ad one of those flying dreams, the kind that we all have at one point or another. This one though, felt particularly special, and I felt the need to record it somehow. Words would have failed to capture how I felt, so I decided to illustrate it in a photo.
My photo turned out much better than I thought it would. What I thought was going to be an experiment in levitation photography turned out to be one of the best photo projects that I’ve ever done. (It’s also on Flickr)
An old man saw me editing this photo at Starbucks and took great interest in it since he was a pilot, and curious about anything that flew. He pointed to the photo on my screen and said, “May your spirit always soar like that”, which made me smile.
How I Did It
I wasn’t going to show anyone the un-edited photos to keep up the story that I was a flying superhero, but I’ve been asked “How did you do that?” too many times to keep it a secret. So here’s everything, step by step.This weekend I threw a ladder, chair, and some other odds and ends into the car, and went out scouting for a location for the shoot. I found a row of miserable looking warehouses in the industrial part of town, with no one around to bother me. I knew I found the right spot when I saw a wide open space in the back of a warehouse with the perfect grey backdrop to contrast with the yellow dress I was wearing.
Here’s the original, un-edited photo. Not so magical, is it? The thing I love about self-potraiture is that you can both direct and model exactly what you have in your head. On the other hand, you’re risking out-of-focus and out-of-frame photos, like this one.
I actually left the shoot feeling dejected, because I didn’t think I would get anything usable. But I did get just this one photo which was surely a stroke of luck, because it was the only photo in the entire batch that could have possibly worked. I tried all kinds of stupid things like jumping on couch cushions and balancing myself on a ladder.
First of all ,jumping on couch cushions is scary as hell, because there’s a good chance that you’ll either fall on the concrete, or land through the cushion cracks. This probably would have worked out better with a mattress or trampoline.
Second of all, it’s really hard to fake movement by balancing on different objects. It also doesn’t help that I’m completely out of shape. I ended up
balancing myself on a ladder, a chair, and a wine crate, while throwing my head upwards to get some movement in my hair.
And yes, I did look like a complete idiot in the warehouse parking lot.
There actually wasn’t too much photo trickery involved. Most of it was removing the supports underneath me. The ladder unfortunately covered up my foot, so I had to replace it with a
foot from another photo. The dress was flat where I took away the wine crate underneath my stomach, so I adjusted it so that it looked like it was flowing. I removed the remote in my hand that I used to take the picture, and exaggerated the arches in my back and neck to enunciate that “soaring” feeling.
CompositionI then started thinking about composition. How low did I want to be to the ground? Should the ground be tilted or flat? Should I be levitating, flying upwards, or falling? I finally decided to place myself in the middle of the frame, hovering over a flat ground. Simplicity is always best.
And finally, I edited the colors, which made the biggest difference of all. My goal was to alter the photo just enough so that it felt surreal, but didn’t feel overedited. I played with the levels to darken the photo, then balanced the colors so that I didn’t look like a ghost. I then desaturated the photo since my dress was a screaming yellow, and then applied a warm photo filter on top of it all to even things out.
Inspiration and Resources
If you like this photo, you should definitely check out work from Miss Aniela, who is queen of levitation photography and my inspiration.
Her photos aren’t done with a digital SLR, which really just goes to show that you don’t need fancy equipment to express your imagination.
Also check out Holger Pooten, a German photographer who does some great conceptual photography.
I Think I’m Still Dreaming
This post blew up unexpectedly. I received 33,464 hits on my this blog post so far, half of it from being on the Tumblr Radar (screenshot). It has also been re-posted on the Mule Design Blog. It was an exciting weekend, as much of it was spent reading all the great messages and comments that came in. Thank you so much, I loved them all.