Concept Art: Don't Pay The Ferryman

Don’t Pay The Ferryman

In the last article I used this image of me laying back taking a break from rowing. It was taken by my wonderful wife with her point and click. I liked it so much I wanted to play with it, and see where the muse took me. After a few enjoyable hours of play, I created this: Don’t Pay The Ferryman.

My apologies to Chris De Burgh for borrowing his title. His excellent song of the same name started running through my head as the work evolved into this final piece. It grew through several different ideas before I locked on this one. I’m going to work on variations, but this one works best for me so far. The image here gives a strong visual impact that tells a powerful story. This story.

The Ferryman

The Styx is the mythical River Of The Dead. To reach the afterlife, it must be crossed.

The Styx can only be crossed by ferry. There are no bridges. The dead carry no possessions. They have no boats. Swimmers attempting to cheat their way into the afterlife become disoriented and lost in the perpetual mists along the river, until exhaustion overtakes them and they sink down into the murky depths of damnation. Fearful souls too afraid to board the ferry spend eternity in the ghostly limbo between life and death. They can be seen along the shore, until they are lost in mist as the ferry pulls away leaving them behind forever.

The ferryman, whose name is Charon, guides the dead to their final home, rowing forever backward and forward between the shores of life and death. His ferry is the only safe path to the afterlife. He has to be paid for his troubles. Once you have paid his fee, you may board. Your fate is sealed. So unless you are weary of this world and ready for that final journey… don’t pay him.

This myth has percolated in many forms and many cultures throughout history. It’s one reason the dead would have pennies placed on their eyes: To ensure they could afford safe passage.

Time and Tide

Two things which wait for no man are time and tide. Two more are death and taxes. The only one we are not sure applies here is taxes. There’s an interesting stream of thought…

I have never been one to give up easily. I will fight to the last, and if there is a way around a problem I will find it. One day, though, and being purely practical, my life will be over and I will reluctantly have to pay Charon. Probably. But not until I’ve explored every option. Which is where we come in.

So here I am, dead. Rowing a boat I somehow managed to contrive or conjure, exhausted from navigating the Styx and its mind-bending mists that ensnare and confuse and push the faint of heart back to the shore where they must pay the ferryman for passage. I’m sleeping the sleep of the terminally tired, not yet aware that my stubborn perseverance actually paid off: My little boat found it’s way to safe harbour.

I drifted into the channel, and am being carried by gentle waves to the futuristic landing stage of my next adventure (this is my afterlife, guys). As one closes, another door opens. Onward. Always onward.

Styx

The band Styx have absolutely no connection to this. They simply share the name of the mythical river. As I worked on this, it morphed many times. At one point I decided it would make a great concept album cover, so I went with it even though it’s not (yet) square. That’s another variant for another day.

The album is ‘Don’t Pay The Ferryman’. And it’s by a band called Styx Not. Not Styx.

Homage to a great band that I discovered through my wonderful wife and have grown to love, the members of which band will hopefully not try to sue me for copyright infringement. But hey, guys, if you want to use this concept as your next album cover, let’s talk. Just throwing it out there. Worth a shot. Hey, gimme a break. I may one day have a ferryman to pay. Or not.

Don't Pay The Ferryman concept art
Click image to view at full size

Happiness

Happiness is where you find it. Here, it’s in a quick video snippet of Nikki and I out and about enjoying the Summer. This bit of silliness was recorded during a stop at a local Conservation Area.

Just because the world seems to be coming to an end is no reason to let life get us down.

You take your happiness with you. Wherever you go, there it is. Or isn’t. Happiness can be shy and may not want to come out and play. Happiness is like a child. Petulant. Stubborn. Unreasonable. Beautiful.

Happiness needs nurturing. Take it to the park for a picnic every so often. Buy it an ice cream.

There is joy and happiness aplenty to be found in this silly old world. Sometimes, you just have to coax it out from the rock it’s hiding under and bring it into the daylight kicking and screaming.

Mixed metaphors aside, things can always get worse. Conversely, they can always get better. Remember that. You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control your response.

Be happy, in spite of all the reasons not to. In some cases, not all, it’s a choice. Not always easy, I know.

Whatever shape your own happiness may take, start a conversation with it. Learn what it likes. Buy it an ice cream. Make the effort. We found ours. Seek. And you, too, shall find. So go. Off with you.

Barn - After editing

Photo Editing: Before and After

Once the working day is over I can turn my focus to one of my passions, photo editing. There is something beautiful about taking a raw image and reshaping it with light and colour into something unique. It relaxes me. Frustrates me. Makes me happy and sad at the same time. Takes my mind from my worries and gives my brain some much needed down time. Photo editing and retouching are good for the soul. Getting paid for it is a bonus. Whether my style appeals to you or not, it does to me. And that’s primarily why I do it.

Case in point, during one of my frequent explorations of the Niagara region I came across this old barn which has seen, let’s be honest, better days. There must be history here. A family farm. Kids playing in the hay loft. Cattle sheltering from a winter storm. If my own youth is any guide there was probably some canoodling at some time, which may explain those kids in the hay loft.

