“One does not think during creative work, any more than one thinks when driving a car. But one has a background of years — learning, unlearning, success, failure, dreaming, thinking, experience, all this – then the moment of creation, the focusing of all into the moment” – Edward Weston
Close your eyes and imagine the website for a law firm. Not just any law firm, but one that specializes in intellectual property, copyright and patent law. You’re probably imagining a lot of leather-bound books behind a guy in an Armani suit, sitting on the edge of his desk, arms crossed and looking very serious. Exactly what Kurt Rylander did NOT want for his website. Well, except maybe the serious looking part.
Business owners rely on creative professionals to give them a competitive edge. To create visual elements that convey their identity, corporate culture or simply tell their story. Kurt turned to the talents of web designer Don Elliott and his team of creative professionals. They reached out to see if I was interested in bringing my talents to the project.
We tossed out everything and started from ground zero. Kurt challenged us to do something completely different. He knew what he wanted, but wasn’t sure it was possible. He wanted a full on courtroom brawl, caught mid-action, with each team member engaged in an activity that reflected their real-life extracurricular disciplines. Ju-Jitsu, boxing and rock climbing. Oh, and there had to be a bar in the scene. The literal and symbolic bar seperating the spectators in a courtroom from the lawyers, judge and jury, that all lawyers must pass before they are allowed to practice law.
Creativity is a process. It’s not something you can conjure by willing it to happen. We had no idea how difficult it was going to be, what would happen along the way or that it would take nearly a year to complete. But we knew it was something we were uniquely qualified to do and never looked back.
The first thing we had to figure out was the look and feel of the image. The only way to really pull this off was to use a technique called compositing. Photograph the courtroom without anyone in it, then photograph all the elements that would appear in the image and combine them in such a way to give the illusion it was all captured as a single image.
Joel Grimes is one of the most widely recognized masters of photographic composites. I spent a lot of time researching how he creates his amazing illusions and came away inspired that we could pull this off. Kurt threw out another name and I laughed. Dave Hill.
Dave’s an icon in the industry. A trend-setting photographer who’s style is highly sought after and often debated. Everyone wants to create images that look like his. Do a search for his name and you’ll see countless forums debating what software or post production technique he uses to achieve his look. No one knows but Dave himself. What I do know is that regardless of his post production techniques, his images are impeccably lit and masterfully created. Dave Hill’s Adventure Series Exposed clearly shows the amount of post-production that goes into every composite series.
Rather than try and figure out how to be Dave Hill, I decided to be inspired and create my own look. And I must have succeeded because I was recently asked by a photographer what plug-in I used to create the look in this image. I laughed. Not to be mean, but simply because it was a variety of things. Ultimately, as in Dave Hill’s work, it’s the lighting that really makes it work, as well as a good story. It’s got to pull you in and engage you or you’ll never stop to notice. And it’s simply a lot of work, utilizing every incantation, chant and trick I’ve learned over the past 20 years of being a professional photographer.
How much work is involved in creating composite images like this? Dave’s Adventure Series should give you some insight, but here is a great look into the creative process behind Caleb Kuhl’s Wild West Shoot. It’s exhausting. And totally inspiring!
Initially, our team drew inspiration from Italian Renaissance artist Raphael’s famous fresco, School of Athens. Kurt suggested that we consider the Federal Courtroom in Tacoma Washington. It’s a round, showcase courtroom with marble walls and a perfect setting for our composite.
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