Commercial photographer and graphic designer Felix Hernandez has made an art form out of shooting miniature cars and models. We take a closer look at his process with some behind the scenes videos.
“When I was a kid I used to spend hours playing with my toys. Now that I’m a ‘grown up,’ I’ve realized that I never stopped playing. The only difference is that now I have a camera in my hands.”
Meet Felix Hernandez, a commercial photographer and graphic designer based in Cancun, Mexico, whose photography has made quite a splash as of late. It’s deep, insightful, and particularly striking, all the more impressive given that his subjects are all miniature models. As a digital artist, his imagination remains at the forefront of his work, but it was only a few years ago when he decided to take his imagination to another level.
“As a kid, I remember creating epic environments and setting up a kind of weather or mood to match the scene in my head,” Felix continues. “Photography and digital art has opened new doors for me to bring alive those scenes. For me photography is not portraying what exists, but portraying what exists in me. The technical side is easy to apply, but the challenging part lies in the heart and mind. You must be childish, foolish and dreamy.”[Not a valid template]
As you can imagine though, the process is a meticulous and incredibly time-sensitive one: the basics of the above ‘Trip to me Inner Self’ image took two full days JUST to shoot, let alone edit. And while you might think each image starts with a model and a scenario that fits its culture, you’d be wrong. Felix needs to feel inspired before setting up his studio.
The steps needed for each image though rarely change. ‘Scale’ for instance remains of vital importance, especially when creating a strong sense of realism. From there, Felix uses a system called ‘Focus Stacking in which multiple shots are taken with focus on different elements in the same frame. These are then melded together at a later time to combine multiple depths of field for maximum sharpness. And I have a headache just thinking about the logistics of all that. Then there’s the lighting, difficult enough at the best of times but a teeth-gnashing experience when reduced for scale: imagine using a 24-105 lens but angling two to three studio lights on a door handle no bigger than a hangnail to avoid shadows. The mind boggles…
From there, it’s time to create The Scene. Certain shots require an actual backdrop to be built – like ‘The Wardrobe’ above – while others are superimposed into the backdrop. Each background works in tandem with either a snow, sand or soaking wet ‘atmosphere’, each represented by wheat or corn flour, and even smoke or butane gas. And once again, scale proves a potential spanner in the miniature works: spray too much water during a ‘rain’ scene for instance and the finer details of the subject are washed out completely; use too much corn syrup to emphasise the droplets of rain, and said droplets – when scaled up – could be the size of basketballs. It’s a maddening game of trial and error, one that could make or break the final stage:
“Post-production gives the final punch to your image,” Felix explains. “I tend to insert images into the background, elements that complement the storytelling. There is no recipe for adding a sense of realism to your ideas, but the possibilities are endless.”
The results speak for themselves though, and after days and days of work in Photoshop, Felix will finally unveil the image so clear in his imagination. It’s a process that’s long, technical and exhausting – as this behind the scenes video for the FIAT 500 ‘Love Car’ demonstrates – but it’s one that’s simultaneously put the Cancun native on the map.
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*Shots courtesy of Hernandez Dreamphography. Hat tip to Good Light!