Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Inspired By Reading Book Group: Miss Peregrin's Home For Peculiar Children
Once again, after my wife Sj (of Sj Designs) finished reading her book club book, she talked me into reading it as well. For those who haven't read all of my previous posts, the Inspired By Reading Book Group is a virtual book club made up mostly of jewelry designers who take inspiration from books and create amazing works of art based upon them. I've taken part a few times with my budding photography skills.
This month we read a young adult novel by Ransom Riggs called Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. The author is a photographer and a collector of strange old found photographs. Between his own collection and those of some other collectors he pieced together a narrative using these odd photos. The book is told from the perspective of a teen boy, who grows up listening to his grandfather's tall tales and looking at those old and remarkable photographs. As the book goes on we discover that perhaps there may be some truth to these stories and photos, but that's all I'm going to say or risk ruining it for you! The book is actually being made into a movie by Tim Burton, but I suggest reading it first--besides you need to see all the cool pictures!
So this challenge was really up my alley. As an amateur photographer I found inspiration in the very visual media of this book. Let's be honest, when was the last time any of us read a book with pictures that wasn't for small children?
For this photo I used one of the characters from the book (an invisible boy) as inspiration. I set up my tripod in my basement bar and arranged a vintage martini glass and stereoscope on the bar-top as set dressing. I took a shot of the bar and chair without myself in it. Then I sat down very carefully and used my remote trigger for the camera. This took a few shots to get right, and my camera kept falling asleep and not recognizing the trigger. Eventually I got two shots I liked. I was then able to import them into Photoshop Elements. With the plain bar as background layer, I put the shot with myself in it on top. I was then able to very carefully erase my face and hand out of the top picture, allowing the background to show through. This took me some time and cursing. But I got the effect I was looking for. Next I changed it to sepia tone for that 1900's look. Then I superimposed a photo of peeling paint on concrete with a low opacity setting to simulate fading and age spots on the photo. Last but not least I used a "frame" that had lines on it to simulate scratches on the film. I'd love to figure out how to get a creased look or ratty edges...
Next up was another shot at the bar, since I had everything set up already. This one was inspired by a super creepy picture from the book of an 1800's evil looking dentist. I rearranged my foreground items and made sure my arm and shoulder was in the shot. I sat a skull in front of my body so it would show up only in the reflection in the mirror. The shot turned out great but it often takes people a couple of seconds to see the reflection. The side light from an overcast afternoon also highlights only half of my face making it look much more ominous than usual. I took a couple of these with an evil grin but it was just too much, even for me! For the rest of the shot I used an overlay of a rust patch that I took in NE Minneapolis from the side of a building, to simulate age. Then tweaked to sepia tone and done!
Next up, I made Sj get dressed up in her Ren Fest outfit and had her pose for me. I didn't have a lot of time so my staging and set up were a bit rushed. It was also really cold out and my model was not happy with so much skin showing in the whipping wind. I took a couple of long exposure shots with an ND filter to cut the sun's light a bit. The wind moved the leaves more than I would have liked and there wasn't much directional light, but hey, work with what you have!
I actually like this one the most. I added a rust stain to the background to add texture and color to this one. I also added scratches to the photo to add more age. I also had to smudge out some of the background fence and house details. I like the unhappy ghost look!
So creepy much? This one was less about Miss Peregrine than the others. The tone of the book reminded me of Richard Matheson's The Shrinking Man which I red when I was much younger. I tracked down a copy of this fairly rare Gold Medal Original paperback a few years ago and it sits with the rest of my old pulp-era collection. For this shot I took a macro of a huge spider from my back deck, who had wrapped up a yellow-jacket wasp in its web. I superimposed a shot of myself reaching out an arm and blurred it a bit to make it look less odd.
Back to Miss Peregrine: I loved this book with it's crazy characters, amazing old photos, and quasi-supernatural plot. Happily the second book has been out a while and the third in the series just came out recently so I'll have plenty to read in the near future!