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About Photography / Hobbyist Official Beta Tester Christophe KiciakMale/France Group :iconcrphotomanipulation: CRPhotomanipulation
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La Baie des Anges by gyaban
La Baie des Anges
Everything planned, photographed and edited by me.

France, 14th of July 2016. The country is celebrating its National Day. As every year, spectacular fireworks are displayed in almost each city, attracting lots of people, families, children. It is one of these occasions where joy can temporarily make sadness disappear. Alas, not this day. In the city of Nice (located in the south of France, next to the sea), a few minutes after the fireworks, a man managed to drive with a cargo truck through the crowd, killing 85, and injuring hundreds. Among the dead persons, mothers, fathers, even children, who were unfortunately on the path of the truck.

I don't feel like commenting on the geopolitical nor religious situation that led there. I am too sad to think or analyze. For now, I'd rather stick to some of the stories the survivors told. For example, a mother and her 4 years old daughter were in line to buy candies, when the truck arrived on them. The woman saw the truck a couple of seconds before the impact, and immediately understood what was going on. She managed to grab her girl, and lie with her on the ground, just between the wheels of the truck, letting it pass above them. Miraculously, they both made it. Of course, the little girl and her mother witnessed lots of horror this night. A few days later, back on the street where it all happened, the girl asked:"Mummy, where do the dead children go?" She wanted to leave her very favorite toy on the ground, as a gift for them. The mother answered: "Don't worry, they are with their parents in the heaven". Then, the girl took her toy back and said: "We, for ones, are not dead. Do you remember when you put me back on your belly as when I was a baby, to save me from the bad truck who stole my candies?"

The sea portion just next to this street is called "Angels Bay", "La Baie des Anges".
So you like creating composites? Great. But have you ever tried creating one made exclusively out of your own photo? It could be intimidating at first, but once you tried, there is no turning back! Sure, using you own photos asks some dedication, but also gives you much flexibility about your project: you are the sole master on board. But how to be efficient at it? What are the main traps to avoid, the main tricks? Let's see.

1) Composition

First, it is very important to define exactly your project. The best way to do so is a sketch. A rough one can be enough, you don't need to be a very skilled drawer. Here is one of my "best one":

Burnout---Sketch by gyaban
As you can see, it is not extremely good, but it is enough to see exactly where all the different items are located. Once you are happy with the overall composition, start counting the various photos you are going to need. In this example, one can see that at least those ones are needed:
- Model in main position
- Model's left arm in 2 other positions
- Model's right ram in 1 other position
- Model's hair (either in 1 shot if you manage to do so, or in several photos to created the needed shape)
- Other model hands (x6)
- Flames
- Burning paper for fingers
- Some ashes

If everything goes well then you should be able to reach your goal decently:

Burnout by gyaban

Of course, to get there, there are a few parameters to take into consideration to shoot your photos appropriately.

2) Light direction

You really need to define, very clearly, where is located your main light source. This must be done at the "sketch" time: you absolutely need the information before taking any photo.
You can have several other "minor" sources, depending on the scene, but a main one is highly recommended (as it usually gives prettier results). Once you decided that, ALL your photos must comply with the decision. There is no need (at all) in spending time masking many layers carefully, softening edges, adding sand, or covering them with whatever special effect if the lighting is not consistent: it just won't look right, whatever you do. For example if you decide that the main light comes from the lower left corner, all your photos must be lit the same way.
For all the photos taken in a controlled environment, such as your home studio (or your kitchen, or whatever), it is relatively easy: move your lighting gear and/or your model appropriately. Here is an example: photographing a baby can be challenging, but if all the lights are positioned and you already know where everything will be in advance, it could be a matter of seconds.

Emilie by gyaban
The lighting on the face was good enough, so very few editing was necessary about it in the final composite:

Voodoo Child by gyaban

Of course the temperature of the lights were adjusted (but even that could have been done at shooting time, with colored gels on the flashes).

If you need outdoor photos, it can be quite complicated, because you usually become dependent on weather and sun position (especially for landscapes or architecture). In order to help you find the good location for your photos and the good time, it is probably better to use an application such as SunCalcor TPE.This way, you can foresee where the light is going to come from, and define the best time to travel to your shooting location.

3) Light intensity
There is a very simple rule: the closer to the source, the brighter and contrasted the subject. You need to make sure to "sort" brightness and contrast levels accordingly to the main light source location. This means you could have to take "bad" photos (i.e. underexposed/overexposed). Remember, you are not taking photos that are going to be used separately, they need to work as a whole in the final composite. Technically, this can be a bit tricky, since modern cameras will automatically try to obtain optimized exposure: if you want to go against it, you need to set your camera in full manual mode, and adjust the settings by yourself. Of course, this goes way beyond the purpose of this post, but try to learn how to use your camera in each mode, and do not be afraid to experiment with it.

