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Kirk Lee Spencer




Location: Texas
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Jan, 2007 6:57 pm    Post subject: Sword Photography as Staged Composition         Reply with quote

Hi all…

Since Christian Fletcher’s sword photography contest and the excellent entries, I have had the reoccurring urge to start a thread on the subject. However, I have been very busy and had little time to invest in the idea. With a little breathing room now, I thought I would give it a try.

I don’t know about you, but when I saw the beautiful images in the contest, I wanted to know more about them—how they were made and what the meanings might be. So I hope that this thread could become a place to share (and inspire) the art of sword photography. It could become a place to explain the techniques used, interpreting the messages (as well as many other facets) in each work of art. In short we would be sharing, not only the art, but something of the creative process.

For discussion purposes let me first offer a simple distinction in different forms of sword photography
(Thanks to Nathan Robinson for helping me with these distinctions ).

1. “Snapshot”
For discussion purposes, a snapshot is an informal image taken on the spur of the moment with little to no preparation. The snapshot usually focuses directly on the sword with very little, to no concern for backdrop, composition, artistic and design elements. Even without technical attributes the informality of such shots can have a charm all their own, and can sometimes be quite good quite by accident.

2. “Minimalist Composition”
This is indeed a composition, but a composition that arises from within the design of the sword itself and does not rely on staging or props. The background is usually solid or simple to act as a foil to highlight the artistic manipulation of light, shadows, color, camera angles, etc. Rather than props, the photographer uses photographic techniques such as framing, distortion, depth of field, etc, to draw out, and interpret, the intrinsic beauty of the design. When done right, these minimalist compositions can be the most difficult and time consumming to create. While these types of compositions may often be published as product advertisement, yet they are still very valuable expressions of photographic art.

3. “Staged Compositions”
This is a photograph taken in a staged setting, often telling a story extending beyond the object itself. In other words the elements of the composition extend beyond the sword being photoraphed to include other objects that help to share a message about the sword or swords in general. The message could be clues to a complex story or simply express some subtle relationship between the sword and something other.


Some Suggestions for the Thread:

1. I would like this thread to be about sword photography as “staged composition” as defined above. (That is not to say that the other categories are not valuable, we should also have threads to share these type of images also.)

2. Rather than just posting a picture, try to tell us a little about such things as the motivation, message, techniques used (including difficulties and solutions), etc, etc. And of course tell us about the swords!

3. Include a title for the piece to give us a clue to interpretation. You may even explain why you chose that particular title.

4. In the initial post, show us one image as the work-of-art in its final form. Later, if questions arise, other process and detail images could be posted to add to the explanation.

5. I would like to encourage feedback on the compositions from other forumites, what the image might mean to others who view it, beyond the artists intentions… What you thought when you first saw it.

6. Because of the broad, general audience of the site, I would suggest that compositions not include nudity. This certainly does not mean that the human form should not be included in the composition... even skin. I am a great fan of the human form, especially the feminine type. I would even welcome an artistic exploration and discussion of the connection of the sword and the human form. However, I fear that nudity might restrict the open and inclusive nature I would like to see in the discussion.

Thanks for taking the time to read this...

I will get us started.

ks

Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Kirk Lee Spencer




Location: Texas
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Jan, 2007 7:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Title: “Celtic Still-Life”

The title is a pun of sorts. Since the Celtic Still-Life includes a trophy from the Cult of the Human Head it is indeed a “Still Life.”

The Celtic world has always fascinated me and I have several swords that are Celtic or from Celtic times so I combined them with other objects I had and a few that were photoshopped in. (can you find the photoshopped elements?)

The swords are: (from top to bottom)

• A cheapo pot metal bladed repro of a Roman gladius (my first sword) my wife bought for me right after the movie “Gladiator” came out. Little did she know what she was starting. I completely reshaped the hilt components and added a bone grip from a dog bone I bought from the pet store.

• A Del Tin Anthropomorphic sword with a slightly longer than usual blade.

• An MRL Hallstatt sword I got from the clearance bin for about $50. I am aging it and reshaping the hilt. Thinking about making it into a dagger.

• A cable Damascus middle LaTene blade I am going to hilt one day. I have finally settled on the hilt form, now I need to reduce the mass of the blade by about 50%.

• A cable Damascus blade that will eventually be hilted as a Cotterdale type Romano-Celtic sword.


The Head:
The head is a self-portrait of sorts. I had my wife put enough hair-spray and gel to produce spikes. Of course there has been a little photoshop hair extensions. And the mustachio and the brows (to a certain extent) were curled in Photoshop. It is interesting that the spikes look kind of grayish like lime has been added like the Celts would do. However, it is not lime… just age.

