Back in February, I reached out to the talented Richee Chang aka @noserain on Instagram, to see if he would create a unique image using a technique I’ve never seen before. I would then take this amazing piece and attempt to recreate it, break down my process and see how it compares to Richee’s. As I am writing this, I still don’t know how he created this kick-ass underwater Godzilla piece that you see below, but I’ll break down my thoughts on how I think he created this masterpiece.
As you can see, Richee’s shot really looks like Godzilla is swimming in the deep seas, about to take down 2 big ass whales for appetizers. Adding whales to this scene is so brilliant because it makes Godzilla look beyond massive, as Godzilla should be. His posing is relaxed yet calculated, just like those lions we see on NatGeo slowly creepin’ up on some hyenas. The lighting is absolutely perfect. It’s top lit just enough to show Godzilla’s dorsal fins and the rest of his body is silhouetted which gives this scene a super creepy vibe. His tail is more in focus and less murky which really gives the scene more depth and adds to the massiveness of Godzilla. The way its lit in addition to the atmosphere really gives this piece a dark, deep ocean feel. The mood looks so serene at this moment, but it’s setup to conclude as a chaotic bloody massacre. The added sea bubbles is a great touch and one of those little details that help sell this shot. I’m guessing he used fog and a cool light to create the underwater atmosphere and digitally added the bubbles. I can’t get over how brilliant this shot is!
So after some brainstorming, I figured I’ll need:
Godzilla figure (SH Monsterarts)
a stand to hold Godzilla in a swim position
a plain dark backdrop (as the deep sea environment)
fog machine (to simulate sea atmosphere)
lights (overhead to simulate sunlight and backlights to show fog atmosphere)
tripod and remote shutter
Aquaman (instead of whales)
Photoshop (add bubbles and post processing)
My image is shot on a Fujifilm XT-1 with a 60mm macro lens with the following settings:
White balance: COOL
After dispersing some fog and letting it settle, I took a bunch of photos with minor lighting adjustments in between, until I got one I was happy with. I wanted to get it as close to Richee’s as possible, but I would be happy with just pulling off an accurate underwater scene. The important thing was to make sure the fog was settled, because a “smoky” look does not look underwater. Because the ocean is lit by the sun, I put one LED panel directly above Godzilla to simulate sunlight and the other 4 lights were lit from the back to make the fog visible and hopefully create a bit of a silhouette.
I decided to use the raw image below as a starting point. It was the best of the many photos that I took but far from looking like Richee’s so I knew I had to put in some work.
The first couple of adjustments I wanted to make was to remove the stand and make highlights and shadows adjustments. Apologies as I won’t go into detail on exactly how I executed it, but for those who use Photoshop, I simply used the clone stamp tool on a separate layer to remove the stand, and a “Levels” adjustment layer to adjust shadows, highlights, and tones. I have to say that post processing is my favorite part of the creation process. It’s the part where I get to put the finishing touches on a piece, and since I’m not an expert in Photoshop, a lot of what I do is experimental and every piece I work on is a learning experience.
Again, I won’t go into detail on exactly what I did, but here are some progression shots and quick breakdown on what I did for each one.
Image straight from the camera
Highlights, shadows, and tones adjustment using “Levels” adjustment layer in Photoshop
Stand removal using “Clone Stamp Tool”
Raw Aquaman shot (selection made with “Quick Selection Tool”
Aquaman cut by using “Select and Mask” and manually refining the edges using Layer Masks
Add Aquaman to image
Shrink Aquaman via “Command T (MacOS)”
Aquaman lighting and tone adjustments using “Levels” and “Curves” adjustment layers and layer mask. This is where I match the light and colors with the existing environment. I lit Aquaman’s Trident using the same technique as I would creating a lightsaber but with a low opacity. I also added sea bubbles digitally using a “bubbles brush” I found on the internet. I also added blur to some of the bubbles depending on where they were located to match the focal points. Since Godzilla’s tail is slightly out of focus, the bubbles surrounding it needed to be out of focus as well. It’s these small details that could make or break a composite piece.
I imported step 8 into Lightroom and made some slight adjustments in color and lighting. Below is the final image.
I’m pretty happy with my result even though it looks very different from Richee’s shot. I do think it looks underwater, but Godzilla and Aquaman look closer to top of the ocean instead of being in deep murky waters. The ultimate goal for me was to sell a good underwater shot, using techniques that I suspected Richee used. I’ll let Richee take it from here and share his process, then we could see how it stacks up to mine…
Hello Jax’s friends and followers! I’m Richee, also known to a few folks on Instagram as Noserain (That’s Nose-Rain). So, to bring this back to the beginning, Jax hit me up with an idea he had for his blog, and if you’re this far along into the blog post, you’ll know now that he asked me to create a shot that he would then go and try to recreate by observing which techniques the photographer, in this case, me, used to create the shot. Of course, when Plasticaction asks you to be a part of his project, you say “Yes, of course” and ask questions later.
