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Photography: Sakura Saber/Souji OkitaPhotography: Sakura Saber/Souji OkitaTutorial

EXkuroganeEXkurogane3 vuotta sitten
(Caution: Image-heavy post)
This month is a heavy month, and just a week after Artoria I’ve a second saber here, Aquamarine’s 1/7 Sakura Saber/Souji Okita, which I do not own the figure – but my cosplayer friend requested me to do a small batch of her photos and lent me her figure.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/01%20Souji%20PR1_zpsfc2gryqd.jpg

This article is in reference to this photo: PICTURE #1616749

It was crunch time – because I had to work on at least 2 projects simultenously (releasing Artoria in early September was an absolute must for me, to coincide with fall season), and since she travelled from far to deliver me the figure while attending a local convention (and will pick It up from me a few days later) I had a time limit to prepare things. It was down to almost the last day before I managed to get her photos done right.

As usual I’ve split the post into several sections below, but I kept it as brief as possible. Image heavy.

Ideas and Concept

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Hey, it’s SAKURA Saber. Let’s put her next to a Sakura tree. Except it wasn’t that simple. Yeah, you can have a tree there but I immediately recognized it would pose a problem with the framing of the shot later on because the pose of this figure is not that ideal to be placed together with a tree, but I kept it as an option nonetheless. So, after a tree, what’s next? What about the rest of the background?

The theme is unquestionably traditional Japanese, so you can go for a Japanese garden, on top of a Japanese bridge, the outskirts/areas of a shrine or a temple, or a traditional Japanese house.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/02%20deasou4_zpsngwwyahj.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/04%20deasou1_zpsumbbjbmi.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/05%20deasou2_zpshy8n7ufk.jpg

But what made me decide on a shrine was mainly influenced by looking at too many artworks of Touhou characters. There’s pixiv or sankakucomplex’s galleries for me to look for materials as reference.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/06%20d4ddf3fa82d49224aa082fa3adf680a9_zpslyephjhw.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/07%2026509f4e03ea9e40db52e07295c23a33_zpszwwothr3.jpg


Composition Planning

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One of the tough aspects of building props, is not knowing the exact size of the figure because it wasn’t on hand. 24cm tall for a dynamic pose like that, that’s a pretty big 1/7 scale. She could be 27cm tall when standing upright, not to mention Saber is quite a short character, about 153cm tall if not mistaken. I could only visualize her size and decide the dimension of my props from there, I did end up overdoing it a bit. The scale of my props felt like 1/6 in the end but that’s an acceptable narrow margin of error, considering Saber is bigger than the claimed 1/7 scale for sure.
Official photos are not a good example because they are product photos, it’s almost portrait-like where the subject must occupy a maximum amount of space in a photo.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/09%20plannsou2_zpsi75fbbvo.jpg

Saber’s dynamic pose made her more suited for a landscape orientation shot – empty space is needed on one side, to create a sense of movement.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/08%20plannsou_zpsjqdxbmz7.jpg

If Saber occupied most of the frame of the shot, there is no sense of movement. Leaving the area on the right side empty implies Saber dashed or evaded an attack by moving from the right to the left, so I want to do it landscape. Doing it landscape also means a larger background piece. And yes, I overdid it a bit – setup was huge, but overpreparation is always better than an undersized background where you end up having to crop your photos later on.

Another difficulty is directly related to Saber’s outfit which is in Aqua blue. That’s a difficult color to deal with, and opposing this color with a contrasting color is often a bad idea. Aqua blue can only be matched with green (or other shades of blue). A Japanese garden or forest might have been the better choice, but time constraint is a concern for me with this project, so I wanted to avoid spending too much time hunting for materials, and at the same time use materials im famliar with to avoid making mistakes due to inexperience.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/10%20aquamatch_zpsbv6qqujv.jpg

Traditional japanese architecture are definitely wood and beige/sand colored, which is quite a concern in this regard because it will not go well with aqua blue (it would have been a different matter if it was the pink version of Sakura Saber). But I took the risk anyway – with a plan B in the books, i.e. night version. Remember the Ryuudou Temple scenes in Fate Stay Night?