All gone. Time passes. One day time will take it’s final toll and this piece of history will be no more.

However

Photo editing can make this barn live again. Not as it was, for that you need Photoshop, which I use daily and think of as my second home. However, that is not the feel I wanted. I wanted to see this barn in the present day, infirmities and all, with those decades of memories intact. Proud and strong despite everything nature continues to throw. Not going down without a fight. I respect that.

I wanted to give those golden memories one last, glorious summer. So I brought the sun.

For photofiles the original was shot in RAW, with a Tamron 17-55 2.8 at 1/200th sec at ISO100. Edited to personal taste in Adobe Lightroom. After having an hour or more of fun playing and trying variations I came down on the side of this one. I went for the emotion.

A little over the top? Maybe. Call it creative license. Every image is different. For me, for this image, this treatment works. For some, it may not. But that’s the amazing thing about photo editing. I can come back tomorrow and do something completely different. Same image, different feel.

Right now, this pleases me. Hits the notes I aimed for. Says what I want to say. That makes me happy.

Barb - before editingBarn - After editing

Morning Mist

The morning mist over these trees caught my eye during one of my lone early morning explorations somewhere in Niagara as I watched the world awaken. I love the subtle colours, the way the mist interacts with the distant trees, and the contrast between the sun and the tree cradling it in it’s arms.

Call me romantic. The simple low key composition really draws my eyes. I find it hypnotically pleasing. It reflects closely how I felt when I was there in that moment. It works for me, especially at full size.

Available for digital download, prints, gallery wraps and assorted wall art, starting at $3.

Port Colborne Water Tower

The Water Tower

This water tower was part of the Port Colborne skyline for a very long time. Iconic. Before it was demolished I made time to get some shots and video of it.

I love my flying camera. Of course, I’m not actually up there. I would have liked that. Spending an hour on that walkway enjoying the scene would have made me very happy. I added myself later.

The thing about being the guy behind the camera is, you are never in front of it. But you can fake it.

Port Colborne Water Tower
Car Toon: Cindy the precosious teenager

Car Toons

I love to combine photography with creative illustration. To that end, a couple of years ago I started making Car Toons. Car Toons are vehicle portraits given cartoon personalities. After creating the actual portrait (a photo shoot) I use a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator to ‘toon it into a highly personal caricature, usually of the owner or a family member. These Car Toons are proving popular.

Since I started making Car Toons I’ve been commissioned several times to create wall art and prints. A Car Toon, finished in brushed aluminium or on a canvas wrap, looks amazing when hung on a living room or garage wall. Being hand crafted, each is unique. Each one is a labour of love by me, gifted to the recipient by a loving spouse or family. Or sometimes the owner wants one for themselves.

I’ve been told a Car Toon is a great way to remember beloved relatives (and vehicles) long after they have gone to the great scrap yard in the sky. That’s a nice sentiment, I think.

Caricatures

Like any caricature the trick is matching the right trait to exaggerate. It has to be identifiable. Recognizable. Sometimes it’s a hair style. Sometimes a pair of glasses. With Anthony, a chipped tooth from a youthful tumble. That tooth has disappeared now his adult teeth have come in. The memory fades. But this Car Toon will remain. A reminder of youth. A snapshot in time.

Occasionally, as here, I take one of my photos and invent a personality to suit my mood. I get whimsical. Perks of being the artist. It can be a lot of fun just to play with different looks. Digital Mr Potato Head. It’s also great practice and really sharpens my creative and technical skills as I visualise the little touches, and plan how and where to add shadows and reflections of the non-existent features I’m about to create. Fun.

Are Car Toons realistic? No. They aren’t supposed to be. I could make them photorealistic, but to my mind that would lose the magic. Spoil them. They are Car Toons. Developed over time to my own tastes, this is my style. And I like them just the way they are. I hope you do, too.

If you are interested in having your own Car Toon made please get in touch to discuss details and arrangements. I would love to make something truly memorable for you.

*** Click to view these Car Toons in full screen goodness ***

Shoe Tree, somewhere in Niagara

Niagara Gallery: New Photos

I like to explore and enjoy the beauty of the Golden Horseshoe region, from Hamilton to the US border. I spend many hours roaming the back roads just taking everything in and enjoying the scenery. There is always something new to see, or new ways to see old things. If you take the time to look.

That philosophy applies wherever you live, I believe. From the plains to the cities, the mountains to the shores. Right on your doorstep, there is something wonderful. You just need to find it.

All images here were shot ‘Somewhere In Niagara’.

Browsing the gallery is one pleasant way to spend a few minutes over coffee. All images can be purchased as digital downloads, wall art, and assorted personal items. You can just browse, of course. No pressure.

There are a number of other galleries to explore. Feel free to look around and, hopefully, enjoy them. You may see something you like or even get an inspiration for your own project. Or event. Hint. Hire me. 🙂

To view the images at their absolute best, click this link to visit the Photo Shop. It will open in a new window. Here you can see this and all my other galleries in glorious full screen. Please, enjoy.
(Note, watermarks not present on purchases).

