The Arrival of SCP (Some Curious Polaroids)

Welcome back in the 2011,

eerie mobile shot by Mal

We took December a bit off the blog due to amount of work. You know how it is- wrapping presents, writing cards, cleaning and travelling for the Holiday season. Now we are back and its gonna be hectic, we tell ya. We still have a lot of stuff to post from the last year and new projects coming up.

Mal had a great idea recently. She worked on the 1st. The first day of 2011 offered us a splendid sunset. Something out of some apocalyptic science fiction show or right out of “Black Hole Sun” video. A big, burning sphere was hanging low on the horizont partly covered by the clouds. Everybody in the office was running taking photos. This is why you should be ALWAYS carrying a decent camera in your bag, folks. But if you dont have anything decent in hand, shoot with what you have. Even a mobile phone.

Mal is owning Nokia XpressMusic. Not the best gear when it comes to photos but its great if you need to listen to music. Another issue that Mal had to overcome was the window at work. Since she works on the 9th floor, windows open only slightly on the sides so she had to put her hand through a narrow gap and put the mobile outside and shoot nearly on instinct.

mobile photo by Mal

She had to turn the mobile around in search of the “most creative” way to capture the moment. In this instance the only creativity she could use was to “misplace” the horizont line (we like technical terms, thank you very much). The photo looked like that:

mobile photo by Mal

As you see a lot of pixels and artefacts due to low resolution of the mobile camera. To be very honest she wasnt pleased and even thought of deleting the file. But then she thought that many people face the same issue. You see something nice, you dont have the proper tool, you use whatever you have and then the outcome is dissapointing. So you throw it away and complain how bad you are. It doesn`t have to be that way. What if you use a software and try to re-claim the “bad” shot? Sounds like a challenge and we at Vanadian Avenue are always up for a challenge.

This is how the idea was born. Take a shot you want to “reclaim”, think of what you want to achieve, put a story behind it if you need to, to help you with the transition, use the software you have and play with the shot. Something will come out of it.

Below you will find a kind of tutorial that shows what Mal did. Maybe it will inspire you to do something similiar.

As we have mentioned before, the sunset was “nearly” apocalyptic. So we wanted to keep the feel of it. We had a bit of discussion what the photo could present before we actually started editing. We thought it looked like somebody was falling from a tall building or was looking from a high point onto the area below. Then there were the pixels. Rita suggested it was like a motion capture from a CCTV cameras. And then we had it.

Mal is currently working on a cyber-punk story. It has all the nice elements of the genre: humans fighting the machines, urban warfare, tight security everywhere and the dramatic ending. The heroine in the story – Columbina (meaning “white dove”in Italian, a name taken after a character from Harlequinade in Commedia dell’Arte) in the finale climbs onto the roof of a tower in an attempt to blow up the whole place. This particular sunset could be the last thing that our protagonist would see on her suicide mission to bring down the machines. It could also the view that security forces see before the whole place goes up in smoke. A final battle with a bloody sunset in the background – we pretty much loved it.

Knowing what we wanted to achieve, we set up to edit. Mal uses two separate softwares: Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom. First we did a bit of work in the Lightroom (go to develop section) and altered the exposure and contrasts. You may want to also experiment with temperature to have effect of over-saturated colours. Alternatively, if you only have a Photoshop, try by setting Cyan +15, Magenta -33 and Yellow -44 in the Colour Balance/ Shadows section. What we received was this:

Photo by Mal

Not bad, we thought. But it was not close enough to the feeling of danger and “apocalypse” that we wanted to show.

So it was time for some serious adjustments in the Lightroom. Exposure +0,19, Blacks -31, Brightness +36, Contrasts +27 (it would make the buildings on the edges darker and gave the whole area feel of being a ghost town, which was perfect having our story in mind), temperature +2, saturation +5.  We raised noise resolution to 32 and colour to 6. Now things began to look more like “Matrix” and not your crappy mobile phone shot through the window.

Photo by Mal

For the final adjustment Mal transfered the file to CS3 again and fixed the colour balance further.

For the shadows part: Cyan +1, Magenta +4, Yellow -16
Midtones: Cyan -8, Magenta +5, Yellow +14
Highlights: Cyan -27, Magenta -11, Yellow -25

It may look weird but colours around the sun disc on the photo were really subtle, so changing even one degree would mark a difference.

We also selected the clouds area and put brightness +17 and contrast +43 to expose the textures of the clouds (storm was coming!) and to have a tone of sepia.

So this is what we were left:

Photo by Mal

For the final (and nerdy) touch we decided to put the file through the Poladroid software. It turns your shots into polaroids (its a plus) but adds a random effect to it (its a minus). So we have decide to make multiple copies to be as close to our original as possible. If you are not familiar with the software you may find it here:

Our final version is this:

Final product – Yay!

But we have saved two  alternative versions because we though them to be cool:

Version B
Version C

Looking at the final image, we can really feel the desperation of Columbine as she climbs on the top of Sky Net to commit the act of self destruction. She stares at the dying sun and feels that her battle had failed. She will take down herself, humans and the machines before the hollow disc descends into the eternal night. She whispers to herself  “Open your eyes” as she shots through the tanks of fuel and grabs for the matches…

You may of course disagree. But we have tried our best to transform the bad image into something that could be used in other creative projects.

We hope you like it or will try something similiar yourself.

This is first in the series of what we call Some Curious Polaroids.

Have a great time

Mal + Rita

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