Transformation – Ori Gersht

Unit 1: Visual Recording in Art and Design – Criteria P 1, 3

Again I find myself revisiting an earlier piece of research as its content is very appropriate for the Transformation project. Ori Gershts series where he froze flowers and then blew them up is a 2 factor transformation of a subject 3 factors if you count the high speed photography used to capture a moment which is beyond the human sense of sight. The action of exploding the subject allows him to capture the unseen moments of destruction. The sliver of time that we miss whilst blinking and something which is beyond visual comprehension. When we slow time we see things that although we know or assume they are there we don’t really see during the action.

It’s interesting to think about the techniques and equipment to do this sort of Imagery. High speed studio flash on high sync would be needed to capture such fast explosive movement. I’ve seen similar things done with balloons and water and speedlights but the speed of the explosions here must surely need very high speed and powerful bursts of light in sync with the explosions to capture. Fast sequential shooting on banks of cameras. Liquid nitrogen to freeze the flowers…. Not the best idea for a small studio.

Israeli artist Ori Gersht could have just photographed flowers against a dark background, based upon a 19th Century still-life painting by Henri Fantin-Latour. Instead, he decided to blow them up and capture the very moment of their destruction, evoking a sense of violence, loss. Using a high speed camera and exploring technology, he immortalizes petals torn in pieces, giving life to one of the most famous still life series in the world.
The large-scale photographs entitled Blow Up depict elaborate floral arrangements, based upon a 19th Century still-life painting by Henri Fantin-Latour, captured in the moment of exploding. Gersht´s compositions are literally frozen in motion, a process dependent on the ability of the advanced technology of photography to freeze-frame action. This visual occurrence, that is too fast for the human eye to process and can only be perceived with the aid of photography, is what Walter Benjamin called the ‘optical unconsciousness’ in his seminal essay ‘A Short History of Photography’.

Flowers, which often symbolise peace, become victims of brutal terror, revealing an uneasy beauty in destruction. This tension that exists between violence and beauty, destruction and creation is enhanced by the fruitful collision of the age-old need to capture “reality” and the potential of photography to question what that actually means. The authority of photography in relation to objective truth has been shattered, but new possibilities to experience reality in a more complex and challenging manner have arisen.

There is a behind the scene video you can watch to view the set ups and preparation Here

Source- mummery and schnelle

Transformation – Troy Paiva

Unit 1: Visual Recording in Art and Design – Criteria P 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

I first came across Troy Paivas work way back during level 1 of my photography course, I had seen his work on a few YouTube videos concerning light painting and creative colour flash for night shooting. Then Zig mentioned him again last year during level 2, so when this task of Transformation came up one of my ideas was to look at how light painting could potentially transform a scene in many ways, taking a space or object and creatively lighting it to completely change.

Troy Paiva is an American photographer whose subject matter revolves around old scrapyards and abandoned complexes of the western United States. He uses various lighting techniques such as long exposure and light painting with different colours.

We experimented with this a little last year and I have used some similar techniques on a much smaller scale for my studio still life and Portrait last term and also some light painting I did both indoors and outside (see below).

In Troys work this combination of subject matter and colour produces these eerie photos of places that are both dead and alive. He takes items we deem scrap and ugly and beautifies them using his lighting techniques to create sublime fine art imagery.

The above photo is a great example of his style. In the photo we have an old car that’s just been left to rust sitting out in the desert somewhere. Its chrome is faded and its slightly off-kilter, probably because some of its tires have rotted away. Time and society have forgotten this mechanical corpse, but the way Troy Paiva uses light painting makes the car look like its being possessed by a ghost. The first thing you notice is the red glow coming from inside the car, which gives off this ominous feeling to the viewer. The next thing you notice are the brightly shining white headlights. What makes the headlights interesting is the fact that headlights with a white tint are a modern car feature, when this car was first produced headlights had a more yellow colour. So these headlights give us an indication that something isn’t right. Then there is this radiant green that washes over the car, its an unnatural colour and it almost seems like it is the cause for the car’s reawakening. The final piece that wraps up this eerie scene is the surrounding background. At night we are use to things being cloaked in shadow, but with the use of long exposure we get to see a lot more detail in the background such as the mountains. The long exposure creates the vibe of an otherworldly dimension caught in never ending twilight. Troy Paiva really demonstrates how the colouration in your photo can create a desired tone and mood. This is a marked change in appearance and perception of the subject which can be transformed from eerie scrap to amazing fine art.

