February 2010
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Month February 2010

My sister, Thing 1

I was going through some photos today. Found this one of my sister that made me think of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat.

As kids, and for many years, we would always say to each other. “Good night. Sleep tight. Have pumpkin pie dreams, and angel dreams and, well, you know what I mean.” You pick up the strangest things as a kid.

Did you have little pre-night sayings as a kid? Blue hair and red PJs?

Anatomy of a holiday photo shoot. Part III: You’ve got 30 frames and a prayer.

(Apologies for the delay in posting the final installment of this story. I had to learn how to build a Flash file! Here are Part I and Part II.)

The final image:

When I got back to my office with the digital files in hand, I wasn’t entirely sure what the final edit would produce. There were approximately 30 frames of the baby sitting up on his own and maybe another 50 of the baby being more or less propped up by the baby wrangler. At five months, I couldn’t really expect more. Babies will cry and fuss after about 15 minutes of doing just about anything.

The editing process for this job was tough. Finding the right facial expression to promote the baby from mere mortal to heavenly deity seemed impossible at first. I revisited the files repeatedly over the course of a week. In some frames, his body language was great while his facial expression wasn’t quite right. In others, the opposite was true. I wanted to pull my hair out.

A short video of the final retouching process:

After giving it some thought, I decided to go the route of last resort – “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build (a) bionic man,” aka Photoshop. I’m not a fan of using Photoshop to solve photographic problems. Sometimes, however, when shooting things where you have little control, it can be an indispensable tool.

Here are a few of my retouching notes. I composited and retouched about 70% of the image. The final 30% was done by George over at Yeahnoproblem.com

The initial concept called for a mid-century living or bedroom space. After some thought, I decided to crop in so that the baby would be the central part of the image. We also added a halo for fun.

A few unretouched outtakes that give a better sense of what the set was really like:

Making this image was challenging, fun, and funny. As we all know, ideas are often much easier to execute in theory and in your head. Sometimes, however, you just have to run with whatever craziness you come up with. The craziness won’t always pay off, but that’s fine. The real satisfaction comes in trying, right?

A final note. I couldn’t have pulled this off without a very talented team of folks. Here are the ending credits:

First assistant & Bird wrangler: Sergio Ballivan
Hair stylist: Tanya Jones
Baby wrangler: Melissa Melendez
Production assistant: David Keating
Costume design: Mondo
Location consulting: Julie Moore
Prop consulting: Linda Kriebel
Retouching: George McCardle & David Mejias
Talent: Marbles Talent, Inc.
Bird: African Grey Bird Shop, Denver
Set consulting: Popular Culture, Denver