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That 70's Crime Show Opening Sequence

Guest Post By: Jo Christian Oterhals

Sometimes it's fun to upload the stuff that came out very different from what you originally imagined. This started as a silhoutte idea for the Twitter Photo Challenge group.

Photo By: Jo Christian Oterhals

I imagined a person -- a cowboy really -- standing against a large and backlit window, completely silhouetted, smoking revolver in one hand and somewhere in the middle of the blackness that should have been his face: A cigar glow.

Now, that's an idea that demands a lot of props. When I set out to find a toy store with all the necessary equipment for cowboys, I discovered that not only was Cowboy equipment scarce, but even the revolver was hard to find. Yes, the toy stores are filled with replicas of Uzi's and pirate guns, but not cowboy stuff. Obviously cowboys are out of fashion. I managed to find the gun on this photo, however, and went home to figure out what I could do with just this one prop.

I walked out into the garage and flipped up a semi-transparent reflector. That's the background here. In front of the camera, to the right, was a CTO gelled flash. It was placed pretty close to the reflector.

I placed my hand with the gun somewhere between the flash and the camera. I lit a cigarette and put it into the barrel of the gun and waited until I thought the smoke looked good. Then I released the shutter.

I had set the camera to manual exposure, 1/60 and f/9 I think, to ensure that no ambient light would be registered.

Afterwards I adjusted white balance like a crazy man in Adobe Camera Raw. There I also played around with the black levels and the brightness, until i had this very over the top, 70's looking image. The reason the background color seem graduated is light falling off -- the flash was placed very close to the reflector and obviously lit the closest part better than the parts on the far right. The flash was in ETTL mode and set to 2 stops overexposure.

I also did some cloning in Photoshop Elements to remove some of the cigarette sticking out of the barrel, and remove the circular edge of the reflector (which was visible in the upper left corner).

The smoke didn't become as visible as I wanted, so I used the backup plan: I had, from the same angle, same gun, same setup really made a photo where the smoke was emphasized, There the background flash was switched off. Instead I put a snooted flash in from the left, blue gelled, so that the smoke was strong blue on a dark black background. In Elements I inverted it, adjusted hue and saturation and put it on a layer with blend mode Overlay onto this picture.

The end result looks nothing like the Jonah Hex-ish cool looking cowboy picture I originally imagined, but at least I got a picture today too.

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