Scavenger Hunt #32 – Denim

Pair of manikins, seemingly sleeping, tucked each in the pockets of a pair of jeans, using folded tissues as pillows.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. Denim was one of the words for which I had little to no idea. I considered texturing a manikin in denim, and making small denim clothes for them, which would require far more skill than I have for them to look remotely okay – I have friends who I’m sure could have helped, but this felt a bit overkill.

When in lack of inspiration, I sometimes often turn to Google Images – a few well chosen words often help unlocking ideas or concepts. In that specific case, it came almost empty… except for a picture of a manikin hidden in someone’s jeans pocket. I started exploring around that idea, looking whether my manikins actually did fit in a jeans pocket, and what I could do with that.

I finally landed on the idea of “actually, this looks pretty cosy – maybe they sleep in jean pockets at night!” A few more experiments, getting on of Pierre’s jeans instead of mine (I have decently sized pockets because I wear men jeans, but Pierre is thinner than I am, which worked better for the picture 😉 ), a bit of posing the manikins in sleep-like positions, adding some tissues for the pillows, and tada! a picture!

Pair of manikins, seemingly sleeping, tucked each in the pockets of a pair of jeans, using folded tissues as pillows.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/6.3
Exposure time1/25 s
ISO1600

The edit for this one was pretty straightforward – removing the wood texture of the table, a few stray fibers that were distracting, and color toning.

I’m a bit on the fence on my decision to have that image that dark; on the one hand, I wanted to give the impression of a dark night/room; on the other hand, I wonder if maybe I didn’t overdo it a bit; and the shadows are probably too harsh too.

Still, I’m happy with the concept and the image. I absolutely love my little pillows – I think they really help selling the picture (and they’re cute!). I also like the posing of the manikins – I think it feels realistic! And I think the idea of “night” is well conveyed by the dark blue color toning. Finally, this was a more straightforward shot than many shots in this series, which meant spending less time on it, which I appreciate 😉

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Denim album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Umbrella

Wooden manikin recreating a scene from Singing in the Rain, dancing with a street lamp and an umbrella.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. For the “Umbrella” theme, I knew I wanted to go with a “Singing in the Rain” theme. I have actually not seen the movie (I should fix that, probably 🙂 ) – but there’s a well-known image where Gene Kelly is dancing with a street lamp, under the rain, with his umbrella. Now it turns out that his umbrella is a longer, closed one; since I don’t own a non-compact umbrella, I went for an open one!

My first impulse was to try and make pictures of a “real” street lamp and to composite the manikin into it… until I glanced at my apartment plants and saw they could work very well, scale-wise, as a modern street lamp. It would look pretty artificial, for sure – but that’s also part of the whole “studio” look that I felt could work pretty well. So that was my first picture:

Wooden manikin dancing with a home garden setup containing a small lamp and some aromatic herbs.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/60s
ISO800

For the rest of the image, I needed an umbrella. I recruited my husband to pose with an umbrella in our bedroom (I needed space and a dark curtain!). I had setup the light in the same approximative direction as the light coming from my “street lamp”, took a few shots (taking into account the fact that I needed both the full canopy of the umbrella and the handle), and there we go.

Man standing in a bedroom, holding an umbrella by its shaft
Man standing in a bedroom, holding an umbrella by its handle
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/4
Exposure time1/25s
ISO1600

The majority of the work was to remove the white surface below the feet and the leaves – that was surprisingly tricky! So was reconstituting the umbrella shaft – getting something that “felt” right was tough. As a last step, I added some rain – I mostly followed this tutorial: How to Add Rain to a Photo with Photoshop.

There’s a couple of things I’m not entirely satisfied with in this picture – in particular, I feel like I should have added a “road” texture on the ground; and I literally saw right now as I’m writing that post two weeks after entering the image that I had issues in the umbrella canopy too 😦 I also don’t know what to think about the rain – maybe I should have gone for something a bit bolder. And also added some water on my plants to sell it better 🙂

That said, it is one of my favorite pictures of this round. I’m very happy with the manikin posing and, while I’m a bit skeptical on my handling of the rain, I did learn something there. I’m also very happy with the light of the composite – this was luck more than skill, I think, but it feels pretty spot on (pun… intended.) I’m also very happy I got the idea of using my plant’s light: I think it works significantly better, scale-wise, than anything I could have done with a real street lamp!

