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The Versace Vision



Vincent Versace was thrilled when Epson asked if they could follow him with a video crew as he digitally captured and printed images of the Golden Gate Bridge. The footage will be shown in the Epson Print Academy’s new web-based program called The Online Experience. The Online Experience offers a unique, behind the scenes perspective on how industry leading photographers work and educational step by step digital printing tutorials. (More information and registration info can be found at: www.EpsonPrintAcademy.com)

A huge fan of the Bay Area, the preeminent photographer headed north determined to achieve the near impossible - to take something that everyone has seen a bizillion times and find a new way to express it. Versace worked his magic, and the result is the awesome image that graces our cover this issue.

Ever true to his work’s mission (“I tell the truth and see the pretty. I want to move people,” he explains, “And create an image that moves someone else the way I was moved.”) Vincent hit pay dirt the day he shot this one.

“I was shooting with the Nikon D1x,” he recalls. “And it went from bright sunny day to complete fog to rain to a break in the fog to the rainbow back to bright sunny day, all in 40 minutes. It was an absolute hoot!”

The challenge, though, and it’s one that Vincent Versace masters so seamlessly it’s almost maddening, is recreating that magic moment in the final image. He concurs. “The key is to create the image that you felt when you looked at it. We’re telling a story here and it’s that all of those elements in this image occurred, and occurred in motion. That’s the difference between being live and viewing a photograph. When I was there in the image moment, I watched those clouds move, I watched the light, saw the rainbow show up, and it was amazing to see. So the question becomes ‘How do I capture that and tell the story that moved me to anyone who looks at the image and how do I move someone who looks at my work in the way which I was moved?' ”

Sharpen your pencils and take notes. In this Cover Technique, Vincent Versace, who commands no introduction, generously shares how he set about creating this image (one he counts among the best he’s ever taken).

After experiencing, and shooting the glorious 40 minutes of sunlight, then clouds, fog, rainbow, and sunlight, the question becomes “How do you create an image that captures motion with stillness? The reason a still photograph is called a still photograph is because the picture doesn’t move, not because the objects in the picture aren’t in motion. The objective of a photograph is to capture motion with stillness.” He achieves this by “image harvesting” - shooting multiple images of the same subject and changing the variables of exposure, shutter speed and focus points at point of capture. This guarantees that the source files contain the optimum aesthetic aspects of exposure, depth of field and focus that can then be combined to create a single image. Taking multiple exposures of the same subject and combining them into one image is the best way to create an image that looks like what the eye saw, not what the camera captured.

To create the cover image, he composited an image from four images of the 129 captured. “The reason is that the human eye is a multipurpose organic optical system with the ability to determine detail in light as low as moon- light and as bright as direct sunlight at noon at the equator, as well as acting as a motion sensor. The eye sees events as they happen and unfold in real time. A digital still camera is not a multipurpose organic optical system. It’s an image capture device that records a very small part of what we actually see in comparison. And, the vast majority of what we see is felt and witnessed in motion. The eyes see everything that’s there, whereas a camera only sees a fraction. In this case, everything that was there to see was the bridge in total sharpness, the fog in varying levels of sharpness, the foreground in varying levels of sharpness, and the rainbow. The human eye’s dynamic range is greater than anything that we have, be it capture, output, monitor, etc. The key is to create the image that you felt when you looked at it. “ To this end, he captured all the elements every which way he could.

“I’ll bracket all the way to black, all the way to blown out, do different depths of field and focus points. Keep in mind, once you change the focus you change the perspective, but that’s okay, because we have a very powerful tool in Photoshop. You can bend the images and change perspectives so that they match. Layer masking and all the new features in Photoshop CS made this whole thing very easy. Well, for Versace, anyway..

In His Own Words... Bridging The Gap

“After I shot everything at different exposure and depths of field, I had four images that I felt were the best to work with - the Golden Gate Bridge, the bridge with the rainbow, the bridge with Alcatraz and the foreground showing, and the overall shot of everything, which is the master shot and mostly out of focus.

Through the use of layer masks, I built the image up. I got the image of the rainbow, created the layer mask, filled that with black, making sure that the foreground color in the tool pallete was selected white and the background color was selected black and then, with varying levels of opacity, painted in the areas I wanted until it realized itself and the pixels bled through.
Then, I repeated the process with the bridge; I painted back in the areas of dark and light that I liked and then the areas of misty fog on the bottom part of the image because, in the original image of the bridge, every aspect of it is in focus. But, that didn’t look like it was coming out of the fog. So, I have the bay image, which is all fog and, with the layer mask, I brush that back through. So now, I have the rainbow, the bridge, part of the bridge looking like it’s coming through sunlight, and then the dark area and the beam of light that hit the bridge. Then, I did selective sharpening. I shoot RAW files with all of the internal sharpening turned off and in Auto white balance because I want total control of the image from beginning to end. I view a digital camera as a capture device only.”

“I approach my work ‘cinematically’ and compose the image in the camera. The goal is to not crop an image in post processing. Cropping is for wussies. A cinematographer does not have the luxury of cropping. Everything is composed at the point of capture. The same should also hold true in still photography. The way to conceptualize working from cinematic vs. photographic approach is to understand the basic way the human eye works. The eye goes to patterns it recognizes first - light to dark, high contrast to low contrast, high sharpness to low sharpness, in focus to blur, which is different than high sharpness of color and high saturation of color to low saturation of color. I want to move your eye all around, so I want the eye to go to the bridge first. I know it’s going to have the highest saturation of color, the highest level of contrast, and the highest level of sharpness, and it’s going to be the lightest area of the photograph. I can use these as tools to get your eye to go to the bridge first. The second element is going to be the rainbow and, more or less, everything else. I’ll need to work it so I have the interesting thing happening with the bridge, by using layer masks and painting in the pattern and the level of fog and sharpness that I like. Then, I’m going to selectively sharpen the image, create a new layer and then merge all the layers together - a little trick called the move.

How you do that is create a new layer which is the Cmd Shift N, (or Ctrl Shift N in Windows), Return and Cmd Option Shift E in Mac, (Ctrl Alt Shift E in Windows).It takes all the layers up to that point and merges them into one while preserving all the layers that you had. The beauty is that you can come back and pick elements that you can use later. If you do something you don’t like, you’re not married to it because you merged it all together. You can start to create what are, in effect, filter layers. I can run a filter on a composite layer, make a layer mask, brush in the varying levels I want and move on.

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