09 Jan San Jose Flower Bath Photographer | Winter Self Portrait
As you may know, I do these elaborate, magical flower bath portraits. At some point a year or so ago I started getting jealous of my clients that they got to have these fairy tale images of themselves, and I wanted one for myself. Since then I’ve done 3 of these shoots as self portraits. I get a lot of questions about how I pull that off, and let me tell you – it is not easy. I wish I had more behind-the-scenes photos of the whole mess, but between prepping the space, getting my makeup done (in this case by the super talented Monina at Moderne Beauty), putting together wardrobe, setting up the shot and modeling….well, I just didn’t have enough hands for behind-the-scenes shots. Next time! In any case, I can at least in words describe the somewhat harrowing tale of how these images came to be.
First, there was a vision. I wanted something to show a cold, wintery landscape, in the vein of the Snow Queen (one of my favorite fairy tales as a kid). I already had some of the pine branches and snow flakes, but I hit the jackpot at Michaels when they were having their Christmas sale and scored a bunch of sparkly, beautiful magnolia and dogwood tree flowers which really elevated the look. In order to make myself look chillier and more wintery, I bought not one but two (very cheap) wigs and, since I couldn’t decide on which wig to wear, I went with using both. This, of course, necessitated two full costumes, which also required a change of flowers. Because I never like to do things the easy way, I guess.
I had planned this shoot for mid-December, not even thinking about how that would be that most stressful of weeks in which I try to finish the majority of my fall editing before disappearing for Christmas break. So, in short, everything was done last minute. I set up the pool, tidied the house, bought flowers and wigs, and acquired the rest of my costumes just the day before the shoot. Monina came to my house to start with makeup right on time at noon, but that’s about the only thing that went to plan. She was done with makeup and I still hadn’t finished prepping my flowers by the time my friend Jess, who had cut out of work early to assist, came over. Together we finished with the flowers, and pool setup, and water, and I was ready to finally get in at about 3:00pm.
I started out with my camera set up low by the side of the pool for a perspective and angle I have found to be flattering in the past. I set it up and put it on time lapse mode, in which it would take a picture every 8 seconds. While I was in the water posing, Jess was running around arranging flowers, hair, cloth, and all the other stuff I couldn’t see. Her main and most important task, though, was to make sure the focus was on my face before starting the time lapse mode on the shutter. This is the primary reason I don’t end up with a ton of these – I like a shallow depth of field, and it’s very hard to keep things in focus, even with an assistant double checking it every few minutes. I took a few shots from that angle, hoping to capture Monina’s lovely makeup work before it got wet. Then I climbed out, climbed up on my scaffolding, and attached my camera to it using a “magic arm” and some clips for security. I also had a mirror attached there on a long metal yard stick so that I could somewhat see what I was doing when down in the pool (this really doesn’t work very well but it’s better than nothing). I should mention, too, that it was really cold out. This is normally a challenge when doing water shoots, but as my clients are in very warm water the discomfort is usually minimal (or at least that’s our aim). In my case, I had to climb in and out of the hot water 10+ times as I switched camera positions, re-framed, changed wigs and outfits and pool contents. Imagine the dripping wet shivering mess I was, blind without my glasses, barefoot, slipping and sliding around trying not to die while rushing rushing rushing before it got dark because we started so late. It was honestly hard not to keep laughing at the absurdity of it all.
And then, you know what? It got dark. It got dark right after I changed into my second look. So, ad hoc, and not even seeing what it was looking like, I set up one off camera flash with my camera above and prayed it turned out ok. For the last few shots, I took off the wig because it was getting tangled and ridiculously heavy and I’m glad I did because a totally different image emerged. Finally, 3 hours after Jess arrived, we wrapped. I am not exaggerating when I say it felt like a total disaster. A mad silly scramble. And I am going to be totally honest and tell you I LOVE what I ended up with. After all that, to get even a handful of beautiful, fairy tale flower bath portraits is kind of a miracle. I’m so glad I did it, and so glad to have these images. It is so satisfying bringing a vision to fruition, and being able to be IN it as well as orchestrate it is…well, it makes me feel like an artist and a work of art at the same time and that feels pretty incredible.
Enough words – PICTURES!