Serendipitous Still Photographer

Jack Skellington in a hall meeting

Feature film productions traditionally hire a "Unit Still Photographer" whose job it is to shoot images for use in the promotion of a movie. Unintentionally and in a very different manner from the norm, I became the primary still photographer for The Nightmare Before Christmas. I was hired to be a character animator for the project; however, I just happened to be an avid 3-D stereo photographer who loved to capture amazing stop-motion setups in 3-D for my private collection. At the point when the movie was nearing completion, Disney publicity decided that they needed some compelling photos to promote the film and, incredibly, no one had been officially assigned to shoot the stills! Their only hope was to make an appeal to the crew for their personal pictures of the production. Surprisingly, they determined my stills were exactly what they needed. The publicity department had no interest in the 3-D aspect; however, the photos worked equally well in standard 2-D format. We reached an agreement and my pictures were used in the big pre-release promotional push of the film in 1993. I have to admit that it was highly gratifying to see so many of my photos published in several major magazines and newspapers as part of The Nightmare Before Christmas marketing strategy.

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The Red-Nosed Reindog

A dog that looks like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer with pretty elf

Behold the Red-Nosed Reindog, a rare creature from a remote mountain region near the North Pole! Okay, what you are actually looking at is a surreal photorealistic composite, which I created for the amusement of friends and family as this years Christmas card. I thought it would be fun to portray my daughter as an elf, and her dog as the iconic Rudolph. Being fairly adept at Photoshop magic, I combined a number of photographs to illustrate this imaginary scene.

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3-D Anaglyph Technique

I am often asked about my technique for creating the 3-D pictures on this site. This is a complex subject about which entire books have been written; however, here are the basics of the methods that I personally use.

Nimslo stereo four lens camera

Most of the images portrayed were captured by a Nikon Stereo Rig or the Nimslo 3D camera using film such as Kodachrome. I never perform any kind of "2D to 3D conversion" from a normal photograph because it lacks the presence and power of real stereo photography. While sounding exotic, the Nikon Stereo Rig is actually a conventional Nikon camera mounted on a sliding rail to allow horizontal movement. This method requires a tripod and a subject that does not move during photography. One shot is fired, the camera is racked over horizontally the appropriate distance for eye separation, then another shot is fired. All camera settings must be set manually to ensure consistency of exposure and focus resulting in two slides, one for each eye, known as a "stereo pair". For moving subjects such as people, I typically used the Nimslo, an unusual camera from the eighties that shoots four photos at once. The Nimslo's four lenses were originally designed to produce lenticular prints, but only the two outer pictures are utilized for classical stereo. The slides produced from these cameras can be viewed with special 3-D viewers or even projected in stereo with the right equipment.

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A look behind the scenes of art-making and other musings by .

fractal picture

See More Articles:

Howie and pumpkin from The Nightmare Before Christmas
Skellington Incident

Pillsbury doughboy baking a pie
Stop-Motion Doughboy

Aliens from Encounter movie
Making ENCOUNTER

mouse riding motorcycle
Stop-Motion Field Trip

nimslo camera
Anaglyph Technique

Frog as a knight
St. Frog and the Dragon

Mother and father Umblebum
Meet the Umblebums

Carrot puppets from Red Riding Hood and the Well Fed Wolf
Fairy Tale Surrealism

3 cavemen
Sculpting Cavemen

A reindog and elf
The Red-Nosed Reindog

Disney popsicles
Making Mickey's Parade

Freddy nightmare
Nightmares Made Real

tattooed lady
Tattoo Parlor Diorama

face of fire dancer
Painting RING OF FIRE

face of Night Scorp
Gigantic Scorpions

face of Night Scorp
Chroma Key Animation

bodybuilder Frank Zane posing
The Living Body as Sculpture

Man runs in a sewer movie set
Starting at the Bottom

Animated bottle cap character
Zippy the Cap

Stone Giant stop-motion puppet
The End of Dynamation

Candy on a boys face
Eye Candy

Dancing figures
Lucid Dream

Talking deer and moose hunting trophies
Wacky Trophy Heads

Handstanding figure over river valley
Making THE WANDERER

Portrait of man made of fruit
Creating a Fruit Man

Colorful mandala design
Mysterium Mandala

Portrait of Jack Skellington
Nightmare Still Photos

Spacecraft Wreckage
Spaceship Junkyard

Closeup of a robot
Making Models and Props pt. 1

Watch shaped like a mouse
Making Models and Props pt. 2

“Train
Making Models and Props pt. 3

“Face
Young Iguanodon

“ice
Lively Kisses

“shopping
Making Mall Mania

“powerful
Extreme Heroic Poses

“face
Earth Mother

“dog
Digital Dog Fight

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