Creating the Photograph: Kevin Goss-Ross’s “Thinkhouse X: Bathtub Scene”

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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.

Photographer Kevin Goss-Ross is a self-taught photographer working professionally for the past 7 years. Born in Pretoria, South Africa, and raised on the coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal, he moved to Dublin in 2012. After studying graphic design at the Durban University of Technology and slogging it out in dirty alternative nightclubs and bars shooting music he sold his soul and started doing commercial and editorial work which, much to his dismay, he liked a lot.

And that’s how we’re brought to the Thinkhouse X series. The shoot was done for the agency Thinkhouse in Dublin and this image in particular was inspired by Hunter S. Thompson.

Here’s Ryan’s story.

The Concept

Initial-Concept-sketch

This image is part of a series I shot for Thinkhouse, a youth communications agency in Dublin, Ireland, as part of the Thinkhouse X Series. This series is a collection of photographs of humans inspired by youth and the glimpses of fleeting truths hidden between the chaos of wild weekends – a flexing of creative muscles in an exercise focussed on aesthetic and visual experiments. With references borrowed from popular culture’s more sleazy heroes and folklore narratives from different continents forced together to produce this collection of almost childishly colourful and surreal photographs.

This particular image was inspired by the seediest of literary heroes, Hunter S. Thompson, whose seemingly insane writings still relate to the illegally indulgent in the present day. This image references a scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Hunter’s lawyer eats too much LSD in their hotel room and requests that Hunter facilitates the ending of his life by radio/bathwater combination ‘as white rabbit peaks’. The original scene was filthier than what we were going for, and since the focus of this project was my own skewed interpretation of youth we needed somewhere slightly less 70’s. It was eventually shot in The Dean Hotel, whose staff had no idea what was happening in their spectacular penthouse suite which they had graciously let us use for this deviance.

The Gear

  • Canon 5D Mk  II
  • Canon 24mm f/1.4 II
  • Yongnuo YN-560 TX to trigger four Yongnuo 560exII speedlights,a small 60cm pop-up softbox, a larger 150cm octabox, some colored gels and light stands.

The Shoot

The-room-before

We only had the location for a couple of hours in the morning, so it was an early start. As is quite normal for a shoot not everything quite went to plan: three out of the four models we had booked cancelled on us (let’s just blame the early start) but we pressed on regardless. These things happen and I’ve cancelled too many shoots because of small issues, and regretted it later on. Luckily everyone else at the shoot were lookers so people just kind of jumped in. This was the second shot of the three we had planned for that morning so everyone was a bit more relaxed at this point. The room itself was a bit too fancy for my liking so we wet toilet paper and threw it onto any surface it would stick to and proceeded with the most fun styling of a room ever. We just found odd bits and made a mess.

We had our model climb into the bath–which was boiling hot and helped his pretty face look a bit more of a mess; and went to town on the bubble bath. I then messed with the lighting for a while. The room was pretty small but luckily there was a sliding wall which opened the bathroom up into a bedroom. I popped a speedlight into the shower on full power with a blue gel and a plastic diffuser to make the light go absolutely everywhere and act like a light bulb. The plan was to try bathe all the walls in blue light but with the time constraints we were facing I had to do a lot of that in post. I shot another light from the hallway behind the female model for a bit of definition on her, and to add something of a sinister presence. I wanted her face a bit darker to make her seem more aggressive. I then placed a large octabox camera left to light the male model. and a bare flash outside the window to light up the shrub visible in the window. We shot the two models in one go but decided not to actually throw the radio. The art director had her eye on it and something about not killing models for real. Instead it was just held in place in the shot and added in afterwards.

Testing-Light

Posing wasn’t very hard for this shoot. The baser emotions don’t require much subtlety. When I’m going for emotions like anger or fear I encourage models to actually make the appropriate anger/fear noises. I usually make the noises myself, partly because it is fun and partly because it makes the model feel better about howling like a banshee in a fancy hotel room full of people.

Post Production

Post2 Radio

1. The first step was popping in the radio. I’m not a fan of working on something for hours just to realize my comp game is weaker than I thought.

Post3 Walls

2. As mentioned before I wanted colder, bluer walls to bring the viewer’s attention on the warmer tones of the subject but time restrictions were unkind so it had to be done afterwards. Most of the post on this image was changing around the colours.

Post4 Dodge and Burn

3. The final step was a good amount of dodging and burning for a more surreal look. I prefer using curve adjustment layers so you can tone things down when you inevitably overdo it. I also changed the color of the random bits of clothing for a more subdued color palette, focussing on keeping distracting elements in green or blue tones. I also fixed some distracting elements – I overdid it with the wet toilet paper in the foreground. I’m also a big fan of using calculations to multiply different colour channels and using the luminosity blending mode to shift the focus of the image a bit, especially toward the end of an edit.

Before/After

Post1 Unedited

Before

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After