Project: Post-Apocalyptic Tribal Shaman

I recently had a WONDERFUL shoot with a good friend. The concept was “Tribal Shaman” but ended up way more awesome than I ever had anticipated. Basically a lot of fun with some black (and white) bodypaint, black feathers, contact lenses. Add to this a very beautiful and talented model (Lea) and a skilled and enthusiastic photographer (myself) and the end result turned out amazing!

This is my first published foray into art-nudes territory, and I know that both me and Lea are very proud of it. Most important: we had tons of fun! 99 images and I’ve selected my personal favorites to post here. Some (that aren’t as revealing) have already been published on my Facebook-page.

I decided to publish these photos on a separate page. I’m not bothered or offended by the naked body myself, but apparently there are other people out there who are squeamish about such things. Go there for the full experience. Keep it classy, keep it tasteful.

Here’s a sample:

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High-key self-portrait

Self-portraits are something of an achilles-heel with me. I find it very difficult to be both photographer and subject, and when acting as the subject I get deeply mired in a strange desire to reflect my inner self in some kind of semi-idealized way which further confuses my process.

I try to move away from this, but it’s difficult. I’ve learned that I might manage to take a somewhat decent self-shot when I’m not stressed, but it’s difficult.

Earlier this evening I had an hour with nothing special planned and I decided to attempt some impromptu experimentation with high-key lighting. This is a technique I desire to have at least some grasp of, and so far my attempts have (in my own admittedly very biased opinion) failed miserably. Strobes were already setup so I just slapped my camera on a tripod and used my bedroom door as a white background.

It was surprisingly fun and meditative. I was originally going to just use some inanimate object as a subject but ended up using myself and doing a fair bit of running back-and-forth between the back and the forth of the camera. I opted on using my 35-70 since I just wasn’t in the mood to fiddle about with the manual focus 105 despite it being my preferred lens for this type of business.

End results were better than expected. I learned a bit more on how to not pose myself. I now feel more confident in attempting this style in the future. I learned that my version of Spock-lifting-one-eyebrow looks like crap.

Not bad for just an hour of goofing around with some flashes, a camera and a bedroom door.

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Winter’s Coming

Two photos from the weeks gone by. Haven’t been very active in running around with the camera but hey, that’s life.

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This is Olof, one of the very few neighbors I interact with. He’s by far the most interesting person I’ve met in this neighborhood. He’s from Pajala, way up north, bordering on Finland. He’s very loud when he talks, but he’s also very humble. Every time we meet we end up talking very intensely about a variety of subjects – usually somehow stemming from our shared opinion that this world is in a terrible state of affairs. This was a spontaneous portrait and it’s actually wildly over-exposed due to me not remembering I was in full manual mode and having just stepped into the sunlight. It was saved by the impressive dynamic range of my camera and RAW-photography.

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This is 30 seconds of papermill at night. There was a weak wind blowing which made the smoke haze around the structures.

Debating the editing

Just the other day I published a new naked portrait. I’m very pleased with this one, and very pleased with several other things as well. I’m very happy that my father showed me an interesting way to light subjects, which I used in this session. I’m also very pleased with the simple fact that I get better at doing this, and each time I take a portrait not only do I get more keepers but also I get more in sync with my own artistic visions and my confidence as a photographer become better.

There is some debate regarding editing. Me, I’m very candid with my own opinion that I consider editing my photos just as important as taking them. I often jokingly claim that I’m actually better at editing photographs than taking them. But occasionally I encounter photographers who have a somewhat snobbish attitude that editing is “cheating” and that “real” photographers do it in camera and “get it right” the first time. Ken Rockwell is famous for this attitude.

Me, I think it’s a load of bullshit. Even back in the days of film, most photographers worth their salt spent more or less time in the darkroom. Some photographers less, and some more. The darkroom, just like the camera, is a tool in the process of creating an image. Digital technology have enabled us to do the same things much easier, quicker and with more grace and power, but the underlying framework is essentially the same as in the darkroom filled with paper, chemicals and the photographers vision.

I draw a strict line between editing and retouching. Editing is the same thing as done in the darkroom – correcting levels, adding a bit of saturation here and there, dodging and burning. Retouching on the other hand is manipulation.

Again, I’m very candid about what I retouch in my photos: I remove temporary blemishes such as a pimple or a bruise but I never, never remove scars, cellulites or anything that is permanent. Editing a photo is important to my creative process. Without editing, I would not reach my photographic and creative visions. With that said, I dislike over-edited and plastic-looking photographs. I don’t like when overzealous editors or retouchers have turned people into botox-looking plastic zombies, or when editing is used to wildly manipulate an image into something it wasn’t from the start.

Finally, let me show a comparison. It’s the same image but on the left is how it looked straight out of the camera. To the right, after some basic editing in Lightroom. What has been changed? Exposure has been adjusted, levels have been adjusted and I added a slight vignetting around the image to enhance the face. Some other very minor tweaks. Is it too much? I think not.

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The key to high-key photos

Occasionally I fool around with my photos, mostly to break myself out of various habits and shortcuts that I often find myself trodding around in. I like the really high-contrast, high-key style of photography even though I rarely indulge myself in it. I have yet to find a style of it that I master and enjoy, but when fiddling around with two portraits that originally appeared in my Naked Portraits-project, I ended up with to very high-contrast black-and-white photos I liked.

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