Nadav Bagim - WonderLand lecture - PhotoX2012 - נדב בגים

Uploaded by aimishboy on 05.10.2012

I'm glad to welcome on to the stage
Nadav Bagim
Nadav Bagim, also known as AimishBoy
I imagine you've might have stumbled into his website
And his WonderLand project
That he's going to talk with you about
Awarded him with a lot of achievements And was presented in many places
And I'm very happy you are with us Nadav
My encounter with the world of nature and insects began when I was a child
If you'll think about it, you'll see that for the common nature lover,
who doesn't live in the African Savannah, insects are the most common creatures.
They are all around us, and their diversity is huge.
Later on, when I grew up, I enjoyed science fiction and fantasy books,
to me they were just more of the same thing,
Fictional worlds with mysterious landscapes and wonderful creatures.
It's not a coincidence the film industry draws so much inspiration from them.
That's why when I discovered the world of photography a few years ago,
I was naturally drawn into the macro genre.
The moment I placed the lens on the camera and took a look through it,
I felt like an explorer visiting an alien world.
For me it was just like flying into outer space or diving to the bottom of the ocean.
Today I want to introduce you my latest project called WonderLand.
The Wonderland series features insects and tiny animals, in a magical world of fantasy
and tries to present them in a different way from the one you usually encounter them-
I imagine that for some of you it's accompanied by occasional screaming.
First of all, for those of you the word 'Photoshop' popped into mind, No, This is NOT Photoshop!
The photos you'll see here today, are real photos.
Aside from some basic level adjustments such as brightness, contrast, etc. it's all real
It's not digital art
All the landscapes, colors, special effects and models, all of them -are real, and...
all of them were shot on my kitchen's table. And I'm about to show it to you.
One of the things I noticed when shooting macro,
was that when I was shooting my subject, the rest of the objects in the photo,
were out of focus, outside the depth of field, and their abstract shapes
left a lot to the imagination.
Let's get back to this picture-
To me, this picture reminded of wierd barrels on a fictional beach
with the blue water in the background.
Now, since I absolutely know that I wasn't on any beach when I shot it,
I realized that what's working right now is my imagination and my associations.
Let's see what's really shot in here…
What it actually is
is a lettuce leaf that has been intercepted on its way to the salad,
and with good cause, due to the insect eggs found on it...
What surprised me in all of this, was that those barrels from before
were the insect's egg, the beach was the lettuce
and what amazed me more than anything, do you see that blue thing?
it's actually a clothespin holding the lettuce, and that's our ocean
Let's see it again,
that's it, plain lettuce and clothespin!
The idea that you can create landscapes in such a simple way
overwhelmed me, and I concluded that with a better understanding
and improving the technique,
I could create not only simple landscapes,
but entirely new worlds!
This is the photo that started the series;
Showing a giant ant standing on a small hill with that special effect in the background
–again, it's not Photoshop, it's a real photo.
Usually my photographic process contains a lot of trial and error,
that’s why when I start shooting, I have no idea how it will end
and that's exactly what happened here.
This wasn't the result I was aiming at when I started,
what I was trying to do is simulate the quality of natural light indoors with a flash,
and while trying to create a rain effect, I got a very interesting result
and decided to stop and develop it.
I made some adjustments, and that was the result I got.
When I saw that photo, I realized I stumbled on to something special
and I should stop and focus on it and that's how the Wonderland series began
I think what I like most in this sort of photography,
is that when I build the set the way I want it,
I don't have to compromise on reality, but simply create one of my own
-and if it can be done indoors without leaving the air conditioner, even better!
Most of my photos are not planned in advance the way you can see here,
usually I have a lot of ideas swirling in my head, a lot of ingredients
and they are all just thrown into the set and the outcome is their combination,
along with the model interaction.
Beside a Dslr camera with Macro capabilities,
the rest of my equipment is very basic and available to all.
If it's the lighting, which is simple and affordable Chinese equipment from EBay,
or the scenery decoration- which is free, as I'll show you.