I have heard that the Celts hair spikes were strong enough to catch apples… so I photoshopped in a grape on mine. I thought an apple would be out of balance. (Of course since it is Photoshop magic I could have put a watermelon on the end of the spikes if I had wanted.)

The day I was shooting the picture my wife called me in from the backyard to have lunch. My 18 year old son, who knew nothing of what was going on, came home from work, walked passed the dining table with me my wife and four other children... and I totally forgot about my hair… He just said, “Nice hair dad.” I guess he thought I was going punk or something.


The Highlights:
Probably the most photointensive technique was adding the highlights. I shot the image under a Red Oak tree in our backyard. I really liked the filtered dappled light. However, it was almost impossible to get the look I wanted. I would take a picture and one part would look nice but the rest was either too light or dark or washed out.

So I put a box at a certain spot in front of the table with the sill-life and I would stand in that one location and take a picture (sans the head of course… my wife took that earlier) about every 15 minutes. I then took the many images and found the naturally highlighted parts that I liked. Each image was slightly different because the sun was moving and the cloud cover was changing slightly.

I then went into Photoshop and took the “polygonal lasso tool” and cut out those highlighted parts I liked and drug then into the one images I liked the best. Since I took all the pictures from the exact spot, this lassoed fragment would directly overlay the duller portion of the other image. Once the fragment was perfectly aligned you could still see a slight sharpness difference at the edge of the fragment. To correct this I took the “blur tool” and set it to about 30% or so and click along the boundaries to blur them ever so lightly. It was impossible to tell that the highlight had been overlaid.

After doing this all around the composition it gave a relatively nice even highlight showing the colors and textures as if the lighting had been perfect. All but probably two or three of the sunlit parts of the picture were added with this overlay technique. The sunlight highlights on the top two sword blades were added. However, because of the small scale and file size it is hard to see the detail.

I would welcome any comments or critique… and would love to answer any questions you may have.

And of course I want to see your work Big Grin

take care

ks



 Attachment: 99.56 KB
CelticStillLifeDogDayPhoto..jpg
Celtic Still-Life

Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Jean Le-Palud




Location: France
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PostPosted: Sat 20 Jan, 2007 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi all,
I think this is an interesting thread, deserving to be followed, thanks to Kirk.
Here is a very simply staged picture named "Viking Light". The picture was made by adding a photograph of my Vladimir Cervenka's viking sword, with a blue lighting, to a photograph of a runic stone taken at Historiska Museum in Stockholm.
I found the overall lighting special and interesting, hence the title. As for the symbolism I think it obvious.



 Attachment: 107.83 KB
Sw143ter.jpg

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Kirk Lee Spencer




Location: Texas
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PostPosted: Sun 21 Jan, 2007 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jean...

Very nice work! Big Grin

I especially like how the design on the runic stone echoes the design of the engraving of the sword. Also the cold color of the bluish tent on the sword contrasts well with the warm orange tones of the stone.

Thanks for letting us have a look at your work. I would love to see more.

take care

ks

Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Jan, 2007 1:42 pm    Post subject: My Parenting Technique...         Reply with quote

Hi Kirk!

I hope you don't mind a tongue-in-cheek example of staged composition. This one is certainly staged; my daughter doesn't usually even touch my swords! (They are not sharp, so nobody was hurt in the production of this picture.)

One day I decided to send a silly photo to my mother-in-law, in part to experiment with some of the special effects features of the photo-shop program (Roxio Photo Suite 5) that came with my digital camera. I like the antique look, and I thought it would be neat to use this effect with a sword photo. So, I took my Windlass/Factory X Dracula and my MRL/Del Tin Man-at-Arms swords off the wall and made it look like my daughter and I were in the midst of a swordfight. (I know it might not be technically correct in terms of posture, etc., but it was just for fun!) I'm holding the Drac, and my daughter is holding the Man-at-Arms sword. My daughter had a hard time holding the sword up to take the picture!

I took the picture using the automatic function on the digital camera; I was lucky we were in the shot! I edited the picture using Roxio Photo Suite, adding the antique effect (it might be sepia, I don't remember now), the faded edge, and the text. (I hope the text is clear - I believe I'm saying "You WILL mind your daddy!", and Stephanie is saying "You can't make me!".)

I hope this fits into the "staged composition" category, even if it's for fun. I know that the photo isn't just focused on the swords, but I thought it might be good for a laugh.

I guess this one could be titled "My Parenting Technique Laughing Out Loud . I'm not sure I ever really gave it a name.

(Sorry about the small size; I had resized it when I sent it to my mother-in-law via e-mail.)

Stay safe!



