Customer Stories – Making Worlds on A Tabletop with Felix Hernandez
From time to time, we have customers who are so excited about their rentals, that they end up tagging us in the photos and videos that they were able to create. And sometimes, we find some work that inspires us so much, that we have to highlight, through retweets, shares on social media, and every now and then, in Customer Stories here on this blog.
And this is one of those customer stories, showing off the incredible work of someone I’ve personally been a fan of for some years now, Felix Alejandro Hernández Rodríguez.
If you’re not familiar with Felix’s work, it’s something worth looking into, regardless of what your preferred genre of photography is. Describing what Felix does, is a challenge in its own right, but can best be described as stylistic environmental photography, but what shocks most is that it’s all done on a small table top.
Looking at some of his work above, it’s almost impossible to believe it’s done with scaled models and not the real thing. This effect comes with a plethora of challenges as well. One might expect that Felix uses macro lenses to achieve these results, but the challenge of such lenses is their shallow depth of field. To put simply, the closer you are to a 1:1 magnification of a macro lens (and beyond if you’re using something like the Canon 65mm MP-E, which gives you up to 5x magnification), the less depth of field you have to work with. So Felix doesn’t use Macro Lenses, as he tells us — “I do not use a Macro lens since what I want to achieve is an extended depth of field and have all the model in the frame.” Felix writes. “So I usually use the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, using the tilt-shift system to extend my depth of field. If the model is extremely small, I’ll focus stack, usually as many as 40-70 images for a final frame.”
Between focus stacking and light painting (on occasion), one might expect that the most significant hurdles in this kind of work are the technicals with gear, but it actually comes with set building. “The most complex thing is to replicate the landscapes. In this case the “sand”… which I think I have to still try some new things to achieve a better result.” Felix writes us.
And those set building techniques are perhaps what makes his work look so exceptional. Opting for a practical approach, Felix will take complex toys and scale models, and spend hours repainting them and building a scene to photograph. While Photoshop offers a lot of amazing tools that allow you to create scenes, Felix starts his basis in reality, and only uses post-production to do subtle enhancements. “A set build can take anywhere from a couple hours to a couple weeks, depending on if I have to build models, and how elaborate the set is.” Felix tells us.
Often finding his inspiration from his dreams, Felix Alejandro Hernández Rodríguez has been able to use his images to get the attention from major brands such as Audi, asking him to create full campaigns using his creativity and 1/45th scaled models of their vehicles. Campaigns that were able to highlight their vehicles in incredible locations, with the viewers having no idea that it was all created on a small tabletop in his garage.
As for gear, Felix was able to provide us with a modest list of what you would find in his camera bag. Using mostly the Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 5D Mark III for bodies, he will also pair them with the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II and Canon 24-105mm f/4L. For lights, he opts for a mixture of Bowen XMS500s and the PCB Einstein strobes, for their incredibly short flash duration. Paired with those lights is a large selection of modifiers, to help create soft, elegant light, without the need for precision that would be nearly impossible at this scale. Pairing all this to Capture One for tethering to his MacBook Pro, all that is left is an incredible amount of patience, attention to detail, and a strong inspiration and eye for what to create.
Special thanks to Felix Alejandro Hernández Rodríguez for taking the time to sit down with us and chat about his creative process, while filling us all with an incredible amount of inspiration. If you’re one of our customers creating incredible works of art and would like to be featured, please feel free to reach out. You can see more of Felix’s work on his website, and get full breakdowns with PSDs on his Behance site.
Author: Zach Sutton
I’m Zach and I’m the editor and a frequent writer here at Lensrentals.com. I’m also an editorial and portrait photographer in Los Angeles, CA, and offer educational workshops on photography and lighting all over North America.