Personal Project:  Man on a Wire

Date:  08.2014

Client:  Personal Project

Summary:  Man on a Wire was a little personal project.  I believe that as a photographer I need to continue to work on my own ideas, and concepts, to push myself to make them a reality.  It helps to keep my creativity flowing.

Concept

The concept was to give a man wings, and to put him on a wire much like a bird.  Below is my sketch of the original idea that came to mind.  I'm not even sure how I got the idea.  I suppose I was just contemplating what would be hard to physically do, so that I could figure out how to do it with photography and Photoshop.

Man on a Wire concept sketch

Man on a Wire concept sketch

Planning & Pre-production

I spent a lot of time driving around, scouting, trying to find some telephone poles and wires that looked just right.  I also started building the wings, out of wire and paper mache.  I finally stumbled upon a light pole and electrical lines that were just outside of my neighborhood, and was just hoping for the right sky and light that would make it dramatic.  I really thought that with the addition of the street light, it would add to the drama.

Lamp post and electrical lines that I scouted for the shot.

Lamp post and electrical lines that I scouted for the shot.

Production

One evening, it began to rain, and the setting sun started to bring out this really awesome glow to the sky.  I knew that I had to get out to that lamp post that I'd scouted, right away.  I grabbed my camera and off I went.  I had to shoot from the car, because it was raining pretty good.  I also had to shoot handheld, because I didn't have any way to support the camera without getting it wet, so I opted for a pretty high ISO (6400).  I waited and waited, then, while the sky was still orange in the background, the street light came on, so I started grabbing my shots.  Then, I really lucked out.  The cars turning onto the road from the adjacent road caused some really great lens flare on the images--adding even more drama.  Then, I lucked out a second time when one of the cars was a police car.  This was the image that I finally went with, as my background image.  

Man on a Wire background image.  Everything came together:  great sky, street light, rain, lens flare, and a police car.

Man on a Wire background image.  Everything came together:  great sky, street light, rain, lens flare, and a police car.

With the background image shot, I now needed to shoot the man with wings to place him in the image.  There were several things to consider:  height, perspective, light placement, and how to make it look like his feet were on the wire.  It was critical that I made sure that the perspective and angle of the wire matched the angle and perspective that I shot the man.  Therefore, I loaded the background image onto my camera, and used gaffers tape to match the angle of the wire on that picture to the angle and perspective of the man.    

Man on a Wire background image on camera with gaffers tape to determine angle.

Man on a Wire background image on camera with gaffers tape to determine angle.

Matching perspective for Man on a Wire shot of the man.

Matching perspective for Man on a Wire shot of the man.

I tried several different ways before I finally narrowed in on the approach that worked the best.  

Man on a Wire 1st attempt:  extension ladder with halogen light boomed out of 2nd floor window, and sprinkler overhead.  It simply didn't look like my weight was on my feet.

Man on a Wire 1st attempt:  extension ladder with halogen light boomed out of 2nd floor window, and sprinkler overhead.  It simply didn't look like my weight was on my feet.

Man on a Wire 2nd attempt:  step ladder.  I simply couldn't keep my balance.  

Man on a Wire 2nd attempt:  step ladder.  I simply couldn't keep my balance.  

Man on a Wire 3rd attempt:  on the edge of the first floor roof, with speedlight on a lightstand, raised to match the relative position of the streetlight.  

Man on a Wire 3rd attempt:  on the edge of the first floor roof, with speedlight on a lightstand, raised to match the relative position of the streetlight.  

Post-Production

I cut the image of the man out of the background.  I didn't make it easy for myself (e.g., with a solid colored background), but it wasn't too hard either.  After doing that, it was a matter of matching the color tone, saturation, image noise, relative size, and placing the man in the right spot.  It came together nicely, but without proper planning, it simply wouldn't have looked realistic.

Man on a Wire final image.  

Results

In short, I really like the end result.  Is it like the original sketch?  In some ways yes, but in other ways no.  Originally I didn't conceive of a street light, but adding that helped to illuminate the man, and give me a way to make the image more believable by matching the direction and intensity of the light.  I didn't envision the rain, nor the car either, but I think both of those help to add to the overall drama of the image.  In the end, I'm pleased with the results.