Sunday, 14 August 2016

Brachiosaur Lake – Where do these ideas come from?

I had planned Dinosaur Lake, or as it turned out, Brachiosaur Lake,  for several months. I've had the background shot for more than a month, and this weekend I finally got the time to shoot the brachiosaur and finish the composite.

Before delving into the technical details, let's talk about how you come up with an idea for a shot like this.

Here is the basics:
  • I shoot things I am interested in.
  • I combine my interests.
  • I work with people I like (and who usually are much better than I am, at least in some areas. It means I really have to push myself to keep up.)
  • I do research. I read because I am curious. When I have a specific problem, I study to learn how to solve it.
I am interested in Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Detective stories, thrillers, techno-thrillers, science, management and leadership (!), systems thinking, complexity thinking, queueing theory, psychology and neuroscience...and a host of other things. That gives me ample source material from books, movies, and ideas my friends and I come up with and develop.

Some time ago, I discussed shooting locations with Lotta Odelberg, a model whom I have photographed a couple of times. We had discussed a fantasy themed photo shoot for a long time, and we had decided it was time to just do it.

In the end, we went with a location Lotta suggested, but I did a bit of scouting on my own. Several years ago, I lived near a small lake, well, more like a large pond, Björndammen, outside Gothenburg. I thought that could be a good location for the shoot with Lotta.

I had also been thinking about shooting a toy dinosaur, a Brachiosaur, that I have had for a couple of years. My friends and I used it when we shot the A Rift in Time comic book.

Two comic book panes, that was all. Pretty dark to boot. You can see why I wanted to do something more with the brachiosaur model.

So, when I did a bit of location scouting for the shoot with Lotta, I also had dinosaurs on my mind.

As it turned out, Lotta knew of a much better location for the Fantasy shoot, but I thought the shot above, with the lake framed by trees and bushes, would work nicely as the setting for a Brachiosaur shot.

I hused a home made light box made of polystyrene sheets to photograph the brachiosaur. As you can see, the model barely fit. I shot the brachiosaur from a low angle, to make it look large in the final composite.

The model I used, from Schleich, is a good one. It still looks a bit plastic though, so I used a photo of elephant hide as a base, and overlayed it with a desaturated version of the brachiosaur to get a more organic look.

Compositing in a creature standing in water is a bit of a challenge, so I studied photographs and drawings of things standing in water. That helped a bit. I need to practice a lot more, but at least I think I am on the right track.
When I had made the final composite, I also tried out a couple of comic versions. This is something I do more and more often, partly because I like the look, and also because I am preparing for making more adventure comics. You can never practice too much...

So, that's it. You might wonder about the shoot with Lotta. Well, that will be the topic for another blog post. :-)

Sunday, 10 July 2016


 Big! is my latest composite. I've had this image in my head for quite some time.

I created the composite in Pixelmator, and toned it with the Vintage Iris effect.

While I was at it, I made a comic version using the Paintoscope filter in Comic Life 3. I like the Paintoscope filter a lot, and am considering using it for a comic project.

I made the composite from three different photos.

The elephants feet are from a photo I took in the Museum of Natural History in Gothenburg.

When I took this shot, I had the finished picture in mind. I did not know exactly what it would look like, but the general idea was clear.

I did a bit of cut and paste to take the foreground and extend it into a background plain.

 The man and the shadow, well, that is a shot I took for another composite some time ago.

It is a selfie. I put my camera in a tree, and used the 10 second timer to delay the shot.

Unfortunately, part of my shadow is blocked from view by a car, so I did a little bit of repair work on the shadow for the final picture.

The third photo is an old environmental shot I took ages ago. I used the mountains and the bleached out sky.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Something wicked - Comic pre-production agony

Horror from Above – Petra Brewitz looks up, and something wicked looks back.
When I wrote the manuscript to A Rift in Time, the time-travel action adventure comic, I planted a few seeds for new stories.

Petra Brewitz, Petri Olderhvit, Julia Reinhart and I have started kicking ideas around for a sequel. That means we are in the oh so agonizing pre-production stage, the pre-idea stage really, when we try to come up with new ideas, and connect them to each other, and with some old ideas, without making a total mess of it.

Comic version of Horror from Above. We want a look similar to the first Rift adventure, but with a slightly more realistic look.

A project like this starts out pretty messy, and that is perfectly okay. Actually, it is a prerequisite for making something really good. The trick is to have the right kind of mess, and to narrow it down to a logical structure in the end.

Something Wicked.
What you will see in the final comic may, or may not, resemble what you see in these prestudy sketches.

