Last year I wrote a particular blog post and asked the question; how far would you go to photograph a toy?

I guess the question of this post could be; what do you do when you travel all that way and get it wrong?

Travelling and photography

Late last year I had a long weekend away in Lanzarote. I was meant to be running a marathon, which unfortunately was cancelled due to Covid. But the good thing with a cancellation like that means more time for adventures and toy photography.

Bristol to Lanzarote Map
Bristol to Lanzarote -2500 miles

So, travelling two and a half thousand miles for a toy photograph. These distances are getting bigger and bigger. However when you get to Lanzarote it feels like you’ve travelled a lot further than that. There is no other way to explain it than, welcome to Mars. This little volcanic island in the Atlantic ocean is otherworldly, it’s truly an amazing place.

Montaña de Tinaguache, Lanzarote - Tom Milton
Montaña de Tinaguache
Lanzarote sunset - Tom Milton

My location for this particular photo was at the foot of the Montaña de Tinaguache in Northern Lanzarote. Looking back across the island and its volcanic mountain ranges. The mountain itself is a long dormant volcano, where the crater has collapsed in on itself. It was a great hike around the crescent shape of the mountain with some stunning views. But that was earlier in the day and I ended up shooting at sunset, so sensibly for once I didn’t climb too high in the dark.

Original Exposure

Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett - original capture - Tom Milton

So this is what my photos look like straight out of the camera. But before you ask. No, Boba hasn’t been on a diet and slimmed down. My anamorphic lens is compressing the wider image onto the camera’s sensor. As a result making everything seem taller and narrower to begin with. It needs to be uncompressed in post production.

Obviously this is a very dark image. I was conscious of shooting just after sunset during blue hour. I didn’t want to blow out the afterglow of the sun in the highlights. And I do love a high contrast image.

Uncompressed Anamorphic Image

Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett - post processing - Tom Milton

I’ve lightened these process photos, just so they are a little easier to see.

As mentioned in the title I messed this photo up in a big way. The problem is that when your location is 2500 miles away it’s not a quick fix to get back there and take the photo again. So what’s wrong exactly:

  • One problem with the complex anamorphic lens is that the housing of the lens regularly clips the corners of the photograph. This is an easy fix with a quick crop. And just means you have to think about having some dead space around your composition.
  • When I took this photo the camera was on the floor. The tripod just kept the camera too high in comparison to the figure when I tried to use it. This is a big reason for the poorly resulting image. I must also admit that I was trying to get multiple photos during the same sunset. I think this is a big reason for so many mistakes in the composition. I was just rushing too much.
  • For the scale of the figure in the frame I really wish I’d got the whole the whole of Boba in the picture. I would have loved this as a full body or a long shot. With the camera being setup without a tripod I ended up cut off the feet with the camera angle on the floor. And I cut straight through the ankles with the edge of the photo to get it completely wrong.
  • Because the figure is cut off through the bottom of the frame, there is too much negative space now above his head. If I hadn’t cut his feet off and there was some more of the floor at the bottom of the photo, the amount of sky would be fine. Unfortunately that’s what I got wrong, so there is just too much sky. The photo just doesn’t feel balanced around the figure.

Time to fix things

Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett - post processing - Tom Milton

Step 1 was to crop the photo, pulling in tighter reduces the space above his head. Removing the excess negative space. Following some playing about, the best composition came with Boba and the peak in the background sitting along the two vertical thirds of the image. It wasn’t a specific intention, but what worked after playing about with the image.

Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett - post processing - Tom Milton

I was also really happy on this swooping line striking across the photo. And it’s great leading through Boba, coming in from the top right corner, and framing the mountain in the background.

Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett - post processing - Tom Milton

Before, I mentioned that I got it very wrong when the original photo cut through Boba’s ankles. With the new crop the photo moved from a long shot to a medium long shot. And actually that’s cool, because if the medium long shot should be used for anything it’s a western style photo. And Boba Fett’s design comes so specifically with Clint Eastwood’s Man with no Name, that you can hear spurs as he walks, and he doesn’t even wear any. The medium long shot is a type of image used regularly throughout westerns as it allowed both the face and the waist of a cowboy to be in the image. Ideal for stand offs and shoot outs.

I know I talk about him a lot. And I know I keep saying I talk about him a lot, but… The other day I was reading an article on Premium Beat about the cinematographer, Roger Deakins. And specifically how he frames his medium shots. Have a read for a lot more detail and some really insightful ideas. But the particular point I wanted to talk about is where to cut off your subject. “Just like with the medium shot composition, avoid framing on the joints.” The photo now cuts through the shins rather than the ankles, and it does sit better on the eye. It can be jarring to end any image at a joint on the body as it doesn’t give continuity for your imagination to finish the image.

Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett - post processing - Tom Milton

The final things to “fix” was to paint out the supporting wire with Photoshop. Followed b a little dodging on the edge highlights on the figure to make them pop and help the figure’s shape stand out against the background.

The Resulting Image

Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett - Tom Milton
Maybe I can help you. I am Boba Fett

To finish the photo I did a simple temperature change giving the final image a little more of a golden glow.

I can safely say I’m much happier with the final result than my original effort. I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t get it right on location. But the lesson is to take more care and time. And to be grateful that the image was salvageable in the end.