Jordan Harbour with Nikki

Things for which to be thankful

I am thankful for my Daily Dose of Happiness…

My wife. In the days before drones, you had to go and get photos the hard way. In this case that meant climbing into an inflatable boat and rowing around the headland into and out onto a choppy Lake Ontario, to get some images of the scuppered ship in Jordan Harbour that you can’t see from land.

Got to do what ya got to do to get the shot. All told, I rowed for over six hours that day. This behind the scenes shot I took during a break from rowing shows she is at least as adventurous as I am. She never balks, however outlandish my ideas may be. She knows I won’t put her at risk. Much. Apart from that one time I threw her out of a plane, but that’s another story

As always, I am thankful we do things together. Thanks for supporting me along the way, my love. Many would not. I could do it without you, but it would not be nearly half as much fun. You rock.

And you are my rock. Respect.

Thankful to enjoy the moment in Jordan Harbour with Nikki

Bridge 21, Welland Canal, Port Colborne.

Port Colborne: I love this town.

At a loose end on Sunday after dropping my beloved at work, I sent up the drone. And got this.

It took a few minutes of positioning to get the angle right. That was not helped by strong cross winds buffeting the little guy around the sky, so I kept him low, as the wind near ground level was far less.

Being sensibly cautious, I wanted him out of the sky before the sub zero temperature froze the rapidly discharging batteries and he fell. That, by the way, is a thing. It’s also why I kept him over land, just in case. I didn’t want to try and recover him from a semi-frozen canal. That would not be fun.

I set the shutter speed and other settings manually, and that paid off. Exposure was perfect, the image pin sharp, despite fighting the wind. This flying camera is a marvel.

This is a drone, not a big boy camera, so I won’t be printing this for the office wall. That said, I was happy when I got the raw image (my guy shoots DNG format) into the computer. With a little processing in Adobe Camera Raw, I was able to bring this image to life.

After doing some basic corrections to texture, white balance and so forth, it was time to tweak. Bringing up the shadows lifted the dark areas, revealing a lot of detail. I dropped the highlights a fraction to bring out those lovely clouds while keeping them light and fluffy, and lowered the overall saturation. After that I used the HSL controls to compensate, boosting the saturation just in the blues, reds, and yellows.

Moving the dehaze slider to the left brought everything together nicely, and here’s the final result. Hand crafted to my taste.

I love the clouds scudding across that birdless sky. The leading lines of the canal take my eye right along West Street out to the lighthouse, and when it comes back down the other side of the canal I’m drawn to those boats along the East wall. That ice road looks awesome.

Too much editing? Not enough? I’d be interested in any comments, let me know your thoughts. Ultimately, it’s all subjective. Next week I may try something different. Or not. With a little more love this could be even better. That’s the beauty and the flexibility of shooting raw. Can’t beat it. For now, this edit works for me. I like it.

I hope you like it too.

Looking South from above Bridge 21 at Port Colborne.
Bridge 21, Port Colborne

Not A Music Video

As a licensed drone pilot I am able to do things others can’t. Case in point, producing this unique video of a local band.

When the band started their sound check, I thought it would be fun to get a different perspective.

So I put my working head on, broke out the gear, and up went the bird.

Options are good

This was a personal project, not for a paying client, so I could work any way that I chose. For what I had in mind, I shot in 4K slow motion. I like to do this, as it gives buttery smooth output and adds flexibility when the footage is brought into the computer. Among other options, I can speed it up to normal speed, zoom or crop in, and edit clips into ‘multiple cameras’.

Speaking of options, I later recorded a separate audio track of the band playing, in case I decided to make a regular music video of this. Once I got everything into the computer and reviewed it, that didn’t work for me. I still felt slow motion was the way to go: That was the look I wanted.

With the music track option nixed, I went with my original concept and added a foley track of a Summer’s day in the garden. With birds singing. Wind in the trees. All is right with the world. Peaceful.

Anyone that knows the band will know that ‘peaceful’ contrasts heavily with their hard rock writing style. Anyone that doesn’t know them may be teased into checking them out. I liked that idea.

After adding the band logo and some text, I threw in a few simple animations, and finished with an end card ‘Call To Action’. The resulting video gives the band something unique to share online.

Back down to earth

This is a quirky idea, something I came up with on the spot and wanted to try. It is intentionally and literally ‘Not A Music Video’. Like the concept or not, it’s different. I gifted it to the band and if it helps them generate interest or even get bookings, great. They’re nice guys, play good music, and I was happy to spend my own time putting this together.

The idea has found an unlikely fan base. Feedback from the band and the fans suggest they like this concept. I may sometime rework with a different audio track but I think not. I really like this.

It’s nice to do something non-commercial, unscripted. Recharges the batteries. Video production involves a lot of planning. From concept meetings to shot lists to story boarding, actual filming, assembly, editing, post production audio and motion graphics, it’s a rewarding but lengthy process.

Here, I was free to do my own thing, and have fun. Unpolished. Raw. Assembled from rough footage. I just sent up the drone and used what it came back down with. One take. Done. Imperfect? Sure.

But, so what? I wanted to have fun and… I had fun. For an off the cuff seat of the pants concept project I think it came out very well. The result is, to me, a success. I’m happy. Therefore.

Happy dance.