BTS | DEDPXL - The World Has Changed

What would happen if you were just minding your own business, picking up a few groceries and then suddenly abducted by aliens? Would you scream in horror? Faint? Or would you try to send your last terrestrial Instagram to show everyone the experience? I bet you'd get a ton of likes on that one!

Anyway, that's the subject for my submission for the DEDPXL assignment, The World Has Changed. DEDPXL is a photography education and community site from the mind and experience of Zack Arias. I've followed his work for several years and have regarded him as a pillar in the photographic community – not only for his style of photography, but for his willingness to educate. I've learned an incredible amount from Zack, and have the deepest gratitude for his approach to the craft.

The assignment dictated three elements to be included in the image: A news delivery device (tv, phone, newspaper, radio, etc), a human, and a spill of some sort. The last one threw me for a loop, as I can't stand messes. The photograph also needed to convey the action or result of the world changing. Sounded cool to me, so I started brainstorming right away. Well – I wouldn't call them brainstorms, as they were more like scattered showers. After going through several "serious" scenarios, I decided I wanted to keep my image light and on the fictional side. Thus, the alien abduction idea came into play.

Quick and dirty sketches of the scene. Storyboarding is a good way to solidify your idea.


Let's go with a Spielberg look – cinematic, fun, a bit foggy and atmospheric. 


Everything in the image was shot on the same day, in the same location and in about an hour's time.

With an alien abduction, the first thing you need is that shaft of light calling you to the mothership (the key light). A beauty dish with a grid boomed overhead works well for that. But you also need to keep some density in the foreground, so I introduced the fill light which was provided by the 60" shoot-through umbrella. It's a basic lighting setup, but efficient. 

Next, I needed the atmosphere. That was the hardest part. My first thought was to have the fog only be in the shaft of light. To see light, you need it to shine through particles. However, there was the ever subtle wind that messed that up completely. We tried funneling the smoke through the ladder using trash bags, but to no avail. Let's just make the whole scene foggy. I really started to like this look when the headlights on the Kia Soul illuminated the smoke around the car. To punch up the image, I used one more flash, and that's the light you see in the Soul, mimicking the the dome light.

The light setup is only one part of the image. You also need to direct your talent. Derek, my acrophobic friend was willing to suspend his fear and step on the first rung of the ladder. He totally fits the part. With his VistaVision t-shirt and scruffy appearance, he completely embodies the personality that I wanted for the photo. After running through a few reactions, I loved the "super nerding out, this is so cool, the guys won't believe me unless I take a photo" face that he gave. This is when the image came alive for me.

After the main image was solidly in the bag, what was left was the spill...oh the spill. I couldn't have been any luckier. I had my friend and coworker, James, drop the milk – and boy did he. With the Fuji x100s, there isn't a reliable burst, especially when dealing with Alienbee lights. One shot per drop.


Drop. Click. Meh. Reset. Drop. Click. Yeah. That's a wrap.


A video posted by Matthew Walton (@mrwalton) on

Beyond that, I shot a foundation frame for the sky, which was killer at the end of the shoot. The next step was post production. But instead of boring you with an explanation, here's a quick Instagram video, layer by layer.

I hope you enjoyed a little behind the scenes to what is, probably, my most in-depth image ever. Oh, and by the way, the groceries consisted of milk, chips...and instant potatoes ("This must mean something!").

I have to send a huge thank you to the guys that helped: Derek, James, Josh, Trey, Scott and Bo.

And thank you for reading!

If you have 10 seconds and would like to vote for my image in the contest, I'd very much appreciate it! Just click here!