Following hot on the heels of Hollie Jeakins artist insight , we take a closer look at the photographic process of David Valdez who operates within the Toy photography community via his handle fatherfigures .
David shares with us his process from the inception of his idea right through the execution and shows that a little creative thought can go a long way to creating some truly inspiring images.
“Who doesn’t like seeing Clone Troopers destroying Clankers? I wanted to create an image of these Troopers completely dominating their enemy. S.H. Figuarts make some fantastic figures and these Phase 2 Troopers are no exception.
I have a large baking sheet which I’ve filled with dirt (pictured with Deadpool from a shoot earlier that day) that makes for great terrain in my backyard when I want to use some kind practical effects like sparklers, firecrackers and smoke. As much as I like hiking to beautiful locations, sometimes I need a controlled environment. I’ve also collected a lot of rocks that I can use, such as boulders that help round out the terrain. I’ve set this all up on a table because it’s so much easier than crawling around on the ground. I knew I would have multiple effects from different shots that would be composited into one, so a tripod is absolutely essential.
Posing is very important to me. I want the physicality of it to be natural and realistic, so a lot of the time I’ll go through the motion myself just to get a feel for it. I think can really make or break a shot. To fit the idea of domination, I really wanted the Troopers to be projecting strength and the Droids to seem helpless. The Trooper on the left decided this droid wasn’t even worth a blaster bolt.
You can see him pushing off his right foot and using his whole body to swing the butt of his rifle so hard that the droid is lifted off its feet. On the right, the Trooper secures the Droid’s arm, rendering its blaster useless. He pins the forlorn Droid down with his knee as he coldly blasts its head at point blank range.
The one thing I wanted to incorporate most was to see the light of the blasts illuminating the troopers. I’ve added sparks and explosive effects in photoshop before, but artificially duplicating the lighting from those effects is difficult. For this shot I used sparklers hoping they would serve as both practical effects and great lighting on the troopers themselves. I have a remote shutter for the Canon 7D I shoot with so as soon as I get the sparkler lit, I can start clicking away. I held the sparkler about where I thought the effect should be, but also moved it around to provide myself with additional lighting elements incase I needed it.
The other element I added was a smoke effect by spraying a bit of Atmosphere Aerosol as recommended by @the_whaler. I always shoot in the RAW format because of the flexibility it provides while editing. I ended up taking 123 shots total. Sparklers and smoke effects can be fickle so I like to make sure I’ve got good coverage. Of all those shots I used 7 to make the final image.
The effect on the left is completely practical. In Photoshop, I removed the stick of the sparkler and the wire holding up the Droid. The effect on the right side is a combination of practical and digital. The sparkler itself didn’t have the violent look I wanted of the Droids brains getting blown out. There is a bit of the original sparks remaining, but most of it is from two Photoshop brushes I found online. I knew it’d barely be visible, but just for good measure I also added a blue blaster bolt exiting the droid’s head.
Once I’m happy with the edit, I’ll duplicate the file so I have a version with the Photoshop layers flattened. One of the last steps is to figure out the crop. I usually go with a “rule of thirds” look. For this shot, I actually posted two different crops. I knew right away the action on the right side deserved its own post. The last step is to hide my watermark somewhere in the photo.”
A huge thank you to David for being so engaging and taking the time to document his photographic process. Its always great to get an insight into how the final images that we see are created especially when the process is as interesting as David’s as he utilises a variety of combined tools to execute some incredible shots. Cheers David!
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