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/11%20ryuudou_zpsyr6dhnog.jpg


Building the Props

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It’s all styrofoam and polyfoam, but reinforced with some other materials which are mainly used on the more important flooring. Since the entrance to the shrine or temple will be raised above ground level, that makes the rear wall a bit less important compared to the flooring. Shrines are always raised from the ground when I checked on their architecture.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/12%20japanese_shrine_by_herbertrocha-d5biphd_zps4mfataxc.png

For the flooring, to be precise, the main walkway, I drew irregular ovoid to rectangular shapes with a marker on styrofoam first, then proceeded to create cavitations along the lines by melting it with a soldering tool. Yeap, do this outdoors, and wear a mask to protect yourself from the fumes during the melting process.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/13%2020160514_154853_zpsj5oqzjgt.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/14%2020160810_181411_zpsup9xzd00.jpg

After this, I glued a layer of tissue onto the surface of the styrofoam with PVA white glue, which Is left to harden. The main purpose is to hide or cover the styrofoam’s bubble-like texture as much as possible. Finally Plaster of Paris is mixed and used to cover the entire surface. Most importantly it needs to fill up the cavitations I made earlier – but just enough that it shouldn’t be higher than the main surface. The main surface has only a very thin layer of plaster on it, which is why the previous tissue step is important to create a slight difference in surface texture.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/15%20%20%2020160813_181940_zpsul8x8f7w.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/16%2020160815_161409_zps8pzemmeo.jpg

And then it’s all painting; that additional green shade was added simply to complement the aqua blue on Saber’s outfit, and give an impression of growth of moss on the stone’s surfaces.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/17%20%2020160815_164622_zps64aisbcj.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/18%20%2020160815_174009_zps9d8myzoo.jpg

For the raised ground, I built it up with styrofoam, and then sliced off the front portion at a slanted angle both by melting with a soldering too, and by slicing with blades. After that it went through the same process I did for the flooring – tissue + PVA, followed by Plaster of Paris.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/19%2020160810_183241_zpsqautramv.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/20%2020160813_130552_zpsdrhg0p4x.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/21%2020160813_132439_zpsabgyerri.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/22%2020160813_131549_zpsqgwhlocb.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/23%2020160813_173753_zpsyux5sjb3.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/24%2020160813_181314_zps0cxzm4ff.jpg

The grass patch with sakura-like petals scattered over it (albeit being way too fine, but I didn’t care) was purchased online.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/25%2020160813_212715_zpsbkrz5hfa.jpg

Stairs built from wooden blocks.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/27%2020160813_212052_zps2nvtqlhu.jpg

The lamp post and the lion statue is something I purchased, but I added battery-powered yellow LED units under each lamp post to light them up – important for night scenes to make the shot look extra attractive. The LED unit are the same ones used in gundam kits to light up their eyes and other parts.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/28%2020160817_111207_zpsrcsc1tuq.jpg

A local shop with these aquarium decors sold.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/29%2020160809_134822_zps1w0uu1o3.jpg

The rear walls are all styrofoam and polyfoam.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/30%2020160824_165758_zpsmg9fwevr.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/31%2020160824_202354_zpsppk1xkld.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/32%2020160824_202634_zpsvv6kmapn.jpg

The second walkway (and the wall next to it) here is kind of an unnecessary addition (as I mentioned earlier, I overdid it), because I was afraid that one single wall behind may not be big enough. If I used a wide angle lens that second will definitely be needed.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/33%2020160822_133700_zpsrjhuciir.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/34%20%2020160822_173804_zps2ax40yuq.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/34.5%2020160824_121439_zpserzfcrxj.jpg

But I still paid some attention to its details; when you scuff the surface of polyfoam and then dry-brush paint it, it looks like wood.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/35%2020160823_210603_zpsjelytd0k.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/36%2020160824_205646_zpsabbw21hg.jpg

I also used a wire mesh frame and glued wooden sticks on it for the main doors. It’s a lot of work for something that’s barely visible in the photos, but I wanted to reuse them for something else in the future so no effort is wasted.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/3%2020160813_151603_zpsm9mwvxbz.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/37%2020160813_151744_zpsftd1uigd.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/38%2020160813_162215_zpsv7sgw6en.jpg

Second door for the second wall.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/39%2020160822_142025_zpscdzl4tnb.jpg

