Friday, 2 August 2013

Butterfly Dreams


I got the idea for the butterfly dreams picture a couple of months ago, in early spring. I knew the perfect location for the shot, less than a hundred meters from where my mother lives. Unfortunately, the trees had no leaves, so I had to wait.

When my son and I visited my mother recently, I got the opportunity I had been waiting for.


My son and I went for a walk. When we got to the right spot, I checked the light and took a series of test pictures. It worked very well.


I needed clothes that matched the light, so I bought a pair of green trousers and a green t-shirt. Shooting at the right time of day was also important. I decided to shoot early in the evening. The sun was still up, but low in the sky. This provided me with the green color I wanted, soft shadows, and ambient light I could control with my camera settings.

I used two remote controlled flashes. Both had green gels to match the light filtered through the tree leaves. I put one of the flashes behind me, on my camera tripod, to provide a glowing edge, separating my body from the background.

The other flash I mounted on a Gorilla pod, a small tripod with flexible legs. I put the Gorilla pod in a tree to the left of the path. I wanted the flash to have the same direction as the sun.

Finally, I mounted the camera on a second Gorilla pod and put it on the ground. By putting the camera close to the ground, I ensured that my feet would be above the ground line. If the camera had been higher, the final picture would have looked as if I was standing on the ground.


After taking the shot of me, I removed all visible equipment, and took a background photo. The Gorilla pod in the tree provided a bit of extra brightness in the foreground.


I wanted a splash of light directly beneath me on the ground, so I took a third shot where I hold a flash and aim it down, towards the ground.


Combining the three images in Pixelmator was easy, just a matter of creating masks and painting out the parts I did not want. The picture above shows the first version of the image. I thought it looked a little bit boring, and there was no clue to why I was screaming and hovering in the air.

Originally I had considered adding a crackling energy field, but looking at the picture, I thought that would not fit very well, so I went for a softer glow and butterflies instead.

To get the glow, I duplicated the layer containing the picture of me, loaded a selection from the mask, disabled the mask, inverted the selection, and erased the background. I the used Pixelmator's Glow effect. I moved the Glow layer behind the layer of me.

I used three butterfly layers, each with butterflies of slightly different color and size. The butterfly is a brush from Pixelmator's built-in Nature set.


Finally, I played with the layer modes, changing the butterfly layers to Screen and Linear Dodge to get the effect I wanted. I also erased a few butterflies that were covering my mouth and eyes.

In all, a fun exercise. I will probably do more variations of this picture, just to try a few ideas out.