What I love about photography is that there are moments when ideas for photographs come into my mind, and I now have the skills to execute them with some amount of finesse. Tonight, I was on my way to The Rex Jazz Club and an epiphany occurred about how to produce a shot I had been thinking about in my imagination for a week . It was not the exact shot I had in my mind [I originally pictured the model sitting in a leather chair with a lit cigar], but that shot was too unwieldy without multiple assistants and an actual model. I went with what I had on hand.
The idea was to have the Base Camp X Khukri knife floating in the palm of my hand; to give the appearance that I was mesmerizing the weapon to do my bidding like a circus freak. I wanted smoke to appear around the knife, and the lighting had to be moody and sinister. I was thinking New Orleans meets the Great Houdini.
Now the shot is real. I did not close-cut the knife into the shot. The Khukri is really that big. I have suspended the knife with a tiny stainless steel wire from my door hinge. The lighting is a single Profoto D1 Air with a grid and barn door reflector to limit the light. I shot using the Linhof 4×5 camera with Fotodiox digital adapter on a 10 second delay. This is a little insane. I had to press the button, run 20 feet [as the Linhof needs to be far away to capture the area] while smoking a cigar to attempt smoke creation. The cigar was a bad idea. Due to the exposure time length, the smoke never really appeared though I smoked an entire Upmann cigar from Havana during the 10 minutes of attempting to get a solid shot. Great cigar, but it left me a little dizzy by the end of the session without any added value.
The problems then became how to create smoke artistically in Photoshop, and whether in the 15 shots I took I had a decent exposure and focus. Composing complicated shots without an assistant or model makes a shot like this near impossible to do properly. If I had been able to see the shot, know when the shutter would release, and not been running back and forth, then I might have been able to produce a more polished effect. Still, I am more than happy with the image – bringing your imagination to life should always be the focus for any photographer wanting to improve his skill set.