It took him about 30 hours.
While Nelson photographer Blair Altman was working on composing his latest Instagram shot for the account Batman and Frank, he walked into Cloud Mountain Teahouse on Ward St. with his girlfriend Kamala Melzack and spotted a dainty little clay tea set.
“I looked at them and thought it would be really cool to find a miniature, one-sixth scale tea set and then do proper Japanese doors in the background and Batman could be having this tea ceremony kneeling on the ground,” Altman told the Star.
So he scoured eBay for a couple of hours looking for a tea set that would suit his purposes, eventually finding one that he deemed not quite perfect but good enough under the circumstances.
“It’s hard to find props that are the right scale and detailed enough that it doesn’t break the illusion and also doesn’t cost a ridiculous amount,” said Altman.
But a lot of the props, like the table and the Japanese doors, are carefully hand-crafted by himself and Melzack. And Altman acknowledges that it may seem a little ridiculous, the lengths they’ll go to create their latest Instagram images, but it’s just something he’s compelled to do.
“So then I mounted the origami cranes on copper wire, and the end photo was composed of seven shots that I layered on top of each other,” Altman said, explaining how he accomplished the illusion of the paper birds taking flight amidst the steam.
“I used a mustard bottle with a piece of tube and a straw, I filled the bottle from my smoke machine and bent it so I could squeeze the smoke out of the teapot.”
That’s because he wants, as much as he can, to do things practically rather than resorting to Photoshop.
“I’m not adding any fake elements. So in one of my other photos, when I have rain falling I’m actually there spraying a mist bottle and back-lighting the rain to get it looking right.”
And though the Selkirk digital media grad, who has also worked on the Kootenay TV show The LineUp, struggles to think of himself as an artist, he guesses that’s exactly what he’s become.
“I do stuff like branding for businesses around here and in Vancouver, and the odd video project here and there, but I never really thought about myself as artistic. I thought I would do something more technically minded, something like engineering.”
So now he’s throwing his attention into it. The Batman and Frank Instagram account has over 50 images, each of them as carefully crafted as the tea ceremony one, which is his current favourite.
“I never thought I’d do anything like this as more than a hobby, but now it’s turning into more of a hobby and the area I want to focus on is I’d like to be doing things that are out of the box and weird.”
And he figures Barman and Frank fits the bill.
“It’s nerdy on so many levels.”