Behind the Scenes: The Forest Photo

Yesterday I debuted a beautiful piece of art that is going to be used for the album artwork on my upcoming CD “Illumination”. It was a collaboration between my dad, photographer Ron Southworth, and 3D digital artist Don Webster.

The response was overwhelming – which was very exciting.  I thought it would be fun to share more about what went into creating this photo…

The Forest

Yes that is actually a REAL forest, not a digital one.  I had visited the Redwoods earlier last summer and found a grove that I fell in love with called the “Thomas A Grieg Enoch Percy French Winifred Brown Bell” Grove, which is in the Humboldt Redwood State Park. My dad and I were talking about where to get the perfect forest shot for my album, and I knew this was it. There was something magical and peaceful about it – it was amazing. Almost surreal. Reverent.

Here is me taking a self-portrait (as I was in the grove alone)…you tell by the smile on my face how in love I was with this place.

I excitedly called my dad from my cell phone and told him I’d found THE spot for the photo.  Plans were made, and then a couple of months later that summer, my parents went down to the Redwoods and camped for 4 days.  They got up before dawn each morning, headed into the grove to try and get just the right shot when the sun came up.

As you can see from the photo above, the size comparison of these huge trees to normal objects.  That is my parents’ truck in the photo there, and it looks like a toy.

My dad specializes in landscape photography, and while many of you have obviously seen his portraiture work (my website homepage photo) among others, his forte really lies within photographing mother nature. Capturing these trees was a fun project for him.

He ended up taking a panoramic, which if you’re not familiar with how those work, it is a spanned photo of the entire surroundings.  Usually a 360 degree view.  I am not sure if his forest photo was a 360, but I know he said he ended up stitching about 27 photos together to create the panoramics.  Here are a couple of the best ones he ended up stitching together…

To give you an idea of the quality of these shots, you could zoom in on a tiny little clover in that photo and have it be clear enough to be a full size photo.  If we were to print out the original panoramic, it would span a wall space of 25 feet.  A mural!

Once my dad finished “processing” his panoramic, we then sent it off to Don Webster.

The 3D Piano

If you aren’t familiar with Don Webster, he is an award winning 3D artist.  I found him through Synthogy Ivory, as he done all of the digital artwork for their piano software.

His work is simply amazing. I can’t even describe how incredible it is, you just have to see for yourself….

Anyway, over the last year or so Don and I have developed a wonderful friendship and I’ve been privileged enough to see a glimpse into this talented man’s heart and soul.  I have felt so lucky to work with him.

The process of inserting a grand piano into the forest scene and have it actually look pretty realistic had its little tricks. I didn’t want it to be done unless it could be done and actually LOOK like there was a piano in the forest. No cheesy stuff.

When asking Don what he needed from my Dad in order for the photo to work for him, he instructed him to be sure to not only capture the forest but to also take shots of the sky and other surroundings, so that he would have a detailed idea of the forest surroundings which would have an influence on the reflection seen in and on the piano itself.

3D digital art is different than normal artwork, in the sense that once the object has been created it can be turned, tipped, moved around, etc to whatever angle or placement you want it to be.  Just as CGI animators do for movie scenes and objects.

Here are a few of Don’s drawings and scalings he had to do with the piano.

Just for your enjoyment, here is another favorite that Don has designed using the same grand piano that he used for my forest photo, but in a different setting.

I can’t tell you all the work that goes into it, but I can tell that it is very detailed. From the light rays, the reflections, the scale work, everything. One thing that was particularly tricky in our forest photo, is figuring out how to place the piano.  If we placed it true-to-scale, the piano would actually be MUCH smaller, almost looking like a tiny toy piano next to those huge Redwoods.  To avoid having the piano look like a toy, it was brought up to larger scale, but with the hope that the massiveness of the trees were still portrayed enough to the viewer.

What we ended up with is an incredible piece of art where the viewer, I would hope, will feel a sense of beauty, reverence, awe, and peace.  I want it to be a place where someone would want to feel music inside of them, and would feel like sitting down at that piano and playing.

What will the artwork be used for?

The entire concept of my album “Illumination” is light, in its many meanings.  Not only does light refer to goodness, enlightment, but it also has everything to do with vision and how we SEE the world.  Photography is light being captured, and I am using my Dad’s photography throughout this album.  For every song going on my album, there is a beautiful photo (piece of art) that coincides with the music.  I want the listener to be fulfilled by both their auditory and visual senses.  This forest photo goes with one of my songs entitled “Into the Forest”.

And coming soon, the beautiful artwork will also be available to you as a piece of fine art.  I’ll have more on that soon.