Driving about the city last week, I chanced upon these dead trees in a swamp not far from where I live. The swamp is slowly reclaiming areas around the wetlands that had been set aside as native bird habitat as a result of the earthquakes. The starkness of the bare trees against the sky seemed a likely site for a conceptual self portrait shoot.
Luckily the weather lately has been overcast and grey, perfect light for this kind of shoot. Unfortunately it has also been cold as well but I donned my Big Girl Panties and went out anyway!
First I put the dress on over my clothes with loose track pants that can easily be got on and off in the field. This scene was right next to a busy roundabout intersection, so plenty of potential bystanders.
Had a good wander around when I got there, looking for the best composition. There are grassy semi solid islands out in the swamp but didn’t look particularly safe to be wandering on to by myself. Instead, found an angle that allowed me to get in amongst the big grass tussocks on the edge of the swamp – yes my feet are filthy with mud and soaking wet at this point 🙂
Set up my tripod nice and level and got all the base shots. Having locked focus I then took the camera of and did a series of layers of shots up into the sky.
The actual process of shooting doesn’t take too long – its all in the preparation and finding the best spot. Soon I was home with a change of clothes and warm dry feet, slaving over the computer.
Lightroom does auto combining of multiple images into panorama scenes, so I took a chance and blended all the base images as a pano and it worked really well. Took that base into PS and then blended in the single frame with me in it. A bit of warping to line it up, and masking out a lot got the basis of the image sorted.
Feeling hopeful, I went into LR again and this time selected ALL the image for the top section and it did a pretty good job of blending them together. Output that file and then bought it into PS. A lot of warping and tweaking and masking then happened to blend the two layers, and the tree/sky layer needed a lot of brightness and contrast adjustment to tone it in.
Then desat the whole image and then add back colour in bits, the white of the dress, change the hair colour, and colour tone the whole image with many many subtle adjustment layers.
Finally add a vignette and some textures to finish it off.
This is my LARGEST file to date – blended from about 12 full sized files from my camera and over 11000 pixels on the longest side.
Click on the image for a larger version
I wanted to give it a desolate and solitary feel, with the starkness of the dead trees against the sky. Did I achieve that? What story does it tell you?