For the love of light

For the love of light is a step by step deconstruction of the image: Backlit Warrior Deconstructed. These are the steps I took to create that image.

Concept

A friend wanted a “cool” shot of Agent May from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D in warrior pose.

Obstacles

Agent May, what Agent May? Why isn’t there a figure of Agent May? #HasbroPlease! Due to the annoying and predictable scarcity of good female characters, she had to be Frankensteined. The resulting figure was not yoga-friendly so getting her into anything resembling a warrior pose was a challenge and her legs are too skinny & wobbly to keeping her standing.

The base figures: Silk and Maria Hill.

 

The quick kit-bashed figure with Silk’s head on Maria Hill’s body. (Background by MagMod’s MagBeam & MagGel.)

Solutions

No May? No problem (sort of). A quick head swap from Silk to Maria Hill was good enough for a backlit shot. Backlighting was essential in hiding her flaws. I also hit the scene with a slight dose of Atmosphere Aerosol to keep it dark and moody while simultaneously assisting in concealing her kit-bashed origins.

I wanted something for the light to beam in from, so for the background, the S.H.I.E.L.D logo was cut into 12×12 inch black cardstock. The diameter of the logo was slightly smaller than my favorite flash modifier: a MagSphere by MagMod.

The Figure held her pose with the help of Fun-Tak. This blue putty was placed in her joints to lock them in place and on the bottom of her feet to stick her to the substrate.

The messy set up before background and second flash were in place.

Hardware

Now that I had a figure that would work, I could focus on the hardware: A DSLR with a 50 mm lens sat on a tripod slightly lower than the figure’s eye level. I wanted to fill in the shadows a bit on the camera side of the Figure so I placed a flash on a tiny tripod camera-right. A third tripod held a flash with a MagGrid + MagSphere centered behind the logo cutout in the background.

If you don’t know MagMod, they make a system of flash modifiers that I just can’t put down. It’s quick and easy to swap parts like adding a gel or grid to change up your lighting. I used the MagSphere to diffuse the light a bit and the MagGrid to control light spilling through the holes I should not have punched in the background.

Extras

Atmosphere Aerosol was sprayed onto the scene just before tripping the shutter. “Smoke” in a can! What could be more fun? I guess real smoke (& fire), but, I’m not allowed to play those as all of California is I giant pile of kindling waiting to go up, so in keeping Smokey Bear happy, Atmosphere Aerosol stepped in for the win.

The Shot

RAW file with a minor crop

Workflow

RAW to Lightroom → Export to TIFF → Send to mobile → Mextures → Lens FX

Lightroom – Basic clean up, i.e.: cropping, contrast, shadow and highlight adjustments etc.

Lr Edits

Mextures** – Color grading to add a little mood.

Mextures Edit

The Lens Fx app was used to apply their Epic lens flare effect.

Final edit with Lens Fx

Conclusion

I know I used a lot of gear for this, but really, just about any camera or light sources can we swapped in with similar results. I just happen to have some gear handy. The key elements in this image are a diffuser on the main light source and Atmosphere Aerosol.

A list for hardware geeks:

  • Canon: 5D | 50mm macro f/2.5 | EX   Flash (2) | intervalometer | Canon flash trigger/controller.
  • Manfrotto 3021 + 808RC4 3-way head (camera)
  • Manfrotto 190X PROB + 488 ball head ( Main flash with MagMod)
  • MagMod| MagGrip | MagGrid | MagSphere
  • Joby mini tripod (flash camera-right)
  • Atmosphere Aerosol
  • Fun-Tak (LocTite’s blue Putty)
  • Leatherman SuperTool
  • Friend’s kitchen table

What’s your favorite light source or modifier?

Jess (You can follow ActionFiguredWorkout on Instagram or on G+)

**Color grading with Mextures is normally my last step as it integrates or unifies all the elements of the image. However, I wanted the flare to stand out so I used Mextures in this step.

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4 Comments

  1. Lizzi

    What a great behind the scenes post Jess! I love seeing the process, and I really do think I need to find some atmosphere aerosol to have a play with! It looks like fun!

  2. Thanks for sharing! Always nice to be able to take a look in someone else’s kitchen.
    How do you like this atmosphere aerosol? I once tried another sort of smoke in an aerosol thing, however, it left some kind of residue on my Lego so I never tried again.

  3. Leila (brickandmordor)

    Very cool, thanks for sharing Jess! I love seeing your workflow. Cindy ordered some of that smoke in a can, so you may start seeing some cool moody shit from us soon. You’ve also inspired me to “effect” my photos a bit more… My usual method has been to keep it authentic.

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