I wanted to build a tasteful (and spooky) nude around a light painted sheep skull; the core story concept is a demonic summoning turning into a possession, and the visual concepts are horizontal symmetry, and warm flame underlighting contrasted with a colder distant cast. Both sets of main warm and cool lights are wraparound (lighting from opposite sides, leaving the central portion in shadow) with the central light-painted flame feature producing equal parts backlighting to the foreground subject and soft diffuse overhead light for the model.
The subject is suspended from two black threads from the base of each horn, to a backdrop bar above. A third thread pulls it back attached to the wardrobe behind, to reduce the time it spends swinging when jolted. However, every time it (or one of the backdrop supports) was knocked, we had to take a five minute break to wait for the oscillations to dampen down anyway.
Lighting was two flashes, equal distance on either side, set on manual mode at 1/64th power. Left flash was on an extension lead from the camera body, and right flash was triggered as an optical slave. Flash was at second curtain sync. The result is wraparound lighting on the skull and the model's head and arms. The fire swirl was made by a long match, starting under the skull at the beginning of the exposure and swirling outwards - I had to wear black while in the scene and pass the lit match quickly from hand to hand in a circle around the model, being careful not to bump her pose or spend too long in one place. After about a hundred thousand shots, I began to notice there was a really nice effect if the match was allowed to gradually blow itself out as it moved, so I began to control speed to make it extinguish gradually and leave a tapered trail. I really liked the underlighting it gave to the skull.
The same swirl of fire, by nature of its horizontally spread out nature, acts as a sort of softbox or umbrella over the model, with light that's focused near the centre and falls off towards the outside of the swirl; the result is that the glow is warm over the model.
Behind the model is an antique polished wardrobe which did a nice job of catching the flame reflections. The two candlesticks on the goatskin rugs (the latter contributing to the goaty theme) added colour to the wraparound lighting lower down in the frame, provided an interesting reflection, as well as increasing the fire hazard level of the shoot by another factor of ten.
There were hundreds of thousands of outtakes but in the end I chose this one because of the combination of clarity in the hands and face (difficult for a model keeping still for 13 seconds with me moving a flaming object around her), the relative clarity and simplicity of the fire swirl, the way the shadows fell just right, and the way the fire swirl obscures her eyes - making her look possessed.
Spot editing changes:
Postprocessing was fairly minimal. In fact, this would have been almost identical under the minimal editing rules. This was my first time doing a serious shoot with a 1D mark IV, and the sensor is simply incredible. This must be the first time I haven't had to adjust tone curves even one bit - I tried to find a way I could improve the tone globally and it was absolutely spot on in every way. The 100% viewfinder is excellent too, and brighter and clearer than earlier 1D series, which made it really easy to frame this exactly how I wanted it - so no crop, either. Cloned out more than a dozen hot pixels, which isn't surprising at 13 seconds, but not much besides. Also cloned out a few spots of lens flare, a mark on the wardrobe's wood, and of course the threads holding up the skull. Dodged and burned to increase contrast locally around the skull, the edges of the frame, the necklace and the candlesticks. Resized and sharpened.
Place: 19 out of 43 Avg (all users): 5.8750 Avg (commenters): 8.3333 Avg (participants): 5.6667 Avg (non-participants): 5.9792 Views since voting: 2489 Views during voting: 145 Votes: 72 Comments: 5 Favorites: 0
I am afraid that there is just far too much going on in this image to make it a strong contender in this challenge. Should the challenge have been 'pagan worship' or something similar, it may have done much better. But with the horns, which were meant to be the focal point, having to compete with both a fire swirl and naked women...well...not much chance of anyone thinking too much about horns at that point! It's just far too busy in terms of comp. Also, honestly, 20 outtakes are far too many to show your thought processes. One or two would suffice.
Overall an interesting approach to the challenge, but again, far too many elements competing for attention. Choose one, and only one, and make that the focal point.