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Umbrella album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Lollipop

Wooden manikin holding a large "STOP / Children crossing" sign in front of a zebra crossing.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. My first idea was to use the manikin myself as a prop that would represent the lollipop in a selfie, but it didn’t feel right, somehow. And then I remembered that a lollipop person was a term for the person helping children cross the road – so that’s the interpretation I chose.

But first, I needed a lollipop! I made and printed a small sign. Since I don’t own a color printer, I printed it in black and white – with the idea that I’d add the color in post-processing. Then I used my extraordinary making skills to assemble the lollipop itself – using a pair of bamboo chopsticks and some tape. The lollipop holds on the manikin’s hand with some blu tack.

Wooden manikin holding a large "STOP / Children crossing" sign in front of black fabric background.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/11
Exposure time1/60 s
ISO320

Then I also needed a zebra – turns out, it’s not too much of a problem to find one.

Quiet street with a visible zebra crossing and a restaurant terrasse.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/11
Exposure time1/80 s
ISO100

I first prepared the manikin – removing the background, added color to the sign, also added color to the torso to simulate a flashy vest. Then I added it to the other image, and I started working on making the composite work somehow. I played around with this: How To Make Realistic Shadows in Photoshop and it took me several attempts before getting the final result.

This is not my finest work – I took care of taking the pictures with the same angles with regards to the sun and so on, but the light on the balcony and the light on the street downstairs is actually quite different, which means that the composite feels wrong. But I’m not unhappy with the work I did on the shadow – and for sure I learnt a lot there. Making the sign was also fun, and worked significantly better than I expected! All in all, this is the picture I consider the weakest I entered for this Hunt, but I’m still happy with what I managed to do. And next time I’ll make the light work better for my purpose 🙂

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Lollipop album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Lamp

Wooden manikin with a head replaced by a drawn lamp head, taking the place of the "I" in a well-known animation studio logo.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. For Lamp, I thought it’d be nice to do something around the most famous animated lamp there is – and I decided to make my manikin cosplay for it! The major difficulty was to pose him in a way close enough from the lamp’s posture. But then, obviously it wasn’t a stable position, so I had to add some tape on his feet to make it stand still.

Wooden manikin squatting/slouching in front of a white wall
CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/40 s
ISO125

This meant that I needed to get a picture of non-taped feet – which I did by taking another picture against a few cans and taping, this time, the head of the manikin 😉

Wooden manikin slouching in front of a white wall, holding thanks to a pile of tin cans supporting its head.
CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/40 s
ISO320

And, for good measure, I also took a picture of the metal surface in case I needed more metal texture.

Metallic surface
CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/40 s
ISO640

Once I had that, the process took a bit of time, but wasn’t particularly complicated. I created the first composite of the manikin, its feet and its reflection in the metallic surface, with the blue color toning. The lamp is a few colored circles overlaid on the picture. Add some letters, shadows, light – as well as I could, and tadaaa! A picture ready for entry!

There’s actually not much I’d do differently right now with this picture. The shadows/reflections of the letters are not the most natural things in the world, but they’re not distracting to me. The “lamp” with the concentric circles is very simple, but I think it conveys the idea better than if I had gone with a fancier way of adding it. All in all, this is one of my favorite entries for this round 🙂

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Lamp album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Leaf

Wooden manikin sitting on a leaf, levitating, seemingly zooming through the image in front of a stone wall.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. We had the Leaf theme some rounds ago – which yielded one of my favorite images ever from a fellow Scavenger (hi Dave!). I considered, somewhat in the same directions, to play around the Adam and Eve theme, and ended up deciding against that. Instead, I made a “leafitation” picture! It’s a pretty straightforward levitation composite. First step, background:

Stone wall and paved floor

Second step, levitating object.

