2 new international awards!

April 17, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I am very proud to announce that my work has been awarded today, with 2 new international prizes, at the Trierenberg Super Circuit 2014 international contest:

  • Gold Medal (category "No worries – Luck, Happiness & Fun") for "Underwater Hurdling"
  • Gold Medal (category "Unusual") for "Burnout"

Underwater HurdlingUnderwater Hurdling BurnoutBurnoutAll the photos and editing by me (2014).

My wife is not feeling well these days. Usually, she's solid as a rock: working all day long, sometimes even during nights too, is quite normal for her. In fact, I rarely saw someone so passionate about their job. As a vet, she would never put her own comfort above the one of her furry patients, even when it implies staying unexpectedly for hours at her workplace, skipping sleep time, or letting an ill animal sleeping on the couch rather than in his cage. Observing her gives me the impression she's got many more arms than I do.

But about 6 weeks ago, things started to change. Her strengths started to leave her body. She lost much weight in two weeks, and she was not exactly fat to begin with. Staying on her feet became too hard, and she purely and simply had to stay in the bed. Working was simply unthinkable. Needless to say, I began to worry quite a lot: it was like everything in her was fragile. I was feeling the negativity trying to grasp both her body and her mind. One night, when she was trying to get some sleep despite her state, I took my tablet and started to draw a rough sketch of her. I knew the picture had to be dark, involving fire, consuming her, with things appearing from the darkness. When she saw the result in the morning, she liked it: according to her, while most of my sketches look like made by a 4 years old child, this one was much more convincing. So we decided to go for it, and shoot all the photos we needed. She bravely posed in our home studio. It was not easy for her: at the end of the shooting, she was very weak, and things started to revolve around her. I did my best to create an image from there. In the following days, we even discussed together about color adjustments, size of the flames, and various small details here and there. It was great to have some fun together.

Doctors say they can't do much for her. However, things should get much better in the following weeks. After all, even though the effects are very strong on her, they rarely last during the 9 months. Yes, she's pregnant, I am going to be a dad! :-)

The Trierenberg Super Circuit international contest is one of the biggest photo contest in the world, with about 80.000 entries each year. In addition of these 2 images, a whole bunch of other of my creations will be included in the exposition which will occur later this year in Linz, Austria:

CreativityCreativityAll the photos and editing by me (2014).

A few days ago, I was trying to find some inspiration for a new image. I suppose everyone has his own little tricks for that. One of my personal favorite is to let my mind jump from an idea to another, like in a ping pong game. For example, it can start with something I see around me, then this thing reminds me of an old experience I had with it, then this situation reminds me my feelings that very day, which gives me memories of something totally different, and so on. I often land very far away from the initial idea when I play that game, and it is quite fun and often surprising I must say! In this work, I wanted to illustrate this flow: some droplets of imagination are poured in the ocean of mind, and various concepts and ideas emerge. So, what are your own techniques for finding ideas?

I would like to specially thank my dear wife. Not only did she accept to pose for that strange picture, but she also was of a great help with its creation. We spent several hours sketching the bodies again and again, imagining their shapes and arranging them on the canvas, before obtaining something we were happy with. I am a very lucky man.

A few technical notes:

Thanks for watching!
SchismSchism Magritte's MuseMagritte's Muse Rodeo to the SkyRodeo to the Sky Primordial SoupPrimordial SoupAll the photos and editing by me, no stock (2013).

Defining life is a complex question, and quite controversial as well. A commonly accepted definition can be put as follows (according to Wikipedia): "Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (death), or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate". Of course, those "signaling and self-sustaining processes" would need to be precised, which is even harder to do, as many entities are along a grey line regarding the implied physiological functions (for example viruses and other replicators, various hybrids, artificial/mechanical life, etc.)

Regardless of those considerations, the origin of life is a fascinating question. When I was a kid, I heard at school about the infamous Miller–Urey experiment, also known as the "Primitive Soup" experiment: it probably entirely changed my vision of life. Simply put, basic components (water, methane, ammonia, hydrogen) were put in a flask, and electric sparks were fired to simulate lightning: after a few days, organic compounds were present. Of course, I am no chemist nor biologist, so details are beyond my understanding, but the idea that there is a recipe for life is, again, fascinating to me: put the right ingredients in the right pot, wait a bit, and tadaaaa! Life appears. It is almost like creating "something" from "nothing". The Holy Grail of any artist ;-)

Of course, abiogenesis (which is how this process is called) can be disturbing to some, as it desecrates life, considering that it is a logical and mechanical consequence of the appropriate starting conditions. Life would not be that special after all. Personally, I like this idea a lot, as it is a humble approach of the importance of our own existence, as human beings. After all, our species believed once that Earth was the center of the universe, while we now know it is an insignificant dust lost in the immensity. Similarly, I tend to think that human beings are nothing that special, merely the result of a mechanism started a few billions years ago. I do realize this vision may not be necessarily shared by everyone, but I wanted to express that point of view in my "Primitive Soup" image.

