Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Patch :: Contemplating (Self) Portraits

This months challenge on the patch is based around selfportraits. I’m not scared of self portraits of sitting for portraits, I have done plenty both with camera and paintbrush. The real challenge is, with the over popularity of selfies is coming up with something creative and original. So of course I went looking at some classic self portraits, not to copy but for some inspiration (the irony of looking at the work of othesr for inspiration on creativity and originality is not lost on me! That's what art is, isn't it?). Nor I am trying to spoof the great portraits or copy them to closely. I’d rather just be inspired and add something like Rodney Pike’s wonderful famous portaits reimagined with Mr. Bean (aka Rowan Atkinson). The trouble is if you try to copy the style too closely, you get in the uncanny valley situtation, somewhere between a fake and not quiet right, just disturbing. I particulalry liked the strong contrast of Yousuf Karsh’s Hemingway portrait (hes a beraded old bloke, what's not to like) and I figure it was very strong (studio) light, extra development time and a high contrast paper. I’m assuming perhaps Kodak Tri-X and Ilford grade 5 wasn’t available back then, but they where in the 60s & 70s. There are a lot of good portraits of pop icons and even artist like Andy Warhol that testify that strong light can work in very memorable portraits. But strong contrasty light is not considered complimentary for portraiture in fact there is a whole set of paraphernalia to give soft light, soft boxes, gels and filters, not to mention portrait skin smoother and glow post processing filters. No wrinkles, bumps and blemishes for the rich and famous these days. Anyway I figured strong and contrasty is something I could play with for the first sub-theme sidelight. Another less than complimentary photographic technique is HDR, it also tends to highlight wrinkles bumps and blemishes. Perfect two wrongs to make a right!

IMGP8620-HDR (1) copySo with a high contrast HDR in mind I noticed that in a very grey overcast day drawing to a close with the last light coming in a west facing window I had the opportunity to use the light and as I set up the table light behind me came on (its on a timer). I had my camera on a tripod beside me and I took a few experimental shots including some EV bracketed sets, The light didn’t last long and it was time for dinner. The image below is a google+ autoAwesome *HDR created while I had my dinner and watched repeats of spicks and specks. I did try some of the HDRscape filters in google+ but they where just too hash and a little too surreal, but there was potential so I compromised by bringing the image back into Photo Effects and my favourite dynamic contrast filter and a touch of clarity in the tone enhancer. This is one image that does also look good in black and white (I often desaturate or do a quick black & white to check tonal composition)  but I wanted to stay with colour,

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