The Making of "Carl Sagan" - Gold Award in the Australian Professional Photography Awards

Woah what a ride the last few days have been! I have had many e-mails and questions about my award winning Illustrative portfolio in the Australian Professional Photography Awards I don't even know where to start.

I have decided to spend the next couple of days talking about how that work was made, because the biggest question that keeps getting asked is "Is this really photography?"

Here is the finished piece - just for reference. 

Here is the finished piece - just for reference. 


Before we begin, if you love this piece and want to grab yourself a copy you can go straight here and its all yours! https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/253045751/gee-greenslade-limited-edition-ode-to?ref=shop_home_active_1

Alternatively pop into DeLa Liff in Rundle Place Adelaide to nab your copy in store. 

Since the rules state that all work in the awards has to be completely 100% photographic, I can tell you now that it is, I even had to verify it with the awards team! For the record, they do call us and make us prove our work really is photography. The honest truth is that my work contains a lot of Photoshop, which is generally the nature of the Illustrative category but it still remains 100% completely photographic with ALMOST close to darkroom techniques - just the digital version.  In fact I use a whole lot LESS Photoshop when I'm working on things like this than I retouch a simple fashion shoot. I'm about to show you how!

My photography in this work is VERY basic but has been developed over years of trial and error. I used to try and make complicated light setups and make it hard, but in the end simply laying my props on white paper with a single defused light has worked well for me. I employ the use of white paper rolls as white backdrops for nearly everything I photograph that doesn't include real life people.

Here are the stock photos I shot on my office floor using a Nikon D600, a Bowens Espirit 400 strobe pointed at my white ceiling to defuse it and a very simple 50mm lens. Nothing fancy! 
 

My twig, this was about a foot tall, found blowing around in the wind outside my house. I love this thing! 

My twig, this was about a foot tall, found blowing around in the wind outside my house. I love this thing! 

The roots of my dead chili plant! I'm a terrible gardener! This is actually only one of the shots I took of the chili plant, I rotated it to get different angles so that the roots looked different in each shot

The roots of my dead chili plant! I'm a terrible gardener! This is actually only one of the shots I took of the chili plant, I rotated it to get different angles so that the roots looked different in each shot

I spent an afternoon with some water colour paint found in Spotlight and canvas paper. I painted the paper first with water and flicked the paint on the page allowing it to run everywhere. Warning! This is a hell of a lot of fun but gets super messy! Notice that the chili plant has a whole lot of dirt that has fallen off it... that dirt was what made up the bodies of the people!

I spent an afternoon with some water colour paint found in Spotlight and canvas paper. I painted the paper first with water and flicked the paint on the page allowing it to run everywhere. Warning! This is a hell of a lot of fun but gets super messy! Notice that the chili plant has a whole lot of dirt that has fallen off it... that dirt was what made up the bodies of the people!

That is legitimately all the photographs it took to make this work. I then set to work blanking out the background of the twig shots using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. I wanted to make the twigs as black as black could be and the paper as white as white can go! 

I removed the twigs I didn't want from the chili plant, lined it all up so the tree was straight, then used blend modes to make the two look like they were one. 

I stretched the roots of the chili plant down to create that beautiful elongated effect and added a few more roots and dirt in from the other shots of the chili plant I had. 

Then using blend modes in Photoshop I added the water colour texture over the top. I copied and pasted it a few times to make it solid and used a hue and saturation layer to get the greens I wanted. 

How were the people made you ask? Ah! Simple! With all those sticks and bits everywhere I had arms, legs and question marks. I simply cut and pasted the sticks and dirt into a shape and Wham! People! The seed on the little twig at the top of the branch is their heads (I used a little liquefy to get the shape and cleaned it up with a bit of masking) the arms and legs were from somewhere in the top right of the tree and the round part of the question mark was in the middle right of the twig kind of where the twig is making that "E" shape. 

If that makes no sense here's a quick markup where I have shown where all the elements come from:

Gee_Greenslade_Carl_Sagan_Markup

I hope that gives some insight into how this work is made and how fun and simple it can be. 

Tomorrow I will show you all how my Technologic image was made with Glitch art techniques! Super exciting!

Lots of love
Gee Greenslade