by J. Rae Chip

THIS POST HAS BEEN CHANGED / UPDATED AS OF MARCH 5, 2013. Portions have now been redacted.
The original has been archived as the same HTML code it came with. Given recent unethical activities by the person this was promoting, I had to change this to comply with the basic ethical codes of society.

Those who know me might be surprised to discover that I did a Christmas album this year. Needless to say, Christmas..... is not my niche. At. All. In fact, my artistic style and taste often clash with both social media, and Christmas.

It is for that reason precisely that I chose to do it.

Art is about expression of an emotion. Happiness is hard for me to uncover with film, so I mostly choose to convey the less-common (on social media anyway) portrayals anger, sadness, depression, deep anguish, and others of the like. For some, art is an expression of the emotion at the moment of the creation of the piece. That's not true for me. I decided I would try to put a bit of a lighter heart into this shoot.

Another reason for my album is because I don't often get to play with computer software for my photography. Most of my work is for the media, which has strict rules about software usage.  


"Throwing Star Snowflake" taken in my studio with model Christina Hill. This was the first conceptual idea I had for the album, and it was great to have Christina so interested in shooting it with me as a pseudo-trade. 

For this shot, I stayed true to my love of making fake blood, and I used some clay to hold the snowflake in her forehead. I then dripped the blood down her face. It was a simple shot, taken only with a single speed light so the shadow would be cast on the wall. 


"Until Death Do We Unite" taken in my studio with model Christina Hill again and her boyfriend, musician Roach Lucero. This was the second idea I had for this shoot, and it was great to have the idea while the model was still working with me. I recycled some Halloween props, the chains, for this shot, which was fun to do at Christmastime.

I used the same texture to blend with this shot as I used in the "snowflake" shot above.

The shot is back-lit, taken actually in front of the doorway into my studio with my strobe behind them and a speed light on the camera. This is my favorite high-key lighting style because it tends to print well on paper, something hard to do with some high key styles.


"Give a Zombie Dog a Bone," taken in my brother's guest bedroom with Scout the Dog. I originally had a different, much more gory idea planned for this shot, but gore is easy for me. Instead, I decided to use Photoshop to turn Scout into a zombie dog.

Photoshop was used to paint her eyes red (as opposed to people, who I typically have wearing contact lenses). Photoshop was also used to put the wound in her head and hip.

I decided after the image was finished that I wish I would have kept it more simple, with just her face and left off the sore on her back. I think if I'd have done that, it would have been more emotive and less comical.


"Santa's Slay," Borrego Springs, Calif. with model Tegan Loving.

After I shot with Christina, it became evident to me that models really wanted to have the opportunity to shoot with me (for some reason). I shot with Tegan, as the idea of an evil Santa appealed to her. Trades seem to be good for a business every once in a while, because the models will have your work in their portfolio, and your information handy, and they do send you customers who are looking to purchase a shoot (models, designers, show organizers, etc.) The blood was all painted into the shot after it was taken. Photoshop was used to make the scene more dramatic and graphic design-like than I would ordinarily create.

This image of Tegan was shot with my green screen and then put into a separate shot of an abandoned building in Borrego Springs, that is a bit more dangerous of a location than I would prefer to brave with a model. (It's next door to a house I suspect is owned by a drug and human trafficking headquarters). 


"Holiday Dessert in the Desert," Borrego Springs, Calif. starring Justin Papreck. My goal with this shot was to get away from shooting something that would contribute to my poor diet as of late, and shoot something that for sure nobody else would shoot. We didn't actually plan to shoot this, and it was more circumstantial of a random road trip and my warped sense of humor (and his and his wife's.)

This image is very heavily altered with computer software. It started as a real photo. I had Justin jump so he was oriented correctly with respect to the dinosaur statue. I used an infrared filter in Photoshop to get the tones right, and then I painted in all of the blood instead of mixing it in a jug and making a mess like I usually do. The Santa hat was added as a composite. 

This was probably my single most-Photoshopped image to date.


"Max from the Cartoon" taken in my studio. This image was made to be the antithesis of the gore in my album. In my family, it's always been a tradition to watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," the cartoon version. In fact, when I was little, I used to wear a pink dress and a little bow, and I looked just like Cindy Lou Who. So for me, there was no tradition more deserving of bastardization than "The Grinch." 

Cartoon work normally does not make an appearance in my portfolio. However, I am glad this one is in there. It doesn't really go with the rest of my work, but in a way it does go. After all, I made it. (Read more about your photography portfolio).

What I learned: Though no puppies were hurt in the production of the image, he did not like having that antler above his head. I had to have someone hold him and pet him until I was ready, then quickly back off so I could snap the shot, all the while telling the puppy it was okay and comforting him (like a child, which I don't shoot). I had to clone out the person's knee, a relatively-simple task with that backdrop. I then used software to add the snow and reins. 


"I'll Be Home for Christmas," Niland, Calif. was the only "straight out of camera" (SOOC) image I contributed, and actually it was a bit of an after-thought shot as I was leaving town. 

