Dan Mottaz  

 The Accused by Dan Mottaz

May 2023 - The Accused

May 2023 - Dan Mottaz


About the Image(s)

Taken at the Old Boise Penitentiary near where I live, this was a photo club field trip during the after-hours where we had the entire place to ourselves. I wanted a shot that was not the typical jail cell photo that most people associate with a prison. Therefore, I hoped to find a dank, depressing room that showed the passage of time along with a hint of the horrors that may have existed within its walls. I found such a room, as seen in the "Original", but I was not satisfied with the dead space of the back, white wall. For a few weeks, I thought about what I could do with this dilemma. I thought of compositing a man standing there silhouetted against the white wall, but that seemed too predictable and overdone. Then, I found an Elk within a series of shots I took in the Redwoods a year ago. It seemed interesting that the Elk was looking straight at the camera. So I placed it in the scene. After some size and color matching, I came to what you see here.

Shot on a Canon R5, Canon EF 11-14 lens at 11mm, 30 sec, f/14, ISO 1250. Heavy processing in PS to strip out most of the color and drive in lots of darkness. The original capture is a straight shot without any external lighting. The next shot was light painted. I used Blending Modes to get the desired feel and then blended the light painted shot over the straight shot and chose the right opacity level.

This round’s discussion is now closed!
5 comments posted

Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Hi Dan. Your images of the last couple of months definitely make me think I should be exploring more and trying different things. This one is again very interesting. I agree that the original is a little empty. But I have to admit I am not sure what to think of the elk in the prison. Without your story, I believe I would default to thinking it is about the facility being deserted and now overrun. But I don't know that that was really the intent, so again, not sure what to think.

On the technical side, something about the elk does not look quite right to me. I am curious - the room was shot at 11mm while the elk presumably at something a lot longer. Did you perspective correct the elk to 11mm before inserting? If so, I'd love to understand how you did that because I tried to do something like that once before and found it very, very challenging (never got things to look right). I also have a hard time really seeing the elk's eyes; I think it might help make it look more realistic if the eyes were more visible.

Otherwise the atmospherics you've created are amazing. I might have gone a cooler tone which to me adds to the bleakness, but that's personal taste.

I had the idea that an easier thing to "add", particularly given the ultra wide lens capture, would be light. So I played with that to come up with the attached. The thought here is that the prison is decayed enough there is a hole in the roof. I think the white wall in the back is too bright, but fixing it would require re-doing the sun rays and I was not up for that. Clearly could be a more carefully done version but you get the idea. Just a thought.

  Posted: 05/06/2023 09:32:54
Comment Image

Haru Nagasaki   Haru Nagasaki
Hi Dan,
My take is this is art. This art made me think and made me keep looking to understand what it is.
It triggered a lot of questions or doubts; "why Elk in the room", Is this Elk real", "what room is this", etc. as I see the image. I would imagine that it is a part of the strategy of art creators to make views think and appreciate.
For me, I found this interesting with mixture of unbalances, size, texture, mood, in relation to Elk vs room. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed it a lot.   Posted: 05/09/2023 21:41:15

Gloria Grandolini   Gloria Grandolini
Hi Dan, interesting image that definitely made me think too. The darkness and the distressed walls definitely project a sense of heaviness and of course knowing it was a penitentiary increases this feeling. So for me in a way the image by itself tells a story. I understand your point about the white wall in the back and how the eyes tend to go there. Still I am not convinced by the elk, maybe because it feels superimposed and with a different quality image. Robert's ray of light solution is intriguing and works for me - but it makes it a different image. Maybe adding some object that is more associated with a prison cell? although it could make it fall again into the more typical jail cell photo. Overall the image projects the feeling you are seeking, and as Haru says adding the elf makes into art.   Posted: 05/10/2023 11:25:28

Cheryl LaLonde   Cheryl LaLonde
Hi Dan
I love your creativity and how you always strive to create something that is different and not something anyone has seen before. This image made me wonder how the elk got there and why it was there etc. You definitely achieved an image that makes the viewer look and engage. I think it could work and I like the idea of something unusual like the elk in the room. You have the shadow correct for the elk but I do think the lighting in the room does not match the elk and this is why it feels a little off to the viewer. The ceiling of the room is very bright yet the body of the elk has only a streak of highlight. I think Robert is right about the eyes as well. With the elk looking at the light source they should be brighter and have a catch light perhaps. I have always found compositing very difficult especially when it comes to matching the light. I do love the idea and it definitely made me engage with this image.   Posted: 05/10/2023 14:19:48

Bob Wills   Bob Wills
Hi Dan. A dark image. I like composites, which is why I joined DD20. I went to Alcatraz in the eighties when stationed at Treasure Island. Not a big fan of prisons (or crime.) There are a lot of interesting features to look at in your image. The bottom of the image is too dark for me to enjoy and could be cropped. The elk is also dark. I might consider moving the elk to the left a bit or a horizontal flip. Excellent shadow work.
The elk would also be a good image to include as an original for us to see.   Posted: 05/14/2023 17:25:21
Comment Image