Monday, March 01, 2010

Xaden... Firestarter!

Meet Xaden, the Firestarter. This is one in a series of many (planned) portraits highlighting ordinary (heroes) pictured in creative situations around the United States... I'm calling the series Has Anyone Seen America Lately? The title came off a used t-shirt I bought from a little old lady in a dung hut with a tin roof in Nowhere, Kenya. It was blue shirt, very thin cotton, and had on it an iron-on bald eagle's head with a tear in his eye... and that question: Has anyone seen America lately? I wore the shirt for years, and then it disappeared, never to be seen again. I am hoping to one day uncover it hidden in a cardboard box somewhere in storage at my folks house... please cross your fingers.

Anyway, back to Xaden. Xaden is the son of a friend of mine. I'd had this image in my head for quite some time... red-headed troublemaker starting fires in the backyard. Xaden couldn't have been more perfect. His mom woke him up early in the AM to drive him to the location in time for sunrise. My buddy Jesse James helped with the fire (all FX were done IN CAMERA, except for the tiny flame coming from the lighter Xaden is holding). The panorama consists of four separate vertical frames to maximize image resolution, and the grill was shot when Xaden was gone to keep him safe. We ran a propane line up through the bottom of the grill, but don't do this at home! Jesse is a trained professional. Everything was then stitched in photoshop, but like I said, FX were done in camera.

Only Canon Speedlights were used (we've been calling it the Canon Challenge... to see how far we could push the abilities of small lights). I used a similar setup during the Martindale police portraits, 4 strobes of varying power situated around the subject to mimic the sunlight. My biggest obstacle was deciding which of Xaden's facial expressions to use in the final project... he was awesome! See below. Let me know if you like one of the other selects better.

I wish I had a time-lapse of this one, but I don't. Boo. I am, however, using this image as the cover to my photo book (actually, my portfolio): I Shoot People... check it out!


Michelle Seeger said...

Love this picture! you are so talented!

Patrick Cavan Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

I like best the one you ended up choosing. His look is so smug and impudent. Great photo!

Patrick Cavan Brown said...

smug and impudent... the perfect description. Thanks, William.

Felipe Schiavon (Brazil) said...

Fantastic, Patrick! Awesome. Your work is very inspiring. The detail of flare in the middle of the image is so cool too.

Patrick Cavan Brown said...

Thanks, Felipe! Though I've got to give credit to photoshop for the flare... :)

Amy said...

Patrick, this is brilliant! I thought this piece was captivating when I saw it in your book and it is even more so now that I have read your narrative.

Carla Simons said...

just recently ran across your blog; it's added to my reader list now! Love this photo and look forward to seeing more of this series! also definitely think you chose the right pose (tho the last one might have worked also). the little guy looks just like a modern day Dennis the Menace! too cute! lol

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for sharing!!
Your blog is absolutely awesome.

Your 4lights technic to mimic the sun is very neat!
I need to try it as soon as possible, but can I ask how are you dealing with multiple shadows coming from multiple lights?

If the light which is a stop or half less strong then the previous is filling shadows of the first from where are you getting the main shadow? like this one on the boys chest which is coming from the lighter?

Very interesting!
Thanks a bunch!

Patrick Cavan Brown said...


Thanks or writing! As for the shadows... the 3 fill lights, closer to the camera and in varying positions, do a pretty decent job of filling in the shadows created by the strongest light... and they are low enough in power as to not create distracting shadows themselves... It takes some testing as to light placement, but totally doable.