Making Magic: The Making of “Transformation”

When I issued the topic of “Transformation” for Photoboxing Match #008, I knew it would have been easy — almost predictable — if I did another drag photo. I’ve done it before and it seemed like the obvious choice. But I wanted to challenge myself, so I tried to break out of my box.

I really wanted to do a photo exploring the many forms of water. But figuring out how to shoot it in its gas and liquid form was stressing me out. I thought about shooting a photo of a popsicle melting, but even that seemed too predictable.

I decided to focus on the end result of a transformation and began creating this mini magic show in my head. My original idea had me standing in front of a table with an x-ray cross-section showing the dove and a rabbit hidden in a trap door below it. Figuring out the mechanics of building that was another stress point, so I decided to simplify it further.

Designing the lighting
I knew I wanted my lights to simulate stage lights. This served a symbolic purpose (it would imply that I was on stage and not in my kitchen) and a practical purpose (the overpowering lights would mask the fact that I didn’t have an audience present), so it was a matter of setting the lights just right.

Here’s my light test, so you can see where I started. You can see that it lit not only my face, but also spilled onto the red curtains, which was perfect.

Then, it was just a matter of moving the lights so that they outlined and backlit my silhouette just right.

I tried a couple poses, some without a hat, some facing the other direction. In the end, it just looked better with a hat in the shot. Fun fact: that’s not really a top hat, just a regular fedora, but thanks to my lighting, you only see the brim and not the rest of the hat.

So that’s how I did the lighting for this shot. The birds? Well, let’s just say they’re magic.

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