Wooden manikin, sitting on a leaf, propped by a couple of plastic cans, in front of a stone wall.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/8 s
ISO400

And third step, editing the composite, adding a shadow, etc. I also added a movement blur on the background to give an impression of panning.

I’m not entirely happy with this composite. Adding the shadow on the ground helped selling it, but I think I overdid it and that it’s too dark. I also have no idea how the shadow and the background blur should have played together, and I’m not convinced I made the right choices there. The manikin/wall delimitation also feels too sharp at places, especially around the leaf. I also have no idea if I did the blur in the right direction and, well, if I can’t make the difference, does it matter? (yes, yes it does 😉 )

I’m still very happy with the idea, which I find whimsical and funny. Adding the panning was definitely a good idea because it adds to the story-telling. I was also quite happy with the idea of using the stem of the leaf as a “navigating stick” of some sort!

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Leaf album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Kitchen Utensil

Wooden manikin stirring a bright green liquid with a giant spoon.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. For the “Kitchen utensil” word, my first idea was to have my manikins chasing each other with a rolling pin, but I decided against it because this actually not an image I want to make, as pervasive in the social imaginary as it may be. I also considered bathing one in a pot, or something like that, but I didn’t want to sacrifice one just yet, and I had little hopes of being able to recover it after that.

I eventually settled on the idea that I could use the kitchen utensil as a prop and not necessarily as the main focus in that picture. I have an overly large cocktail spoon, whose scale is interesting compared to the manikin’s size, and a cocktail mixing glass – there we go, I had my idea! I wanted to make something akin to a cauldron, which obviously meant something green and vaguely shiny.

I got the idea of preparing the green mixture with some water, a bit of green coloring, and a few drops of milk to give it some opacity. I then took several pictures in a dark room, illuminated by a single Lume cube. I ended up having a few more pictures of that type, moving the cube further or closer:

Wooden manikin stirring a bright green liquid with a giant spoon.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time0.8 s
ISO640
Wooden manikin stirring a milky green liquid with a giant spoon.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time0.8 s
ISO200

I loaded them all into Lightroom, told it “make me an HDR out of these”, and it resulted in the above image, give or take a few edits on the fabric and the like.

I kind of regret not giving more thought/ideas to the background: it might have been better with a bit more flair. I am, however, exceedingly happy with how the bright green liquid turned out, and I’m also very happy with the light in this image. All in all, I like it a lot!

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Kitchen utensil album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Broccoli

Wooden manikin standing in front of a yellow background. The manikin is green and its head is replaced by a broccoli.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. That made things Interesting when I saw that one of the words was “broccoli” – how was I supposed to make that work? Thankfully, I got the idea of Broccoli-Man pretty quickly and, once I had the idea, the implementation was…. almost straightforward.

I first shot my manikin in a “super-hero pose” and a broccoli at a reasonable height (that took a few attempts).

Broccoli sitting on a kitchen paper roll in front of a white wall.
Wooden manikin standing in front of a white wall.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/8
Exposure time1/25s
ISO320
Camera settings for both pictures

And then, Photoshop to the rescue – blend in the images, play with the color toning, done, right? Eeeh. The processing was less straightforward than I would have liked, for a few reasons.

  • The removal of the metallic stand ended up being more annoying than expected.
  • I should really invest in a small green screen to make its removal easier, that would make my life significantly easier.
  • Relatedly to that point, I “fixed” the issue of the background by blurring the wall behind… and not realizing that my selection was far from perfect, which meant going back for more, more awkward edits.
  • My Lightroom-to-Photoshop-to-Lightroom process is dubious at best and my handling of Photoshop files is laughable (it seems my layers and whatnot are actually stored in a TIF file, which is highly suspicious and probably WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS…) – I’ll need to see how to properly do that for the next Hunt.
  • The merge of the broccoli and the manikin texture at the neck level took me a long time, and is still not up to what I would have liked to get (which may be… difficult! 🙂 ).

