How were they made?

On this page, we're collecting favourite/recent images from club members. Our members share their stories and little tips and tricks on how they achieved their shots. Members, please let the webmaster know, if you'd like to share your story!

The Computer Scientist - Zoltán Balogh (Advanced class)

I work as a Software Engineer at IBM. We have I believe one of the best computer museums in the country with lots of hardware relics exhibited from IBM's history.

Sadly the museum is in a basement with terrible lighting, therefore I knew I had to light the scene for myself.

The site where I work has a big 60th anniversary celebration where one of the events is an art competition/exhibition. I used the competition as an excuse to get permission to bring in my small studio lighting kit, pose someone as a model and get shooting! Sadly, I couldn't think of any other theme other than the stereotype...

I arranged a friend and colleague of mine, Neil to be my model. I bought a lab coat and joke glasses online and bought some hair gel in a local supermarket.

Within the museum, I realised that the row of old PCs lends itself to quite a strong pattern-based composition. I like patterns...

...However in order to make the shot look natural and less museum-like, I had to remove all the labels and explanation text off the exhibited machines (taking a photo of the original setup helped me to restore the museum afterwards). Both PCs on this image are fully operational. The first one is from 1981, showing a spreadsheet application, the other one is from 1982. On the latter one, visitors can actually play a platform game. I couldn't figure out the key combination to quit the game so therefore I had to turn the monitor off.

I decided to use two off-camera speedlights. One of them was inside a softbox to light Neil and the other one was pointed at the wall behind the camera to bounce light back into the room, lighting the machines.

For this photo, I placed Neil in the centre of the frame. Notice that he's locked in between the machines so the viewer's eye will not wonder and therefore his gaze is very strong. In order to play with the "nerd professor" look, I photographed him using quite a "high" camera angle and pointed the camera down. I also asked him to lean forward. Therefore given the 24mm lens, his head appears intentionally big. The perspective distortion has been left unchanged as it adds quirkiness.

In terms of post processing, I knew even before I pressed the shutter that this was going to be a monochrome image. I used Lightroom (dodging and burning) and Silver Efex Pro (extract detail, adjust contrast). With the latter, I also used analogue film emulation, Kodak Tri-X 400. I think the vintage grain and contrast behaviour emulation is necessary to give the image more period atmosphere. For printing, I used PermaJet FB Gold Silk paper and Epson's "Advanced Black & White" print modes.

There's always something that I don't quite like on my images. On this one, the camera image plane is not entirely parallel to the desk and shelves. It was an easy mistake to make as my left side was pushed all the way against another display cabinet (that I couldn't move). Not quite enough room to take the shot. Additionally, I had to crop off the IBM logo of the folder on the right in post production as this enabled me to cheat and hide the distortion I just mentioned. Did you notice that the glasses are way too small for Neil? They aren't even on his ears!

Nonetheless, I'm submitting this photograph into October's print competition. No-one knows if the judge will like it. ;) I certainly don't mind either way as I enjoyed creating this photo and I already know it will be on permanent display in the office!