4) Shadows
Just like for the light, direction and intensity are the keys. However, for shadows, the intensity rule in inverted: the closer to the source, the darker. And of course, shadows far away from the source should be less intense (i.e. less dark). Since creating shadows can be sometimes difficult in post-processing (especially when the environment has complex shapes), you can try photographing shadows for more realism. In order to do that, you need to create the real shadow on a white ground (which is easier at home, for example using a large white sheet). Then, simply use you photo in a "multiply" mode layer, and you should be able to position your real shadow in the composite.

5) Depth of field
It is important to also keep in mind the location of the focus plane, and photograph the different elements accordingly. Just like with the light position, you need to define your focus plane location, i.e. where the photo is "sharp" and where it is "blurry". In the example below, while the baby is in focus, the fishes in the foreground and in the background are blurry:

Happy Birthday by gyaban
While it is of course possible to blur things in post processing, sometimes blurring them in-camera gives much nicer results: against, experiment all you can to get the best results!

If you want your composite to be sharp from front to back, then you need every single photo you take to be sharp. To get there, you are going to need small aperture on your camera, such as f/18 or f/22. This can imply using a tripod and a remote. If this is not enough, you can even use focus stacking methods (but you will need a tripod too, of course). Here is an example where I had to use focus stacking, since a standard macro photo of a fly would have resulted in a very narrow depth of field:

The Duel by gyaban

6) Atmospheric depth
This can be useful if you want to compose a picture with items positioned very far away in the background. Air is not transparent, even when there is no rain, fog, clouds, nor anything. Air make things less contrasted, a bit like if a white filter was between you and the item. This is often obvious on landscape shots: mountains in the background are much less contrasted than things in the foreground. If you can, try adjusting your lighting to obtain such result for items that will end up far away in the background.
Here, the persons in the background were shot with that in mind:

Liberte d'Expression by gyaban

8) General hints
As you realized, there are several things you must know before grabbing your camera:
- Main light location. This is super important, and you must take all your photos with the main light in the same relative position. With animals, children, or anything moving fast and hardly controllable, it can be a nightmare. Good luck :) For convenience, I shot everything I can (small objects, models, etc.) in my home studio, so that I can precisely adjust lights intensity and positions.
- Composition. If you don't know where your items will be positioned in the final image, chances are you won't be consistent focus-wise or light-wise. I usually sketch my composition beforehand (very roughly), so that I have all that information. If unsure, take photos with everything sharp: while you always can add some blur effect afterwards, if you need things sharper (as for your entry's foreground), you're stuck.

Also, take your time when reviewing your photos and selecting them for the composite. Do ask yourself the questions we mentioned:
- Are my items lit from the right direction?
- Are my items lit with the appropriate intensity? (the closer to the main light source, the brighter)
- Are my shadows going towards the appropriate direction (opposite of the main light source location)
- Are my shadows intensities appropriate? (the closer to the main light source, the darker)
- Is my depth of field consistent? (no sharp items where the main photo is blurry, no blurry items where the main photo is sharp)
- Is my color balance consistent? (no items lit in blue when the main light is yellow, etc.)
- Are my items in the far background less contrasty than the ones in the foreground? (especially in landscapes)

Hope this helps!

The Duel by gyaban
The Duel
Everything photographed and edited by me, no stock.

Sometimes, unexpected challenges arise. I love trying to predict what could happen from there, or what could have happened "if". Do you? It is a little mind sport that I can't prevent myself from practicing. For example, I can spend significant time thinking about one of my reactions in a given situation, then imagining the other possible outcomes depending on various behavior. Of course, one could say that such thoughts are useless, since the action is past. True, in a way. However, I do know that it actually helped me: in life, many scenes are repeating themselves, and having studied all the possibilities on a similar case permits me acting more appropriately on-the-fly. Experience, I suppose.

Speaking of flies, this is quite a big one. This is where my thinking gets a bit less useful in everyday life: I also can't prevent myself from elaborating scenarios that are wildly unrealistic. It's fun, it makes me smile, so why not? A few days ago, I was walking in the woods, while I heard some shots in the wind: hunters. It really is hard to love these guys. Seriously, running after some defenseless animal with dogs and riffles? For entertainment? What wrong is with them? It would be amusing to see them facing some real opponent. For example, a giant deer, or a giant boar. They would be quite surprised, wouldn't they? Would they still face it, even if the odds suddenly were against them? I doubt it!

Similarly, I always feel bad when I see someone coldly killing a bug. I believe that such behavior is a bit like what those silly hunters do: killing for your own comfort, allowing it simply because there is no risk doing so. What about life respect? Even if one is actually bigger and stronger, does it justify death? Some say that in nature, it is how things work: the strong lives, the weak dies. Well, if human beings are really that smart, maybe it is time to evolve from this ancestral rule.

A few technical notes about the fly shot: I found the insect in the basement of my house. It was already dead. I photographed it using focus stacking: 22 shots were necessary, at f/16 with the fantastic MP-E 65mm lens. Thanks for watching!
The Sea Shepherd by gyaban
The Sea Shepherd
Everything photographed and edited by me, no stock.

