Category Archives: The Quest – Awakening


Working on a personal project without the pressure of time can be actually a tricky task…

With the usual pace of working on a jobs to pay your bills the time is a luxury that most of us can’t afford.
In the times of “likes”, one click glimpse and content constant flow through your newsfeed we all experience the unnatural pressure to produce quickly more body of work. To shoot and shoot and shoot…

Whenever I work for myself, (especially then) time is the crucial factor.
My approach is to take my time. Relax and do whatever has to be done. Find people you really want to work with. Organise location and gear that you need. And when that all falls in the right places press the button and set the date.

You soon understand that you don’t have to do anything for anyone, you will have clear headspace but finding time can still be a challenge.
That is when people start cutting corners, trying to find the easiest way out. This is the moment when things can go wrong.

When I work on a bigger scale project I always take three important elements into consideration: The Scope, The Time and Money.

It is clear for most that the project with a big scope needs more budget to cover props, location, team etc. But it is not necessary clear for everyone that projects like that need relevant amount of time.
By affecting any of the above circles, like having not enough money, or time you will affect the common part of sets…

That common part to me represents a Life Span of your project.

I had a professor once who would say to a student during the project consultations that:
“…you had a month to prepare yet your proposal looks like you have spent on it 30 minutes last night. Therefore I can give you only 30 second of my time…”
I think that was fair game.

It is pretty much the same situation with your viewers, if you will cut corners while working on your project, people will notice that and will not spent their time to look and explore it, to understand it, to share it…
Your project life span will be rather short…

Don’t rush things!
If you have to wait, so be it. I am taking my time to develop the concept, to find more money, to work with great people.

Regular readers know that I have been working on Awakening for two years now and here is one of the reasons why it is taking so loooong…

In 2010 I was introduced to a very talented artist, designer extraordinaire and a really nice person Sophie de Oliveira Barata.
Sophie founded The Alternative Limb Project and she is designing prosthetics for amputees.
But not just limbs… her work is really special and recently you could read about her in WIRED .

Photo: Alex Lake via WIRED

We became friends instantly and since day one I knew that we will work together the problem was the time of course. We couldn’t match our calendars in 2011 and in 2012 she was overwhelmed with work for people from around the world coming for London Paralympics 2012. You could see Viktoria Modesta in Sophie’s Crystallised Leg during the Paralympics Closing Ceremony

So I had to wait…

In my second instalment you could see the concepts for the main character outfits. I needed Sophie to help me with the Helmet.

The concept for the helmet was done by talented Marek Okon who did this illustration and kindly let me use it as a base for the concept.

I have developed technical drawings for Sophie to take a look and in June when we finally had some free time on our hands (!) we pressed the button!

The model is no one else than the one and only Jay Jessop!
You have met her on our blog as a Bamboo Forest Warrior. Jay is a good sport and is always up for crazy concepts!

We went through many changes but I really love the effect and I think we did a great job on this one!
It was absolutely worth the wait all that time to get it right. I wanted to stay true to the original idea and just couldn’t accept a standard helmet replacement – it had to be special and I couldn’t make it happen in a short time, without special people around me!

The journey is as important as the final effect!

It was tiring but now we are ready to move on to the next element…
Stay tuned there is more to come!

Thanks for checking!

AWAKENING – PART III – Make It Happen vs Make It Real

AWAKENING – PART II – Building Your Team

AWAKENING – PART I – Finding Your Anchor Point

AWAKENING – PROLOGUE – Seeing beyond the obvious…


AWAKENING – PART III – Make It Happen vs Make It Real

I could do pretty much anything to pull off the concept and make the idea happen.
But at the same time it is really essential to me to make it as real as possible !

As usual it is all about the context.

We are working on-and-off, on the Awakening project for a while now and the whole idea is to make it “big” but on a budget.
At the moment we are scouting for a suitable after-fall / sci-fi looking location… in the London area..

Yeah I know…

Pretty much every single quirky property in London is already signed by one of the local/international agency and in most cases it costs a fortune to hire.
If we will take into consideration that we will need it for at least three days – one pre-light and two shooting days – we could easily look at a minimum £5K just for the place to shoot!

It is obviously a no-go so we have to improvise and find something as close as possible to the initial idea and then build a set within that space to create the look-and-feel we need.

This comparing to the above scenario could be really cost effective. If somehow we could get directly to for example care taker that will let us in for a couple hundred £££, it would be a win-win situation.

My goal would be to build and light the full set in front of a camera as I want to make it “real”!