This is definitely a technique I can see myself trying and using. It’s one I very much enjoy doing as it takes planning and experimentation to complete correctly, you have total. Control over light and shadow and can light objects extremely effectively. I had thought about combining this with the idea of street art or graffiti photography or abandoned structures or items but we will have to see how the term progress and what other ideas and themes evolve.

Sources – Lost America

Transformation – Water drops

Unit 1: Visual Recording in Art and Design – Criteria P 1, 2, 3

One of the Transformation ideas I pondered was taking studio based Images of water droplets hitting a surface or bowl of water . At its very core it embodies a kind of transformation as you are changing the form of the water by dripping it onto still water and therefore the resulting splash and crown of water is a momentary and unique change to the state of the water.

The added bonus is that its extremely beautiful and the shapes formed are never the same twice. I have also seen the technique shown live at the photography show in London done with both water drops and ice dropped into a glass, Both gave really nice results using a backlit softbox as the keylight and a small direct flash to fill in some of the front area of the water.

I have in the past done a similar thing by using paint dropped onto white tiles in a small home made flash box, see below, which gave a really interesting effect so perhaps that’s another avenue.

Still Life Final Choice

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

When we were first tasked with taking a still life image which draws inspiration from classical art I immediately thought of Vanitas , having seen mention of it in films and tv shows I had previously watched. There is something intriguing about a collection of objects and their meanings and placements and the Semiotics and meaning behind objects. I immediately had an idea of what I wanted to do and I wanted to do it differently, It was after all the idea of the task to draw our inspiration from the paintings not simply replicate them.


Some of the Images I looked at during my research. I love the idea of creating a still life with hidden meaning or a message withing the visual spectrum of the narrative.


My idea was to do a Scaled down Vanitas consisting of just a few select items that give a feeling of drakness and horror, of the fact that time is moving and nothing is forever, in short, the end is coming and no one is escaping it. To this end I chose a Skull, a candle, a pocket watch and a book of Poetry by Edgar Allen Poe as his themes frequently revolved around death,endings and darkness. I wanted to pay homage to Vanitas paintings I had seen on trips to the national gallery.


As with my portrait I wanted to put my own stamp on this image, I tried several lighting apporoaches and schemes using speedlights and studio flashes but I really wanted a low key image and the ability to selectively pick out particular components of the scene without over lighting others and taking away the dark shadowy feeling I wanted to permiate the scene. With this in mind I decided that, for the most part, the scene would be light painted using a torch and small snoots and have an element of candlelight (real not replicated) I would also add any small bursts of flash if I needed to.


For this shot I set up my scene on my desk against a black paper roll background to ensure a nice uniform darkness across the frame if any light did spill.

I used a focal length of 24mm on my 700d because I was relatively close but needed to get a wider view at f7.1 iso 100 but I actually combined 2 layers because the candle exposure is vastly different than the actual exposure for the light painting. Had I left the candle burning whilst using the torch the detail in the candle would have been lost and the overall image would not have worked as a candle lit style image. I used an exposure of around 15 to 30 seconds for the main lighting and 1/3 of a second for the candle portion. I used a white torch with a homemade cardboard “snoot” to narrow the beam and even then I used my hand to squash the end and shape the light into a sort of S shape giving a fantastic effect on the skull. Because the light wasn’t uniform I was able to really closely select the exact area I wanted lit and how strongly I wanted that area lit. I used a tripod and remote release to mount the camera and allow me the freedom to light the scene as I wanted with my chosen equipment.

I then used photoshop to edit the images together using layers to make put certain parts then blend using screen blend mode to make sure only the light part of the image was blended. For the most part the exposure was spot on as I was manually lighting so got to choose the best exposed image from the 15 or so I took.



