Gurney Journey | category: Photography | (page 4 of 7)


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Detailed Photos of Insects

Photographer Levon Biss came up with a way to photograph insects in extremely high resolution.

Biss teamed up with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to record some of the best specimens from their collection.

The process overcomes the problem of shallow depth of field inherent in all macrophotography by taking thousands of exposures as the camera moves in tiny increments through the Z dimension. The focused layers are then stacked digitally in the computer.

In addition, the insect is shot in as many as 30 sections, with different lighting setups for each section. 

Insects are covered with finely textured microstructures, and the function of those tiny structures is still not completely understood.

According to Dr James Hogan of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, “It’s thought that microscopic structures alter the properties of an insect’s surface in different ways, reflecting sunlight, shedding water, or trapping air. The evolutionary process of natural selection should account for all this wonderful diversity of microstructures, but for many species their specific adaptive function is still unknown. By observing insects in the wild, studying museum collections, and developing new imaging techniques we will surely learn more about these fascinating creatures and close the gaps in our current understanding.”

After compiling the huge image files, he printed them out in a large format for museum exhibitions (The show is currently in Basel through October 29, 2017).

Here's a behind-the-scenes video (link to YouTube). On Biss's website, you can zoom deeply into the surface textures, like a drone flying over an alien landscape.
Book: Microsculpture: Portraits of Insects
Microsculpture website

Day to Night Photos

Unlike plein-air paintings, which take hours or even days to complete, photographs are usually the product of a fraction of a second. 

Day to Night Photos
Paris. Photo by Stephen Wilkes
An exception among photographers is Stephen Wilkes, who has documented a series of famous destinations in what he calls "Day to Night" photos.

Day to Night Photos
Coney Island, Photo by Stephen Wilkes
Locking the camera in a fixed position, he takes photos over a period as long as 30 hours, the light shifting gradually from nighttime to daytime illumination. He then combines them later digitally. The effect works best in urban environments, where artificial light defines the nightscape.

Link to the 'Day to Night' photos of Stephen Wilkes

Sambourne's Reference Photos

Sambourne's Reference Photos
Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910) was an English illustrator and cartoonist who discovered the benefits of photo reference.

Sambourne's Reference Photos

He joined the magazine Punch in 1871 and eventually became its principle cartoonist, replacing John Tenniel. 

Sambourne's Reference Photos

Many of his cartoon illustrations for Punch can be associated with photographs of figures in costumes.

Sambourne's Reference Photos

For models he enlisted the help of friends, servants, family members and local characters. At first he used Edwin Austin Abbey's studio as a place to do his photos.

Sambourne's Reference Photos
Sometimes his wife or kids posed, and he often posed himself. He also recruited professional and semi-professional models, such as the local policeman.

Sambourne's Reference Photos

Later he took an interest in photographing nude women, and amassed a large collection of photos of women undressed or partially undressed, though he only rarely used those photos for illustration reference.
Sambourne's Reference Photos
His well preserved house in London is a fine example of Victorian style. 

Sambourne's Reference Photos

It includes many of his original reference photographs and is open for touring.
Edward Linley Sambourne on Wikipedia
Article in the Camera Club
Related previous posts: 
Charles Keene's cartoons about artists
Using Photo Reference

Camera Technique Stretches Time

An unusual camera technique developed by Jay Mark Johnson combines multiple viewpoints and moving objects into a single image with a stretched background. 

Camera Technique Stretches Time

The slit-scan camera technique, which he calls "photographic timelines," freezes and compresses moving objects. The faster they move, the more they're compressed.

Camera Technique Stretches Time

This is the reverse of what we're accustomed to seeing, namely detailed, stable backgrounds with blurred moving objects.

Camera Technique Stretches Time

Johnson's technique also works wonders with dancers, distorting their forms like melting glass or taffy.

Via Singularity Hub
Explanation of the method on Design Boom.
Jay Mark Johnson's website

Shot List for Art Videos

Peter Culos says, "I'm experimenting with video now and I was wondering what you use to produce video."

