One of my goals this year in my photography is to continue to use photography as a way of discovering more about myself and also as a way to connect people who may be experiencing some of the same things that I am. Last year I was struggling with depression and anxiety and I found that by creating images out of the feelings that I had, it was not only giving my emotions a voice, it was helping me work through them and then it was helping me build a community of like-minded people to draw support from.
This year I want to create a series based around some of those emotions or struggles that exist and to show them in visuals that help me understand. The first image that I’ve worked on is based around the feelings of anxiety and how it feels to cope with that anxious feeling. To me when I sat down and started to write about what anxiety felt like, there were so many visuals. When I was having panic attacks, it felt like the air was closing in on me, it felt like something was squeezing me like a toothpaste tube, it felt sometimes like I was being chased by something but I couldn’t move. But there were also very calm moments of anxiety. There were times where I would lay in bed and my thoughts would run away on me, it was like trying to put confetti back into a canon.
That feeling of having one’s thoughts trying to escape also led me to think about the times that I was anxious. There were times that I wanted to let my thoughts out, I wanted to just let them fly away and never return but every time I would try, it seemed I would try to chase them down and put them back. And that’s where the visual for this photo came from.
I had the idea for a few weeks, just sitting in my mind but didn’t know when or where I’d take the photo. But this was one of the times that the photo seemed to choose me. One morning, I woke up earlier than usual and noticed the sky was still asleep but had a different feel to it. There was a bit of mist, the colours were a bit more vibrant and it seemed like my robot photographer switch just turned and I instinctively packed my bags with my camera, tripod, bird house and set off (with the dog) into the morning air.
It was cold and the grass was wet and the ground was mostly just mud but I trudged through it to find this spot where the lighting seemed so vibrant, all around the colours were brown and faded but this spot just seemed so lush and clear and I knew it was my spot. With the dog running laps around my set up (there’s many a photo of him zooming in the background) I set up my shot. A few simple shots of me reaching out as if there was a bird in front of me.
It only took 3 photos for me to get what I needed and the sun was starting to poke its way through the trees, changing the light quickly. I grabbed my bird house and sat it on top of my tripod and grabbed some shots from different angles. Anytime you are going to composite an image I suggest taking photos from every angle and perspective you can. The bird house was a $1 purchase I made years ago and I’ve kept it in my prop supply ever since, it’s comforting sometimes to have the same objects take on new roles in my photos.
Once I’d taken all the photos I needed I quickly trucked through the mud back home.(this image was about a 12 photo expansion, meaning after I’d taken the initial photos of me I’d taken 12 more of the surrounding landscape to build up the space around me). I knew what I wanted the image to be and I knew that I needed a photo of a bird to composite in the image. I always try my best to have my own personal stock photos on hand so that I don’t have to spend time and money searching and buying stock photos online. Thankfully, just a few days before I had been in London walking around South Bank and had taken some photos of the (fairly aggressive) seagulls and pigeons and I knew there were photos I could use that would work perfectly.
In Photoshop it was a relatively quick and easy edit. After the initial expansion was done, I cloned out distractions in the grass (my backpack), and filled in the gaps in the sky. I simply pasted the bird house on top of my body and then layer masked all the unwanted parts. Shadows are important when compositing images together so I made sure to add appropriate shadows underneath the bird house on my shoulders, arms, and chest. I added some of my own cloud stock to enhance the sky in the background as well. To add the bird I selected the bird from my London photo and added it into a new layer. I unsaturated it, got rid of his legs (sorry bird!) and tried to make it a bit less seagull looking. I hand drew a few feathers flying off him and into the bird house to add a bit of motion to the image.
For colouring, I used two techniques. Selective colouring to adjust the individual colour tones in the photo, mainly taking down some of the oranges and reds and making everything a nice even soft blue/green feel. And then I used a curves layer to bump up the shadows and also add a touch of faded washout which I like to add to my images to make them feel a bit more timeless.
When I finished editing, I knew right away that this would be one of my favourite images I’ve ever created. It all fit together so quickly and easily in my mind and taking it seemed to just be like a dance, moving quickly and effortlessly to get all the parts I needed. Putting it together felt like making a favourite meal, just letting my hands and eyes work together to piece everything together. I’m excited to start working on the next image in the series, sharing more of my connections to emotions through visuals.
Wow, it is fanulous and I enjoyed reading your process. Let the series begin!
Great composition. Thank you for the tutorial and for sharing your experience that led to the image. Very inspiring. I love your work.
I love this image and I love how you describe your process. I’ve felt that too – when an idea lingers in your head for days and then suddenly, it’s on, and your making it come to life. I experienced that fluidity this morning when creating this week’s wonder weeks image – mystery. Ease. That’s the word that comes to mind. Ease. It felt effortless to make. And completely delicious. creating for the sake of creating is like eating the sweetest dessert and never filling up or feeling sick. It’s just delicious and makes you want more.