Dreaming of Flying

I h

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.

flying.png

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.

warehouses.jpg This weekend I threw a ladder, chair, and some other odds and ends into the car, and went out scouting for a location buy discount viagra 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.

fly.JPG

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.

contact-sheet.jpg

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.

Photoshop Trickery
edits.jpg

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

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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.

Composition
alternates.jpg I 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.

Coloring Processing

process-four.jpg

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.

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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.

I owe Matt Haughey, Coudal Partners, Cameron Moll, and Tumblr for the overnight success. I still must be dreaming.

132 Comments

Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. Brittany says:

    Such a great photo! I was hoping you were going to do a post on this. I never would have been able to do that, mainly because I’m hyper aware of people watching me so I’d be ultra paranoid doing it in the first place. Still, looks fantastic!

  2. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Brittany
    I know what you mean! I felt pretty self-conscious, but once you get into it, you completely forget where you are. I’m glad you like the post.

  3. Jenn says:

    I love this! Gorgeous photo :) and I love your yellow dress

  4. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Jenn
    Thanks, Jenn! You can’t see it, but the belt buckle has a wooden elephant on it. It’s my favorite.

  5. Min says:

    This looks awesome!

  6. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Min
    Thanks Min!

  7. Tom Lee says:

    Great job Paula! You have always had a taste for art that really provokes people’s (and for sure my) hearts. Really wanna see what else you come up with!

  8. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Tom Lee
    I know, that one turned out well, and now I’m tempted to do an entire series…

  9. Brittany says:

    You should do a whole series. I think this one is really successful and can only imagine a whole line of photos like this. I think its worth it.

  10. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Brittany
    Yeah, I think that would be cool! Maybe not another flying one, but the anti-gravity idea is really interesting to me.

  11. Paula, this is great. Looks like a lot of fun. It made me wonder if you’ve ever seen this site http://www.rookiemoms.com/turn-your-sleeping-baby-into-art/ (I’m guessing no because it’s a baby, but maybe because it’s so awesome!)

  12. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @RookieMom Heather
    Yes, I follow that site! The photos are genius. By the way, I saw your pics of kids Halloween costumes. It’s pretty much the only reason I want a kid – someone to make animal costumes for.

  13. imho thimc says:

    Fun!
    Your hair is being blown upward and to the back while gravity pulls your dress downward. Look at image IMG_2607.jpg The dress from that shot should have been sampled. Also your right foot that was added in post is a bit too small. Other than that it’s pretty convincing.

    Just a constructive (hopefully) critique.

  14. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    Interesting! Thanks.

  15. Dave says:

    You might also enjoy this 1960 photograph by Yves Klein, who did Photoshopping the old-fashioned way, with a double exposure.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bjacques/4794075893/

  16. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Dave
    Wow! I really love that photo; I haven’t seen it before. Thanks for sharing…I favorite-d it on Flickr to keep for inspiration.

  17. Lizzaayy says:

    This is amazing! i really love it! I wish i could do something as good and skilled as this. I do have a professional camera (passed down by my father), two in fact, but I’m not so special at photoshop. It’s photo’s like this i really love! well done. :)

  18. Hilary says:

    This is pretty cool, but I’m just confused as to how you managed to give yourself 8fingers the way you edited it..

  19. Mike says:

    Very nice tutorial and great photo. Love your website.

  20. kwan says:

    You might like this video:
    http://vimeo.com/15192383

  21. Gabbi says:

    what editing software do you use. I love photography but i can never seem to find a good editing software

  22. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Lizzaayy
    You should try it! You have all the right tools, and it’s really not all that difficult. It’s fun to experiment, anyway.

  23. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Hilary
    Eight fingers? I counted nine, but hey, close enough. ;)

  24. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Mike
    Thanks, Mike!

  25. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @kwan
    Whoa, that looks like so much fun. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Gabbi
    I recommend using Photoshop!

  27. Ru says:

    I don’t know about you, but why not use Flash and a quick shutter speed setting?

    I don’t know very much about photography, but I do know one thing that they make great levitation photos as well. And less hassle!

  28. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Ru
    I used quick shutter speed, but I didn’t use flash because there was already enough light outside. Hope that answers your question.

  29. Mike says:

    @Hilary
    I think you’re looking at the left and right hands combined…they’re lined up to the camera’s line of sight.

  30. Muin says:

    hum. what you did with the hair?

  31. Michael says:

    omg i’m doing it .