Peter, I shoot all the videos by myself while I'm painting. Sometimes I ask Jeanette to take a couple of shots, but she's usually busy painting. Shooting while you paint is a little distracting, but kind of fun once you get used to it.

My gear is pretty basic, nothing fancy or expensive. Here's some info, broken down into 1. Shot List, 2. Camera Gear, 3. Audio, and 4. Editing.

You don't need all this coverage, of course. This list is just a memory jogger. A variety of shots makes editing fun later.

• Walk into scene (watch 180 rule)
• Motif framed with hands + POV
• Reaction, explaining thinking
• Decision; Set down stuff

Shot List for Art Videos
Painting in Wyoming with separate camera tripod
Shot List for Art Videos• Walk-on, walk-off
• Shoot the local signage
• Overall shot of setting
• Master shot of easel / setup
• 2-shot if I'm painting with a companion
• Super far away in crowd, talking

• Closeup shots of parts of scene
• Long hold of comparison for split screen (be sure action is center frame)
• Steadicam into scene
• Over the shoulder

• C/U of hands and feet for cutaway
• Artistic focus pull (use sparingly)
• Super-closeups of motif (LOCK-OFF)
• Tubes of color chosen
• Paint squeezing
• Paint mixing
• Choosing brush
• Brush POV (specialized shot with camera mounted on brush)

• “Here’s what I want to do”
• “My first step is to...”
• “Now I’m closing in on the finish..BUT”
• “I’m using this tool (show).”
• “I’ve got a problem…HOW TO FIX”

• Passersby
• Expert
• Reaction of owner
• “Tell me about this place”

• Looking over easel
• Looking up and down

• Who might stop me
• Time pressure
• Doubts
• Forgot materials
• Banter with painting companion

• POV of scene during painting
• Set up or takedown
• Dynamics of light, clouds, people

• Extended “room tone" of environment
• Selected sound cues: doors, etc.
• Lavalier mic clipped to drawing surface

• Location
• Step by step

Shot List for Art Videos
Clockwise from upper left: camcorder, single-lens reflex, 
GoPro action camera, and point-and-shoot
I use a Canon VixiaShot List for Art Videos camcorder for most of my videos, which gives me the necessary manual controls. If you get one video camera, a camcorder is the most versatile.
1. Focus lock.
2. Manual exposure.
3. Custom white balance. 
4. Fold-out LCD screen.
5. Input port for external audio. 

I also use a Canon EOS Rebel DigitalShot List for Art Videos SLR camera with the kit zoom lens, plus a 50mm f/1.8 lens (for bokeh)Shot List for Art Videos and a Canon 10-18mm wide angle lens. I use this camera for stop motion and occasionally for time lapse with an intervalometerShot List for Art Videos.

I use a GoPro HeroShot List for Art Videos mainly for time lapse. I combine those stills into a video clip using a free program called Time Lapse Assembler.

Canon PowerShot Elph pocket camera in a belt holster when I’m in the field. I rely on it for shooting stills and for getting extra video coverage when it’s not convenient to bring out the other cameras. In a pinch I often use this handheld and apply stabilization in post.
Shot List for Art Videos
Ideally I put the camera on its own lightweight tripod, held out to the side on an extension bar, which keeps the tripod from getting in my way.

• Zoom H2n digital recorder
I use this both for field recording and for studio voiceover.
• Wired Lavalier microphoneShot List for Art Videos
Necessary for any on-camera talking. Don't rely on the camera's onboard mic.
Cuts wind noise. Better to make your own than buy an expensive one.

• WORKFLOW: 1. Visual edit, 2. Color correction, 3. Background audio, 4. Foley if necessary, 5. Voiceover, 6. Titles and Transitions
• Whenever possible, conceive of the piece as a 3-act story: Articulate goals, grapple with challenges, and figure out solutions.
• Use authentic sounds instead of music under time lapse. Use music only at the beginning and end if necessary for mood. Don't use music as an acoustic floor throughout.
• Edit to match the speed of viewer's mind, not real time.
• If you change speed in a shot, tell the viewer that you're doing it in VO.

