I was approached by the coaches of a girls’ softball travel team, The Shockers, to create a statement piece to hang over their tents at games. They wanted something the girls would be very proud of and the final product (a huge 96”x36” graphic on a vinyl banner) had to set the mood of a strong, united, and determined team. For the most part I was given free artistic rein over the project. With the name “The Shockers”, an electrifying and fierce theme was developed.
I had to fit 11 girls and 2 coaches into the scene and to add interest wanted them at various heights. After a few rough sketches, I had the game plan. I found stock images of a stormy clouded sky, dramatically lit boulders, and an overcast big open field to find one lit to fit the boulders; these were my puzzle pieces to set the stage. I also found some grassy Photoshop Brushes and made lighting graphics to add to my tool kit. I cut the bits and pieces from the stock images, duplicated, stretched, cloned, and flipped a few elements to make it not so stock looking, layered them together and added the grassy brush details here and there. My set sketches started to take shape.
Now came our photography part. I wanted each girl to have her own pose or action while including the graphic of an electric charge somewhere on her or her gear. We scheduled a session at a ball park which had a pavilion we were able to use to help control the afternoon light. To give the girls an idea of why they were being asked to stand and pose their hands a certain way, I brought along our tablet with the composited background with the stick figures drawn in for a visual aid. For lighting, Josh used an Alien Bees 400 strobe which he modified with a 35” Octobox and added a silver reflector. The light was placed camera right, to match the pre-determined lighting from the stock photos in the background. I slightly over exposed the ball fields behind the each portrait of the girl, just to make it a little simpler to remove in post. Everyone, except for the pitcher and catcher, were photographed just a shot or two each, quick and easy. For the pitcher and catcher, I felt they needed to be in action, “charging up the ball” so several takes were made to get the right timing and form.
Back home in Photoshop, I removed the background and cement floor from all of the portraits then copied and pasted each girl and the two coaches on the background on their own layers. To make it look like they were actually at the background location, I used the liquify and warp tools to curve their feet like they would be if they were really standing on the rocks. I then used the Burn tool to create shadows on the rocks where they would naturally fall from the light source. I did this step in several passes of semi-transparent swipes, about 8-10% opacity.
The Lighting Bolts and Glowing Gear were actually very easy:
1. New PS File, Add a new layer, paint it white
2. I kept my color swatches at black and white for ease.
3. Under the Filters, select Render: Clouds
4. Play with Levels and Curves. The goal is to get a lot of white space, with gray rings with black centers. The white and black should be easily deleted with help from the Magic Wand Tool.
5. Play with Levels and Curves again to darken the gray circles, use the Lasso Tool to grab edges of the rings to use. I added effects to make them glow, and the Warp Tool to bend them around the bats and pitcher’s arm.
6. Glowing Gear: I select the gear, duplicate it on its own layer, and add the desired effect.
The whole project took me about 10 hours to complete including shooting time and meetings. The original vinyl banner is 96”x36” and is hung at every softball tournament. It gets the attention of everyone passing by and our studio gets lots of calls from other teams wanting their very own. In our studio, we have this composite displayed as a stunning Black River Imaging 18”x36” Metal Print.
Want to learn more from Alisha and Joshua? Catch them at Professional Photographers of the Ozarks fall convention this November 8-10, Springfield, Mo!