North by Northwest: A Movie Poster by Diana Lundin

I did a recent pet photography shoot with Sailor, a beautiful German Shepherd. I took lots of running shots of her. Gorgeous dog. And then... and then... well, as much as she looked great running in the park, I thought another running scene might capture part of her essence.

Yes, a Hitchcock movie. "North by Northwest." The vision of Cary Grant running as a biplane (I think it was a crop duster, no? It's been ages since I've seen it) chased him. In a cornfield. Somewhere Mt. Rushmore is involved. So I Googled "North by Northwest" and there are just tons of Cary Grant running. Hmmm. And then I saw a very graphical movie poster. It appears it was rereleased and a new poster was made. It looked easy enough. I had an afternoon to kill. And so that's when I attempted the poster.

Friends, when I tell you I didn't know what I was getting into when I started out, you can take that as the truth. It was far harder than I thought it was. 

I found a stock photo of Mt. Rushmore that looked like it would fit the bill. I found a tile floor that would work. And after that, it got complicated.

You see, in an earlier post, I told you I don't draw. Well, truth be told, I'm not a graphic artist, either. Every time I want to do something in Photoshop, I have to learn it. Which is actually great, I know enough about Photoshop to know when I can't do something and have to learn it because it is a really complex program. And I don't know that much about type. And the type on this poster has to have perspective. I actually found out what font was used in the poster and I happened to have that so that part was easy. But putting in that perspective. Yes, it was tricky since I rarely use perspective outside of straightening a few buildings here and there. 

And then I found a really hard way to make that red runway type thing. Turns out, once I finished making my first draft, I discovered a really easy way of doing that. Figures. 

Then I cut out Sailor. Usually, composites are photographed against a gray background. But the running dog was in a park so I had to cut her out there. That wasn't the worst part. The worse part was the crop duster. Now again, you'd think, a plane on white wouldn't be that difficult to cut out. Oh, but it was, it was. I had to leave Photoshop, which has the worst masking tool ever, and go to Topaz ReMask 5, my go-to program for complex cutouts. It does a great job. To do a great job, it takes a long time. But I did it. 

I had to fool around with making things fit so it's not exactly like the Cary Grant version. But I like it. Want to recreate a movie poster with your pet? Or even just you? Yes, I shoot people, too. 

Send an email to the Secret World's Secret Headquarters in suburban Los Angeles and let's create your world.

Lyle and Fiona at the Music Hall by Diana Lundin

In my secret world as a mild-mannered pet photographer, I photographed this "couple," Lyle and Fiona, as the mild-mannered Lyle and Fiona. Beautiful poodles, well-groomed, living the dream. Ah, but their owner had another dream. Once I began creating composites in my pet photography, she conjured up in her mind Lyle as a piano player, Fiona as a singer. And she asked me if I could do it. 

So in my mind, I envisioned Lyle in a tie and tails in front of a grand piano and Fiona in an evening gown. That's not what my client had in mind. Hers was a more gritty lounge or music hall. More downscale than upscale. And she thought Lyle should have a beret. 

Well, now I was starting to get the picture, different than it was in my head. And actually, the thought of trying to create Lyle in tails, besides his own tail, was pretty daunting for someone who does not draw. I repeat, I do not draw. I create worlds, yes, it's true, but they wouldn't exist if I had to draw them. Not even if I had to storyboard them. Not even with stick figures. 

We photographed the two of them in front of an unlit white background with one Profoto B2 with no modifier as the key light, and a Profoto B2 in an umbrella as the fill. My client envisioned Fiona maybe on the piano, stretched out, but that wasn't happening. We just couldn't make that work. So I had her stand and lay down and her image in this composite is a head from lying down and her body from standing up. 

Lyle -- Lyle, let's say, really wasn't interested. Now, these are big dogs and my client is a little woman and she was trying to prop him on an apple box so we could give the illusion he was tickling the ivories. We got one perfect picture. But guess what? In compositing, that's all you need. 

And so once I saw what I had, I began putting the composite together. There are 11 elements; a background, a tip jar, the money (which actually took five objects to put some scratch into the jar), a piano, a bench, Lyle, the beret, Fiona, a bow, a microphone, and a stand. And then a blitz of Photoshop magic. And voila! Lyle and Fiona, ready for their Summer Tour 2017.

