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Image Manipulation & Photoshop
Douglas Kirkland's Digital Touch



Douglas Kirkland's Digital Touch

Far east meets west coast

Text by Michael Sheridan Images by Douglas Kirkland

June/July 2001

The Hindu religion consists of several different gods and goddesses whose battles and adventures are captured in elaborate stories of love and war. These stories and gods have been illustrated in grand paintings and detailed statues over the centuries.

Several of these images show characters with multiple arms, such as the goddess Durga, the personification of universal energy. According to legend, Durga was formed when several gods and goddesses forged together to defeat a buffalo-demon called Mahishasura.

These were the kinds of tales and illustrations that influenced the image taken by famed photographer Douglas Kirkland, highlighted on this month's cover of Digital Imaging. The subject, Mark Mikata, a friend of Kirkland, is a martial arts expert who was looking for an image to use as an advertisement for his studio. "I was asked by Mark if I would do these pictures for him," Kirkland explained. "The idea was based on some classic martial arts imagery from places such as Thailand."

BUZZ BOX
KIRKLAND'S GEAR

HARDWARE:
Canon D30
Flextight Precision II
Mac G3 & G4 computers
Kodak Professional 8670 Thermal Printer

SOFTWARE:
Adobe Photoshop

STRIKING A POSE
For about an hour and a half, Kirkland worked with the subject to capture the initial images. For that, the martial arts expert posed in several different positions, holding different kinds of weapons.

"They are all classic weapons that are significant in martial arts, and he made those choices," Kirkland said.

To create the background, a black seamless was hung behind the subject. A hole cut in the center allowed a Dyna-Lite strobe to be aimed at the subject's back, creating the light effect.

A smoke machine was also utilized to capture the light from the strobe and allow for a foggy look around the martial artist. Above the artist hung a multidome softbox for additional light.

DIGITAL CAPTURE
One of the advantages of using a digital camera is the ability to see your final image as you're shooting. "I chose the [Canon] D30 because I wanted to be able to watch what was happening as I shot it," Kirkland said.

A member of Canon's select group of 64 photographers known as the "Explorers of Light" Kirkland was given the camera to try out. "I was given the camera and used it [for] a few assignments," Kirkland said.

"The camera helps you shoot fairly rapidly," he added. "It's a terrific camera. And the beauty of it is that it uses all of the same lenses that I'm used to using, and it feels very much like the traditional Canon cameras."

The images also have good definition and little grain, making the picture crisp, clean and colorful. Fitted with a 24mm lens set to f-stop 16, he captured several different images of the martial artist with different weapons and his arms in four different positions. From there, he turned to an old working partner: Adobe Photoshop.

AN ARMFUL OF IMAGES
Kirkland began working with Photoshop when the software was first introduced more than a decade ago. "I was one of the earliest people using Photoshop," he said. "I got into it at that time and was so impressed with it. I've done a number of books with it."

When it came to creating the multi-armed martial arts expert, merging the images was simple.

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