Creating Steam Circus

This was one of my first composites, which I recently remade to use the skills I’ve picked up in the past couple of years for the technical bits. I learned a lot in the process, reviewing the project with the clarity of hindsight.

The shoot took place at Watchet’s Paper Mill site, before its redevelopment – I wanted a location that was run down and derelict looking. I posted my request in a local facebook group, and am very grateful to the people who helped make it happen!

One of my favourite photos, the low angle and wide angle distortion of the lens (taken at 15mm) enlarges the front of the bike so it feels like it’s coming out of the frame. The bike was actually quite small, but this lens adds more badass!

I’d taken a shot of the old engine room in the paper mill as a potential fake background – it was so cool! I didn’t want to take the model inside for the shot as it was full of bird poop (!) and didn’t feel safe. I always take extra shots I think might be useful as textures or elements, or if I just like the look of something.

I previously used the ‘wizard’ selection tool for masking but have since switched to Pen Tool. It takes some time to master it, but the results are worth it. Not only are the results better, but once mastered it can be faster for dealing with images that aren’t perfectly set up for compositing.
The photo was taken in shade in flat lighting. The background I wanted to match it to was taken earlier in the day with large light sources on each side, so I added two lighting filters. The image is also too blue, you can see the sky is strongly reflected in the goggles.
I adjusted the white balance to correct the blue early evening outdoors tone. The goggles still reflect the blue sky, but my focus is on skin tone, and the front of the bike looks better too.
As the background image wasn’t framed to include foreground, the foreground from the bike photo needed to be re-added with masking. The background was adjusted for levels, white balance, added noise, and a small amount of blur.
The steam effects were added using Fog Overlays (by Paper Farms) that are included with the Affinity Photo 1.9 update. They help to unify the image by having a common element in front of and behind the top layer of the bike.
I corrected the distortion to her face, caused by the wide angle of the lens, using Liquify. The rest is colour grading, with some dodge and burn, to try and give the image a warm retro rusty look.

Finally the typeface is added. Fonts are a whole other rabbit hole of expertise, with specific terminology for each part of the font, guidelines around matching ‘font pairings’ and much more than you can imagine! I hope to create my own fonts eventually, but for now I collect some of the great fonts designers create, often kindly offered as freeware.

The title uses Nasty Regular, a font created by Eduardo Recife – I like it as I fancy it’s drawn in tendrils of steam, which I’ve emphasised with Outer Glow and 3D effect filters. His fonts are a favourite of mine. The Credit block is Steeltongs (by Tracertong), which has a variety of options for the credits I love playing with.

Re-doing a previous project was more valuable than I expected, not only in seeing how much I’ve learned since but also in thinking about how I would approach the shoot differently next time – thinking more about the story and concept of the poster before and during the shoot, to have a ‘story’ in mind right from the start.