PHOTOGRAPHY WASN'T MY FIRST PLAN
After graduating from college my initial plan was to work in visual effects (VFX) for feature length films. Think Transformers or exploding buildings in movies, basically creating things in the computer and blending it with footage to make it realistic. I spent hundreds of hours teaching myself how to create and destroy and blend these assets with video realistically. But life happens and plans change and I found my love for photography along the way. I turned my focus completely towards learning and improving my photography after that.
"But why does that matter?" I can hear you asking. The thing is that when I started focusing on photography, I had no time to do anything VFX related. For the past couple months part of me felt like I betrayed my love for VFX and abandoned it. I wanted to find a happy medium where I could participate in both my areas of interest.
TRYING TO MAKE SOME MAGIC
The idea came to me after finishing Stranger Things Season 2 on Netflix. There was one shot in the Hub of The Upside Down where the lighting and the textures of the underground tunnels really struck a chord with me. I pushed the idea aside for a few days because I was aware and a little scared of how much work I would have to put into one photo.
That's when I realized I needed to make it up to the side of myself that loves VFX for staying away for so long. The only way I could logistically take this photo would for me to create the tunnel system from scratch and composite a photo of myself in that environment. So before my conscious chimed in and told me not to commit to this I ran to my computer and opened my 3D modeling program (3DS Max).
A LITTLE RUSTY BUT STILL WORKING
After not touching the program for close to a year I was scared that I forgot everything. So I started out by making the most basic shape I could to just start with something. After I had the rectangle in place as a stand-in where I would be in the frame I felt a little more confident in continuing.
I recorded the whole process of creating the background to show to all of you and also for myself so I could learn from the mistakes I made. So instead of outlining everything I did, you can just watch a sped up version below.
STILL WORKING BUT DEFINITELY RUSTY
I made a lot of mistakes making the cave which I was prepared for, but it still added hours to the process that were draining, exhausting, and overall frustrating. On multiple occasions I had to delete full assets that I spent hours working on because the way I created them was interfering with the next steps that I had to do to them. So I scrapped the pieces and created almost identical pieces just using a different method.
It was things like this that racked up the hours on this project, but it's important because I won't make those mistakes again.
STEPPING AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER
Now that the environment was done I needed to take the actual picture of myself to composite into the background. Before I could do that I was missing an essential part of the whole photo, Steve's Spiked Bat. So off on a scavenger hunt I went to find a wooden baseball bat and some very scary looking nails. There was something therapeutic about drilling and hammering in 6 inch nails into a baseball bat, don't ask me why.
Now onto shooting. The temperatures were dropping quickly now that we're heading into winter so I wanted to get in and out as fast as possible. I had a pose in mind, I had my outfit picked, and most importantly my Demagorgon killing bat was fully assembled. I knew where all the light sources in the picture were so it was just a matter of placing my flashes and getting plenty of pictures to choose from.
BACK ON TRACK
From here on out it was business as usual, I got past the biggest obstacle in the environment and just needed to blend myself into the area and style it to communicate Stranger Things. It was definitely tougher than I imagined but lucky for you I recorded that whole process too!
I had a really great time making this photo and really paying some attention to a part of myself that I haven't given much love to in a while and I hope you guys liked hearing about the mental and technical process behind it!