Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Swamp Queen – The Post Work

I’ve had a few people ask me about my post-production work so I thought I’d include a behind-the-scenes post for this shoot.

After moving from one scene to another during the shoot, I noticed a light haze as I looked through the viewfinder. At first I thought it was just the scene and took a few snaps. But it still didn’t look right so I checked the lens and found it had a little condensation on it (about as much of the fog as we got!). I duly wiped it off and continued. Of course Murphy’s Law states that one of the few shots I took before cleaning the lens would be the shot of the day and sure enough it was (see SOOC shot at the bottom of the post)!


I loved everything else about the shot though so I decided to persist. I pulled the file into Photoshop via Camera Raw and used a curves layer to even out the light. I cleaned up the skin and did a bit of reshaping. It’s not something I would always do but this was going to be somewhat of a fantasy image.

I wanted a little more drama for the face so I added the lip colour and finished off the dress with a red ribbon to tie the colour elements together.

I darkened and desaturated the background and increased the overall contrast, then sharpened. At this point I flattened the image and started a new Photoshop document as my computer was starting to groan under the load!


I ran Florabella Luxe actions Pandora and London, reduced them both to 50% and removed the contrast and vignette layers so I just had the colour toning.

I wanted to create more separation from the background (oh for a faster lens!) so I duplicated the layer and ran a gaussian blur filter, masking out the subject. I then added two rust textures (set to multiply and hard light at low percentages) and two cloud layers set to soft light at 30-50%. For all the textures I masked out the skin areas. I then added a vignette and reduced the overall opacity to 80% before a little Levels adjustment to bring up the highlights.

Overall I’m happy with the result. Am I heavy handed on the textures? Sure, but I like that in the context of the swamp and I feel like I fulfilled my own brief for what I wanted this image to be.

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Shot at f5, ISO 100, 1/80 at 55mm.

Photography and styling: me!
Model: Kim Boyce
Makeup: Kayla Lapworth
Behind the scenes shooter and assistant: Pauline Mandry.



Swamp Queen 1

Swamp Queen – The Shoot

After making Driftwood, I knew I wanted to shoot in the swamp again, preferably with a model and someone to give me a hand. I figured if I was going to do it again, I wanted to do it properly. I put quite a bit of effort into the pre-production, making a dress from a mosquito net and some old curtains and creating a headpiece from feathers, grass and an old hair comb. I spent a good hour or two weaving a nest from grass clippings and leaves, which we did use on set, but didn’t end up in any of the final images!

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It’s amazing what you can do with a mozzie net, some curtains, elastic and safety pins!

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Pinning the hairpiece in.

After a couple of aborted attempts, I finally managed to get the shoot organised and we set off in the pre-dawn light of Saturday morning. We picked up some large coffees from the local servo, then convoyed down the road to the swamp. There was heavy fog as we came down the road, and we trudged across the muddy field (filled with hundreds of sparkling spider webs) hoping the swamp would be foggy too. Alas it was not and as soon as the sun came up the light was really harsh, so it was far from the moody lighting conditions I had in mind.

Knowing how muddy the location was, I’d brought along some old car mats in the hope this would help to stop us sinking into the mud, but really they just sank too. As the shoot went on we got used to it and by the end we were walking confidently from spot to spot, with the exception of one area where both Pauline and I discovered a mud hole that almost reached the top of our gumboots.

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t helps to have a sense of humour when working in a muddy swamp. Putting out the car mats.

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Time to venture into the water.

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Pauline helping out with a little additional pinning. Note the cute little peace symbols on her gumboots. :)

We tried throwing the dress to get some movement in the shot but it quickly became too wet and muddy so I abandoned the idea and moved on. My planned location had Kim in shade in the foreground but the background was too bright for the mood I was trying to create. Ultimately the best shots are those facing away from the swamp, losing the mass of trees in the distance but much better light and more in line with what I wanted.

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My poor little nest. Just couldn’t get a composition where it looked right.

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Keeping the tripod even in the mud proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Smelly and dirty as it was, we had a lot of fun on this shoot. Kayla did a great job on the makeup and I’d happily work with both Kim and Pauline again.

The images you see here are the shots Pauline took on the day (and one I snuck of her!). Click on the images for a larger view.

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Deciding whether to go further out. 

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Arranging the dress. I’ve washed it twice and still can’t get all the debris out!

Keep an eye out for a future post where I cover some of the post-production work that went into the final shots.

Photography and styling: me!
Model: Kim Boyce
Makeup: Kayla Lapworth
Behind the scenes and assistant: Pauline Mandry