  32. Karen says:

    I just showed this to my Daughter…. she’s been mucking about with levitation photography; she’s only 15 and I think she’s got great potential :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lotography-photography/4757285087/in/set-72157624243952947/

  33. Divya says:

    That’s very inspiring!
    Not only the work and intellect that went into it, but the final product.
    It’s something that I’ve quasi-tried (http://nsc4.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d28m7u3), but now definitely work on.
    :)

  34. Divya says:

    @Divya
    *definitely want to work on

  35. Mona says:

    I am so gonna try this!
    i’ll probably fall into the ground … but thats ok

  36. Lara Elaine says:

    This looks amazing and fun. I love what the pilot said and even if I don’t try this or try this and fail I think I’ll keep that quote in mind(:

  37. Stephanie G says:

    This is an AMAZING photo, great work. I also enjoyed how you went step by step and explained the process in which you took to get to such and outstanding outcome, just in case anyone else would like to experiment. ^_^

  38. Karthik says:

    The whole feeling is quite wonderful and to capture that on frame is amazing! I will re-send this to my friend who is an avid photographer! cheers! :)

  39. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Muin
    I’ve been asked that question quite a bit. I didn’t use a fan; I just threw my head back at the right moment to get wind in my hair.

  40. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Michael
    DO IT! Not as hard as you think. Good luck!

  41. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Karen
    Great photo! Keep encouraging your daughter. A good imagination can take you far.

  42. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Divya
    I like your photo! It’s fun, isn’t it?

  43. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Mona
    Trust me, I fell on the ground SEVERAL times. It’s definitely ok!

  44. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Lara Elaine
    It’s a great quote…I like keeping it in mind, too.

  45. Amy says:

    I love this! Great job :3
    I definitely want to try something like this, seeing as how I’m going to be dressing up as Peter Pan for Halloween, but I’m not good enough with Photoshop to be able to make the adjustments to get rid of the supports and make it look how it should. Maybe I should practice with it until then XD

  46. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Stephanie G
    Thanks! I really didn’t think about writing about how I did it, but I was asked so many times that I just had to. Glad I did! There’s nothing better than getting comments about how others are going to go out and try it themselves.

  47. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Karthik
    Thanks for sharing my post!

  48. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Amy
    It’s not as hard as you think. I think a Peter Pan photo would be interesting. Good luck!

  49. Stephen says:

    I’d rather lie on my side upon the ground with a fan blowing towards my face and the camera on the roof … Then photo-manipulate the background. Blue tarp’ and you can fly anywhere !

  50. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Stephen
    I didn’t think about that, but that’s one way to do it!

  51. Shania says:

    This photo is wonderful i would of never thought of that its amazing :) Hope you do more as graet as this one. <3

  52. amelia says:

    thankyou! i did this thismorning, inspired! http://www.flickr.com/photos/ameliadowd/5048996843/

  53. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @amelia
    Those are awesome photos! I really like your other work, too. I added you on Flickr.

  54. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Shania
    I hope so too. It’s hard finding the time to do these things, but it’s so worthwhile.

  55. amelia says:

    THANKYOU :)

  56. Tiffany says:

    oh it’s no biggie, if you don’t mind i’ll make another copy and ship it to you(: but if you prefer a digital photo of it then that’s cool also(:

  57. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Tiffany
    A digital photo would be great. Thanks so much!

  58. KCP says:

    Thanks for sharing. It’s amazing! But how did you do the blown-away hairdo?

  59. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @KCP
    I answered this question earlier. Here you go.

  60. Esther says:

    I came upon your blog after searching for Yves Klein “Obsession de la levitation.” I thought you might be interested in looking at my videos. I am also very much interested in levitating and jumping.

  61. Esther says:

    Oops, here’s the link. http://vimeo.com/user4392576/videos
    Great photoshop job by the way!

  62. john says:

    Can I ask what remote you are using>

  63. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @john
    This is the remote I have: http://www.amazon.com/Canon-Wireless-Control-Digital-Cameras/dp/B00004WCIC/ref=sr_1_3?s=photo&ie=UTF8&qid=1288564958&sr=1-3

    It works great and the batteries last a long time. Hope that helps.

  64. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    @Esther
    Awesome videos! Thanks for sharing.

  65. Andressa says:

    omg, i looooooooove this! i want to do this too…
    congratulations!

