I'm a big advocate of shooting what you love. Shoot what you love and spend your time refining your vision and your voice on topics that really mean something to you. My focus on working with Bands and Musicians is one part of my passion of shooting, but I haven't been focusing on other things that I hold dear to me. I haven't photographed any new toy portrait images, and I need to for an upcoming show I'm going to have in 2012. So after seeing my friends Kelley and Ian's son Mannix dressed up like Link from the Legend of Zelda for PAXEast, I knew it was time to shoot something personal, and Mannix's costume was just the thing to spark my inspiration.
In the grand scheme of trying to figure this whole How-To-Run-A-Business thing to make it successful (or not successful) the one thing I really try to hit home is to shoot the stuff you know and love. If you aren't shooting something you have interest in, it will show. Trust me. Instead of wasting your precious time shooting stuff you aren't into (that maybe someone else in your area is into - hello mutual networking and refferals!) find those things that really get you fired up. Like hot-rods? Shoot those. Like product photography? Do it. Like doing portraits of dogs, or leaves, or people in mascot outfits - then focus on that stuff and become the best damned photographer of "insert-thing-here" that you can be.
I'm a video game nut. I have been since I was small. I used to be an obsessive video game collector until a few years ago when I simply had to stop. But I can talk shop with the best of them and I attended the yearly Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles for a decade before burning out on the traveling and repetitiveness of the event.
So why aren't I taking pictures of things related to video games?
I've done some related stuff with my toy "Portraits" and "Plastic Erotica" projects, but why aren't I combining my passion for portraits of people with video games? Well, now is the time to start.
This project was a mix of a few different purposes, but the most important was that it was something I wanted to shoot for personal growth. I was also doing this shoot as a "test" for an upcoming portrait series I'd like to start, and I think it came out wonderfully.
I knew I wanted to experiement with a fog machine, and I grabbed a small gas generator from my father a few nights before the shoot so that we would have something to run it with. Fog machines suck up juice!
We all lined up a weeknight evening and met at a local park. We arrived a few minutes early to scope the areas out and we picked a nice wooded area with long thin trees in a wooded patch a few minutes walk from where we parked.
We fired up the generator, turned on the fog machine, set up the lights and we started shooting.
After we did an initial three-light setup, I went down to one light and wanted to do a few quick location changes. We walked a few feet to our right and started capturing some more simple lighting scenarios:
After that, we turned off all the lights and I wanted to catch some natural light "movement" shots, so I asked Mannix to wander around the woods, in the fog, like he was in the game. Like he was being stealthy, looking for enemies!
After we spent about fifteen minutes doing the natural light images, it was pretty clear that Mannix was getting tired and past his bedtime. It was also a very warm 90 degrees, even at 8pm, and I was a blobby sweaty mess, and we had the shots I wanted, so we broke everything down and headed home for the night.
For post processing, I wanted to keep it minimal but still change the "feel" of some of them. I used some very light gradients in some of the color images to change the overall color scheme, but only slightly. The black and white images have a duotone curve applied to them and I think they look very good.
This was also a good chance to see how the fog machine worked. Since it was our first time, it was a good crash-course in how it works, where to place the fog, etc. The next time we use it, we need to get some distance from the subject. The fog works much better by filling the environment behind the subject say, 10 or 20 feet and let the fog fill the whole environment. You can see it working really well in the naturally lit shots of Mannix moving around the forest. It created a great ambiance.
Friday - June 17: Video gaming site Kotaku emailed and asked if they could to a blog post on the images, which I was glad to share. It got about 100,000 hits on the post and the images on Flickr are getting hit pretty heavy. I am kinda discouraged by all those who have been replying to the post with trollish and negative, mean and downright rude comments about Mannix. He's 5 years old and he's more mature than 90% of the people posting on that thread.
I'm very happy with the results of the shoot. Mannix's parents are very happy, and Mannix himself is totally excited (and now famous!)
Here is a behind-the-scenes video taken during the shoot, with some of the final images mixed in. Enjoy! If you have any questions about the shoot, feel free to ask away!
I'm already planning my next personal project shoot and it hopefully will happen in a few weeks.
Thanks to Dave for manning his fog machine, thanks to Sara for taking the video footage and helping, thanks to Kelley and Ian for letting me take pictures of Mannix, and thanks to Mannix for being awesome and for being Link!
Below is a Flickr slide show of the processed final images.