When we will be done? I have no idea. We are doing this for fun, in our spare time, so it will have to take a back seat to just about anything that pays the bills.

In addition, we are deliberately planning to make things difficult for us again, setting goals way beyond what is reasonable. Creates headaches, but also makes for a wonderful learning experience.

Thursday, 19 May 2016


Gateway! (Model: Malin Wennlund, Photographer: Henrik Mårtensson)
The picture above is a composite made of three different photos.

The first picture is the photo of the model Malin Wennlund. Malin is a Steampunk enthusiast, and made the dress herself.

It was easy to mask Malin out in Pixelmator.

The background is a sunset shot from Partille, just outside Gothenburg.

I shot the wall and gate in Halmstad. As you can see, the shot is very bright. I did take a couple of photos at different exposures, but in the end, this was the best to use. 

It looks pretty horrible, but it was pretty easy to darken the whole thing. The initial step was to just reduce the exposure. Then I copied the image, and changed the blend mode of the top image to Hard Light. That gave me the late afternoon, saturated look I wanted.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Witch!

The Witch!

I am sticking with the Fantasy and magic theme I began to explore with Sword, Rose, and Hexagram.

This photo is from a photo shoot shoot with Malin Wennlund. I enjoy collaborations, where everyone contributes ideas. Malin knows her Fantasy and Science-Fiction very well, so working with her is very, very fun.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Sword, Rose, and Hexagram – A Quick Deconstruction

Model: Anita Pecaver, Photographer: Henrik Mårtensson
I shot the model in the picture above, Anita Pecaver, some time ago during a photo meetup in Photo Meetup in Gothenburg. I had arranged an Angels & Demons themed photo & coffee meetup.

There is a distinct shortage of castle ruins and scorched plains in the Gothenburg area, so I had to do a composite. I'll walk you through the parts.

The model: Anita, with a sword and rose

Anita Pecaver
I shot Anita in a café, during a photography event with about 30 people, and chaos everywhere.

These events are fun, but also cramped and chaotic, so the shots are rarely studio quality. The idea is to have fun, meet people, and learn things, not to take perfect photos.

However, we often manage to create quite interesting pictures during these events. The chaos forces everyone to be creative, and to use a minimum of resources in new and unexpected ways.

It was Anita herself, and another model, Peter Markusson, who asked me to take a shot of Anita with a rose and a sword.

Note the angel wings. I removed them from the final picture, because they did not quite fit. I considered replacing them with a much larger set of wings in post, but I'll save that for another day, and another photo.

The Ground: Scorched earth, and a hexagram

The lawn in the photo above is the basic ground in the picture. I masked out the buildings and the sky, and removed the trees and other things.

The ground looked a bit boring. I wanted to make both the color and the texture more interesting, so I added...

A photo of one of my notebooks. I like the color, and also the fake leathery texture.

I removed the pattern, except for the hexagram in the middle. When I composited the images, I changed the perspective, and used various blending techniques to bring out the color and texture.

The Castle: A Ruin Most Sinister

I didn't have a real castle handy, so I went out and bought one! To save a bit of petty cash, I made do with a model. I bought it in a pet shop.

The Mountains of Madness: Hellboy Would Feel Right at Home

I shot the mountains from the third floor of an apartment building in Partille. This shot looks utterly uninspiring, but I did not shoot what it actually looks like. I shot the picture I had in my mind.

Actually, the picture in my mind wasn't exactly crystal clear at this time, but I knew I wanted something in the background, to help me transition from the flat plain, to the sky.

The Sky: Now You See It, but Mostly You don't!

The sky sucks where I live! Most of the time, it is a uniform, grey, 100% cloud cover. It is like living inside a giant softbox! Not only does the sky look boring, it also kills all shadows, because the clouds spread the light. It also mutes the light.

A couple of years ago, when I bought my DSLR, I thought it was broken at first, because the light was so bad. Now, I have learned to live with it, and to always, always, bring a couple of flashes with me.

On the rare occasions when there is a break in the cloud cover, I shoot anything even remotely interesting, just in case I will need it later.

Compositing: Just Do It!

When I had the pieces, I composited them with Pixelmator while sitting in a cafeteria at a local Laserdome. My son was invited to a birthday party, and I decided to bring my own fun.

I finished the picture later the same evening.

One useful little trick:

I match the light in the composite photos by adding a white layer on top of everything, and setting the blend mode to Saturation. This turns the picture black and white.

I can then change the light in each individual part, to roughly match the other parts.

Then, I match colors in a separate step, and add shadows where necessary.