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Rogue Taxidermist on the cover of the Philadelphia Weekly [Feb. 13th, 2013|07:46 am]
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[music |The Crying Game -- stuck in my head for some stupid reason]

On January 30th, I got an email from Philadelphia Weekly Editor Stephen Segal that said:


Beth Beverly is one of America's coolest, weirdest taxidermists and she's about to be recognized as such: AMC television is launching a taxidermy reality show called "Immortalized," and she's one of the stars. Tara's profile of her will go into the Feb. 13 issue of PW, the day before the show premieres. We'd like to do a cover shoot ASAP


Beth, he said, was shipping out the bulk of her creations in two days for a show somewhere and I needed to move quick. Beth is what they call a rogue taxidermist -- which sounded intriguing. While typical taxidermists tried to make dead animals look like live animals -- Beth made dead animals look like ... hats.

I'd had a brief flirtation with taxidermy as a child -- a family friend, Mr. Castle, was an avid animal stuffer and his house was filled with ravens and foxes and whatnots. My father assisted this fascination by bringing home a road kill raccoon he'd discovered on his way back from work one night and we had a go at it, using the American Boy's Handybook as a guide. My body-making skills were lacking and ultimately I ended up with a hide and a skull, eight pounds of left-over raccoon buried in the back yard and the basement smelling of this stuff called "butchers block" that's supposed to make dead animals smell ... not so bad.

read Tara Murtha's story here.

Beth is good -- not just as a taxidermist, but as an artist -- figuring out how a chicken looks like a hat and the other way around as well. All you have to do is look at her website to figure that out. She's also charming and fun and, it was her birthday.

I packed a bag with a Nikon d800, a 28-200, a 10.5mm fisheye, two flashes, a light stand, the small Photek Softlighter II (I think it's 32 inches), two pocket wizards and the Panasonic GX1 with a Leica 45mm 2.8. I'm increasingly interested in whether or not I can use the Panasonic for "serious" work since it's so small and convenient. My plan was to shoot with the Nikon and then quickly re-do a couple of the shots with the Panasonic so I could compare the work flow.

What ended up was that I used the Panasonic almost exclusively. I figured that since it was (sort of) about fashion, I'd shoot it like I was shooting a cover for a fashion magazine.




Clickenzee to Embiggen!



... that's with the Softlighter II with the baffle on it and a second flash down on the left aimed up -- if I'd had a voice activated light stand with me I likely would have had the second flash a bit higher -- maybe hip level -- but we did this all on such short notice I didn't have time to call any of my go-to's (Leah Cevoli, Yagathai, or J.R. Blackwell).

I was pretty sure I had it but I always try and do three different setups because, hey, when you do that, sometimes they splash your stuff all over the magazine instead of just on the cover. I did another set with Beth sitting at her workbench -- the room was lit by bright fluorescents (getting technical for a paragraph, feel free to skip ahead) I made these go away by setting the exposure high enough that they didn't show up but so that you could see that the light above her was on (probably 1/250 second at f 8 or so -- this took about three shots to get right -- maybe 10 seconds) and then added two flashes to light only what I wanted lit -- I used a small gridded spot to illuminate her face and her desk, and a light behind her and to camera left to give her and the work on her desk some rim light. Always thinking of the cover, I left room at the top.




Clickenzee to Embiggen!



On the way out I did a couple photos with the Nikon and the fisheye that showed more or less the whole studio and I did another with the 28mm that's more vertical. I think that's actually the one they used on the cover (I haven't seen it yet).




Clickenzee to Embiggen!!



I'm not sure what the takeaway from that is -- the Panasonic was fun to use -- though you can't use the Eye Level Finder if you're also using a Pocket Wizard, which is annoying, but the shot they picked was one I took with the big camera. This might mean that I should buy a wide angle for the Panasonic (12mm maybe) and a fisheye, or if I should just keep bringing the Big Bag of Gear. Reducing the size of your camera equipment means you can bring More Other Stuff -- like lighting modifiers, and it also means that you can travel faster by yourself and don't need anybody to haul gear for you.

EDIT: They did use one of the GX1 shots

Beth just posted this photo of her trying to burn her house down.




Clickenzee for Embiggened Goodness!!







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Comments:
[User Picture]From: lentower
2013-02-13 03:02 pm (UTC)

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hmmm, the kind of object'd'art i expect to find inside the Hotel McKittrick, set for Sleep No More in NYC
[User Picture]From: phanatic
2013-02-13 03:08 pm (UTC)

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I had exactly the same thought. Something in Banquo's office.
[User Picture]From: silveringridd
2013-02-13 04:04 pm (UTC)

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taxidermy freaks me out a little, but this is really creative.
[User Picture]From: ladycelia
2013-02-13 04:14 pm (UTC)

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She and Windy Lewis need to get together.

http://www.morbidtendencies.com/

ETA: Never mind, I see that Windy is going to be on the show, too.

Edited at 2013-02-13 04:15 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-13 05:55 pm (UTC)

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THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!! Who will win???
[User Picture]From: ladycelia
2013-02-13 06:36 pm (UTC)

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Well, I've got a large sculpture by Windy (http://www.morbidtendencies.com/mtgallery/art-zebra.jpg) , so there's a part of me that would like to see her win, but I'm really digging what Beth is doing here with the chicken hat. Tough call.
[User Picture]From: hoppytoad79
2013-02-13 08:13 pm (UTC)

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Your photographs, as always, are excellent.
[User Picture]From: herpdaddy
2013-02-13 09:15 pm (UTC)

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Thanks for the BTS!! And it's great that you were able to not just use the GX1 but show that in the end it really is the photo and not the camera. Plus I've been looking at the GX1 recently....hmmm... These turned out wonderful!
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-13 10:15 pm (UTC)

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i'm fairly happy with it so far. there are a couple things i'd ad (like i'd make the stupid eye level finder part of the camera and free up the hot shoe) but on the whole, it's nice and it's small and it gets results.

[User Picture]From: lostreality
2013-02-13 09:56 pm (UTC)

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omg I can't believe they actually decided to make the taxidermy show a real show...my husband was in some market research thing about that show like a year or two ago and we've been watching for it ever since...
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-02-13 10:15 pm (UTC)

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there you go.
[User Picture]From: maleghast
2013-02-14 08:29 am (UTC)

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You have the funnest job, mon ami... ;-)

I mean it, awesome stuff. Nodak one day, rogue taxidermy the next. I should have trusted my instincts when I left school and done my 10,000 hours...

(Not complaining, my adopted career making computers do my bidding is a lot of fun at the moment and it's doing a good job of supporting my fab little family too...)

I guess I wanted to say, thanks for continuing to let us look on in awe - if nothing else it's very inspiring :-)

All the best!
[User Picture]From: briansiano
2014-03-27 11:01 pm (UTC)

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Rokinon has a 12mm for the Panasonic due out this month, but it's mechanical focus-- good for me, not good for stills. Obviously, since you've let me borrow fast Panny lenses, I'd be glad to loan the Rokinon if they'd fucking GET IT INTO STORES SO I CAN BUY THE GODDAMNED THING.