Physical set gives you a few important elements.
– First of all you, your team, (and client) will have the complete scene to examine and work with. To frame the shots and find the best angles etc.
– Secondly it provides a solid grip for the models. They can interact with the set/props and act in a convincing way. It is especially important when working with inexperienced models, when it could be a real issue to improvise with hypothetical machinery and surrounding.
– Another very important if not the most important detail is the integrity of the whole illustration. When the set and the models character is well build, composed, lit and then photographed at the same time, no one can question your final piece and you will have a cohesive output.

So what is your option if for some reason (money, time, man power) you cannot build an extensive set or hire suitable location?

The answer to this could be a composite.
And you have a few options to approach that but unfortunately none are ideal.

– The most obvious solution is to photograph the “plates” for composites on the day and then separately shoot props, a few different locations and mix it with the actual scene. Then later in complex post production combine all elements into the illustration.

– You could build a bespoke miniature set and photograph that model with proper macro lenses to match the perspective and depth of field and combine that with your “plates”.

– Another way-out is to build the 3D CGI model and then set the digital camera view to match the rendering to your photographs.

All the above scenarios could overcome your initial problems but could easily create a few more in the process.
The most significant is that you would have to fix the frames and composition pretty much in advance. This might be OK for people used to working with a precise brief/storyboard from a client or art director but it leaves a very limited space to improvise with your models on the day.
It is one thing to have a sketch in the hand and another to deal with props and ten models on the day.

But the issue I am talking about here is more philosophical than technical.

It is about justifying the tools for the right work…

To me it feels quite reasonable to use the computer generated imaginary when you are battling a commercial project like Sci-fi photos or a movie about landscapes/machinery/species that never existed, but I don’t feel the same about less action packed motion pictures like dramas and love stories.

Take for example the recent two big Blockbusters – Pacific Rim and on the other side – The Great Gatsby.
I am not naive, after a few years in 3D visualisation market I have a good and clear picture what goes into today’s productions and that both the above movies will use CGI’s to pull off the impossible scenes.
You would expect anything from the first title, but I must say that I was a little surprised and maybe a bit shocked when I saw later how extensive the computer generated imaginary was in The Great Gatsby.

Check the VFX breakdown below:

It is a great piece of hard work of the many people involved, but I can’t help that in this case it’s a little bit of showing off and I must say it drove me away from the main story while watching. Of course it is just my opinion, my wife for example have no problem with that and says it gave this fairy tale look to the footage.

I could still argue, but what would be the point if it worked for many.

The point of these blog post is that your goal as a creator of the illustration or if some prefer “the artwork” should be to make your “art” as true to your viewer as possible.
It is all about the respect to other people, about the extra effort that not many can handle…

We will try to build our set as complex as possible and we will let you know where and why we have drawn the line between real and illusion.

To Be Continued……

Thanks for checking!

AWAKENING – PART II – Building Your Team

AWAKENING – PART I – Finding Your Anchor Point

AWAKENING – PROLOGUE – Seeing beyond the obvious…


AWAKENING – PART II – Building Your Team

And we are back with our Photo-Quest – the Awakening!
Recently slowed down because of the winter weather outside but in full speed at the moment and taking our prep work to another level.

Building your Team!

That stage is particularly important!

So, Is photography, a game for a lonely wolfs?
… well, maybe in some cases. But the kind we do definitely require an extra effort!

Let me picture it for you:

You might be a good photographer, really great! …but there are many great not only photographers but visionaries out there.
Exactly like sports athletes… and all of you are starting the same race.

You might be much better than anyone else on the track, so from the start you are leading the race… but after first 400meters all guys who you left behind are passing the baton to their team mates… and all of the sudden, now you are just trying to keep up…
After another 400m another switch and after that again…

The race is lost, even though there is still a great deal of honour in finishing eventually…

I think you know what I mean.
You can be really strong in what you do, but it is hell of a hard to lead the game which was set for a group.

The Team

My approach was to build a solid group of professionals that together can take on board a really complex conceptual work.

The size of our team depends on assignment, and almost any location shooting is “eating” the human resources really fast.
But no matter what the job might be – small or big scale – for the win we keep exactly the same core of the group on each assignment and increase the number of assistants if needed.

You might ask, why does it matter? MUA is a MUA and VAL is a VAL…

I would say that this is absolutely essential!

I treat the creative process like a great adventure… something like climbing another mountain…
When the Goal is set, it is the Journey what counts and how you will get to your destination point!

