Inspiration: The Shapeshifter

Most probably you have seen this one before because it’s quite popular on the internet and also the Vimeo staff pick, but I thought it was nice to share this one with you nonetheless.

This short movie is called “The Shapeshifter” and it is made by a studio called Charlex (or CHRLX for short).

I think it’s an amazing video that touches on some aspects of what I do. It’s a surreal rendering of impossible but believable imagery. Done entirely in the digital domain, it looks photorealistic but in an hyperreal sense of the word. I think that in essence it contrasts ‘human progress’ (in the form of machines and technology) with nature. I don’t know if this is coincidental or by purpose but that is the way I see it and is also a strong recurring theme in my work.  It also has a dark dreamlike quality to it that it reminiscent of my work probably (but you might disagree).

Enjoy this video and let it drift into another plane of consciousness.

If you want to see behind the scene footage or more of this company have a look at:


The making of a commercial still part 7

Well this is it! The experiment is over……at last  I’ve finished my bottle.

My goal was to make a photorealistic image of a perfume bottle (that I have at home) just using an open source and freely available 3D program called Blender.  Not only should it be photorealistic, it was supposed to look glossy, like the ads you see in magazines.

It was quite a journey…

– First I made the wireframe of the bottle. This means that you have to draw the shape of the bottle.  Next I placed the virtual lights and gave the model its material (glass and plastic).

So far so good, but I wanted to add that ‘something extra’. I decided to add a water splash. This is very common in commercial photography, but alas, the water simulation in Blender was nice, but not realistic enough for my taste. Being reluctant to drop the water theme, I had to think of something different. So I placed the bottle in the middle of the ocean. Although it looked nice (at least that was what I thought), I was getting further away of the glossy magazine look. Also a bottle cannot stand upright in the sea, unless it has divine properties so to speak.

It didn’t make any sense, really. To make it worse,  I have to take a real photograph of the bottle so that I can compare the two images. There was no way I could replicate the photograph in real life (well I could, but I have to a photograph at full sea, at dawn with studio lights and  a platform just below sea level where I can put the bottle on).  Therefore I decided to go back to basic and created a virtual studio environment. I used a reflective surface and let the lighting do the trick. That’s it! You can see the result below. What do you think? Is it photorealistic?



















I also tried two freely available external render: “yafaray and Luxrender”. On their websites you can see some amazing images. I really I think they are promising render engines that integrate with Blender really well. But it’s not for me (just yet). They are both much slower than the Blender render engine (Cycles) and more difficult to set up. Luxrender was the most problematic.  Sometimes it rendered an image but sometimes it didn’t. A bit hit and mis. Probably it is something I am not doing right, but I still have to figure out what that might be.  I also found Yafaray too ‘techical’ to set up. I just want to hit the ‘render’ button and see the image appear, instead of setting up Photon maps and AA passes and what not. This is terminology a photographer doesn’t understand. Not really user friendly in my opninion. But hey it’s free and the results (when you got your chops down at least) are really terriffic, so I’m not complaining.

So what’s next? Well nothing really, this is it. I’ll make a real photograph in the future to see how it compares to the fake one, but that’s for another blog.

If you want to give it a go yourself, you can download Blender, Luxrender and Yafaray here:


See you next time…

The making of a commercial still part 5

Hello and welcome to part five of “the making of a commercial still”.

Last time I was really excited because I discovered a feature in Blender called “the fluid simulator”. I had seen a couple of demos and it looked really promising. I  envisioned the perfume bottle surrounded by all sorts of water splashes, giving it that really slick look.

So last week I fiddled with the settings and generated dozens of splashes. Big ones, small ones, a lot of drops, few drops etc. I’ve dropped all sorts of objects in virtual water, just to see what kind of effect it had. Actually what you do is, you make a small little animation (about one second) of an object hitting the water. The program calculates each frame, one by one. At the end you can select which frame you are going to use for the image still. This is a really time consuming process. To generate a high resolution splash, you have to let the computer render overnight.

And the results were… be really honest…..a little disappointing!

Although it generates all sorts of splashes, it doesn’t look realistic enough, to my taste.

I’ve included two photo’s so you can see for yourselves:







































I have set the fluid to act like water (oil is a possibility too), but it doesn’t look like water to me. It has a plastic, or glue-ish kinda feel to it. I don’t know what it is? Not only that, but it generates all sorts of weird artefacts. You can see in the upper picture that the small droplets have these black ‘things’ around them. Like there is some bug in the program.

Anyway, I don’t consider this to usable for realistic and commercial use.

So it’s back to the drawing board. First I have to think about how pimp this image in another way.

Next time you will see the results.

The making of a commercial still part 4

Welcome, this is part 4 in my so called experiment: “how to take a photograph without using a camera”.

I’m trying to find out if I am able to create a photorealistic commercial lifestyle still, only using an open source computer program called “Blender” that is freely available on the internet.

