Ophelia's Mother

"Ophelia's Mother"

I created this self portrait for a 52frames challenge on the theme of nature. I was inspired by thoughts of Hamlet's Ophelia lying in water, with floating flowers and vegetation around her.  I'm a little old to play Ophelia, so I settled on playing her mum. 


I set up the scene using a bunch of fake foliage and flowers from my prop collection. I lay on a surface of black reflective vinyl for the shoot (intended to be representative of a watery surface). I kept one flower garland back from the set to wear around my neck. 

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Watch the Shoot in Progress

Note - the reason you see me keep taking my glasses on and off and reference a handheld device is because I am controlling the focus and camera settings and triggering the shutter  as well as reviewing takes on an ipad paired with a camranger device attached to my camera.

Behind the Scenes • Timelapse of the shoot for "Ophelia's Mother".

Natural Lighting

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Lighting Notes

No strobes were used this week. In honor of the 'nature' theme, I elected to use 'natural' light.


I chose to shoot in a darker area of my home because I wanted my image to have contrast and atmosphere. In the front area of the home there is an abundance of soft natural light thanks to skylights and windows, but sometimes it's too much - especially when you are looking to achieve darkness or contrast in your work. So I often find myself squirreled away underneath the mezzanine where the ceiling is lower and light is less prolific. I blocked off most of the entrance to the mezzanine with a seamless but left the top  open to still  allow some  light to enter the scene. This acted something like a giant soft horizontal strip light which created a soft flattering  light on the face with appealing catch lights in the eyes. 

SOOC (RAW) Unedited versus After Being Edited

  • Ophelia's Mother
  • Ophelia's Mother

Which Way Up?

In terms of color I've recently been going through a bit of a green/pink desert rose chintzy phase so I processed the colors with a desaturated green/pink color palette.


Although I was lying on my back for the shoot, I've always found that for the viewer it feels less awkward to be presented with people in portraits appearing the right way up. Otherwise, I find myself cricking my neck and trying to see what the subject looks like at a normal orientation. I didn't want to be held responsible for causing your next chiropractor appointment so I made the conscious decision to rotate the portrait to result in an upright head.


I feel like my choice of orientation created a more flattering image for the subject but it may be less relevant to the Ophelia story. Maybe it doesn't even matter? Portrait or landscape... what do you think?


Ophelia's Mother

A Natural Facelift

One thing I discovered when creating this portrait is that lying on your back for a portrait does wonders for your jawline. As we age the muscles in our faces lose elasticity and as a result many of us in middle age start to suffer from jowls and sagging skin. By lying on your back, however, gravity pulls your skin towards your ears instead of your jaw, in effect giving your profile a (temporary) tauter, more defined look. 


Compare Ophelia's Mother with this other portrait I took of myself this same week, in similar lighting conditions. For the birds nest hair portrait I was positioned right way up during the capture. Notice the difference in the definition of the jawline between the two results. These are real world effects, not changes that are made in editing or Photoshop. It's a thought to keep in the back of your mind, a trick to keep in your back pocket that might be useful for future portrait sessions. 

All natural face droop versus all natural face lift!

  • Hair Gone Wild
  • Ophelia's Mother

Any thoughts you'd like to share? Drop in a note in the comments below...

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