Exploded View Camera, Process

Process post!

Once again, one of my favorite parts of the job - the in-the-dirt, figure-it-out, tune-the-world-out sort of stuff that is frightening, and challenging, and in the end the most rewarding stuff. I'd rather be doing this part than any scheduling, talking on the phone, or whatever admin tasks are piling up on my desk. Or cleaning my desk for that matter...

So let's get to it. I desperately needed to do some self-promotion and start drumming up more shooting work here in Nashville, so I figured I'd make some time between outside retouching gigs and challenge myself to create an image that shows off my technical ability to shoot complicated and unorthodox still-life, my more trade-like skills as a retoucher, and my conceptual skills as an artist* in general. I think I pulled it off, but you be the judge. Here's the final image:

So how did I do it? Let's see if I can quantify it after the fact, since I am notoriously bad at taking shots along the way to document it properly.



Step 1, The Concept:

Sketches? I didn't make any this time, to my discredit. I'd recently worked on some killed artwork (I did not shoot these) with Sacred Bones Records and their excellent designer (and fellow RMCAD alum), David Correll, involving some "exploded view" portraits of band members for an album cover. You can see some of the work that was killed for that above - while it certainly needed more refining, I rather like it. Them's the breaks though, so onward and upward... This work led me down a rabbit hole of ideas that I never committed to paper, but rather just held in my head.

Pro-tip: write things down.



Step 2, The Shoot:

This was daunting. The actual set-up process was relatively simple, a few big soft sources and some flags and reflectors and we're good to go. Unfortunately, my tripod, while great, is no tank-like studio stand; the dog (Harp) loves to sleep right up against whatever tripod- or light stand legs she can find - and is less than ginger when doing so; and keeping the exact angle and placement of the camera being shot while also taking it apart piece-by-piece is nigh on impossible. All that being said, it went about as well as could be expected. Above you can see some of the RAW shots and behind-the-scenes.

The camera of note is a Canon T70, an early '80s 35mm SLR focussed on simple controls on an otherwise fully powered and flexible body. That being the case, I wanted the image to be neutral, so I've de-branded the lens and body to say "camera" instead of "Canon". It's not particularly rare or remarkable... and more than a little ugly with regards to it's branding, not to mention I already have several 35mm film cameras that are more fun to use, so it seemed perfect for the dissection challenge. I had wanted to start with a much (much) more simple camera to basically test the process out, but waffled too long and finally just bit the bullet. "A journey of a thousand miles ..." and all that. Turns out, relatively modern cameras have a shit ton of individual parts. Hindsight.



Step 3, Composing:

Initially I had thought I'd take a much more "clinical" approach to the exploded view idea - and went so far as to shoot the camera this way. Everything on a basically 45-degree angle and constrained to the axis. However, as I began to put everything together in a rough fashion, I found myself a little bored by the execution. I knew I could probably make photoshop work a bit harder and try to make the camera look like it was literally peeling apart, but wasn't really satisfied with that exploration either. The more dynamic, directional explosion in the final image seemed more visually appealing, less static and less pandering (to photoshop), so ... winner, winner, chicken dinner.



Step 4, The Build:

My favorite part - the animated gif process build! It gives a much better impression of the amount of work that went into this image - so may pieces (and trust me, I've weeded way more that became too visually complicating), so many paths to cut, so many compositional choices, so many tiny violins playing the tears down my cheeks. 

Let me know what you think in the comments or elsewhere online!



*To be fair, I struggle with the term "artist" a lot. I feel more like a crafts- or trades-person - but we can talk about that some other time over a few drinks.