Adam Savage, the famous MythBuster, is fond of saying, “I reject your reality, and substitute my own.” With clever use of toys and Photoshop, substituting one’s own reality becomes child’s play.

Recently I got the chance to put this into action. While on vacation in July, I found myself in the back lot of my dear friend Paul Howard‘s photography studio in Red Deer, Alberta. I was armed with a LEGO Harley-Davison Fat Boy motorcycle, a camera and my imagination. Without moving more than 5 feet from the middle of an industrial lot, I ended up with a shot of a motorcycle by a rural lake, shot from the middle of the water:

Creating a reality: Harley Davidson By A Lake.

This is the story of how I made that happen.

Getting the Bike Shot

So, to set the scene: Paul, my wife and myself were in the lot behind his studio, which is located in the industrial part of town. As such, all that can be seen from a toy’s low point of view is chain link fences, dumpsters, garage doors and other industrial detritus. In other words, the reality of the place was not ideal for an epic shot of a classic motorcycle.

Neither Paul nor I is unfamiliar with creating new realities, so we decided to start playing and see what we could come up with.

The first idea we came up with was to put the bike with some water to get its reflection. We knew it would be a composite shot, due to the less than ideal background, so my wife held a white reflector behind the bike to hide the clutter. Then Paul created an artificial lake with the clever application of a five-gallon bucket of water.

Creating one’s own reality, like making sausage, is not pretty to look at.

It took a few tries with the water to get a clean shot. For one, the lot had really good drainage, so the puddle didn’t last long. Also, the action of pouring the water tended to cause bubbles if not done smoothly.

However, in relatively short order we got this shot:

A storm was brewing, so we started packing up. The plan was to get the elements for the rest of the scene the next day as we explored more of Alberta.

An Alternate Reality Presents Itself

For most of this exercise so far, I was seated on the ground staring into a really large white reflector. As a result, it wasn’t until I finally stood up after the shoot that I got a good look at what lay on the other side.

When I stood up, I exclaimed, “Ooooh!” (direct quote) and got a tingle down my spine. For what was in front of me was the exact background I needed to create my new reality. Specifically, past the next yard and up a hill was this silhouette from a tree line of awesome-looking pines.

Not to mention that dramatic sky! The storm was making a very dramatic-looking cloud cover. I turned my head and saw even better clouds! Fantastic!

So, just like that, without moving more than 5 feet, I found all the elements for a rural lakeside scene, right in the middle of a very urban industrial complex.

An hour of Photoshop later, and I had a completed image:

My new reality

And thus I rejected reality and substituted my own.


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