If your challenge is uncertain, you really want to explore it with the people that you easily communicate with, really trust and willing to clip to the same rope while hanging over the edge…

The Team make the difference but Consistency is gold!

Like a really good looking hand writing. Each team member has a significant role in keeping your hand writing i.e. the “look” of your work consistent.
Change one piece in that puzzle and you will have a different effect every time.

OK, that being said so, what is happening in Awakening

It is the time to let go a bit and hand out part of the tasks.
When the Storyboard is fixed, and we are starting work on the characters design, I like to brainstorm our options.

Each character carefully designed with a series of sketches which are now handed out to the team.
That part is a very specific to my workflow when working on personal project or with clients.

I really find the mood-boards misleading, especially on a very early stage – you are simply sending out too much information and the essential parts are getting lost in the ambient noise of selected images.

When sketches are done Katrina who is doing amazing things with hair and makeup and Sophie the costume designer will have some time to come up with their conclusions.
Summary of our thoughts is what we are going to present to the client before we go to another stage.

When all that is done, we can move on…

To Be Continued……


AWAKENING – PART II – Building Your Team

AWAKENING – PART I – Finding Your Anchor Point

AWAKENING – PROLOGUE – Seeing beyond the obvious…


AWAKENING – PART I – Finding Your Anchor Point


When working on a new concept, especially at the early stage I always look for something what will drive my idea, something that will provide ‘the Grip’, or what I call The Anchor Point.

It is not necessarily the most important part of the story, but it is a prominent enough element of the puzzle to give you a reference to work around it!

In some cases it might be your model, sometimes it is the location, but this time it is a prop – a part of our future set…

But let’s start where we left the Quest last time.

What we have managed to collect was a pile of pallets and a trampoline. Plus I’ve thrown in a few hard boards.

I know that it is not clear for you to see where we are going with this, and it’s because you haven’t seen the storyboard yet!

We will get to that too, but you don’t want to know the ending just yet… do you?

To build something, we had to dismantle all the elements…

… and this is how we made it happen.

This is what I had in mind:

… and that is what we came up with:

Obviously the pod is not finished yet. We will add more detail, but what we got is our ‘Anchor Point’!

Now when we have our central object – we know what size / kind of the space (indoor location) we need to find / prepare for the shoot.

From proportions and those references we can easily work out rest of the elements, look for props and move to another stage!

But more about that in the near future!

Please stay tuned, there is a lot more to come!



AWAKENING – PART I – Finding Your Anchor Point

AWAKENING – PROLOGUE – Seeing beyond the obvious…


AWAKENING – PROLOGUE – Seeing beyond the obvious…

I always have in my sketchbook a minimum of three complete storyboards to choose from for my personal work or to show to a potential clients.
This time I decided that we once again will try to take things to another level and instead on just working on location within the location potential – we are going to build the whole set!

The theme is a Sci-Fi and it is going to be my tribute to all those creative individuals like Stanley Kubrick, James Cameron, Jodorowsky & Gimenes, Mamoru Oshii or Enki Bilal who were for years feeding my brain with all those amazing Sci Fi stories…

So you think… “yeah, big budget…” but my point is that the great things happen from great ideas, not necessarily from big money… and you may be surprised that “TheTrial” was made with a very small budget…
I tell you this – clients love it when you can build stuff out of literally “nothing” with almost “no budget”!

In that moment when I am pressing the button and starting the creative process I see things differently and looking beyond the obvious… like in Wachowskis Brothers – Matrix…

And believe it or not – today we will start our Sci-Fi concept with a bunch of pallets and a garden trampoline that someone threw away and I found on my way home…
For most people they are rubbish for me it will become a main part of the whole photo-jigsaw! And I hope you will see that soon too ;-]

Please stay Tuned – More to come NEXT WEEK!
And feel free to hit us in the comment section to let us know WHAT YOU can actually see in the above photographs…

Remember > Free your mind… and the rest will follow !

Matrix: Seeing beyond the obvious…



Hi there,

I would like to thank everyone for such the great feedback on “TheTrial” concept shoot!
I wanted to let you know that if you think that we need some time to recover… I am more than happy to disappoint you Guys!

We are gearing up for my new SCI-FI concept – AWAKENING – and this time we have something Special for You!

We would like to take you on a Photographic QUEST and give you a sneak preview from start to finish!
You will have a chance to jump on board and be a part of making one of our biggest shoot to-date happen.

You will not only follow the whole process, but you are more than welcome to give us instant feedback and have an influence on the final effect!

Please subscribe to the Blog, and lets start THE PHOTO-QUEST together!

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