I must say I had great fun creating it. Everything started Saturday July 27th 2013 around 6.00am. My wife and I were awakened by thunder and lightnings. The large droplets of rain were hitting the windows loudly, and after a few minutes, she said to me: "You should go take some lighting photos, these could be useful for the next project". A few minutes later, I was standing half-naked in front of our house, with the camera on a tripod, asking myself what I was doing here. The storm was almost over, but I managed to obtain a couple of shots. While doing so, contemplating the electricity in the sky reminded me that Primitive Soup experiment: this is the moment I decided to create an illustration of that concept.

In the afternoon, I wanted to shoot underwater photos. However, I do not have a housing for my DSLR, nor any waterproof camera. So I took an empty 50 liters aquarium I have at home, and put my camera in it. Then I stepped into the river next to my house, and used the aquarium as a little submarine: worked like a charm! The photos were mostly muddy and blurry, but it was exactly what I needed texture-wise.

Then, back at home, I installed the aquarium in my garden, brought some studio strobes, in order to shoot various photos of black ink sinking into water. Quite an easy setup, and the shapes you get are remarkable. I created the left leg combining several of these photos. The day after, I posed in my studio for the emerging human trunk. I covered myself with mud and water: an interesting experience ;-) Finally, the right leg was created using bread dough, either stretched by hand, or installed on metallic wires to mimic morphological shapes. My wife was of a great help on that: she designed the pseudo-DNA helix as well as the calf part.

I am very happy I was able to translate my thoughts into that image. Of course, it is obviously not at all a realistic approach, rather a digested vision of my mind. I hope some will find it interesting. In any case, thanks for watching, I appreciate your attention a lot.
AlikeAlike E=mc²E=mc²This photo was realized without post-processing.

If you follow my work, you probably know I like taking advantage of post-processing, in order to create composites. I like the fantasy it allows. However, I sometimes get messages from people challenging me to create something without such tool, and I decided to give it a try.

It might be a bit surprising, but in order to create this photo, I found myself using the very same set of skills I acquired when doing my extensively edited images. In fact, even if you use different tools, different ways of doing things, the underlying principles remain the same.

First of all, as always, the main difficulty is to come up with a convincing concept, a good idea. Obviously, post-processing is of no help about that: knowing how to handle a tool does not tell you what to do with it. So I started to think about "numbers", personifying them sounded interesting: from there, I had to choose someone who was notoriously related to that topic. Albert Einstein was an obvious candidate. I decided to pay him an homage, using the numbers "299792458" (the speed of light in meters per second, i.e. the value 'c' in the infamous formula).

When one creates a composite in post-processing, there are several difficulties to take into account, but a major one is the composition. Placing all the items harmoniously on the canvas can be painful, but fortunately, when you do it with some software, you can make lots of tries easily. I believe creating composites taught me more about composition than any other exercise. Here, this experience was useful, since changing the position of all these pieces of paper once they are glued is a gigantic pain. Moreover, I wanted to add some perspective to the portrait (just like when you deform a layer in Photoshop), except that I had to do it directly on the setup itself: for that, I built pillars made of cardboard, that I put under the face to lift it as needed (for example the nose has the highest pillar, so that it is the closest part to the camera).

Another usual tools used in post-processing are "dodging and burning". These are very important, to add depth and local contrast, or even to create shadows in composites. Despite the fact this was a "minimal editing" challenge, I wanted to use them anyway, since they usually make a very important difference when it comes to visual impact. What I did is that I printed all the numbers on different shades of gray: the pieces of paper are not all the same. For example, the ones in the background are the darkest ones, while the ones positioned on the left of the face (Einstein's left, your right) are the brightest ones. As you can imagine, choosing the appropriate color of paper for each zone of the setup required some work and thinking (in fact the same reasoning than in post-processing, but done directly with the items themselves).

Creating that setup took about 12 hours of work. As usual, my wonderful wife did an incredible job on it, and without her help I doubt this would have been possible within the challenge week. When it was done, I worked on the lighting setup, which required 3 more hours. Nothing unusual here, but I wanted the vignette to be as perfect as possible: I used different pieces of black cardboard around the setup to create shadows in the corners as needed. Positioning those precisely was a bit long. Technically, 2 strobes were used, both from the right: a softbox at mid-power, to give an ambient light to the scene, and a snoot at full power on the face, to get good contrast and shadows.

All in all, I am very happy about the result. The "pre-processing" (as opposed to "post-processing") worked as intended. In fact, I tried to optimize it afterwards, and except a few hair and dusts I would have cloned out, there is not much I would have adjusted. For those that are wondering, I did not use the camera settings capabilities: as a photographer, I see no valid reason to let the camera adjust or decide things for me, I want to have a full control over my work. This is why I simply set it to B/W and called it a day: the rest comes from my work on the setup and its lighting.


Exciting times!


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