For the Still Life image the paper used was Innova Fabriano Printmaking Rag 310gsm which features a mould made base dating back to the late 13th Century. Fabriano Printmaking Rag is traditionally the oldest and most renowned paper in Europe, used by the masters. This traditional paper provides unique white tones and soft grain texture to your artwork. The blacks on my image were extremely deep and yet the colour in the image was bright and well defined and the whites were equally as good, the texture and feel of the paper oozes quality and the paper hold the ink very well. You can view the paper information HERE


Well what can I say really, I am extremely happy and proud of the way the overall image came out. I love the lighting I have managed to create and the ambiance and atmosphere. I love how the candle has picked out the red/gold highlights in the book cover and made it appear to glow which adds alot to the scene. Overall feedback from everyone who has seen it is positive and if I were to really nitpick I think I would like to have perhaps had the composition slightly differently perhaps with more of the book cover seen and a slightly lighter watch face.

Portrait Final choice

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

Just like in my still life we were tasked with taking a portrait image which draws inspiration from classical art, of course my mind immediately went blank and panic set in. Alexa, Sylvia and I decided that a trip to the national gallery was in order to actually view the types of Images we were to draw our inspiration from. Upon looking around the centuries of art in the halls I began to draw the conclusion that I wanted to follow my line of thought that I had with my Vanitas and do something broadly similar. I came across several Momento Mori style portraits and some portraits of monks in prayer and had an idea of what I wanted to do. Again I wanted to draw my inspiration from the paintings not simply replicate them.


Some of the images I looked at during my research. Like like the Chiaroscuro lighting in some of these images and wanted to do something low key as I love that effect and look in images. The creation and appearance of something coming from the dark.


My initial idea was to do a momento mori portrait with Skull to tie in with my Vanitas as a common theme. I had noticed this running through several of the artworks I had seen in the gallery. With this in mind I ordered a large black cloak for my model to wear and obviously already had the skull from my still life. Just like with my Vanitas Still Life I wanted to give a nod to the portrait I had seen without replicating or imitating to much.


With this portrait task I decided that I wanted to do a much darker portrait and very much different to the norm. I wanted to not show the models face or at least only show part of it but leave enough in the Image that you knew someone was there. Again I tried several lighting approaches and schemes in the college studio and at home using speedlights and I really wanted a low key image and some separation from the black background similar to a Chiaroscuro effect I had in mind. I chose to rim light and feather the model to create this effect and feather the light onto the skull so that it only had minimal lighting so as not to overpower the image.


Initially I set the scene up in a small room with white walls, this was a mistake as no matter how low I put my flashes there was light bouncing all over the room due to the reflective qualities of the walls. I did a few test shots and quickly decied to use a large black surface behind my model to dampen some of the reflections which helped alot.

I used the 2 speedlights with snoots to help narrow the light as much as possible to pinpoint the shoulders and head and accentuate the skull somewhat. The test shots below show that initially I used the speedlights behind my model and at around 45 degree angle to the model facing away from the background. I quickly found that whilst this gave a great rimlight effect no light at all fell on the skull or the models face.



I then decided that directing the light toward the model from either side was a much better way of doing what I had in mind, It allowed me to not only light the model with a rim light effect but also to direct enough light on to the skull and a little on the models face so that the hood wasn’t just a black shape, I wanted you to know there was someone in there. I feel I have managed to give a nice nod of my head to Saint Francis in Meditation by Francisco de Zurban whilst making the image my own interpretation of this artwork.





For the portrait I chose a Fotospeed signature Cotton Etching 305 which is a 100% cotton Acid Free Fine Art paper with a white base. The surface has an slight etching texture which helps accentuate detail and gives a depth to your image.

Cotton Etching 305 uses the latest coating technology resulting in a wide colour gamut and pin sharp detail. Developing this paper with Doug Chinnery was such a pleasure as he understands not only his images but how a paper enhances them in a way a screen just can’t. We are thrilled to have Doug Chinnery on board as a Signature Photographer.”

