Create some creativity!

It's been cold, it's been dark, we've been hiding indoors, welcome to winter!  Wintertime for me is not just a season, sometimes it's a mood that takes over my soul.  The wintertime of my soul was a result of not doing as much of what I want to be doing.  What I want to be doing is making interesting pictures of people.  But I want the pictures to also be just a little creative.  Yesterday I made an honest attempt to create something and it was a failure, hang out and I'll tell you how it happened and why it was a good thing.

The one major thing on my to do list yesterday was to write this blog post.  We both know that didn't happen, because here I am writing it now.  I've said many times on my blog that I intend to write twice a week.  In a perfect world I would have a new blog post every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and even more perfect they would be finished long before I wanted to post them.  Sadly we don't live in a perfect word, but before you get really mad about my imperfection understand it's not so bad compared to stuff like civil war in Syria.  Instead of plugging away on my computer I was downtown having breakfast and doing what can generally be described as dicking off.

The dicking off was mainly after breakfast.  My friend April wanted to buy a shirt for her sister, so next thing you know I'm standing in the Betty Page Clothing remembering how much I hate being dragged along shopping.  One thing about Betty P{age Clothing, they have large prints on their walls of pin up pictures of their staff done by Pin Ups Portland.  April was talking about how much she loved the pictures so we decided to see if we could do our own.  What I wanted to do was mimic the style of the portraits, they were mostly all a similar set up, with very soft flat frontal light and very hard edge light, often with a backdrop that always seemed the perfect color to go with the outfit.  April had just moved and didn't have a suitable outfit and I don't have a proper studio, but I was pretty sure we could fake our way around both problems.

First things first we needed some wardrobe.  This is where it's really handy to have well established relationships with local designers and vintage shops.  With contacts at these places finding the perfect outfit can be just a phone call away.  You can get wardrobe items loaned to you in exchange for the use of your images from these sources, a very mutually beneficial proposition.  Sounds great, but I don't have any established relationships with designers or vintage shops.  Uh oh.  What to do?  Any ideas?  Help me Macklemore!  Thrift shop!  Poppin tags!

I've spent a bit of time in and around Goodwill.  In the Cub Scouts you used to earn a patch when you helped with donation drives.  I've also worked on the construction of many of them when I was in the equipment rental industry.  My friend Eddie acted in commercials for them along with another Eddie who actually worded at Goodwill and got all of the speaking lines in spite of his special needs.  Let's also not forget that whenever I need to get rid of some crap in my closet and I want a receipt for tax purposes Goodwill is quick to lend a hand.  But I have never before shopped at a Goodwill.  Without boring you with the details, we were able to pick up 5 dresses for a total of $34.95! 

The weirdest part of this experiment was how I actually enjoyed dress shopping.  This is where I put the objectification of women to good use. Not in a demeaning way, but to quite literally look at you as an object, or as a series of shapes, of lines and curves.  How does the outfit work for your shape?  You don't want the cutest dress, you want the dress that looks the cutest on you.  Here's how I help someone find a dress... I have an icy cold disposition when judging a dress on you.  Now, any ladies or drag queens reading this, not to worry, I'm not judging you, you're perfect, I'm judging the dress and weather or not it is doing its job of flattering you and your figure.  If it ain't, it gets tossed aside like the second hand rag that it is!  If it is doing a good job flattering you, we can have it for $6.99!  I personally wouldn't have listed dress shopping on my list of mad skills as I'm incredibly unstylish even for a straight guy, but I might have to rethink that.

So here was my plan, I was going to attempt to rip off the style of Portland Pin Ups.  Pure, unadulterated theft of intellectual  property.  I mean, not exactly, or should I say, exactly, but for the purposes of identifying how individual elements were achieved so I can possibly incorporate some of the elements into my own style. We came to my place, April started doing makeup and I began to set up lights.  We were going to start with a yellow and white floral pattern dress, and I was going to create a custom background made from the same color yellow taken from the dress itself.  Then you just add the photo of April to the background and remove the background of that photo using layer masks in photoshop.  It's actually a really simple process.  I'd watched seminars where Joel Grimes used a similar technique to composite sports photos.  Since I started using Lightroom, I hadn't been using Photoshop Elements much at all lately, so after some fumbling around I was able to finally take the exact color of her dress and make a simple background.  The background of the original photo of April was quite unsightly as it was not going to end up in the finished photo anyway.  It really was a simple process, but simple is a misleading word.  In spite of not being complicated, it was freaking tedious to select April off of the background.  Trying to include hairs in the selection but to exclude the spaces between them would have taken almost as long to do as I would have had to wait for a custom colored backdrop to be delivered to my house.  When Joel did it it looked so easy and quick.

So that was my failure.  The one thing I set out to do when I should have been doing the one thing I originally wanted to do was a bust.  What's good about that?  It was actually much more successful than it was a failure.  I succeeded in making the background to match the dress.  I succeeded in matching the style of lighting they used.  I even succeeded in learning how to put the two images together.  The minor failure of learning how tedious it was could prompt me to double up efforts and learn a better way, which would be a step on the path to success.  Or maybe I learned that I would rather do all of this stuff the old fashioned way with lights and a simple roll of white seamless paper and some colored gels, and that would be a success.  We started out with the goal of attempting to fake a style, and as a technical exercise it provided much more education than finished product, but isn't that worth more?

The biggest success for me was that I was able to spend the day being creative.  Creativity is just like everything else in life in one way, the more you practice it the easier it gets.  Yesterday was a good day for me, I practiced making pictures and being creative, and learned a bit about both.  Once we determined my limited level of competency was not quite at the level where I could "sell the fake" (as Joel Grimes says) of the composite image, we started moving around the very limited space of my condo and took advantage of the fact that we had 5 new to us dresses and made some shots the old fashioned way.  We were still able to take the pin up aesthetic and use it to help inspire the pictures we did make, they were just no longer a fitting rip off of Portland Pin Ups.