• Check out my painting tutorials on Sellfy
• You can also get my videos on Gumroad
• Link for all my videos on DVD at Kunaki.
• You can also get my DVDs at Amazon
• Longer post on GJ: How to Video Your Art (goes into more detail about gear)
• Helpful filmmaking tutorials on the older uploads from Indy Mogul (YouTube channel)
• Also some good tutorials on Film Riot and Frugal Filmmaker

Flat Shadows vs. Flat Lights

Dylan says: "I was looking at your awesome blog and found the post about Sargent's Escutcheon. A point you made is that he captured the brilliance of the light by flattening the lights and keeping the majority of the modeling and chroma shifts in the shadows. Up until now I've always been used to blocking the shadows first, and kind of doing the opposite; keeping the shadows flat and keeping the variations in the lighted areas."

Flat Shadows vs. Flat Lights
The heraldic insignia or escutcheon of Charles V of Spain, 
part of a sixteenth century fountain at the Alhambra in Granada

"For myself," Dylan continues, "this has more or less become a method of capturing form, but I was wondering if you know of a context where this would fit an actual scene, as the flat lights fit the bright and sunny scene. Or, if there isn't a real-world context, how do you think the flat darks could be used best? I'm not married to the idea of flattening my darks, but rather I'd like to use it to its most usefulness, as well as introducing the flat lights approach to my process. If you have any thoughts on this, or know where I might be able to read about this, I'd be eternally grateful. Thanks for getting this far!"
Dylan, this is a really interesting question, and it crossed my mind as I was writing the post, because I'm kind of a "flat-shadow" guy for the most part. If I can give a very quick answer, I'd say that the flat shadow approach is better for conveying low-light impressions of form, especially for portraits, while burned out lights and opened shadows convey a feeling of light. This is particularly powerful in landscape where you want to emphasize the warm and cool contrasts in the shadow. Form is a Force of art, but Light is a Force, too. Depends on what your pictorial idea demands.

If you're a photographer, you might say this thinking is analogous to exposing for the lights vs. exposing for the shadows. One will crush the darks and the other will clip the lights.
The painting is called "Escutcheon of Charles V of Spain" by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
Date: 1912, Medium: Watercolor and graphite on white wove paper. Dimensions: 12 x 18 in. (30.5 x 45.7 cm) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Painting in an Age of Apps

Painting in an Age of Apps
A photo with a low pixel count via Tech in everyday life
After reading the recent post about the photograph technique of cross processing, John Tija asks:

"On the subject of cross processing, in addition to Instagram and Photoshop effects, there are also apps on the smart phone. I recently came across Prisma for the iPhone, and have found that the app can transform my ordinary looking photos into some pretty spectacularly different renderings, both in the color scheme and also in the details of the subject itself (e.g., photos become line drawings, or mosaics, or even Mondrian-line canvases, all with color schemes I could not have dreamed up)."

"My question in all this is where the "artist" is in all this. If I paint a scene based on how this app has transformed it, am I "cheating"? I guess it comes down to my starting suspicion of how much I can rely on a photograph (a "ready made" scene) as a start to my painting? And if I start relying on some color scheme produced by an app algorithm, do I then lose more of my originality, since I become, step-by-step, nothing more than a copier?"

"As a funny aside, I used this app to run a photo I took of a painting I did based on another photo I had taken, and I came out with a pared down digital rendition (koi in a pond) that had strangely alluring colors and was pretty good. So what kind of an artist am I in this? This has puzzled me!"

Painting in an Age of Apps
Head painting detail by Frank Brangwyn
John, that's a very thoughtful question. You're right to ask about these powerful tools, including photography, digital processing, and apps. And we're just beginning to arrive in the era of machine-learning algorithms. They all challenge our idea of what makes us an artist.

Let's consider what we do when we paint. You could look at all painting as a form of altered—or even degraded—vision. It's the opposite of the usual way we regard representational painting. Typically people talk about painting as a way of representing exactly what we see, or even enhancing what we see. 

