Well, I suppose it happens to everybody at some point. I have found a line that I've decided I will not cross when it comes to making props. I was perusing Instructables, their Halloween section is awesome, and I found the most amazing conjoined mouse prop. The level of detail was absolutely astonishing so I took a look at how it was made. I'll tell you one thing right now, it's a damn good thing I'm not terribly squeamish because that prop was actually made with real mice. That's right, it's a prop that requires taxidermy (there's an Instructable for that, apparently). I still think it was an awesome idea but keeping dead mammals around has never really made sense to me. Insects and spiders don't bother me at all, neither do bones or various bodily fluids but there's something about having a stuffed once alive animal that I'm not terribly fond of. I'm not a big fan of cemeteries either; there's no way you can walk around in them without walking on someone and that's always seemed rather rude to me.
Long story short, I'm not sure I could bring myself to make anything that required me doing taxidermy so don't worry, I'm not going to be detailing adventures with mice. I did find an Instructable that I wanted to do and that would be feasible in the rapidly diminishing amount of time I have left. I found it by following a series of links, starting with Propnomicon and ending with She Creates Stuff. The lady at She Creates Stuff has a number of really good ideas and it makes me rather sad that she doesn't seem to be posting anymore. Her last post was 10 months ago so unless she's worse about keeping up than I am (which is possible) she may not be working on her blog anymore. I'll try to remember how disappointing it is to find an awesome blog and then find that a blogger isn't blogging anymore. Maybe it will help me stop being so freaking lazy. Anyway, on to the Instructable!!
The project is to make a picture that has eyes which follow you no matter where you stand. Pretty cool. I love photographic optical illusions. I already knew how to take pictures where the subject appeared to be watching those who looked at the photo. It's easy, if you want the following illusion in a painting whatever is to follow observers has to be pointed straight ahead. I saw a painting in a museum once that featured a cowboy on horseback and the muzzle of his gun was what followed observers, it was pretty trippy. It's the same for eyes. The trick if you're in a photo (or taking a picture of someone) and you want the eyes to follow the observer is to get the photographee to look directly at the camera lens. There really isn't much to it (and it's an amusing way to freak people out when they start looking over their photos). But this Instructable gave a different option. You don't have to use a picture where the subject is already positioned to complete the illusion, you can make normal portrait do the illusion with a bit of extra work.
For all the details check out the Instructable, I'm just going to tell you about what I did without all the extra instruction. As I'm going with the Mad Scientist theme this year, what better to use for portraits than actual and important scientists? A quick Google Image search turned up plenty of options for each scientist I looked up. Being a nerd and a scientist myself I had a hard time limiting who I used. In the end I mostly picked people that were important to microbiology and genetics plus a few favorites. I had wanted to do a bunch of these but in the end I was limited by how many frames I was able to get from my mom (5 matching frames pillaged from the old family photo wall) and then by a traitorous printer ink cartridge that gave out on me before I could do the 5th picture. That took me down to only being able to use 4 scientists which made me incredibly sad. There were a bunch of awesome people that I had to leave out and picking them was really hard.
Then I found out exactly how creepy it is to cut the eyes out of pictures of people you admire (it's part of how the illusion works). You get a sudden wave of understanding for the use of eyeless photos in horror movies. It takes a lot of precision to make cuts that don't totally disfigure the image which means giving it lots of attention. I now sincerely believe you would have to be seriously messed up to want to cut the eyes out of photographs for anything other than props. I equally believe that having some eyeless black and white photos around would make for some of the creepiest props ever and so I will probably have to do something like this again. I'll tell you right now I am not looking forward to it. While I am ridiculously paranoid I don't creep out easily. Gore and body parts have never bothered me, I've done enough dissections to know that, and it takes more than sudden startling movements to really make my skin crawl. Consequently haunted houses and scary movies are quite fun for me as I can take the time to study how they put everything together. The psychology behind fear is really interesting and the methods of exploiting it are more so. It takes something truly spectacular with a certain level of plausibility to really get to me and I absolutely adore the few films that have managed it. I tell you this not to boast or brag but rather so you understand the magnitude of the experience when I tell you that removing the eyes from Marie Curie and Nikola Tesla has got to be, by far, the most disturbing thing I've ever done. I'm honestly not sure I would have been OK with it had I not known that the portraits would once again have eyes for the illusion. It really is that freaky to do.
Once everything was cut out and layered the freaky factor went way down and the coolness factor went up quite a bit. I'm really happy with the end result which looks better in person. My camera does a good job with most things but this one was a bit hard for it.