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Behind the Scenes - Swimming with Roses
“But he that dares not grasp the thorn. Should never crave the rose." – Emily Bronte In early 2015, whilst experimenting with product photography techniques, I created what has now become known as the 'Hand Selfie'. The Hand Selfie is a reaction to the 'selfie' scourge that has taken over social media. I wanted to create a series of photographs of myself to post on SDDP's blog, The Iconophile, but I didn't want them to be repetitive, boring, and of my face. So the Hand Selfie was born. A chance to play with props, jewellery and numerous photographic techniques. This latest 'Behind the Scenes' takes a look at how I created 'Swimming with Roses'. So where to start. Well first you need the props and in this case, I selected some of my favourite rings and bracelets, and a rose. The rose was not as simple a task as it might first appear. For starters, I needed to slam the rose in to a tank of water approximately 100 times in order to ensure I got the perfect shot. A real rose would have broken to pieces long before that and so a trip to my local craft store unearthed these silk roses, perfect for the task.
Next I needed a sturdy tank, capable of containing at least 50 litres of water and strong enough to withstand whatever I threw at it. For this I purchased an aquarium. The aquarium had a black back and whilst this is perfect for many shots and I love shooting against black, in this instance I needed a white background in order to contrast the dark rose which became lost against the black background. I used white perspex sheets placed at the back of the tank and also on the bottom of the tank in order to reflect the light back on to the underside of the subject.
Technically it was a very difficult shot to capture requiring an enormous amount of lighting. This was vital as I needed to shoot with a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second in order to capture the moment of slamming my fist hard in to the water whilst clasping a rose with perfect clarity and sharpness. I experimented with various shutter speeds and anything slower than 1/1000 created motion blur. I couldn’t move my hand slowly in to the water as this would not create the authentic wave and bubbles that I required. Only a genuinely aggressive punch in to the water would create this and to capture that moment required speed. With the lighting constructed and the camera positioned and focused I set about shooting short bursts to capture multiple frames each time I forced my fist in to the water. I ended up shooting 490 separate frames in order to find the perfect image. The shoot was long and grueling, slamming one hand repeatedly in to the water whilst the other hand used a remote shutter release to fire off the shots. The retouching was equally grueling with a massive numbers of layers used to create the final image. The rich detail particularly in the hand was achieved using topaz Labs HDR software which draws out the tone in the darker and lighter areas and creates intense levels of contrast. And so we have the final image.