But really, in terms of detail at least, paintings and drawings nearly always reduce the amount of information, and I've found that the more they do, the more they people talk about them as "artistic." Think of monochromatic paintings, notan drawings, limited palettes, and paintings made with big brushes. All images follow processes that reduce information. The Brangwyn at left looks a lot like a low resolution photograph.

Of course there are highly resolved, detailed, color-enhanced styles of painting, too. But even those are usually simplified, flattened, or reduced from our genuine stereoscopic, dynamic visual experience in some way.

So the question is: what aesthetic and practical criteria should guide us in the interpretation of reality, and how should we employ all these new tools in this process?

Photography presents us with another way of seeing, another way of mapping the 3D universe into 2D. There are so many forms of lenses, films, and processes before you even get into digital manipulation. Cameras and computers have expanded our vision. We can see infra-red images, we can stop action, we can see through things with x-rays, we can see wildlife up close. Photography has really given us new eyes. 

That doesn't mean we have to project and copy the random detail of a single given photo, though that's OK, too, if that's what you want to do.

Painting in an Age of Apps
But the more we understand how cameras see, the more we appreciate our eyes, the little "meat cameras" in our heads. The more we know about photography, the more we realize our eyes and our visual brains are not like cameras at all. That's been a big subject on this blog. 

So where does that leave us? How can each of us find the best way to use the tools to make our art? It's going to be different for each person.

In my case I'm usually either trying to interpret my experience of reality directly into a sketchbook, or I'm trying to visualize a scene from the ancient past or from a science fiction future. In some cases I want my paintings to incorporate photographic effects so that they can fit into a magazine presentation that's mostly comprised of nature photos. To get that effect, I try to learn the theory behind photography, and I also surround my easel with a lot of different reference photos, taking a little from one and a little from another to make something new.

For what I do, I find the old-school methods of drawing and painting are the most efficient and they produce the best results. But I'm always open to learn more and to try new things, and if there's any tool that helps me make better art, I'm willing to try it.

As the tools give us new ways of seeing and new ways of producing images, they also challenge us to create things that machines can't create. They make us ask what is truly the human component of our vision. There's no moral right or wrong about what tools you use. No tools can directly bring your dream world to life. That's up to you. As long as your work is original and it communicates your own experience, it's not cheating. It's a gift.
Previous posts about:
Computer Graphics
Visual Perception

Cross Processing

Cross processing (also called x-pro) is an experimental form of photography where one kind of film stock is deliberately processed in chemicals intended for another kind of film. The resulting color schemes are weird and unnatural, offering traditional painters some interesting inspiration.

Cross Processing
Here, slide film has been processed in C-41 print film chemicals. The result is a high contrast image, with a hue shift toward greens and yellows and a boost in saturation. There's also a considerable amount of vignetting at the edges, a result of the lens.

Cross Processing
 Negative film processed in slide chemicals via
When negative film is processed in slide chemicals, the results can go many different ways, but this one is lo-fi, contrasty, and grainy, with a saturated warm color bleaching and infusing all the lights.

Cross Processing
Photo by Chick Dastardly-JennR.Williams, via EpicEdits 
With X-pro, you never know how it's going to turn out. This one gets contrasty, with a green-red split in the midtones.

Cross Processing
Photo by Laurent Butre via The Darkroom
The colors aren't always saturated. Sometimes they're relatively muted, but still with the high contrast and the hue shift. In this link the photographer describes the process he used.

If you want to check out more examples, check out any of these galleries:
Epic Edits: Ten Reasons to Love Cross Processed Film
The Darkroom: Cross Processing examples

The effect can also be simulated digitally with filters in Instagram in or with Photoshop. Here's a link to a Photoshop tutorial.

How can we use this as artists?
Traditional painters can use cross-processing as a jumping off point for exploring color schemes. One way is to use a strongly colored underpainting. The second example in this post of the guy riding the bike could be painted over an orange base color, leaving that color as the stand-in for all the light values. The scheme in the lower scene of the little kid on the Harley could be simulated with a green-red-yellow limited palette, taking care to bleach the lights, sink the darks, and vignette the edges.

