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Brendan Seibel

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How to create special photo effects with a light stencil

Find out how a light stencil can put Bambi -- or anything else you can dream up -- in your photos.

Find out how a light stencil can put Bambi — or anything else you can dream up — in your pictures. Photo: Janelle Pietrzak

Photography is all about light, and photographers are all about light painting. There are many tricks to try, from isolating objects with incandescence outside the frame to shining light directly at the camera as in Janelle Pietrzak’s Bambi series, created using light stencils.

Creating this interesting analog photo effect doesn’t require any special equipment, just a detachable flash, some craft materials and a lot of imagination.

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Analog photo technique brings Bambi to life

Splicing a cute little animal into a photograph doesn’t take more than a few seconds for anybody with a copy of Photoshop.

But Colorado artist Janelle Pietrzak spends hours cutting light stencils with a razor blade, then uses a shoebox and long-exposure photography to bring Bambi and other cuddly creatures to life inside her home.

“If you look at my photographs there is fantasy world full of mythical creatures, floating orbs, ghosts and goddesses, all created by manipulating light,” Pietrzak tells Cult of Mac. “The catch is that I hardly use any Adobe Photoshop. What you see in the images is basically what I saw on the back of my camera.”

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Stumptown shooter stalks the sexy and the strange

Grab a camera when the zombies come. They won’t eat your brains — they’ll strike a pose.

It’s a trick photographer Luke Olsen learned when he was surrounded on the streets of his hometown. His shots from the Portland Zombie Walk showcase the lean and mean side of his stylish but macabre portraiture.

The organized chaos of events like the zombie walk offers comic relief from formal photography sessions filled with intricate lighting, staging and models. Any opportunity to capture inspired lunacy is technically practice, but Olsen gravitates toward flash mobs to cut loose with his camera-wielding compatriots. He’s thrown himself into the thick of SantaCon, the infamous alcohol-fueled rampage that grew from absurdist San Francisco street theater into a national headache. The moribund Portland Urban Iditarod, where teams of costumed runners dragged tricked-out shopping carts from bar to bar, has also been shutter fodder.

“It’s a great deal of fun to wander into a large event with a group of friends, shoot the event and reconvene later to see what everyone got,” says Olsen. “It’s like The Bang Bang Club, just 100 percent less deadly.”

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Kites trump drones for aerial-photography bliss

Go fly a kite. Marketing exec Pierre Lesage finds the practice relaxing after a busy week overseeing operations at eight hotels. It’s also perfect for shooting photos.

“Since the drones came out a few years ago, kite aerial photography lost interest for a few photographers that are just looking for photographic results,” says Lesage. “I am also looking for results but I need that poetic aspect of doing it with a kite, and as long as there is wind I never have problem with batteries.”

Quadcopters are a thrill but flying kites is the zen alternative — and the photographic results are postcard perfect. It’s a way to mix tinkering with fresh air and can be as easy as picking up a prefab rig or as complicated as diving into the world of schematics and solder.

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Survivalist gear reveals individual nature of fear

Everybody packs differently for the apocalypse.

Photographer Allison Stewart reveals the fears and foresight of survivalists in her photographs of bug-out bags, the emergency preparedness kits put together by individuals ready to flee an impending disaster. In her photo series Bug Out Bags, the contents of the grab-and-go bags get splayed out against a stark white background, showing the wide variety of items deemed necessary by the preppers.

Stewart, raised on the Gulf Coast under the annual threat of hurricanes, comes by her fascination with the subject naturally.

“When I lived in New Orleans, I was stuck in my house for four days without electricity or fresh water,” Stewart told Cult of Mac in an e-mail. “The water in my street was waist-deep and lapping at my front door. I was very thankful for my water supply, my transistor radio, and of course the wine supply.”

No two packs in her Bug Out Bags photo series are alike, a fact Stewart attributes to the individual nature of fear. One is loaded with forestry tools; another includes a gas mask; a third is stocked with canned food. While basements from Tornado Alley to the Ring of Fire hold stockpiles of emergency supplies, she found bug-out bags truly explore the unique psyches of their owners.

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Abandoned amusement park gives photog a wild ride

Kris Van de Sande’s distorted pictures of Dadipark, an abandoned Belgian amusement park, weren’t made under ideal circumstance, but they capture the distressed carnival atmosphere of the decaying attraction perfectly.

The look comes from a stroke of bad luck: While on a 2011 photographic pilgrimage to the modern ruins, Van de Sande’s gear crapped out and he was forced to make due with a loaner.

“I was limited very much with the equipment so I borrowed a fisheye lens,” he says over FaceTime from his home in Hasselt, Belgium. “I’m not a big fan of the fisheye thing but I tried to shoot as if it was just a wide-angle.”

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