I dearly cherish silence. The day starts with some music to wake up. The cats beg for food. Steps resonate on the stairs. The coffee machine noisily grinds some beans. The toothbrush scrapes. The shower throws water. The motorbike roars. The phone keeps ringing. Useless talks, pointless laughs. Spoons, forks, plates. More talks, more laughs. TV shouts, colors shout, cars honk. More noise, many more. And finally, silence. I dearly cherish silence.

I deeply hate silence. If you remain silent while in trouble, there won't be any help. If you remain silent while lying on the street, you will be ignored. If you remain silent instead of sharing your thoughts, you will stay alone. If you remain silent, others will decide for you. If you remain silent while your peers are decimated, you will disappear with them. I deeply hate silence.
Narcissism by gyaban
Everything photographed and edited by me.

When I was a kid, I was extremely shy. I remember that the simple sound of the ringing phone was enough to make me run in another room: I was terrified by the idea of speaking to someone. Similarly, buying some candies at the grocery was a great challenge, since it involved talking to the shopkeeper. Of course, this became even more of a problem when I started to go to school, since avoiding everyone else was not an option anymore.

I am not sure where this fear of others came from. Retrospectively, I suppose that I was seriously lacking in the self-confidence department. For some reason, I wasn't very fond of myself: I was convinced that my body was awkward, that my movements were unnatural, that my thoughts were unusual. As a result, I spent years being jealous of the popular kids, secretly looking at them with envy, wondering what I could do to become like them. Slowly, I understood that I first had to believe more in my own potential.

However, while some amount of self-confidence seems suitable, when does it become narcissism? What is the point to constantly feel superior, to constantly love yourself, without any objectivity? It is probably a great way to never improve nor evolve. If one turns the TV on, or reads some news, it is easy to spot dozen of self-proclaimed celebrities, who keep staring at their own belly, certain that they are so interesting for the rest of the world. Even when looking around you, I am sure you can think of someone acting a bit like that, living only for recognition. It is a bit sad really, but I suppose it is directly resulting of how our capitalistic society works. Individual performance is often praised. I hope this trap won't get Humanity stuck in a vicious circle.

Finally, I would like to thank my stepmother for her help: we were chatting about this topic and how to depict it, when she told me about multiple mirrors and infinite reflections. This greatly helped me come up with this concept.

Thanks a lot for watching!


gyaban's Profile Picture
Christophe Kiciak
Artist | Hobbyist | Photography
I am a self-taught hobbyist, who simply enjoys creating unusual images. My work never contain anything but my own photos, combined into surreal, conceptual, or fantasy oriented pictures. My beloved wife Marianne is helping me, especially on the artistic side of the creations (sets construction, image composition, color choices, overall feeling).

I am convinced that a great deal of what “Art” is lies in doing things differently. In visual arts, looking at things from another angle, modifying the lighting, adjusting an expression, or changing an attitude can bring life to an otherwise dull work. However, seeking difference simply for the sake of it is probably not a good way to obtain the best results. This is where “Creativity” steps in. I would personally define it as the ability to use difference as a tool to bring interest. Therefore, being creative is very important to me. Of course, I often fail at it, but I believe that pursuing that goal is the path I should follow.

Creating a new image is a whole process to me. Some photographers are able to instinctively recognize a worthy situation, find the best angle, and shoot it, all in a matter of seconds: this is a talent I don’t have. However, what I can do is imagine concepts, draw several rough sketches to see how they could be efficiently translated into pictures, determine all the various photos I am going to need, hunt patiently for them, plan additional shooting sessions, and assemble everything on the computer. As a result, my images are like personal statements, a bit like a novel for a writer. Everyone is free to like or dislike them, to agree with my point of view or not, but fact is there is no cheating in them: my images are the direct reflection of my thoughts, the traces of my existence.


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adrianamusettidavila Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank You by Undead-Academy Dark hope by adrianamusettidavila
Dani-Owergoor Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the watch and fav! 
Pokingaround Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016
Happy Birthday!
Mocris Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday! :)
annewipf Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016
Bon anniversaire! :hug:
EBENEWOOD Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016   General Artist
Joyeux anniversaire Christophe! Que cette journée soit pleine d'allégresse et de tendres moments! :hug::cake::party::sun::earth:
TinaLouiseUk Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Cake For Bday By Kmygraphic-d7dzktw by TinaLouiseUk  473941d4k7m7p8o7 by TinaLouiseUk  479013bzgzhoakgn by TinaLouiseUk
Black-B-o-x Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016
Happy Birthday! :cake: :party:
RoseCS Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016
Blower fella (Party) by Ehsartem Happy Birthday my friend! by TheGalleryOfEve Cheers fella white-wine (party) by Ehsartem
TubaMirum Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2016
Do you ever do tutorials about your process for photo manipulation???
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