Old Mugshots

Old Mugshots

Police mugshots have their own stylistic conventions that have developed over time. In 1905, some English police had the accused hold a chalkboard with their name and alleged crime—in this case, larceny.

Old Mugshots

In Australia in the 1920s, the accused was shown in close-up and in a standing pose, with the name written on the negative.

Old Mugshots

The Australian mugshots seemed more improvisational and less clinical than modern ones. But there's still that sense of defiance, as if to say, "You can catch me, copper, but you can't break me."

Old Mugshots

Some of the subjects look well dressed, and invite curiosity about their story.

Old Mugshots

These last four images are from a collection of 1920s mugshots collected in Sydney, Australia by novelist Peter Doyle for a book called Crooks Like Us.
Via First to Know Thanks, Kay.
First photo is from ViralNova
Related post: Happy Old-Time Photos

Pit Brow Wenches and Cat Flayers

Pit Brow Wenches and Cat Flayers
Arthur Munby with Ellen Grounds,
a "pit brow wench," 1873

The first thing that comes to my mind when one thinks of jobs for Victorian lower class women are domestic jobs: kitchen and washing and that sort of thing.

But Victorian women also worked in rough, dirty jobs outside the home that one would think were suitable only for men. For example, the so-called "pit brow wenches" worked at the top of coal mines to shovel the chunks of coal into waiting railroad trucks.

They wore trousers and would come home black with dirt. Other women worked inside the mines, crawling on their hands and knees, pulling mine carts with chains attached around their waists.

The work of these women might have been largely forgotten were it not for Arthur Munby, who had a fascination and an admiration for them. He convinced many of them to pose in photographic studios, as cameras in the 1860s couldn't function in the low-light conditions that prevailed at the worksites.

He also carefully documented them in interviews and notes, leaving behind a rich sociological record.

Pit Brow Wenches and Cat Flayers

Munby even courted and eventually married a servant woman named Hannah Cullwick, but he had to keep the relationship secret from his family for 20 years.

Pit Brow Wenches and Cat Flayers

The reality of life for Victorians is evident from the dirty and ragged appearance in Munby's photos. Here are some "tip girls" from Wales. Munby insisted on photographing these women "in their dirt."

Pit Brow Wenches and Cat Flayers

Paintings of Victorian working women were rare, and tended to show a sanitized view with soft hands, a smile, and a bright white apron. In 1859 Munby had lunch with John Ruskin, telling him about his project, and suggesting that "some one ought to paint peasant girls and servant maids as they are —coarse and hearty and homely — and so shame the false whitehanded wenches of modern art." But nothing came of it.

Some of the strangest trades for women could be found in the dark alleys of London that upper-class people rarely saw up close, much less photographed. James Greenwood reported in his book Low-Life Deeps:

"Strange trades are carried on in these slums, and occupations are followed which in civilised parts are never dreamt of:, except it be in exceptionally bad dreams.... There is an awful little alley, for instance, in the neighbourhood of Hales's tallow factory, consisting of about twenty houses, inhabited almost entirely by folk who collect the ordure of dogs, which is used for tanning purposes." 
"There are but few left there now, I am informed, but not very long since the residents of this delectable spot consisted chiefly of "cat-flayers" - whose sole means of living was to go out at night with their sacks and sticks, hunting for cats to be slaughtered for the sake of their skins...It is unfortunate... that to be saleable the hide must be taken from the body of the animal while it is in existence, and still more so that the villainous cat-flayers are not deterred by this difficulty. I was further informed that the neighbourhood used to be scandalised by the presence of the flayed carcasses of poor grimalkins lying about, but that now that indecency is avoided by an economical arrangement on the part of the flayer. He now puts his dead cats in the copper, and makes further capital of their bones and fat."

Above quote from Victorian London.
Book: Victorian working women: Portraits from life by Michael Hiley
Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick on Wikipedia
Detailed Photos of InsectsDay to Night PhotosSambourne's Reference PhotosCamera Technique Stretches TimeShot List for Art VideosFlat Shadows vs. Flat LightsPainting in an Age of AppsCross ProcessingOld MugshotsPit Brow Wenches and Cat Flayers

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