I used to write about Murakami a lot, but then I stopped writing. These days I really want to write, but I feel like I'm lacking in some kind of creativity. That's bunk, obviously, and I chalk this up to apathy and the fear of sounding trite or something.
I even have trouble writing in a journal. That's probably the most irrational challenge that I have with writing, because a journal is personal, but I always worry about how much I might cringe when I mull over what I wrote if I ever read the entries again. So, no journal.
Anyway, here's a quotation that came to mind in the midst of missing my wife and reading Kafka on the Shore.
"It costs nothing to be civil to her. Did you work out what her 'pictures' are?"
"Some sort of family albums, I figured."
"I took her literally at first, too." Mrs. Sasaki speaks carefully, the way she does. "But I think she's talking about her memories." We watch her disappear in the shimmer. Cicadas wind up and down. "All we are is our memories."
—David Mitchell, number9dream
Mitchell's exposition is similar to that of Murakami's (Ryu or Haruki), and that's a good thing. These guys could make eating a sandwich in a quiet living room on a grey afternoon seem interesting.
A former student recently asked about endless walls, and since this knowledge is a good thing for every photographer to keep in their back pocket, I figured I'd make a quick how-to.
What's an endless wall?
Exactly what it sounds like - an endless wall is a backdrop that is positioned in such a way that it seems to, well, not end. It does end though, if you back out of frame far enough, as seen in the image below:
If I had to break it down into steps, the process of building an endless wall would go something like this:
1. Find flat, white, non-reflective roll of paper (I'm shooting on a Savage backdrop - the colour is Pure White)
2. Suspend from a backdrop rig (the one pictured is a Cameron rig). Although it looks fancy, a small rig can be made by simply running a string through the roll of paper and suspending it between two chairs.
3. Mitigate shadows. If you're going for a clean look in the background, you'll want to shoot an area behind your set up that's as clean and shadow-free as possible. In the photos above, I had to work with a gigantic window and multiple shadows behind me, so if you can shoot in a dark area, you're already doing well. So how to mitigate shadows? Fight them back with flash! In the the photos above, I have two speedlights positioned in front of my backdrop. The end result is what can be seen below (this has been leveled and edited in Photoshop/Lightroom):
A note on light positioning
This is not an easy process. Sometimes it may be, but you'll constantly be coming back to your set up to ask yourself if your lighting is right, and what would happen if you made some ever-so-slight tweaks. This is okay. If you find yourself coming away with dozens of test shots, that's fine.
Wash, rinse, repeat: Start with the two-point set up and reposition one of the lights around your subject. Take a test shot, and check out your photo. The shadows will gradually change and you can pick from the set up that jives well.
- More is good: In the photos above, note how long the backdrop is. This is a good thing, as I was able to account for any cropping space that I needed in post.
- This is a patience game: sometimes getting the ideal photo can be done with a single shot. Other times, it can take hours. Patience is essential (this can be said for any form of photography).
And that's it! An endless background in three easy steps. As always kids, don't forget to shoot in RAW (or RAW+jpg, if you gear allows). You'll thank yourself when you're working in post.
Any questions, leave 'em in the comments!
I really enjoy reading A Wild Sheep Chase. Even when the book starts to get a little unsettling in an I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it way (mystery mail has a way of doing that), Murakami's intensely subtle descriptions of ennui, food and cats keep the novel going in the same way that Gus Johnson could make a play-by-play of drying paint exciting.