Sunday, August 5, 2007

PopPhoto Shootout 2007: First Assignment

(My Reify and Redact project is actually finished but I should document my efforts in the PopPhoto contest in a timely manner.)

After qualifying by submitting four images, the next phase of the contest was a series of three “assignments” to be posted daily on the PopPhoto website beginning July 16. Looking a bit more closely at the calendar, I discovered a scheduling conflict. I was to be in north Alabama for a family reunion on the 15th and my wife, children, grandchild and a handful of nieces and nephews – virtually all my consultants, assistants and models – were to be in Florida for the entire week. Plus, my wife claimed first dibs on our Canon 20D digital SLR. PopPhoto, I have a problem.

Undeterred, I changed my goal. Instead of winning the contest and receiving the title of “Best Photographer on the Planet”, my goal (perhaps slightly more realistic) would be to finish the final assignments and somehow be mentioned or listed among the finalists. I packed my trusty Canon G3, drove to Mississippi, picked up my mother and sister and then drove to north Alabama.

After the family reunion, we began our return. I awoke Monday morning, and logged into PopPhoto’s site. The first assignment was a picture of your first name. What kind of photo assignment was that? Naturally, the day before, we had driven on “Gordon Street”-- now about a three hour round trip away in the wrong direction. We loaded into my car and drove to south Mississippi. All along the way we planned my photo shoot of “Gordon”.

By the time we reached my mother’s house, the first shots were planned. In fact, there were four shots planned even though only three were needed: 3D stencils, cutouts in the birdbath, inked stamps and a sunset photo “signed” in the sand.

We quickly found the large letters that my Dad had cast in plaster but, of course, there was only one “O”. Spreading a blanket on the workbench, I spaced the letters for “GORD N” and “G RDON” and set up a snooted flash to light it from one end. A few trial shots with the G3, a few adjustments, two shots to be combined later in Photoshop and it was done. I liked it.

My sister cut out “GORDON” in Styrofoam – making both “O”s – and placed them in the birdbath. The floating letters were completely unmanageable until I jammed them all together. The picture was mediocre; it looked like homemade letters in a dirty birdbath. I had my mother hold a flash very close to the water but just out of view. The letters became nicely overexposed and the bottom of the birdbath glowed with a strange pattern. OK, I’ll keep it – just in case.

Off to the beach for the sunset. The idea was to get a beautiful sunset photo that was “signed” in the sand. I wrote my name in the sand and took a few trial shots. Immediately I could see that this would be difficult. The sunset was unremarkable (note to self: Don’t count on a spectacular sunset.) and my name just didn’t show up very well. I tried various angles, flashes, flashlight, etc. It just didn’t work (that time, but I still like the idea).

Back at the house, my sister had stamped “GORDON” on a piece of poster paper and placed the stamps above the name. I scattered the rest of the stamps around and set up my camera. Instead of flash, I grabbed a flashlight and lit the tabletop scene from one side. We tried several variations including one with a bit of red light from my trusty Swiss Army Knife. Later, using Photoshop, I combined two of these to get the final image. This is the “GORDON” that I like the best.

Images selected, processed in Photoshop, downloaded to PopPhoto, bath and in bed at 2am. Seven hours until the next assignment.

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