Canon 550D ·Canon 55–250mm f/3.5-5.6 ·f/4
Mad Madrid
Tutorial by Alejandro Marcos
We all live on the verge, playing along the edges of existence. Every choice we make involves a risk, and we try to handle our emotions as we peer into the depths of the world around us.
Madrid is a city full of passion where old and new coexist. A woman sits on the ledge of the Senator Gran Vía 21 hotel rooftop, right in the center of Gran Vía Avenue. She looks down, taking time to make her choice. Is she going to jump? Or is she just enjoying the thrill of being there?

This image was not preplanned at all. It was instead the result of chance and some risk-taking. The model and I joined up to explore the city streets. We had a creative meeting beforehand — an interview to stimulate her right brain. Through her answers, I created a character based on her alter ego. She then developed her style with her own clothes and makeup.

This was an experiment where the model/actress was exploring different emotions portraying her character. I am also a filmmaker, so I helped by directing her. I used the surroundings to compose the image and convey the idea of what she was feeling at the moment.

"I did not even have to explain anything to her; we were both in some kind of creative trance as we rode the elevator to the top floor."

We were walking down the Gran Vía, a majestic avenue filled with people and tall buildings. I looked up and got the idea: we needed to get up there on the roof. I took her hand and we entered the impressive entrance of the big hotel building. I did not even have to explain anything to her; we were both in some kind of creative trance as we rode the elevator to the top floor.

"Even in the midst of creative enthusiasm, never get carried away and put people in dangerous situations."

The door leading out to the roof was open. To the right was the hotel pool, closed because it was autumn, and to the left we found the A/C air vents and a big balcony. Suddenly I saw the opportunity — a solid wall at the corner, about 5 feet high (150 cm). Directly below it was the terrace for the presidential suite. This was at the very edge of the building, so the model could sit here safely and create the illusion that there was nothing below her. It is very important to always put safety first. Even in the midst of creative enthusiasm, never get carried away and put people in dangerous situations.

We were getting into the mood, working almost in complete silence. I helped her to safely climb the ledge. Then I moved away from her and composed the image.

When I saw the photograph on my computer, I was struck by its powerful story and emotional impact. I decided to convert it to black and white, both to emphasize the dramatic moment and to focus the attention on the character without any distraction from colors and surrounding details.
Post Processing
The image was processed in Photoshop.

1) The post-processing was quite simple and intuitive, basically just using a Black & White adjustment layer in Photoshop.

2) The key concept was to create a vintage look and a dramatic expression. This required some contrast.

3) The details in the sky were suppressed to emphasize the skyline.

4) Using the Dodge and Burn tools in a very subtle way, I added more light on her face since it was a bit dark. This balanced the grey areas.

5) The same Dodge and Burn process was used for the street, reducing the contrast between the street and the cars to diminish distraction. Moving from the bottom of the image upward, the right two-thirds of the image goes from dark to light. This is reversed on the left side, balancing the composition.

The photograph shows the end of the avenue Callao Plaza, which is a landmark in Madrid. The architecture of the early twentieth century creates a powerful scenery for the shot. The character was vintage too — her tight, elegant dress, hairstyle and shoes blended with the surroundings, creating an old photograph effect that the viewer could instantly recognize as such.
I was born in Mexico and went to a prestigious college where I learned about important things, but forgot most of them. Friends and work taught me most of the relevant things in my life. I lived in different cities and worked for different famous and important people. Then I ended up in Madrid where I do my creative stuff. I have won a bunch of important and/or impressive awards for some of that stuff, but it only helps other people to justify paying for the job. I hope to continue doing my creative stuff for some time more, making new friends and expressing myself through art.
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