And that's how it's done, son. Want one for yourself? Write me here at The Secret World's Secret Headquarters and let's dream something up. Who will your pet be?

Lyle and Fiona, World Tour 2017. Pet photography composite.

Lyle and Fiona, World Tour 2017. Pet photography composite.

Lost at Sea, the Series by Diana Lundin

So if you've been to this site, you've already been introduced to the dogs and cats, well, one cat, my cat, who appear to be lost at sea. Phoebe, the Frenchie, is in a crate on a placid sea, looking into the distance. Now my take on this one is she is looking at the coastline in front of her. She will be washed ashore and be saved. 

My friend didn't necessarily agree with my assessment. She says Frenchies can't swim and that she will drown. She said it made her cry. So the next one I created was of my tuxedo cat Kiwi. In this one, I had a helicopter ladder come down, showing that he was being rescued. 

And on the third (there is actually a fourth, which was really the first, but I don't consider it part of this series yet -- just the prototype of these), I had the Irish Border Collie and a Vizsla in the water BUT I also had a life preserver and a boat piloted by another dog coming in for the rescue.

So in my mind, rescue is the theme.

But my friend begged me to change Phoebe. Wanted a school of dolphins coming in to save her. I was resistant. I loved the melancholia. I loved the not knowing what will happen next (even though I know what would happen next because Phoebe is a rescue dog). Those are a couple of things that attract me to photography composites, the ability to create mood and mystery.

But it came down to one is not like the other... not good for a series. So to make my friend happy, I changed it. I found the solution that doesn't go against the original. Now you can see Phoebe is getting help. My friend said it's so beautiful, it made her cry again. It's subtle so it works for me. See if you can spot it.  

When you are ready to plan your own pet photography composite, I'm your photographer. I'm in Los Angeles. Call or write! 818.481.5214 or Let's create something amazing!



Shenanigans at the Thorne Miniature Rooms by Diana Lundin

Okay, this one doesn't have anything furry in it. Yes, it just has people. But here's what makes it fun. Last month, I went to Chicago and we visited the Art Institute of Chicago. One of my very favorite things there, and there were so many, it's fantastic, was the Thorne Miniature Rooms in the basement. 

One side has American interiors, the other side has European. Having just come back from trips to England and Ireland, I was especially interested in the European side. And of course I have a new composite involving pets that definitely involves an English setting. 

I didn't bring my camera to Chicago as it was really an excuse to see "Hamilton." But I did have my phone so I pressed it against the glass of the rooms (non-flash photography is allowed) and took several exposures of interesting rooms in the raw format. So when I came back home, I had sort of nice photos of these rooms. I say sort of nice because, hey, it's a museum with museum lighting so it's kind of dark. And dark generally means the images are going to be a bit noisy -- you know, digital grain.

I photographed the people more than two years ago for a Christmas card. They were all dressed up and because it was for a composite, it had already been photographed in mind for cutting them out. 

I assembled the image and voila! People in a miniature room. 

What do you think?

Together, we can create any world. Let's do it.

Harry Potter Composite: The Speed Edit by Diana Lundin

For a Christmas card, I photographed a family for the second year in a row to make a completely different composite, this time with three dogs as Harry Potter, Hermione, and Ron, and the three adults as villains. It turned out great, I loved it. My client said people were blown away by it. They went wild, for it. WILD. "I was told, 'We won Christmas,'" she said. So that's a good response, amirite?

But I decided to make one just for me, featuring the little pittie puppy Izzy as Harry. And this time, I created a "speed edit." First of all, you can see how perfect she looks with the glasses on and the wand in her mouth, looking straight on to me. She was that way for about three seconds. You gotta be quick, I'm telling you. Pulled out everything for that one.

But back to the speed edit. That's where you record your screen as you do whatever you're doing in Photoshop, and then speed it up so you don't go through all the monotony of getting all the details. This speed edit represents about 45 minutes and it looks pretty finished but I probably spent another two hours completing it. And it does not show cutting out Harry/Izzy, which is kind of time consuming in its own right. But completely worth it.

And then I went to Universal Studios to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I just had to slip in Hogwarts. And I changed the coloring again. 

So enjoy the speed edit and see some of what it takes to create a composite. This one is actually a pretty simple one. The one in the video shows just three images it took to make it. I've made for more complex ones before, ones that literally took days. But this one was fairly simple in compositing time.




