Behind the Scenes: Serenity Amongst Destruction

Photo Credit: Diggie Vitt 

Photo Credit: Diggie Vitt 

A few weeks back, a photographer friend of mine, Diggie Vitt (Featured in my Blog Hop. His work is amazing!) messaged out that he was looking for a place to stay with his friend Cameron, while they continued a road trip across the country. We got in touch and I told him I'd be more than happy to have them stay with me and show them around the area. After some parking troubles in DC, they made it up to the City of Brotherly Love.

Almost after immediately arriving, we found ourselves in my basement, experimenting with Diggie's new polaroid camera. We walked over to South St. and checked out a great area I know with thrift shops and antique stores. It's always fun to look for new props and wardrobes for shoots. We had nothing in mind, but you'll never know when inspiration strikes! 

The next day, we explored some better well-known spots in Philly. On our walk into the city, we found the opportunity to explore a church nearby my house. I'd never been inside and it was pretty amazing. We walked up to LOVE Park and towards the famous Rocky Steps, then along the trail on the river, back in time for lunch. We explored one of the local parks nearby and brainstormed on some concepts to shoot. 

That night, we planned a shoot for sunrise in of the the most beautiful abandoned places I know of in the area. It had been months since my last visit, so we checked out the location to see if it would still be accessible. 

I got in touch with my wonderful friend, Steph, who was excited to come along again and model for us. It was around 5am when we woke up, packed the car, picked up Steph, and made our way into the church before sunrise. Last time I shot here, it was in the middle of winter and freezing inside, so it was a nice change for it to be warm. 

The description of this photograph isn't actually far off from the truth on how we found our way inside. We patiently sat and waited for the sun once we were in, and explored some while we solidified the concepts we wanted to shoot. An amazing orange glow came in through the windows again and lasted some much longer than from what I saw back during the winter. It was perfect and I was drooling over it. 

Once I shot my plate shot of the scene, Diggie and Steph went on to shoot another concept while I continued to shoot extra images to expand my frame later in photoshop. All-together, this image is made up of around 65 individuals shots. 

We were extremely happy with how the shoot went that morning and made plans to go back home, eat, catch a little bit more sleep, then re-group with Steph again and a friend of hers to another park I love to visit. 

We went swimming and had a nice hike along the trails in the woods. Diggie managed to get Steph and I in cold water in the shade for another Polaroid idea he had. We were troopers and did it, while trying to keep our balance against the cut tent of the river and the slippery rocks beneath us. Then once out of the water, we found out he had to do another take, but it was still fun. 

The next day we slept in and Diggie and Cameron packed up again to make their way over to Long Island. It was absolutely great to meet both of them and to work along side Diggie. Those guys are so genuinely nice. Looking forward to see what they have in store as the continue their road trip across the country!


Behind the Scenes: Ethereal Confines of the Heavenly Devine


It was an early and freezing February morning, that Karen Jerzyk and I shot in this amazingly ornate abandoned church. We sat under the arched ceiling as we watched the sunrise pour bright red light through the windows as it broke over the horizon, with our friends and models. As we waited for more quality light for shooting and walked through the dismantled debris of intricate carvings, we studied the details in the stained glass windows and walked over dead pigeons. Out of nowhere,  Karen suddenly found her right leg engulfed by one of the rotting floor boards, with a proud and nasty bruise that followed after. 

As the clouds started to clear the sky and sun was lighting most of the interior, we began shooting. Karen started shooting first, with her model vibrantly maneuvering poses over a broken pipe organ on the torn up balcony, accompanied by colorful smoke bombs and a caged dead bird that she easily and recently acquired. 

Once the smoke cleared and another batch of clouds cleared the sky, I was ready to start shooting. I tried shooting the interior with a 10-20mm Sigma lens, but at the last minute I switched to my 85mm Nikkor instead. There were two main reasons why I switched from shooting everything in one shot with a wide lens to using a prime lens and compositing the images in post production: 

  1. Shooting multiple shots of the environment at a fixed length would give me a much higher resolution in the final image and would also provide more depth of field. 
  2. I honestly felt like challenging myself to do it, like I was egging myself on to just go a little overboard and see how it would turn out.

I set my tripod up as centered and near to the edge of the balcony. Shooting pan after pan, starting from the middle, working my way up, then back to the middle and captured the bottom and floor. In total, all the pans added to 250 shots, taking around 35 minutes to shoot. 

At this point I was ready to shoot my friend and model, Steph. It was an early morning for her and she had to go to work shorty after. While waiting, she laid on the floor, cocooned in her bed comforter, trying to keep warm. I placed her near the window in the same direction I shot the interior to match the light for the composite later. I brought to the shoot a pair of taxidermy bird wings to also shoot in the same light and position them in a way to have them look as if they were flapping. 

This photograph has been one of the most challenging photographic projects I've attempted. The church itself is a stitch of between 75-80 individual photographs that I sorted out from the shoot, along with several more to create the angel. Three weeks in total was the time I spent on post processing, and I'm really proud of the final result. At 100% I could print this photograph around 7ft!