There is a parking deck uptown that I was kicked out of while back for taking pictures of clouds..... yes clouds. As much as Mr. Rent-a-cop Droopyface would have liked to have scared me away, I was not detered. Next time I came on foot, tripod in hand, with the intention of getting a cool HDR background plate of a dingy sodium-vapor lamp illuminating a dirty wall and some sort of ominous looking water valve reminiscent of an 80's horror movie ... and well, that is what I did.
For those of you who do not know about HDRi or High Dynamic Range imaging , it is a photographic technique used to render images that encompass a larger range of luminosity, similar to what our eyes do effortlessly. By combining a group or bracket of images captured at different exposures which encompass the entire range of the scene, we can put together a High Dynamic Range image that looks truer to the physical world. If you would like to try this out for yourself, check out Photomatix. For more information, and some really awesome HDR tutorials, check out Trey Ratcliff's blog. He's kinda the go-to-guy for this sort of thing, has the most visited travel photography site on the internet, and on top of all that he wears cool looking glasses.
After putting the background plate together I realized that I needed an epic hero to be the subject of the image, after all it's basically an empty spotlight without one. I racked my brain for while as to who that hero could be - a hip hop artist? (Nope, I don't know any.), a hot chick wrapped in caution tape and wearing a gas mask? (Nope, ModelMayhem has that covered.), Banksy? (Yeah, then I could just leave it empty!).... I couldn't get my mind around it and I don't believe in forcing ideas to completion so alas, with a lack of realistic ideas, I sat on this one for well over a year and explored other pursuits.
Many long months later I had an upcoming test shoot with my friend Danielle. We were tossing ideas back and forth and she mentioned that she was a skater... and finally I had my first good idea for a hero shot - shoot a hot model who also looks like a real person showing some true to life character - cooler than a gas mask indeed. On the day of the shoot we met up at my studio. Danielle brought her skate board, her silly jokes, and a tiny girlfriend of hers who could do a flawless imitation of Ms. Swan from Mad TV. In order to fit Danielle into the background image I had her pose up against the studio wall with her board. I lit her from directly overhead using a 36 inch strip bank with a grid and also from the front high above the camera with a beauty dish. This allowed me to recreate the original environment as well as bringing some exposure to her face and a nice catch light to her eyes.
The final way in which we created a mood was to add a bit more authenticity... also known as blood. I thought that having her appear a bit worse for wear would sell the idea better. For legal reasons I can't describe the technique we employed to achieve this effect, but I can say that it involved a lead pipe and two consenting adults... Danielle was quite the trooper and you can hardly tell that she walks with a slight limp... I'm horrible - I did it all in Photoshop.