  66. Mindyjessica says:

    That’s pretty amazing. I’m really glad you decided to share how you took this photo with us. (:

  67. AndyRed says:

    In the early hours of this morning, Christmas morning, I dreamt that I was flying, and on checking out dream analysis websites came across this webpage. It was really interesting to read how you made this dramatic photo, but for me it was more impressive was your single-mindedness and inventiveness! Merry Christmas, and keep flying!!!

  68. Augustinegeorge says:

    Thanks for the wonderful tutorial.Enjoyed it.

  69. Augustinegeorge says:

    Really enjoyed seeing the pictures behind the final image.You have taken a lot of trouble and seems to have enjoyed doing it..You make me smile..Click on.

  70. Michelle says:

    Great job Paula, the picture looks fantastic and full of mood.
    Also I highly recommend checking out this levitating photos blog http://yowayowacamera.com/

    P.S. I found your tutorial from this site… content hijackingggg
    http://www.freedigitalphotographytutorials.com/advanced-tutorials/photography-tricks-revealed-how-to-make-someone-levitate-or-fly/

    • Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

      Yes, there’s a lot of content hijacking – it’s almost unstoppable. I love that Yowa Yowa blog.

  71. Thanx a lot for your valuable tutorial. In indeed needs a heart to share a techno secret like this.
    I’ll take a try today only :-)

  72. Brittany says:

    How did you fix your dress to make it look like it was flowing? I’m working on my own levitation photo right now, but I need to do the same adjustment and don’t know how. Much appreciated, and amazing photo! :)

  73. mpie says:

    thank for your tutorial..

  74. noura says:

    what an awesome tricks those are <3 i love it..:*

  75. Helena says:

    Wonderful tutorial! Thank you so much! How do you make yourself look higher in the air than you actually are? x

    • Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

      I used the lasso tool to roughly cut myself out. I pasted that onto a different layer and moved it up. It helps that the background and lighting is consistent!

  76. dinda says:

    ok broooo

  77. nanda says:

    it’s very nice…
    thanks for information…

  78. Crystal says:

    Fantastic image and thank you for sharing the behind-the-scenes. Your commentary is humorous and really adds to the whole situation :)

  79. Fabien says:

    Thank you photoshop… It’s beautifull but this is not photography…

  80. AnkitaD says:

    Loved it! That was some decent photography, even without the editing.

    Also, I was thinking of using this photo on my blog.

  81. Ishrat says:

    I just read the post where you tried to explain how you adjusted your dress. I can’t understand how the lasso tool and clone stamp will get fix this problem. Did you use another pic of yourself where your dress was flowing properly and used that to adjust the problem of the main image. Same goes for the shoe. Did you use another picture where you had the feet posed in a similar? Sorry if my questions appear silly. I hope you can help me. Thank you in advance

    • Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

      I used the smudge tool to fix the dress, and used another image to fix the foot. I hope that answers your questions.

  82. Lindy says:

    I find it far easier to just jump up into the air and turn the picture sideways and crop off the floor.

  83. navet says:

    can i create some photo without editing?

    lifestyle jakarta

  84. merianne says:

    i’m quite impressed with this photo and the lengths you went through – all worth it!

  85. Birgit says:

    Thanks for this making of – it’s a true inspiration!

  86. Ravi says:

    Amazing!!!!!!!! Actually Very Magical and Inspiring!!!…. Used It Also…. Sorry Couldn’t Resist … But i have Credited You…Here
    http://ravidhindsa.deviantart.com/art/1-364860003?ga_submit_new=10%253A1365683593

  87. Glen Sutton says:

    Love this image. Would you consider letting us use it as part of a series of inspirational posters for our University Career Services department here at Georgia State University?

    Thanks!

    Glen

    • Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

      That should be fine. Please credit the photo to “Paula Chang” and “www.quitecurious.com”. Thank you!

  88. Mynor says:

    Thank you for share your levitation experience, I have been fantasize with this idea of Photoshop levitation. I am going to do it. I laugh a lot too.

    Mynor

  89. Camilo says:

    Look this, it’s similar, and the tutorial is very good:

    http://fotochopiando.blogspot.com/2011/09/levitando.html

  90. thanks for the great tutorial. enjoyed it. :)

  91. sheela says:

    I was quite curious about the toplc levitation your tutorial explainedit so well
    Thanks

  92. Mrs. Iman says:

    Hi Paula, what type of camera is needed for levitation photography? How do you know the wireless trigger will work with the camera you buy?

    Thank you much

    ~Imani

  93. Nick Passe says:

    Awesome how-to :) The North Koreans should hire you and fire their hacks :)

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