Last time I created the bottle and backdrop, placed the lights and did a test render. The results were so-so. I noticed that I had to recreate the model of the bottle, because it wasn’t accurate enough. I took a picture of the front and side of the bottle and loaded it into Blender as a backdrop. This way you can draw over the picture, almost like tracing paper, but in 3D, instead on a flat surface. So now I have the correct dimensions of the bottle, including the curvature and stuf. I know what you are thinking, “but you used a camera…”. Yeah but not take a picture. It was  more as an aid to help me ‘draw’ the bottle, almost like a modern Camera Obscura. Right? Okay okay, so I cheated a little. Don’t tell anyone;-)

You can see the results of the new model in the following wireframe:


















And here’s the low-res image:


As you can see, I’ve placed the bottle on a wavy reflective surface. It gives more of that ‘sheen’ you see a lot of in commercial photography. Furthermore, the backdrop consist of a blue-ish diffuse reflective material. I think this will give a nice contrast with the pink/ orange letters on the bottle (that I haven’t placed  there yet). But we’ll have to see if this works out, once I’ve put the fonts in place.

I‘ve also set up the lights so that it outlines the black ‘fluid’ inside of the bottle and it gives the whole a sort of a glow. I have to tweak the lights a bit so that the ‘glow’ is nice and uniform accros the image. The cap on the bottle is a bit of a challenge for me, though, because it’s just a black cube. There’s nothing in it. It’s got no depth. There are no  curves and it is pure black, so you get uninteresting…uh..well blackness. Even if you reflect a softbox in it, you’d still get a grey dull rectangular thing. I have to figure out how to make it somewhat more interesting. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

On the whole the image is getting where I want it to be. You can see where it is going, but still, there is something missing…… Perhaps the image needs a little bit more of a spectacle, but what? Oh by the way…did I tell you that Blender has got a fluid simulator? Yes a fluid simulator! Usually these things have to be purchased seperetaly for thousands of dollars, but not in Blender. You can create Tsunamis with these simulators, just like in Hollywood disaster movies

You see where I’m going with this? Next time, I’ll try give the fluid simulator a bit of a workout and see if I can use this in my image.


See you next time

Dreaming with the camera

The following is a post written by Rommert Boonstra, a Dutch photographer and poet. He is known to be the one of the founders of imaginative photography in the Netherlands.

The post below is written in Dutch.



Over de wereld doen twee geruchten de ronde. Het ene luidt dat het einde der tijden nabij is en het andere dat we een gouden toekomst tegemoet gaan.
Een gouden toekomst vol ondergang en verval zou misschien een goed compromis zijn.
Blijft de vraag- Is er vooruitgang? Of gaan we met bekwame spoed achteruit? Lopen we hard of lopen we dood?

Er zijn in de geschiedenis van de wereld 39 Ferrarari’s 250 GTO geproduceerd. Ze gaan een stuk sneller dan de strijdwagen waarin Ben Hur zich verplaatste. Dat zou vooruitgang kunnen zijn. Behalve als je door zo’n Ferrari op topsnelheid geschept wordt. Voor de paarden had je misschien nog weg kunnen springen.

Ik heb ook bij de plofkip naar positieve ontwikkelingen geïnformeerd, bij een depressieve wegsmeltend ijskap, bij de glorieus oprukkende Sahel woestijn en bij een geleerde die net duizelig uit de deeltjesversneller tevoorschijn kwam. De antwoorden waren zeer divers.

Het grote voordeel van ondergang en verval is in ieder geval dat ze heilzaam zijn voor de kunst. Zie het prachtige werk van Edgar Verhoeven. Het sombere en het hilarische gaan hand in hand. Als we ten onder gaan, dan gaan we in ieder geval vol vrolijke verbazing ten onder.

If you are interested in Rommert Boonstra’s work, see the following link:


You’re a fake….part 2

Here are the results from last weeks’ Blog.

The question was if you could tell which images were photographed and which images were ‘ fake’ or computer generated images (CGI).

Well I’ve been cheating a little bit. Actually all images were generated by the computer and none of them were photographed! I’ve included some images that had an overtly processed look and included some that looked realistic (to me at least).

If you could tell that all the images were fake, you have to tell me how you did it….Some of those images are so convincing to me, that it opens op some philosophical discussions about the nature of reality.

There’s a saying: “the camera never lies”. The use of Photoshop has changed this perspective on how we look at photographs and the manipulation of photographs. But what if the photograph isn’t manipulated at all, but wasn’t taken in the first place? What does that say? I’ll save this discussion for another time.

But for now, I promised to tell you who made the computer generated images. And here’s the list:


Image 1:

Artist: “Abner”

Software: Blender/ Yafaray

Image 2:

Artist: Andrew Price

Software: Blender


Image 3:

artist: Hervé Steff

Software: Maxwell Render

Image 4:

Artist: “Sadaj72”

Software: Blender/ Luxrender

Image 5:

Artist: Dan Abrams

Software: Maxwell Render


Image 6:


Artist: Linus Schneider

Software: Maxwell Render


You’re a fake….

Lately I’ve been experimenting with 3D rendering and how to combine this with photography.

I use an open source program for my 3D experiments called  ‘Blender’. I have to say this is a really wonderful program. Although I cannot compare it to other professional 3D packages out there, because I haven’t used them, it’s a really powerful tool that can produce photo realistic images.

Photo realism you say? Well yes……if you are really good 3D rendering that is. This raises some philosophical questions, that I will discuss another other time, but for now I’d like to present you with a quiz. Can you determine which of these next five images are real photographs or are 3D renders? Which images are the fake photographs?  I will give you the answer next time, but for now:


Image 1:


Image 2:


Image 3:


Image 4:


Image 5:


Image 6:


If you know which images are real, post the answer in a comment below. Next week I’ll give you the answers and the people who made these images.