I’ve been pushing around the idea of minimalist imagery to incorporate into my book…cleaner, simple and graphic compositions. This image evolved from an assignment I did a few years ago with a bird cage. I started sketching some ideas out and actually had the birdcage and background worked out in CG and basically sat staring at the rendered image trying to come up with what to do with it. Finally a moment of clarity struck and the idea of a cat locked in the birdcage by a bird who escapes, all be it with a bit of a struggle, to freedom through an open window came to mind. I would leave the details of the cat’s incarceration up to the viewer and use as few visual cues as possible to describe what took place… after all I was trying to be minimalist! I like to leave a bit of mystery in some of my work and a viewer may have an entirely different take on why the cat ended up in the cage. Everyone looks at imagery from different perspectives.
Since my cat, Harpo, is usually lurking about the garden finding the next victim of his serial mouse killing spree I decided to give it a go using him as the model. The thing about Harpo is he only has one eye. The poor little guy crawled home one night after apparently being hit by a car with a severely damaged eye which had to be removed surgically. After a short convalescence it was clear this small handicap would not thwart his innate ability to pounce on every small bird and mouse he could find and of course drag the bloody carnage back for our approval. Fortunately or maybe because of his missing eye I needed a profile shot of him. My wife Lisa and daughter Honey volunteered as cat wrangler and lighting assistant. Harpo is a bit grumpy…ok..a lot grumpy. We managed only six frames before it all went pear shaped and he disappeared over the garden fence which was fine as the demands of the brief were simple…profile of cat with eye line through window. I prefer it when possible to use natural light and set up in the back garden using the sunlight and one reflector. I’ve been shooting with a Sony A7r lately and have to say it is an amazing camera…more on that later. Lensing was a 35mm Zeiss f2.8.
The post work was pretty straight forward and the most tedious part was masking the cat. Cat fur is very delicate and the mask requires a bit of noodling about to get the right look. Once the cat was in the CG birdcage I adjusted the levels of the cat to match the background. Global color grading and a few licks with the dodge and burn too finished the project. Let me know what you think.