowing in the wind. I lowered the opacity to 33%, and then I basically moved all of the other shots around until I felt good about them. I know all about the rules of photography and line, and anyone can learn them, rule of thirds, s curve, there's a million of them, and I can talk about them another time if you want me to, but I have always felt that FEEL is more important then rules. I adjusted opacity from 5% to 79%, and adjusted sizes with the opacity to show what I felt should feel more important to Veteran's day. The rule of triangles is a huge one for me, I adore triangles, they're what keep the viewer's eyes bouncing around the picture, and so keep viewers viewing longer, so I tried to make sure that there were a lot of them color wise and shape wise. If it's hard for you to see, look at the letter in the middle left and the red stripe to the upper right of his eyes. They both lead to his eyes, as do the red stripe on out left of his face, the red medal to the right of his face, and his face under the soldiers hat on the bottom right. The idea is to never let a line lead the viewer out of the picture, and I can not say enough about this rule. It totally rocks. There are at least 20 more triangles in the shot. Drop me a line if you need help seeing them.