A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse of Matthew Albanese’s Magical Miniature Worlds

We first featured photographer Matthew Albanese’s Strange Worlds project back in 2010, not too long after the project’s inception. His amazing images appear to show beautiful outdoor scenes, but were actually shot on a tabletop in his studio. He creates extremely detailed dioramas that take months to complete, and then uses various photographic techniques to make the scene look like the real world. It’s like the opposite of using tilt-shift lenses to turn the world into a miniature model.

While we shared some of his final works last time, this time we’re showing glimpses of how those photographs were made. Each final work will be preceded by one or more photographs showing a behind-the-scenes look of the same scene.

Fields, After the Storm

This model is simply made out of faux fur(fields), cotton (clouds) and sifted tile grout(mountains). The perspective is forced as in all of my images, and the lighting effect was created by simply shifting the white balance […] Faux Fur was used to create the texture of flowing waves of grain. The sunset was achieved by shifting the white balance with the addition of colored gels. Cotton, canvas and mixed light temperatures create a sunset.

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Tornado made of steel wool, cotton, ground parsley and moss

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Diorama made from wood, moss, yellow glitter, clear garbage bags, cooked sugar, scotch-brite pot scrubbers, bottle brushes, clipping from a bush in bloom (white flowers) clear thread, sand, tile grout (coloring), wire, paper and alternating yellow, red and orange party bulbs […] Most of the trees were suspended at different heights to enhance the destructive illusion of the fire.

The fire effect was created by beaming colored party bulbs through a clear garbage bag.

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Aurora Borealis

This one was made by photographing a beam of colored light against a black curtain to achieve the edge effect. The trees were composited from life (so far the only real life element in any of these images) The stars are simply strobe light through holes in cork board […] a cork-board with holes punched through it. Strobes were fired from behind to create bursts of starry light.

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25 pounds of sugar cooked at varying temperatures (hard crack & pulled sugar recipes) It’s basically made out of candy. salt, egg whites, corn syrup, cream of tartar, powdered sugar, blue food coloring, india ink & flour. Three days of cooking, and two weeks of building […] Each icicle was shaped and applied by hand. Dough was sculpted to look like a glacier ridge.

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DIY Paradise

Cotton, salt, cooked sugar, tin foil, feathers & canvas. Clouds are cotton balls shot from below through glass. The surface of the ocean made of cooked sugar poured on top of crinkled foil.

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Everything We Ever Were

It took two months to store up enough fireplace ash to create this lunar landscape. The darker rocks are made of mixed tile grout, flag crumpled paper & wire. The Earth is a video still projected onto the wall. Inspired by the Apollo 11 mission.

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Salt Water Falls

Model made out of glass, plexiglass, tile grout, moss, twigs, salt, painted canvas & dry ice. The waterfall was created from a time exposure of falling table salt.

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Breaking Point

Volcano made out of tile grout, cotton, phosphorous ink. this model volcano was illuminated from within by 6-60 watt light bulbs. The explosion of lava was sampled from a picture I took of fireworks (the only composited element).

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How to Breathe Underwater

Diorama made out of walnuts, poured and cast candle wax, wire, glitter, peanut shells, flock, plaster, wire, dyed starfish, compressed moss, jellybeans (anemones), sponges, wax coated seashells, toothpaste, clay, figs, feathers, Q-tips, nonpareils. Surface of the water was created using vinyl shower curtain, plexiglass and clear epoxy. The reflected sunlight effect was created using a video projector through fake fog. The white balance was set for tungsten allowing the sunlight to appear bright and clear while the strobes provided a deep blue shift in the fill light regions. The lens was covered with a piece of blue stretch wrap which created subtle distortions throughout the image. A total of 11 light sources were used including the projector.

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New Life #1 and New Life #2

Diorama made using painted parchment paper, thread, hand dyed ostrich feathers, carved chocolate, wire, raffia, masking tape, coffee, synthetic potting moss and cotton. Inside of the willow tree made mostly from thread and ostrich feathers. The tree took over two months of construction time. Cotton batting dyed green was used to prevent too much light from passing through during the shooting process.

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You can see Albanese’s entire collection of Strange Worlds photographs here, and many more behind-the-scenes photographs here and here.

Modeling My Worlds by Matthew Albanese [Behance via Feature Shoot via Fstoppers]

Image credits: Photographs by Matthew Albanese