Now that I’m writing this behind-the-scenes post, I also realize that there’s a bit of a “halo” (coming from the blur effect) around the manikin, but not around the broccoli head, which is a bit sad. I’m also a bit annoyed that I didn’t think of giving him a cape too – but oh well – next time, maybe!

I’m still happy with a number of things in this picture:

  • The concept amuses me greatly.
  • I really like the posing of the manikin.
  • I made my life easy for the composite taking pictures at the right level and with the same light and whatnot.
  • I’m very happy with the color toning (and I discovered how to do the wood coloring in PS, which makes me happy!).

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Broccoli album.

Scavenger Hunt #31 – Self-portrait

For the 31st Scavenger Hunt, I decided to create all my images within an overarching theme of “Board games” – and maybe take the opportunity to talk about said games during this post.

My fist idea was to take a picture of me in front and/or hiding behind board game boxes – and then I got a much funnier idea. Many board games have so-called “meeples” – the pieces that represent people. So I decided that transforming myself into a meeple could be pretty fun!

The original use of the word “meeple” comes from the game Carcassonne, which makes a significant use of them. In Carcassonne, players take turns adding square tiles to a common map and claiming various areas of the map; the final score is computed by considering the size and state of the areas controlled by each player.

It was consequently natural to set things up into a Carcassonne game. That said, my own copy of Carcassonne comes with transparent meeples, which would make the image all the more challenging, so I stole a meeple from another game. And I picked a red one, OBVIOUSLY, because I always play red.

My final image is a composite of a board game picture:

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100 mm
F-NumberF/9
Exposure time1/13 s
ISO640

and a self-portrait picture:

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100 mm
F-NumberF/10
Exposure time1/10 s
ISO320

Editing ended up being…. more straightforward than expected. I was afraid I’d have to fight way more than I did with the composition which, granted, took a bit of time, but ended up working out much better than I was expecting. I’m very happy that I thought of wearing a red t-shirt: it made the merging with the red meeple that much easier 🙂

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Self-portrait album.

Scavenger Hunt #31 – Fluffy

For the 31st Scavenger Hunt, I decided to create all my images within an overarching theme of “Board games” – and maybe take the opportunity to talk about said games during this post.

Farm themes are pretty common in board games, to the point that I have wooden sheep in a significant amount of them. I also have different models of sheep! The sheep in this picture come from two sources: Caverna (the darker/yellower ones) and Glen More II. Caverna is a worker placement game in which the player controls dwarves that try to earn the most gold by building facilities in their caves and going on adventures. Glen More II is a territory building game where the player controls a clan of Scots trying to gain resources, influence and whisky.

For the picture, I gathered all my sheep in a bowl that I had covered with fluffy material – my latest attempt at knitting, which “will be a scarf this winter” for probably 5 years now – but hey, photo prop! I own more wooden sheep than that, but the models for the other games was close enough from the Caverna style that I didn’t feel like sorting them out again afterwards.

This is the initial picture, for which the edits were straightforward.

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100 mm
F-NumberF/8
Exposure time1/40s
ISO1250

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Fluffy album.

Scavenger Hunt #31 – Teal

For the 31st Scavenger Hunt, I decided to create all my images within an overarching theme of “Board games” – and maybe take the opportunity to talk about said games during this post.

Teal is a common enough player color in board games that I had quite a lot of choice for my Teal picture. I chose the game Crusaders because it seemed like the best option if I wanted to have a sea of teal and not just a few pieces on the board.

In Crusaders, players fight for influence over Europe by traveling, mustering troops, building buildings, and the like. The different actions make the following actions easier or more powerful – which makes Crusaders fairly strong in the “engine building” category. It’s a bit intimidating to explain, but the game flows really well and it’s really enjoyable.

Here’s the initial picture, close enough from the end result that the edits were very straightforward:

CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100 mm
F-NumberF/10
Exposure time1/25s
ISO800

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Teal album.