" How Did You Spend Your Weekend? "

on September 29, 2015

" Recreating the St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

"...Well I just asked a sensible question! There's no need to give that sort of answer! "

" No, no, really. Come back. Don't go away mad. I'm telling the absolute truth..."

I had done a publicity shoot for a group of dancers a couple of weeks ago in a rather bare dance studio. Simple stuff, with a pretty bare backdrop and basic umbrella lighting. Really only record shots of their costuming - it was a practice session for a big show that saw them dressed as 1920's flappers. At the end of the evening I had them line up against the white wall and pretend to be terrified.

Note: dancers are good value as far as subjects go. They know how to pose and by the time they get to the stage-ready stage they have lost a lot of inhibitions. You can get theatre out of them with a cup of coffee and a strong light...

Into the studio - a flat bare tabletop with a dirty green cloth on it. Strong even light on a paper backdrop bouncing back into the camera. Two 1:18 car models - a Model A Ford and a Model B Ford. Posed them on either side of the frame in semi-silhouette and shot off a series of images.

Back in the dimroom, extracted the sillhouettes and layered them up. Extracted the dancers from the best image and layered that up - that was the longest part of the job. Photoshop Elements made it reasonably easy as I used about 4 different tools in various areas of the image.

I needed a dirty brick wall behind the girls and fortunately I had a disc of just such on file. The tiling and copying facility of Photoshop Elements was used to extend the wall wide enough to cover the entire frame. In retrospect I should have added some bullet holes but as the whole image is still in a psd form I can revise it later.

Making the splash of light from the car headlamps was simple - one bright layer of brick under one dark layer of brick and then erase part of the top with a fuzzy round eraser.

Making the reflected shadow from the dancers was also simple. Duplicated their layer, selected them, blacked them out, flipped that image vertically, spread it at their feet with perspective distortion, applied some gaussian blur, and reduced the opacity of the layer to match the shadows that the toy model cars were casting. If it sounds tough it wasn't

Blending all the layers was the trick - and the trick I used was to go round the edges of each image on a layer with the small blur tool set to 10 px and 50%. Just smoothed them enough.

Final touch was a suitable text underneath. Photoshop has a lot of fonts but there are far more out there in graphic design books. I got a one in Melbourne in January called " Retro Fonts" that has a CD in the back containing a vast number of authentic styles from all modern eras. You just select one, open it in the HD and assign it to Photoshop Elements and away you go. I picked Empire Deco as being exactly right for the period.

Fun? Darned right it was fun. And it made a good title image for the entire job. Two shots and a morning of computer work. Murder in Chicago was never this easy...or maybe it was...