Don’t Settle

Bighorn sheep in Wasatch mountains Utah

Whether you are painting, drawing, photographing or doing whatever you do, remember your first attempt at a problem probably won’t be your best. Use the first try to learn and improve so the second, third or nineteenth attempt can be a success.

I went for a little hike with my friend on Saturday. We didn’t really have a plan, we just knew where we were starting and that we’d have to end up back at the car if we wanted to go home afterward. It was enjoyable, though the route we took up was way too steep and the route we took down was even steeper. On the way down we spotted a couple of bighorn sheep. I had to try to take a photo. The sheep were close enough to be really tempting, but far enough to make it a challenge.

The photo below was taken free standing at the 300 mm end of my zoom lens in strong wind—all this on top of the fairly harsh afternoon light. Needless to say, I wasn’t very satisfied with the results. I had to get closer.

Bighorn sheep, first attempt photo in Wasatch mountains

I managed to get within a reasonable distance and climb onto a rock that was below the ledge where the sheep were hanging out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see much of them from where I was, so, my friend and I starting making strange noises to attract their attention.

The photo below shows one of the sheep looking over the ledge to see what on earth I am doing. It was taken in the same conditions as the previous, but I was a lot closer and was sitting on a rock which helped stabilize me.

Bighorn sheep second attempt photo, peeking over ledge in Wasatch mountains Utah

Not bad, about a jillion times better than the first, but it still wasn’t “the one”. So I climbed to a new location at about the same level as the sheep. I had better view of where they decided to sit down, so we didn’t have to squawk or roar anymore. It also put some of the landscape in the background, which made for a more wildlifey composition. I got some decent 3/4 light from there too. Still harsher than I would have liked, but it worked out ok.

The main image at the top is from that location. Not bad, I’m glad I didn’t settle for the first attempt.

After that we surfed on scree (small loose rocks) down the face, and headed back to the car.

Painting Backdrop for Mini Icebergs

Unfinished painted backdrop for miniature iceberg scene with seal hunting schooner and ice flows.

Since the icebergs are finished, I’ve been painting the backdrop. Unlike my previous image with the dock, this backdrop will play a greater visual role in the scene. It includes the seal hunting schooner from the story.  There have been some challenges painting it.  The backdrop is 18″ wide, and therefore, decently sized for a portrait or something.  However, the ship turns out to be a little small for my painting style.  I think it will do, but it got pretty uncomfortable at times.

Below is a quick test shot with the icebergs. I still have to work out the lighting, the snow on the bergs may need some cooling.  If I can’t do it with light, I might just have to whip out the paint.

Test photo of painted backdrop, including schooner, with miniature resin icebergs.


Writing that made me want to try overlaying cooled versions of the bergs over the originals in photoshop. I only spent a couple minutes at it, but it definitely comes closer to my vision.  I’ll be keeping that in mind for the final shots.

Color corrected composition photo for miniature scene with icebergs and seal hunting schooner.

Photos for Final Dock Scene

I don’t have the very final image composited yet, but I did take the photos. This image is the foggy version of the final shot. After I took several shots with my regular lighting/environmental setup, I took several with different levels of fog—created by my fog machine. I was sort of afraid the neighbors might get concerned when I turned the fan on to air it out and smoke started to billow out of window. Apparently, they have seen me doing enough strange things that they weren’t concerned.
I will be compositing one of the non-atmospheric shots with this one so that I can control the depth and atmosphere and still be able to work with full contrast where I need it.

Sorry I am not revealing everything at once.

Scene of miniature models and maquette. Dock with man ship and supplies.

Miniature Dock Setup

Setup of elements for miniature scene illustration with dock, quay, ship, man, supplies etc.

This still isn’t the final image. However, I have most of the elements finished and am setting them up. I still have the painted backdrop to add and need to figure out the lighting. Luckily, because everything in the shot is static, I can use a longer exposure and don’t have to worry as much about getting daylight levels with my lights in the little back room studio.

Things are coming together, I just need to finish this one off and then get moving on subsequent images 😉  P.S. If you haven’t been following my blog hitherto, everything pictured here is hand made, custom for this illustration.