What I learned: While this image was being made, I discovered I wanted to shoot a stop too bright. Usually I shoot a stop too dark. The reason why I shot too bright was because I wanted the light to be better emphasized, and the green hues in the words came out much better. 

What I already knew: I love wandering around in abandoned places during the hours of key light. During certain hours of day, the golden hour (the hour before sunset) has always been the best for abandonment. I like it because the light comes in through the windows in a way that is relatively harsh.


"Shoe Ornaments," Slab City, Calif. This shot was also a bit of an after-thought, shot on my way out of town after the previous shot. I have a ton of photos of this tree, but all are taken with photojournalism style in mind.  (Slab City is a community of artists living in the desert of Imperial County, kind of like a permanent burning man. They are ascetics, not materialistic, and one of the most unique crowds of people you'll ever meet. I've always given Slab City good press, which is why I'm one of a few journalists they don't chase out of town.)

After having my beer with Richard, the owner of Richard's Bar, Pharmacy, and T-Shirt Shop, I decided I would shoot this tree from an artistic point of view, since it's always been one of the most creatively-decorated trees I could think of. 

I shot it at a time of day I would not ordinarily shoot it at (after blue hour), and I applied an infrared filter in Photoshop.


"Braiins Ribbon" a selfy shot on the road trip somewhere near Flagstaff, Ariz. 

Ordinarily I cringe at selective color. I think it's tacky, but in this particular case, I thought it was just perfect for the shot. So I learned how to erase the black and white filter over the ribbons in Photoshop. It took a very long time, and it was a very tedious task. I altered my own face in Photoshop. That was pretty fun, as I don't get to make myself look that ugly very often.

What I already knew: When shooting snow, I find it's best to shoot a bit too dark so that the snow isn't overexposed with the rest of the photo. I also used white lights, as opposed to tungsten or fluorescent lights.



Sam Breach
01/28/2013 2:01am

Great post J.Rae. Thanks for sharing all of this.

J. Rae (Author)
01/28/2013 2:29am

No problem Sam. Thanks for the comment, and good job on your submissions.

Matthieu Oostveen
01/28/2013 3:39am

Now where is that +1 button when you need it??
This is great stuff Jessica, just keep it coming...

J. Rae (Author)
02/03/2013 1:49pm

thanks Matthieu

Janice La Mere Hackney
01/28/2013 7:08am

My favorite is I'll be home for Christmas as well, there is just something about that tugs on me. Did you write the words or were they already there?

One day, I would like to visit Slab City :)

J. Rae (Author)
02/03/2013 1:50pm

Hi Janice - those words were already there. The image displayed is how I saw it when I took the photo. Thanks for stopping by, and you're welcome out here any time.

Mary Clark
01/28/2013 8:02am

I'm so thrilled you chose to post your work to the Hunt, and then to share them like this is simply icing on the cake! Your words really hit home for me. Stay true to yourself, it's the best way to be. I enjoyed them all... but my favorite is "I'll Be Home for Christmas" because it slammed me with an immediate emotional response.

Elizabeth Lund
01/28/2013 12:37pm

This was a fantastic piece to read and very informative Jessica! I loved all your shots and glad that you did enter this time and brought something different to the Hunt!
I loved your tradition and especially after your back story :)
I'll be home was another of my fav's because it hit me right in the gut!

Melissa Beagle
01/28/2013 10:11pm

Well said Jess. I like the way you laid out your approach to each shot and what you knew, and then learned for each one. To heck with critics! You brought your own perspective to the Hunt and it was a richer experience because of it. We are all here to learn, grow, and have fun. This doesn't mean all the shots need to be in the "Goodness and Light" category. :)

I am particularly fond of your Song, Ornament, and Dessert. And I'm glad to see the Santa one since I missed it the first time around. I hope you will come back around for another Hunt!

Jake Johnson
01/29/2013 10:26am

I was happy to see you enter this. Looking at all the usual subjects can get quite boring. I am also glad to see that you kept this pure JRay photography. Run with you heart and you will never be wrong.

J. Rae (Author)
02/03/2013 1:52pm

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting Jake. Glad it brought some spice to your views :)

Christopher Germano
01/29/2013 11:57pm

Thanks for posting the album and providing a backstory to each image. I applaud you for entering, stepping out of your confort zone, and staying true to yourself. One of the things I love about the scavenger hunt is that it can push people to try new things, if a person can take that chance and be happy with what they create, that's a great thing. For me that means more than winning.

J. Rae (Author)
02/03/2013 1:53pm

Hey Elizabeth, Mary, Melissa and Christopher =) Thanks for stopping in to comment and view. Greatly appreciated, my friends.

Christy Turner
02/15/2013 4:00pm

What an entirely novel and creative take on an list of Christmas items and traditions! I loved it all and I love the dark take on it.

The fact that you put so much into your explanations and work speaks much of your talent. I aspire to this.

Thanks for sharing. I was unfortunately blindsided during the holidays with a family emergency and thus didn't get a chance to "play" but hope to next time.

In awe..


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