The pillars intended to support a roof above the corrdor are woode rods with a styrofoam base covered in plaster/putty. They need to be strong because I might place my lamp(s) on top of the roof.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/40%2020160830_151554_zpsaujud1uf.jpg

This one sakura tree here, which I made halfway using very small flowers gluing them one by one to the branches, and then tested its usage in a sample photo. I immediately recognized it as a distraction and eyesore. It simply does not offer any connection nor support to the main subject (Saber) except complicating things and making a mess. I need more flowers too, along the entire branch for each branch, and that means more time needed.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/41%202016-08-31_12.45.13_zpso3ffx5is.jpg
http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/43%20DSC_0576R2_zpsuwyiw1a7.jpg

With this one disaster above shot I decided to drop the tree (keeping it for future projects). Yes, a disaster in my books. It also told me to switch to night scene, as initial suspicions became a real fact: aqua blue and brown does not match well.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/42%20%2020160830_225627_zpsofivb0vy.jpg

The bigger joke is how the Sakura “tree” looked like a plant amongst the huge rear walls behind. I could increase the tree’s height, but doing so meant you can’t see anything other than a trunk in Saber’s photos. Omitting the tree was the best decision. The tree would look good if a subject is standing on high ground, or has a simpler pose, but definitely not with this Saber figure.
Hence I waited for night time to come, and entered lighting mode.

[img=600x400] i363.photobucke...[/img]

The roof above the corridors, simply plain bocks of Styrofoam, actually play an important role in lighting – to create shadows. When you have moonlight shining in from the top, the corridors along the entrance are supposed to be dark because there is supposed to have a roof over the corridors. So it’s an important structure to keep the scene look as natural as possible. The strong wooden pillars as support also allow me to place lamps on it.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/45%20DSC_0613RR_zpsncvu0ccm.jpg


Lighting, Photography, and Post-Processing

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So, I have a key light coming in from the bottom left corner of this photo, quite subdued in intensity – to avoid making both saber and the photo itself to bright. It’s a night scene after all. Then there’s the overhead blue rim light playing the major role of the moonlight. And then lastly there’s a warm lamp behind the wall of the shrine, which is placed very far back and heavily diffused to keep the intensity down. What I wanted is a dim glow that looks like it came from candlelight, instead of from modern lamps. The two lamp posts have LEDs mounted underneath, but I was having some technical issues so I didn’t turn them on unless when necessary.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/46%20DSC_0613R_zpsietb56gc.jpg

Night scenes are relatively tricky stuff to pull off in general, both during the actual photography process itself, and in post-processing. The initial concern was Saber’s face wasn’t that “clear” despite an accurate focus, so I used the correction brush tool to work on her eyes, to make saber look extra dangerous. It’s just bumping the eyes’ exposure by half a stop and increasing the warm shift.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/47%20Image_zps0fnado88.jpg

Here’s a comparison between what I got straight out of camera (SOOC) and after post processing in Lightroom CC.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Souji%20Okita%20backdrop%20WIP/48%20comparesouji_zpstvmp8nzm.jpg

So that’s all with the double saber from me this month. Thank you for reading. =) Within this month I’ll be publishing a new set of tutorials in my FB page to mark the third year anniversary of EXkurogane as a figure photography.


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6,542 osumaa • 0 suosikki14 kommenttia

kommenttia14

haleysong3 vuotta sitten#14673345Where did you get those lions? :)

It was sold at Daiso in my hometown, home décor stuff apparently
3 vuotta sitten
Where did you get those lions? :)
3 vuotta sitten
maggie3 vuotta sitten#14673240I didn't mean to say I've never seen the lion before, I mean that I've never seen any sculptures placed on top of lanterns such as those.

Ah, yes they are usually not placed directly on lamp posts, but on a thick and high base.
That's because I usually make my decisions when arranging the items in my photos, in a way it results in a better-looking photo in terms of composition (how you frame a shot, and how the objects are distributed across the frame). If I placed the lamp post and the sculptures separately the distribution of objects will be a bit unsymmetrical in the resulting photo - on the left side, either the sculpture or the lamp post will be cropped off. Saber's pose is an action pose so you can't place her (the subject) exactly in the middle of a photo, it would violate the rules of thirds in photography. When it comes to photography of figures lighting and composition are the highest priority to me, which results in occasions where sometimes I have to violate a few real life logic in the process.
3 vuotta sitten
EXkurogane3 vuotta sitten#14673230The sculptures are actually some kind of deity shaped like a lion, whose duty is to protect a temple or a shrine. Guardians. It's more commonly seen at the entrance of Buddhist temples instead of Shinto shrines. As for the walkway, yes, it's not symmetrical, because i designed the entire setup without having the figure on hand, and misjudged the measurements a bit. So I ended up focusing on arranging things that make the photo look good in some way instead, ignoring the symmetry issue.

