Creating the Photograph: Nicola Bernardi’s “What the Duck is Going on?”

IMAGE4

Creating the Photograph is an original series where we interview photographers about a photo that they shot and how it was achieved. The results are some knowledge passed on to you. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com.

Nicola Bernardi is a photographer that has been working on a hilarious series called “What the Duck is Going on?!“–which we partially discovered when looking through his work during a pitch to us. Nicola not only has the know-how to execute his creative vision, but he also has ideas that just simply work. The Melbourne based photographer is all of 26 years old, and has worked with brands that include Jaguar.

But as any photographer knows, doing personal shoots is what keeps your creativity alive. With that said, here is Nicola’s story.

The Concept

The concept behind this photo, which is the second of a 5 image series called “What the Duck is going on?!,” is pretty simple. A few weeks earlier, in one of my usual sleepless nights around the web, I read an article about the giant inflatable duck that appeared in the port of Hong Kong as a part of a guerrilla marketing campaign. Needless to say I fell in love with the idea and started realizing that I had never seen photos with a LOT of rubber ducks in them. I mean, why the hell is that? Rubber ducks are, in my opinion, incredibly funny and silly, and I’m sure they would work in a photo. Thirty minutes after, I had bought 251 rubber ducks online. I love you internet 🙂 Once they arrived I started contacting people that would be interested in being portrayed in their own bathtub, filled of rubber ducks and.. started shooting. In this photo, I portrayed Mirko Dettori (a.k.a. Sior Mirkaccio) a great burlesque and cabaret performer with whom a great friendship had born.

The Gear

Nikon D700 Nikkor 20mm ƒ2.8D lens 1x Nikon Sb-900 flash 1x Yongnuo YN 560-II flash 1x Wescott Apollo 24” Softbox Yongnuo RF 603-n transmitters 250 Yellow rubber ducks 1 Blue rubber duck named “Arturo”

The Shoot

lightdiagram As in every photo of this series, I would shoot everyone in their own bathroom, without seeing the place before. I like working on locations. I didn’t check before as I believe having to overcome problems and unexpected things boosts my creativity. I set up my main light, a speedlight in a Westcott Apollo Softbox and made a DIY C stand using two regular light stand and a clamp, as I wanted the light to come from overhead. With a couple of test shoots I found my exposure before filling the bathtub with the rubber ducks. IMAGE1 I noticed that the shadows were a tad too deep for my taste, so I set up another speedlight at a lower power on a light stand behind me, pointing to the ceiling to fill the shadows just enough to retain detail everywhere.

the base image for the final photo

the base image for the final photo

Once everything was set up, we filled the bathtub and started shooting away. We explored some of the ideas I had in mind and then goofed around until we came up together with the final concept. I knew I wanted a lot of rubber ducks in the air so after finding the perfect position for him, we kept on shooting some other photos with ducks everywhere that I later combined in photoshop.

the other images used for the ducks

the other images used for the ducks

Post Production

I combined the starting image with ducks from 9 other ones. Developed all the raw files in Camera Raw, and then started cleaning, fine tuning and cloning in Photoshop CC. The tricky part was to clone away the bit of soft box that was in the frame. I then finished the image with a few curves adjustments for the colors, some selective burn & dodge to add depth and sealed the deal with an irregular vignette.

Before and After

Before

Before

Final

Final

Be sure to also follow Nicola on Facebook!