So how do you construct this kind of a setup?
The construction process usually starts from the ground;
I prefer building it from natural ingredients
like plants, tree barks, flowers, soil, water or large leaves.
You can also use vegetables from fridge.
In the following picture I used my fridge to...
go back in time and millions of miles into space.
In this picture I tried to simulate ancient mars as I imagined it...
On my Mars, there were life, and as you can see here,
we have this slug simulating the known evolution image
of a creature crawling out of the water for the first time.
Due you recognize what it's crawling on?
Broccoli, not just healthy but also photogenic!
Now... even though broccoli is nice and photogenic
I must admit that I have a different weakness...
My weakness is for moss
Moss is the green stuff that grows between sidewalk cracks,
and it's the perfect replacement for miniature grass or green hills.
I'm already exited winter is coming
What about the backgrounds? How do I create those backgrounds?
Natural ingredients will work here as well.
Here for example, those mountains were made from a big green leaf
they were cut in a mountain shape and placed in the back
But the thing I love using the most, and was used creating the sky here,
are just plain plastic bags left from the grocery store.
The best thing about plastic bags – beside their price –
is their variety of colors and the fact that you can do whatever you want with them
cut, glue, wrinkle, whatever you want. And that's what I do.
If I want a pink sky, I'll use a pink plastic bag and put it in the back
If I want a sun, I'll take a yellow bag, wrinkle it to a ball and place it in the back as well.
For example in this photo-
[Applause] Thank you
Even though I said most of my photos weren't planned, a small part of them were
In this picture I wanted to place a Praying Mantis on Mars, and besides sketching the idea,
part of the preparations was searching for photos of the landscape on Mars,
and a view of the Earth from space or the Moon,
so I'll have a better understanding of how it should look.
Want to see the result?
This is the photo
As you can see, we are in an advance stage of Mars history,
the water we saw earlier are gone, the land is dry,
and the Mantis that realize its problem, stares lustfully at our blue planet.
Just in case you wondered where all those aliens came from
Want to go backstage?
This is how looks from behind the scenes
You can see that I created the earth from a round blue plastic bag
and the continents were cut in their shapes from other bags.
To get a more realistic result, just like a moon phase,
I placed an improvised 'snoot' over the flash
which is simply a cylindrical black paper, that creates a narrow beam of light,
and that way I can light up only part of the earth, and not all of it.
But actually, my real problem was creating the foreground.
I searched my entire house for a substance that will fit in texture and color,
but couldn’t find one
-and NASA didn't want to send me soil samples from their last mission...
so what I eventually did was to use a white Crepe paper,
and to tint everything with the Martian tone, I taped the flash with an orange plastic bag.
Although most of my inspiration comes from Sci-Fi and Fantasy; it's not the only source...
Inspiration can come from folktales, like Jack and the Beanstalk
It can derive from bible stories, like Noah's Ark and the flood
Two of every kind is all well and fine, but some of them got held in traffic,
and didn't make it to the Arc.
This cute couple had to survive the flood on its own...
What about that background effect, those floating snowflakes?
To create that effect, I used the fact that
whenever there's a small, out of focus, source of light,
it becomes a 'Bokeh diamond' in the shape of our aperture.
There are several ways to create those small light sources,
you can use a reflective background, like a wrinkled tin foil
you can use sugar grains, small pores on a leaf,
or, my favorite way, with a water spray bottle.
In the following photo, I used small pores on a leaf.
By the way, This photo was shortlisted at Sony's '2012 World Photography Awards',
and was exhibited at the winner's exhibition in London.
It features a praying mantis
standing on a mossy island conducting an orchestra of insects.
The background here, is simply a lemon leaf.
Lemon leaves have small pores all over them, and when we backlit them,
the light shines through those tiny pores,
and that’s how we get our small light sources.
You can try that yourselves,
take a lemon leaf, put it infront the sun,
and watch how the tiny pores glow so magically.
