Sander Baks: The Farmer
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Time / Date:
March 2013, Various dates
Camera Body: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
Lighting: Phottix foldable soft box
Lighting: Nikon SB900
Remote Trigger: Phottix Odin
Shutter Speed: Various
Aperture: Various, around f/8
Focal Length: 24mm to 50mm
I am in the proces of creating a series of images referring to my own cultural background (eg. being Dutch) I decided to create images of men and/or women with a specific craft. This is a farmer, the next will be a shepard. I am planning an image of a blacksmith and a clog maker. These kind of images help me to create a sort of a creative identity. If you go back to your own roots and start to create your imagery from there you put in something of your heritage.
Why composites? It allows me to work with a variety of subjects without having them together at the same time and at the same place. I could not have created this image otherwise.
The first image in the series is this one: a farmer in his field. The series is not yet complete, I’ve got another few lying on the shelf waiting completion.
We are looking at a farmer. The story that I wanted to create is that of a man who has completed his work: by hand. Labour. What I had in mind is that what you see is this mans’ life. Each branch he just cut off is a branch of HIS life. Many branches. A long life.
I am using a d800 and a variety of lenses. I used the Nikkor 14-24 and the 24-70 for these images.
Making the Shot:
The image took about a month to complete. The tractor, the farmer and the scenery are all shot on different locations and on different times. The photoshop work took another week. You just need to step away from it from time to time. Just to clear your mind, and reset your eyes.
When approaching a shoot for a composite, to be honest, there is no fixed recipe. Every image brings something new to the table. But there are three points to keep in mind: focal length, lighting and focus point.
When looking for a more realistic feel of a composite, make sure not to vary to much in the focal lengths. Trying to put a person shot with a 28 mm lens into a 200 mm landscape will be hard. It usually doesn’t “feel” right. And yes, everything is possible, but staying in the same range makes it all a lot easier!
As for lighting, there is to ways to go, basically. You can place a studio-lit person in a natural surrounding.
But easier it is to shoot under the same, or similar lighting conditions. See the example of the farmer. I used a little soft box to light him just a bit. It creates that little “pop.” The other thing to mention is to try to place your subject on similar surfaces. How many hours I have spend trying to get the placement right. Shadow, gravel, grass…what ever.. If you shoot is right, it’s easier! I have a few rolls of artificial grass lying the the studio, just for this!
Editing & Processing:
Photoshop. What more can I say … The whole thing took around 35 separate layers. The difficult part is to make sure that it feels right. That took a lot of time on this one.
Everybody has his or her own way of using Photoshop. And although I am Captain Chaos myself, I always name my layers. Every composite consists of 35-50 layers, so not naming them is not an option!
I also work in a specific way to get to the end. Firstly I create a rough background or canvas as I call it. Then I bring in my subjects and I try to place them or move them around. Even the farmer image had a dozen different versions. You really need to step away from it from time to time in order to to be able to look at it from a certain perspective.
It is really important (as I see it) to feather your cut-outs. When cutting out your subjects try to use the pen tool. I know it sounds like hard work, but believe me it pays off.Make sure you feather the selection! I usually use 0,5 or so. it results in a nice and natural feel.
I guess thats it! in general it’s just Cut & Paste.
I had a great time creating this scene. Not often I go out with a plan from start to finish. But now I do so more often. The thing is that completing a plan successfully is very satisfying. It helped me to develop as a photographer.
There is a couple of things I’d like to give as advice. The first thing is: Find a good subject. For me the key word is: Roots & Heritage. Try to think of your own background and think of 3 or 4 images that you can create from that. Create a plan and stick to it. From a technical point of view: Keep your aperture. if you don’t the image will not fit. the depth of field needs to match. When it comes to photoshop there is a billion ways to make it feel right. Drop me a line or a question and I’ll try to help you out.
Many photographers out there inspire me. I am on the internet 24h looking at other photographers’ work. I look at lighting, photoshop user an what else not. A piece of advice might be not to stoch to the well known internet photographers like the ones you see on Kelby. They are great, but not the real hero’s on my point of view. If you see a great advertising or a great image, try to find who that photographer is. The ones I really like are names like David Drebin, Warwick Saint.
About the Photographer
Before I decided I wanted to be a photographer for life I did other stuff. The first part of my “Working-Life” I was a business consultant. But I felt that spending my life in traffic jams and in dull business meetings was not the ultimate thing I wanted to do. I really enjoyed doing it at the time, but I guess I grew out of it. I longed for freedom and creativity. That is why I pursued a career in photography. I love this life.
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