Madonna à ‘l cor di smalto

Yesterday evening Laura Waldren and I had a marathon photo session. We had originally planned to only do a couple of hours, somehow we lost track of time. The theme was centred around using a projector to create interesting images, but in some cases we ended up doing composites instead. I have recently started experimenting with combining flashes and projections, and yesterday we took it to a whole new level.

Creating the photo below was a three-step-process. We first projected the painting onto the wall, and had Laura stand in front of it, and mirror the position and pose of the woman in the original painting. We then covered the projector beam, and instead lit Laura with a flash. Finally we combined the second image with the original painting, and used the first photo as reference to maintain the proportions. This was necessary since the photo was shot a bit from the side of the projector beam. Below is the final result.

Madonna à ‘l cor di smalto, sí forte ch’io per me dentro nol passo. This photo is based on a painting by Francesco Paolo Hayez.

Canzone 78

Quando giunse a Simon l’alto concetto
ch’a mio nome gli pose in man lo stile,
s’avesse dato a l’opera gentile

colla figura voce ed intellecto,

di sospir’ molti mi sgombrava il petto,
che ciò ch’altri à piú caro, a me fan vile:
però che ‘n vista ella si mostra humile
promettendomi pace ne l’aspetto.

Ma poi ch’i’ vengo a ragionar co llei,
benignamente assai par che m’ascolte,
se risponder savesse a’ detti miei.
Pigmalïon, quanto lodar ti dêi
de l’imagine tua, se mille volte
n’avesti quel ch’i’ sol una vorrei.

This photo breaks away from the projection theme. It is inspired by the painting Narcissus by Caravaggio. We had originally thought of using a pond of water to do the reflection, but ended up doing it in Photoshop by mirroring the image and making it a bit darker. Laura is sitting on top of my desk.
This might look like a selfie, but Laura is using a mobile phone to match her pose to the projected image. I was adjusting the flash strength at the same time so did a few test shots, and completely overexposed the photo. We liked the effect though, so did a few similar shots before continuing with the original idea.
Experimenting with using two gelled flashes (Amazon link to the Strobist’s gel kit). One orange with a snoot and honey comb grid to restrict the light and a bare blue.
We had created a Laura bar code, and after trying a few different variations this was the shot we ended up with.
Not sure exactly how this idea came about. Laura is covered with cling film from Sainsbury’s.
Medusa. This photo was surprisingly easy to photoshop together. The workflow was the same as in the painting above, minus the distortion correction. To get the colours right I used Photoshop’s function that lets you match colours in one image to another (Image -> Adjustments -> Match Colour).
This technique also works for stills from movies. Here we used a snooted flash in the upper left-hand corner, and a big reflector on the right hand side to light up Laura’s face. I blurred the photo of Laura and added a bit of noise on top of it to make her blend better into the photo.
Taxi Driver
Last photo of the evening, a black and white portrait of Laura.

We finished just after 1am, by that time we had made a rough selection of which photos to keep and edited a few of them. It was a lot of fun, and I am really happy with the result. Many thanks to Laura who is an amazing actress!

– Johannes


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