I was recently approached by the talented and enthusiastic The Irstress with a question about a possible steampunk shoot. She had a number of clothes she’d made herself and given the fact that I.love.steampunk, it was a hard to resist opportunity. There was no initial concept involved, so I had complete freedom to choose the underlying theme and what could be done. She also has a horse, just to be thrown in the mix. An amazing one, as it turned out later.
So, while the clothes were pushing the general direction towards a definite steampunk approach, it was really Chris (the horse), who made me think “Ok, we have the style of clothing set and this four-legged friend, what could be done with that?”. So basically the first thing that came to mind was one of the most notable horse-riding characters in literature. And I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I gave him a flamethrower instead of a spear, just to help him set those nasty windmills on fire.
My idea was taken really well, for which I’m thankful and there were no modifications requested about it (which actually doesn’t happen all that often).
Since I basically have two left hands when it comes to drawing, the best initial sketch I could come up with was this:
Still here after that abomination? Great, I promise it gets better on.
With the basic plan of the shoot now set, it was time for the execution. Due to logistic reasons, we had to photograph the image on location – the stable, where Chris lives. I was initially thinking of bringing a portable studio backdrop for an easier background separation, but after I visited the location, I decided that it wouldn’t be necessary in this particular case.
I had planned all of the lighting beforehand, which was to be in accordance with the initial layout, a total of five lamps were used, some of them with warming filters, so that they could be logical against the “flaming” backdrop with the windmills.
The specific part of this shoot from a photographic standpoint was that even though Chris is a wonderful fella, he gets kind of impatient when he’s literally overwhelmed by electronic flashes and is expected to stay in the middle of them all, so we didn’t really get as much of shooting time as we wished. That being said, he stood beautiful and proud for even more than it was polite of us to be asking, so with a few short walks between the exposures, he gave us more than enough successful frames. This relatively not complicated (from a lighting point of view) shoot wouldn’t actually be possible if I hadn’t brought two assistants to help with the grip and all else, it was exactly one of those cases that even a careful planning wouldn’t suffice without a good team to support it with effortless execution.
After the images were taken, it was time for the CGI work, that I had planned in my mind for this piece.
The windmills basically consist of two parts – a rotary aircraft GNOME engine from WWI was their “heart”.
And the base was a NASA satellite, which was rather simplified, so that the windmills don’t become way too active in the background:
After quite a lot of postwork I did in the 3d software, the finished windmills looked like this:
Next in line was the flamethrower – it basically consists of a sniper rifle, heavy machine gun and the base of a handgun and at some (relatively) finished state looked like this:
And things were ready to burn, but there was something still missing, what good could a firestarter be without his short and and round partner in crime. I decided that a donkey would be too much, though, so we gave him a self-propelling mechanism and a set of his own wheels:
But he was still way too shiny for a guy, who hangs out around the relative danger of flamethrowers and someone of an.. unstable temper who wields them all the time, so circumstances demanded that he’d have to be a little beaten up, thus enhancing his charm when put in the battlefield:
With all the various pieces of the composition now finished, it was time for the amazing Zlatina Zareva – a magnificent visual artist and a friend to take over – she has the talent to really bring together even something relatively heavy in terms of various elements and she truly managed to set the initial concept on fire with her execution in the postproduction:
Overall, this piece required quite a lot of initial planning and consideration of tiny details, good coordination and most notably – people who really believed in the final result, but, in my eyes, it’s exactly projects like these that help an artist grow – by treading the roads he never ventured.