Before I explain a bit of my process for the shot, I’d like to thanks Jax for asking me to be a part of this fun and insightful project. What I loved, and love, about Jax’s project is that he is essentially studying someone else’s work and, in the process, challenging himself to view and explain an image in an analytical and technical way. I think we are all inspired by something or someone, but we don’t always articulate why we like what we like. I strongly believe this is a great educational opportunity for all parties involved, including you! With that said, here is my process. First, I needed an idea for a photo. My objective mostly was to stump Jax and to do what I can to prevent him from being able to recreate my photo with the exact same techniques involved. Jax is pretty familiar with my work and how I set up and light my shots. Even though I upload a behind-the-scenes photo with all my shots, I have no doubt he would’ve already known how I set up my lights even if I didn’t because obviously–@plasticaction.
Truthfully, I struggled to come up with an idea for this project because I wanted the shot to be challenging for Jax. It wasn’t until I did the Lapras Pokemon card shot, that I had an idea I wanted to do that was worthy enough to be selected for the project.
The Lapras Pokemon card shot is an important precursor to the Godzilla shot because it was the first time I worked with Jello in one of my photos. Jello was an interesting medium to work with because it has its own unique properties, and the process for making it and waiting for it to become Jello was a whole thing in itself. The Godzilla shot required a lot of Jello and a longer wait time because I essentially filled an entire fish tank full of it. I don’t remember exactly how many packs of Jello I bought for this, but it was quite a lot. I really questioned myself whether or not I wanted to do it, but my curiosity had the best of me– I really wanted to see how light looked through a Jello filled fish tank. I removed both shelves in my refrigerator and put the tank in before I put in the liquid– trying to carry a liquid filled fish tank is not a smart idea and I wouldn’t recommend it. I placed the figures in there and started pouring the mixture. Over and over and over, again, until it was filled to the brim. I wish I did a time-lapse video to show the whole process because it required a lot more time than I think it was worth. I essentially followed the instructions on the packaging to create a certain amount of Jello to make sure it would cure properly, which is why it took so long for me to transfer over the mixture in the largest container I had. I waited about 1 and a half days to make sure the Jello was completely ready to move out of the refrigerator and onto the table.
A while ago, I did a Godzilla shot where I filled a fish tank with water. The results weren’t great, and the water was too transparent. Looking back, it needed a cloudiness, something for the light to pass through. With that in mind, I really felt like Jello could help create the illusion that the Godzilla figure was in a deep body of water. I wired Godzilla around his waist and suspended him in the air by attaching it to a ruler, which was removed later once the Godzilla was support by the Jello it was submerged in. Furthermore, I removed the wire during post-production using Photoshop. In addition, I incorporated two small whale figurines made by Safari Ltd to make the Godzilla figure appear larger than it is. They also required wire, which I also removed in post.
Whenever I think about lighting my subject, I think about the light source in that setting. An easy way to blend the subject to a setting is to mimic a light source and place it in the position that makes sense. This shot was fairly simple because I figured the sun would be the light source and that would be the only light source in my scene. I placed a sheet of glass from my coffee table on top of the fish tank and then I placed my Aputure Amaran HR672 light on top of it. I was mostly interested to see how the figures looked lit through Jello.
Because of its opacity compared to water, the Jello provided a great illusion of depth, which I think worked for this shot. It complements the sense of depth I created with the posing of the tail as well. One thing that never fails to creep me out is the deep ocean and everything potentially in it. I hate the thought of floating out there on the surface knowing when I look down, I’m met with a chilling sense of insignificance as I look down into a dark, visibly unending pit of abyss. I wanted to be able to create that feeling with this shot. I’m not sure I have completely, but I think it hints at a deepness that is unsettling.
The air bubbles were done practically, but also by accident, initially. I used some Clorox wipes to clean the outside of the fish tank and discovered they created very small bubbles. Upon realizing it, I started dabbing it against the glass to create more bubbles to include in the shot.
Thanks for checking out the behind the scenes and process for my shot and thanks again to Jax for having me participate in his copycat challenge. It’s truly an honor! Now back to Jax.
Jax here again… Wow. mind blown. What an extremely impressive and brilliant setup! I should’ve known that Richee wouldn’t have done a simple foggy atmosphere setup but I never would have guessed the Jello thing. The Jello really sold that murky, deep ocean feel to the shot that I was not able to replicate. Adding overhead lighting to the Jello texture really gives it that much needed underwater opacity and “glow” that I could not accomplish with fog alone. What’s equally cool and impressive is the practical air bubbles effect using Clorox wipes. There’s no way in hell I would’ve guessed that as well, haha!
I hope you all enjoyed this post and, more importantly, learned something from it. I certainly did. I’m not sure that I’d go through the monumental challenge of filling up an entire fish tank with Jello but it’s these unique techniques that make Richee Chang a great artist and one of my favorite artists to follow. For more on Richee’s work, make sure you follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also purchase some of his work here: noserain.bigcartel.com