OK, we saw how the setup is built,
and now that it's ready, it's time to bring the little models into the set.
But first of all, I would like to state in front of this audience,
that no model was heart during this project,
they were all shot alive, healthy and fully active!
I believe that the way you treat your subject,
reflects in your photos, and when you're shooting something you love and respect,
it will show.
Of course, just like with any other model,
you have to sign them on a model release form to avoid law suits...
But where do I get all those models? All those insects...
First of all, they are all visitors in your house as well,
Even if you think they are not- they're there.
I find them on plants I planted on my balcony, its a little jungle out there...
The biggest advantage in this method
is that there is no need to take anyone out of nature to shoot
and thus, avoiding harming nature.
If I want to shoot,
I can just take a plant inside and when I'm done, simply put it back.
Now... one of the reasons I get so many visitors,
is that I occasionally spray sugar water on my plants,
I know, it's kind of a dirty trick,
but it draws a lot of small insect in, and when they arrive,
bigger insects arrive as well.
To eat them -but that's not the point…
As you can see, I had a wide range of visitors...
to name some,
Ants, Spiders, Bees
Praying mantdis, Centipedes,
And even Lizards..
Interacting with them requires a lot of gentleness and patience
and that's why this kind of photo session takes a few hours.
There were times I started shooting at 18:00 in the afternoon
and finished at 6:00 in the morning.
It's not that different from photographing people,
your goal as a photographer is to let you subject feel comfortable,
and the moment you'll make him feel comfortable and trust you,
he'll act naturally, and that is what we are usually looking for.
The last photo I want to show you,
is an idea I had,
to take two snails and make them kiss on top of a hill during sunset
Now... as kitsch as the idea may be,
I felt that its Implementation is becoming too sticky and kitsch
So I decided to make a couple of changes,
and instead of all those little hearts,
I choose something different,
and this was the outcome
As I explained before,
the background here is a blue plastic bag,
the heart is a pink bag that was cut in that shape.
Now you may ask, OK, but how did you cause the two snails to kiss??
And I remind you, this is not Photoshop, not a duplicate, it is real.
So how do you get two snails to kiss?
Well, a glass of wine never hurt anyone...
But what I did here, was to take advantage of the fact
that they're very romantic creatures to begin with
and you'll see it for yourselves in a minute...
My thought was to put each of them at the bottom of the hill-
which is actually a dry coconut shell.
So, place them at the bottom, just let them climb up simultaneously,
and when they'll reach the top, they will meet for a kiss.
The problem was how to cause them to climb straight up
and not to stroll to different directions.
What I did was to take a paintbrush and some water
and to draw a wet line from the bottom to the top,
that way I created an easier surface for them to crawl on,
in compare to the rest of the dry coconut.
It took me a couple of takes to succeed and I'll now show you the clip...
Buy the way,
there's a chance this will disturb some of you even more then Spencer Tunick's nude photos.
[No sound – it happens.. :) ]
Just a moment - it's ok?
Take 2
[Romantic Music] [Serge Gainsbourg / Je t'aime... moi non plu]
[Laughter] [Applause]
[Romantic music]
I told you they are romantic creatures...
By the way, Snails are hermaphrodites
which means both of them are male and female so the plot thickens even more
There is a quote I love by Scot Adams
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes,
art is knowing which ones to keep."
I hope that when you'll go back home after this conference,
you'll look at the simple things around you in a little different way,
and realize their enormous potential, when combined with your imagination.
It doesn't have to be just in Macro, whatever you are interested in,
explore, experiment and make room for mistakes.
Even if they look foolish to you,
they carry your fingerprints, your imagination and your interpretation.
One of the best things in children, is their curiosity,
so simply...
allow yourself to become a child once in a while
and just let your curiosity lead you.
I hope you enjoyed the presentation-
and the most important thing of all,
when you're photographing insects,
don't patronize, shoot them at eye level.
Thank you very much!