I found this paper to be an excellent choice for the portrait as it wasn’t overly textured and had a nice smooth feel but being a cotton based media it held the ink well and had very nice black reproductions and sharp edges to the image. You can view the paper information HERE


Again as with my still life, I am extremely happy and proud of the way the overall image came out. I Love the lighting I have managed to create and the ambiance and atmosphere through the use of the snoots and finding the correct angle to just highlight the models face and give a little light to the skull. I have had a good reception to the image and even been asked for it on a canvas by a friend as she loves the image and the general feel of the work. Had I done anything differently I would maybe try some different approaches to the face and vary the lighting to see how they turned out, but overall I am extremely happy with the final image and print quality and how deep the blacks are.

Still Life Selection

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

So for the still life portion of this term I practised my setup and lighting both and home and in the college studio several times to help achieve the look I had in mind for my Vanitas selection. Below are the outcomes from those sessions and the work that helped me decide on my final approach and image. I tried a few approaches and lighting schemes before finally deciding on my final image for the project and theme.

The final 2 Images which I blended together to make the single image are also shown unedited.

I am again happy with my approach and workflow here and in this term and look forward to experimenting more with lighting and light painting in the future. I learned alot this term about workflow and approach to a studio session and will also carry this forward the next time I am planning a shoot. I enjoyed the still life project alot and feel this is an area I will certainly be happy to work in in the future.

Portrait Selection

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

So the time has come to pare down my shots and although I think I have already chosen my final portrait, Here are a few of the images I took in the build up to the shoot as practice and some I considered as the final choice. I have left some unedited so the difference between studio outcome and final shot can be seen as the difference after editing is a stark. Contrast to the out of camera raw images as always.

The difference between shots in the college studio using the powerful flashes and those taken at home with speedlights is quite surprising too, the college images seem to have highlighted a hell of a lot of dust in the air which looks like stars and is actually quite pleasant. Though the studio may need a little cleaning.

Hopefully you can see my thought process in trying to get the image darker and to help direct the light accordingly. I think I have made some great progress during the term in working with studio lighting and speedlights and hope this continues in my future photography.

My Still life/portrait process

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

After initially deciding on a subject for the still life or portrait image you have in mind it then falls to composition. How do you want the subject posed or objects arranged, do they need a specific arrangement or just to be placed randomly. Is there a story or some message in the composition or do certain objects need to be in the foreground of the shot.

Test composition

Test composition

Once you have decided on your Composition it is time to decide how to light the scene and which direction, strength and type of light you want to fall on the subject/objects. This is where a rough lighting process can be used.

After deciding and testing what focal length to use, the correct aperture for the scene and setting your camera to the chosen flash sync speed you can move onto a workflow for deciding on your final lighting scheme.

1 – Decide or test what type of light you want whether hard light, soft light. Do you want to try imitating a specific type of light like window or natural light. What modifiers could you use to get a chosen effect.

2 – Decide or test how many lights you want to illuminate your scene. Do you want 1 sole light from a certain direction (key light) or would you need to add some more (fill lights) to highlight a particular part or provide a certain approach such as back lighting or rim lighting the objects. Do you need to have a spotlight or reflector to give some light into a shadowy spot.

3 – Using your preferred type of light first either meter the scene or test your exposure at your chosen f-stop to check for a well exposed overall key light. This is the most important part to getting your first light set and can be done using a light meter or test shots.

4 – Begin to add fill lights to the scene testing the power and coverage of each one as you add them to make sure the scene remains as you would want it to be and that the light isn’t spilling into areas you don’t want it to.

5 – Adjust all lights and light modifiers to taste and take an exposure. Look over the image and see if you are getting the correct light into the places you want it and adjust or add more light to get to where you want the scene to be.

6 – Take your images and adjust and correct lighting, exposure or composition to match your ideas and be prepared to change those ideas if you discover a new way of doing something.

I used the process above to decide how I wanted to light both my portrait and still life shots for this term. I feel quite happy and confident in the studio now with selecting modifiers and adjusting settings and positions of light. During the term I helped several fellow students to select, position and set light power correctly for their projects and I believe this had helped greatly in our mutual understanding of the process involved.