 Attachment: 32.68 KB
Captured 2004-12-19 00000.JPG
My Parenting Technique.

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 21 Jan, 2007 1:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure there's much of a story to this one, but it inspired some commentary during Christian Fletcher's Dog Days contest. Below is the final photo:

http://www.christianfletcher.com/Site/Dog%20D...ys3_v2.jpg

I set up my photo stuff to take some pictures for the contest and our ever-curious tabby decided to hop up and sniff my Sovereign. I thought it was funny so I snapped a few pics. I almost submitted them but the background was too messy. When I set up my background, I put Sammy back up on the chair and snapped the pic above.

What does this say about swords? Apparently, they're worth sniffing. Happy

Here are some of the original photos:



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Sam1.jpg
Sniff sniff

 Attachment: 50.98 KB
Sam2.jpg


Happy

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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Jan, 2007 6:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Richard...

Thanks for the photo... it is just what I was looking for.

Those sound like fighting words... It's a good thing she said it with a smile on her face.

It must be great to have a dad that is "in the picture" so to speak.



Chad...

Yeah I really liked the cat composition in the contest. Animal photography seems very difficult. Like trying to capture small children.

But Sammy seems to have a very natural pose... Though he does come off as somewhat of a camera hog (or camera cat in this case Wink Wink Big Grin )

Looks like curiosity did not kill the cat... But the sword was safely in the scabbard.


Thanks for participating guys.

ks

Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Jan, 2007 7:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kirk Lee Spencer wrote:
Hey Richard...

Thanks for the photo... it is just what I was looking for.

Those sound like fighting words... It's a good thing she said it with a smile on her face.

It must be great to have a dad that is "in the picture" so to speak.


Hi Kirk! Happy

I put those words in her mouth, it's not something she would actually say. She's a great kid! Wink

Her smile only tells part of the story; she had to fight to keep from breaking out in laughter! I made a rather extreme face, which added to the humorous aspect. I'm well known in my household for making some pretty awful faces!

All for fun! Happy

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 7:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard Fay wrote:


...All for fun! Happy

Stay safe!


Sounds like a great motto...

"Fun for all and all for fun" Wink Happy

But it seems like I have heard it somewhere before...

ks

Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 7:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

He's the photogenic one of our two cats. The other usually doesn't stay still long enough to get a good picture. Happy Sammy thinks he's king of the world, so he always strikes a pose. Wink

As for curiosity harming the cat, I always have to shoo him away when I'm photographing unscabbarded blades. Cats like to sniff things and rub up against things. It makes me glad that everything is stored safely behind glass.

Happy

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Bryce Felperin




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 11:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
I'm not sure there's much of a story to this one, but it inspired some commentary during Christian Fletcher's Dog Days contest. Below is the final photo:

http://www.christianfletcher.com/Site/Dog%20D...ys3_v2.jpg

I set up my photo stuff to take some pictures for the contest and our ever-curious tabby decided to hop up and sniff my Sovereign. I thought it was funny so I snapped a few pics. I almost submitted them but the background was too messy. When I set up my background, I put Sammy back up on the chair and snapped the pic above.

What does this say about swords? Apparently, they're worth sniffing. Happy

Here are some of the original photos:


It's the leather. I find my cats will sniff anything that is a natural fiber or animal product.
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Jean Le-Palud




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Jan, 2007 2:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kirk Lee Spencer wrote:
Hi Jean...

Very nice work! Big Grin

I especially like how the design on the runic stone echoes the design of the engraving of the sword. Also the cold color of the bluish tent on the sword contrasts well with the warm orange tones of the stone.

Thanks for letting us have a look at your work. I would love to see more.

take care

ks


Thank you for your opinion. Unfortunately most of my pictures regarding this hobby are of nordic knives, not swords, the kind of the attached file. Knife made by Mattias Styrefors of sweden.
I have had in mind for long to make a picture including my viking longboat wooden model and some viking swords but all my trials were bad so far.



 Attachment: 77.81 KB
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Jan, 2007 8:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Jean,

Lovely photo of your knife. The composition looks almost poetic to me - especially the rose and water droplets.

Nice work!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Feb, 2007 6:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I decided to try my hand at taking a composed shot, as a favor for someone. The sword is my Cold Steel "hand and a half"...

Not much to say in terms of the "how it was done" part.. I set up with a tripod, used the camera's "backlit" setting, turned off the flash, and here it is. Happy



 Attachment: 60.58 KB
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Feb, 2007 6:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a few I took about a year ago for inclusion in an article. These were taken a few miles north of town in the County sand pit. There were a couple of reasons for this: first, it gave us a place to work where I could lock the gate and keep people out. This let Greg and I avoid answering a lot of, 'What the f....?" questions. Big Grin Second, it gives the photos a bit of a Outremer look that I liked.