I didn't mean to say I've never seen the lion before, I mean that I've never seen any sculptures placed on top of lanterns such as those.
3 vuotta sitten
maggie3 vuotta sitten#14673222This is wonderful! The only thing that confuses me is the little sculptures on the lamps. I've never seen that before, and I was wondering if that was common in a series, or at some point in Asian culture? I've just never seen it in Japan per se, but I'm far from an expert.
Actually, the placement of the lamps, too. There is a loss of symmetry because one is on the grass and the other is on the walkway. You'd think both would be in the walkway or both on the grass?


The sculptures are actually some kind of deity shaped like a lion, whose duty is to protect a temple or a shrine. Guardians. It's more commonly seen at the entrance of Buddhist temples instead of Shinto shrines. As for the walkway, yes, it's not symmetrical, because i designed the entire setup without having the figure on hand, and misjudged the measurements a bit. So I ended up focusing on arranging things that make the photo look good in some way instead, ignoring the symmetry issue.
3 vuotta sitten
This is wonderful! The only thing that confuses me is the little sculptures on the lamps. I've never seen that before, and I was wondering if that was common in a series, or at some point in Asian culture? I've just never seen it in Japan per se, but I'm far from an expert. Googling the ishidoro, I don't see any images with other sculptures put on them.

Actually, the placement of the lamps, too. There is a loss of symmetry because one is on the grass and the other is on the walkway. You'd think both would be in the walkway or both on the grass?
3 vuotta sitten
So much work! So much creativity! Makes me feel both inspired and ashamed at my lack of motivation to actually make awesome displays like this.
3 vuotta sitten
Rajke Ca Fanatic
Really nice. I love the way you used the styrofoam.
Thanks for uploading. :D
3 vuotta sitten
EXkurogane3 vuotta sitten#14641859The tree can be modified, not an issue; the main issue, is how to frame the shot. If saber occupies a bigger area of the frame, you can't see much of the tree - you will only see the trunk and maybe a few lower branches. If i 'zoom out' Saber occupies too little of an area across the entire frame - regardless of whether the sakura tree is fully clear or blurred off - it looks like the tree is competing with saber for attention of the audience. If it was a figure with a simpler pose, or the figure is standing at higher ground, then it could work. For the case of Saber her pose and the tree's presence is kind of a mismatch - I've swapped between prime and wide angle lenses and it's the same issue despite having a different perspective to work on.

Yeah, showing only the trunk and lowest branches is something that came to my mind. However, I trust you on this, maybe you'll get it work in another shot. :)
3 vuotta sitten
Mekuneko3 vuotta sitten#14641604Woow! Nice job! ^_^
Saw a comment about the sakura: I think the sakura tree is bit silly because it's so small. If you get somekind of idea maybe using two tree parts: trunk and brances ( don't show where they connect) maybe that would work... The colors are cool, but there was something awkward about it.


Mekuneko3 vuotta sitten#14641604Woow! Nice job! ^_^
Saw a comment about the sakura: I think the sakura tree is bit silly because it's so small. If you get somekind of idea maybe using two tree parts: trunk and brances ( don't show where they connect) maybe that would work... The colors are cool, but there was something awkward about it.


The tree can be modified, not an issue; the main issue, is how to frame the shot. If saber occupies a bigger area of the frame, you can't see much of the tree - you will only see the trunk and maybe a few lower branches. If i 'zoom out' Saber occupies too little of an area across the entire frame - regardless of whether the sakura tree is fully clear or blurred off - it looks like the tree is competing with saber for attention of the audience. If it was a figure with a simpler pose, or the figure is standing at higher ground, then it could work. For the case of Saber her pose and the tree's presence is kind of a mismatch - I've swapped between prime and wide angle lenses and it's the same issue despite having a different perspective to work on.
3 vuotta sitten
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