Sierra Studios Manifesto

Part 5 of 6

Morning Shoots

Sometimes it takes a while to properly set up the table-top stage, which is why most of the set-up is often done the previous night.

JOKER in the morning

Some figures at Sierra Studios are award winners, well-constructed and easy to pose and stand… Others are fall-down drunks. Over time I learned to use tape and paper-covered stands and invisible posts, and still, some will fall before the director yells “action.” Sometimes this is what’s going on while as light escapes the background and I can almost hear God laughing (“grow up! Stop playing with toys! Fight the embargo against Cuba instead!)

When the perfect morning light is gone, I embrace more traditional studio lighting and might even play with the character’s own shadow... With studio lighting I’ve a little more time to arrange various actors into one image and incorporate background elements... but that window light is unique, and I never try to fake its effects.

My goal is to embrace the sense of character integrity that emerged when story tellers and filmmakers had less access to technology and more need to fuel the imagination... (my favorite Star Wars is still the very first one).

On rare occasions the shoots go according to plan and everything works as pre-visualized... the portraits of Dracula and Frankenstein are almost exactly as planned... Other times all plans go out the window due to “technical difficulties” or poor planning and I must improvise. This is where I turn into John Cassavetes and throw the script out the window… Now’s the time to take those eggs life just gave you and make an omelet.

Perhaps the night shoot is such an omelet.

Night Shoots

After preparing the studio: laying out the white paper on the walls and on the surface table; setting up the lights around the main shooting area, setting up the tripod at the proper height for the figure with the right lens…

Studio portrait of JOKER

After preparing the studio: laying out the white paper on the walls and on the surface table; setting up the lights around the main shooting area, setting up the tripod at the proper height for the figure with the right lens…

It’s late and I’m tired. But I can’t sleep from too much coffee and watching Stephen Colbert with some friends… an hour later, my friends are gone, the TV’s turned off, but my eyes insist on staying open.

I know that I shouldn’t have had that last cup of coffee, but now the damage’s done, and JOKER’s standing on my kitchen table-top stage, in the dark. I might as well be productive.

JOKER’s happy to do a night shoot. And he doesn’t mind when I invite other Joker figures (from a previous morning shoot) to hang out with us. I guess that when you’re based on Heath Ledger, you can afford to be confident.

The night shoot became a regular part of my photographic practice… and I now prefer to photograph spaceships and rocket ships and UFOs at night. Sometimes even… aliens and animals, such as elephants.

Clown with knife


NEXT: Group Shots

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