This one was my favorite of the bunch and I think it turned out pretty well. Here I was going for the feeling and look of all those old wood cuts and engravings that seem to fill any book on the crusades. There's always one guy standing up front with the "lets go boys" body language. I wanted to evoke that feeling with this photograph. I think we got pretty lucky with the coloration of the sky and clouds blending so nicely with the kits color scheme. That dead tree also wound up providing a nice filler between my arm and the ground. The line made by the sword, shield and scabbard is just about perfect as well.



I'll freely admit this one was inspired by Orlando Bloom kissing the hilt of his sword before charging the oncoming muslims before the castle of Kerak, in Kingdom of Heaven. That was a pretty good "man moment". Big Grin This photo bugs me because I wasn't holding the sword perfectly straight. Anal retentive I know, but.....................


This one was taken to illustrate some of the kit details, but I still wanted to impart somewhat of a sense of motion to the photo, rather than just a "Look at me standing here." type of thing. The sand provides a rather neutral background without appearing overly sterile.



This one was an entry in Christian Fletchers first photo contest. Here I wanted to evoke the look of equipment cast off after a day in the field, or perhaps piled in the corner of a camp tent.

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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Feb, 2007 7:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
This one was my favorite of the bunch and I think it turned out pretty well. Here I was going for the feeling and look of all those old wood cuts and engravings that seem to fill any book on the crusades. There's always one guy standing up front with the "lets go boys" body language. I wanted to evoke that feeling with this photograph. I think we got pretty lucky with the coloration of the sky and clouds blending so nicely with the kits color scheme. That dead tree also wound up providing a nice filler between my arm and the ground. The line made by the sword, shield and scabbard is just about perfect as well.


That shot is very nicely composed. You're right about the tree. You couldn't ask for a better sky to frame the shot either.

This picture shows off your kit very well too, which is also very nice, by the way. Happy

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Kirk Lee Spencer




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Feb, 2007 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Ed...

Your hearth and armour shot is fantastic. I really like the way light plays off of polished metal. The composition has a warm glow about it.

ks

Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Kirk Lee Spencer




Location: Texas
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Posts: 820

PostPosted: Sat 17 Feb, 2007 9:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Patrick...

I really liked that series of shots in the sandpit. The background of the blue sky and the golden sand gave the compositions a very flattened two dimensional quality like the blue and gold backgrounds you see in most of the iconic art of the late middle ages.

When I first saw the headshot with the sword, I was amazed at how straight an even the blade edge aligned with the lines of the helm. That whole composition has a very balanced (though not symmetrical) look. It reminds me how chivalry gave balance and structure to the life of the knight. And the look on the knights face certainly illustrates the determination of the knight to live within its code. And knowing the life work of the man makes it a tribute to the current guild of blue knights.

ks

Two swords
Lit in Eden’s flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
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PostPosted: Sat 17 Feb, 2007 10:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ed Toton wrote:
That shot is very nicely composed. You're right about the tree. You couldn't ask for a better sky to frame the shot either.


Thanks, Greg and I have taken a few photo sets together now and the process is usually like this: I make the camera settings, then tell Greg, "I'm going to stand like this, take the shot from this angle and in this tight, etc." I'll then check the shot in the cameras viewscreen. So far it's worked pretty well. However, in this case I told him, "We'd better get this one the first time, because I'm not walking up this hill, in this gear, more than once!" Fortunately this one came out right the first time.

Quote:
This picture shows off your kit very well too, which is also very nice, by the way. Happy


Thank you very much, always a work in-progress. Big Grin
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Feb, 2007 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kirk Lee Spencer wrote:
Hey Patrick...

I really liked that series of shots in the sandpit. The background of the blue sky and the golden sand gave the compositions a very flattened two dimensional quality like the blue and gold backgrounds you see in most of the iconic art of the late middle ages.


Thanks Kirk, that's one of the feelings I was trying to convey.

Quote:
When I first saw the headshot with the sword, I was amazed at how straight an even the blade edge aligned with the lines of the helm. That whole composition has a very balanced (though not symmetrical) look. It reminds me how chivalry gave balance and structure to the life of the knight.


That's an interesting interperatation, I like it.

Quote:
And the look on the knights face certainly illustrates the determination of the knight to live within its code.


I'm glad that's the impression it conveys. In reality it was due to having sand blown in my face by a 30mph wind!

Quote:
And knowing the life work of the man makes it a tribute to the current guild of blue knights.


Thank you very much for that thought. It's very kind of you.
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