Lost at Sea, the Border Collie Edition by Diana Lundin

I just came back from eight days in Ireland. I could go on and on... and quite possibly I will... but one of the things I loved about it was, okay, well everything. I loved everything. Ireland is spectacular. 

When we were just about finished with the trip, we went to Ross Castle, a restored tower castle in Killarney National Park. The grounds were beautiful. A boat house. Stone bridges. A lake with reeds. It was at this lake where I found a man and his tireless Border collie. He would throw a stick in, the dog would chase it, scamper over rocks and bring it back. And then she would bark until her guy would throw it in again. And again. And again. And again. Really, that dog wouldn't take a break. She kept barking until he threw it back in. 

Now when I make a composite, it generally is from a studio image. They are easier to cut out of the background. But here I had a wet, swimming dog. And if you've seen my work, well, I have a lot of Lost at Sea portraits. So I took her and composited her into a very stormy sea. I didn't even get rid of the water surrounding her, I simply changed the color of the lake to match the color of the ocean.

 I also had a wet Vizsla, also not a studio shot. But Vizslas have smooth fur and it made it easier to cut him out. His ear is flapping and I thought it would make it seem like it was windy.

And so that I give hope to the animals who are "lost at sea" -- really, they are all moments away from rescue -- I put another dog in a boat to come and save them AND I threw out a life preserver. These dogs are going to make it. 

So that's what I did when I came home from Ireland. Made a composite out of an Irish dog.

The Library, After Dark by Diana Lundin

I have another site with my main pet photography, Diana Lundin, and I've always called the digital art that this site is comprised of the "Storytelling Sessions" because I create these composites to tell a story. I love stories. Who doesn't, right? 

So today I created The Library, After Dark. I went way off on a tangent. Originally, I was going to create a book with a dog coming out of it. I thought it would be fun for this site. Well, you never know what's going to happen.

I found a stack of books. Stock art. And then I found a library. Nice, now I have a background. So I began browsing my huge library to find an animal that could be holding a book, reading a book, something. I found a cat. Perfect. But the top book on the stack of books was a closed book. So I found another small stack of old books and it was perfect, the top one is open. The cat is looking down as if reading and it looks like she is going to turn the page. Yes.

The library had a ladder. I found another cat, this one a Norwegian Forest Cat, who was looking up. Great. But she had to be looking up at something. So I kept browsing looking for another animal that's back was turned to the camera. Now this actually taught me something. In composite photography, there are no mistakes. I really needed a back to the camera for the animal to climb up the ladder. You don't generally take photos of an animal's back. That isn't something an owner is going to pay for. But it was the exact image I needed. 

And then to build the mystery, I found a little kitten. She's looking up at the cat on the stacks and, to make it even more mysterious, it appears as if she's at the entrance of a secret door. 

Now how's that for the Secret World of Pets?

Want to tell your pet's own story? Contact me, 818.481.5214 or just fill out my super easy contact form

Welcome to a Secret World of Pet Photography by Diana Lundin

Your pet has a story. A very interesting one, I'm sure. I'm here to tell it; you're here to make it up with me. 

Take a look around and get inspired by other stories. Your pet can be on the cover of a cheap pulp fiction novel, or underwater surrounded by treasure or sunken ships, or in the far reaches of outerspace. They can be a character from a favorite movie or television show.

Who am I? Briefly, I'm a Los Angeles pet photographer. I began branching out in 2015 to do a little digital art. Compositing, it's called. It was really hard. I never thought I'd learn it, it's that hard. But I began having little victories and before long, my phone began ringing with people asking me if I could do this or that. I always said yes. Then I sweated bullets. But we came up with a great images, me and my adventurous clients. 

Who are you? I'm guessing you're the type that loves, loves, loves your dog or cat. I'd venture to say, whether you're single, married, coupled, your furry friend is -- okay, I'm just going to say it -- your child. Yeah, mine are my children, too. I'm guessing you don't have children or if you do, they're in college or out on their own. But mostly, you're the type that wants something no one else has. Something completely different. Something wall worthy. Welcome.

The world is wide open. 

What story will your pet tell?

We can figure it out by you clicking on this link that goes directly to the Secret World's Secret Headquarters. Tell me what you want.