One of our favourite things to do at Exclu is to reconnect with all those we have featured and to continue showcasing their work and their development. To that end we checked in with Issue 2 photographer Trevor Williams and he now brings us a thorough behind the scenes look on his latest shoot “Walker In The Mist”.
Behind the scenes walkthrough: “Walker in the Mist”
Trevor Williams @onesix_shooter
I have a (growing) list of more conceptual photo ideas that is something I refer back to as I accumulate the necessary props or get to building sets or creating backgrounds. But sometimes a clear vision of a shot I want to do spurs me to get right down to it.
The shot I had in mind was a Walking Dead scene/story involving Rick and Carl Grimes in the woods and a walker figure emerging from the trees and mist behind them. The scene was clear in my mind, and the tough part of getting the lighting, angle and poses right to convey that concept.
Recently I built a forest set that includes a moss floor, small wood chips and other scale debris, rocks and logs/“trees” that are screwed into the base for stability. I’ve been using this set for various shots involving different scales of figures. This photo utilizes that set but from a lower angle than I have been doing so I felt it needed some extra details. I found some scale leaves in the form of an artificial plant intended for fish tanks. Draping and adjusting these over the top of the logs and adding some small tree branches created a very convincing leaf canopy that would serve my intended angle.
I then placed the figures roughly in place and started testing some lighting. I knew I wanted the walker emerging a misty background with the light suggesting an overcast early morning (or late evening), with some light spilling in from an opening in the forest behind the figures. I used a double layer sheet of tracing paper – which I use a lot for filtering light – as a backdrop and placed a bright LED light behind it pointing into the set. This, along with the fog I would add when shooting I felt would give me the look I was after.
For rim lighting, I decided on using purple gels placed over two small LED lights at a 45º angle behind the figures. I felt this would help give some dimension to not only the figures but the trees in the foreground as well, without making them pop out. Purple gives it a mysterious look and also adds a bit of a fantasy, painterly or comic book feel to it.
My vision called for a tighter shot of Rick and Carl’s faces, but in posing them the different heights of the figures didn’t allow for that. As it turned out, showing more of them and angling their bodies and posing them with forward movement gave the shot more drama and adds to the story.
The walker is set on a higher plane than the others to allow it to loom over Rick and Carl. If this were done as an illustration, I would have cheated the size of him a bit for a forced perspective look. If I had kept him on the same level, I would’ve had to shoot from more of a chest-level angle which would have cut the drama significantly. Once the figures were posed to my satisfaction – and I took about 60-70 shots trying different movements – it was time to add the fog and start shooting finals. I use a basic fog machine that you can find in party stores or online. I have modified this by using pipe fittings to reduce this to a small flexible tube which gives great control over the fog.
To get the look I wanted I had to have some fog in the background and in front of the walker, while avoiding getting any in front of the two main figures – which would obscure and blur details and make them recede instead of advance in the image. I aim the hose while using a remote to fire the shutter repeatedly – and hopefully at the right time – to capture the right amount of fog. I will also lightly blow the fog backward to keep it from getting in front of Rick and Carl.
I think I took a record number of shots for this – a couple hundred possibly. Once I had a series of shots that i liked and I thought could be used to composite the right amount of fog, I did the basic editing in Lightroom – balancing, adjusting exposure slightly, adding a little clarity, etc. I then move to Photoshop to do detailed retouching. This involves retouching blemishes, removing distracting background items, dodging and burning areas, adding some supporting background element (in this case the trees that extend off the sides of the image). I also removed the joints from the figures. This has been something I’ve been internally debating about and there are a lot of opinions (I’d like to hear yours – PM me!) but I felt it added to this shot.
Finally I took the retouched and flattened image into Nik filters’ Color Efex Pro. I use these a lot for final touches such as vignetting, contrast tweaking, detail extraction and other effects. This can be a time consuming endeavor and, like gambling, you have to know when to stop! I will usually get away from the final image and come back hours later or the next day to give it a fresh look and make any final fixes.
This has to be one of our most in depth looks yet and the inner workings of a toy photography shoot so a huge thank you goes to Trevor for taking the time and care to compile this insight feature. Be sure to see the full range of Trevor’s work over on his Instagram page @onesix_shooter and leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!