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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Colin Anderson: Visual Alchemy

Colin Anderson’s high-impact, hyperstylized imagery is proving that, with digital photography, the only limitation is your imagination

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Somewhere along the lines of sci-fi, action and adventure, Colin Anderson is as much a special-effects guru as he is a photographer. He has been working with Photoshop for more than a decade now, growing alongside the image-editing suite as it has matured. He’s also adept at a variety of other programs, which has given him a leg up in the 3D space. You can see the complicated breakdowns behind Anderson’s imagery at his blog, www.colinanderson1.wordpress.com.
The Back Story
Anderson thanks a somewhat solitary upbringing for immersing him in his own imagination. His family moved frequently, eventually taking him from Canada to Australia at the age of 14, so he didn’t have many close friends as a child. He’d often escape into his “own little world,” and so from a young age, he was always drawing and creating. School wasn’t much better for him. He had a terrible time academically until he became aware of an Australian Tertiary Orientation Program that was structured around art, which for him became “heaven.” The program prepared him for college at the same time that it taught him how to express himself, and afterwards, he was accepted into the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where he studied visual arts communication with a strong focus on advertising.

He began to explore photography as a career at this point, but after college, he discovered that, without experience, going pro was a difficult climb. So he followed his studies into work in the world of Aussie “Mad Men” as creative director for an ad firm. Anderson thanks his experience there for giving him a keen understanding of the process of creating and completing a campaign. More importantly, working as creative director gave him frequent opportunities to shoot many of the campaigns himself, and after becoming disillusioned with the business side of things, he was able to switch his focus, literally, into a career as a full-time photographer.

Around the same time, he was discovering Photoshop, and found that, as an early adopter of the program, he was quickly more proficient than 95 percent of the photographers in his area. This gave him a leg up as a commercial photographer.

“I knew instantly that PS was the future,” he says, “and nothing would be the same again. Mastering it would be my ticket to go where I wanted. I became instantly fascinated with it, and I started waking up at 3 a.m.—a habit I still can’t break—and worked until I had to go to work, did it all day at the agency, then went home and continued with it until I went to bed. Weekends and holidays I would do the same without exception—even Christmas morning I wouldn’t break.”

Putting Together A Story
A keen understanding of the image manipulation process is integral to the work of a photographer who immerses himself in fantasy, and while Photoshop gets a daily “hammering,” Anderson uses Adobe Illustrator and InDesign on occasion, as well. He often combines his photos with computer-generated elements, so he knows his way around a variety of programs that involve work in the 3D space, including Maxon’s Cinema 4D and Poser Pro from Smith Micro. For capture, he shoots with a Mamiya 645AFD II with a Leaf Aptus digital back. Leaf Capture 11 is his primary ingest software, and his main work machine is a Mac Pro Quad-Core Intel that runs an impressive 18 GB of RAM. He combines that with a 30-inch flat-panel Apple Cinema HD display, and his Wacom Cintiq 21UX interactive tablet is an ideal solution for Anderson’s background in drawing.

The time that it takes for him to create an image can vary by many factors. Sometimes Anderson needs to shoot specific parts of an image separately. When incorporating CG, then he also has to allow for matching lighting and perspective. So even if he may have part of the image that he needs already on file, he may need to go back and reshoot in order to make it match up.


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