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The 'Light' as an allegory

by Editor Peter Walmsley 
Published the 28th of April 2020

Aleksei Makarenok  has been kind enough to explain how he created his image which he has called ‘The Light’.
I chose this image partly because I wanted to use an example which was photo-realistic (in other words had a good balance between in-camera skills and post processing work), and for its ethereal atmosphere, particularly with the girl in the water.


'The Light' by Aleksei Makarenok


Firstly Aleksei, can you tell us a bit about this picture: what was the story you were trying to create?

All my works have a theme. This particular work ‘Light’ is an allegory, which means that it has a hidden meaning and a broader message about the real world. In this case, the girl represents youth and the water represents an imprecise path. The candles represent a desire to find the right way and their light represents virtuosity or goodness. The fog brings a sense of mystery and the unknown to the image and the colour palette is chosen to look more like a painting than a photograph.”

“The girl is looking to find her way in the haze of life. She is passing through the water of the unknown and the light will help her find the right path.”

After setting out the idea, Aleksei creates some sketches on paper and works out the stages of shooting. In this case, there were 8 stages
Preparing all the equipment
Preparing the model’s clothes
Choosing the makeup for the model
Choosing the location
Going to the location and discussing the concept with the model
Installing the lighting arrangement (reflector panels, not artificial lights)
Waiting for the evening light and then shooting
Post processing and additional creative input

Aleksei creates the costumes and accessories himself and all are handmade.
Typically these take 1-2 weeks.
He chose a model that he had worked with before – an important consideration in being able to interpret the vision, and the location had to have fairly still water minimal distractions. For this he chose a beach along the Jurmala coast in the Gulf of Riga in Latvia.

The next stage was to set the date, work out the schedule for the day and brief the model.
Aleksei needed soft light for which an evening shoot was best.
Filming took place in the water and the ripples in the water are real. The candles too were actually lit.

With the images safely captured in camera, its back to the studio to start the post processing.
Using a tablet, Aleksei draws on the image with a set of brushes in Photoshop to create the atmosphere that he sees in his head. This is entirely intuitive: he adds and subtracts as he goes along, using his experience of real painting with oils, all on a single layer.
There is no sky or background replacement: he uses what is there already.

He works with the colours and the textures, and the shadows and details that he would like to enhance but making sure that everything is realistic. This is true digital painting for which Aleksei has 3 guiding principles: careful selection of colour and tone; attention to detail; and use of atmosphere to convey his vision.

Aleksei says that he keeps going until it looks right.
“One day, you just understand that it is ready and the beauty of the girl calls to you. There are no rules: you have to tune in to the messages you are trying to draw out from the picture and that means tuning in to your own thoughts and feelings.”

With many thanks to Aleksei for allowing the 1x members to see into his approach.

Peter Walmsley 


Thank you for your attention to my work.....
Splendid work, Aleksei! Thanks for the insight and fine collaboration, my friend. Thanks to Peter too for leading this short interview. Stay safe and healthy ...