Enchanted Doll photoshoot. Involving an indoor pond.

10 years, 8 months ago 25
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A few months ago i came up with this idea of photographing one of my nudes an a water setting. I love quiet, still ponds for their serene and mysterious beauty, and they also kind of creep me out. I would never swim in one as i don’t know what could be hidden on the bottom, but that, somewhat rational fear unfortunately extends to all natural bodies of water deeper than my waist. But I imagined that this would be a perfect water setting for a theme shoot.

The good news was that North West coast rain forest is full of lakes and ponds and all kinds of pretty nature. The bad news was that setting up a shoot in a natural setting was going to be quite difficult. I had been mulling over the idea for some months trying to find solutions to the challenges involved.

One- Doll could not be immersed in water, therefore some adequate, yet invisible support must be found to hold her above the water for at least 3 hours. Two- expensive photo equipment along with Chad and I had to be set and work in water at least knee deep for at least 3 hours. Three-Suitable location had to be found with the right aesthetic, depth and access which would accommodate the doll being safely posed and Chad and I safely moving around in water to shoot, re-shoot, pose and re-pose the doll ten thousand times in session. But the Fourth and main challenge of shooting outside was being unable to control the constant changing of the natural light. Usually, hours are spent on getting the right shot, at the right angle and the right pose of the doll in the studio, where we have full control of the light and unlimited working time, and I kept thinking of how I was going to get that perfect shot, or a decent shot for that matter, with so many uncertain factors.

All of the above challenges seemed doable of course with enough effort invested, but without a team of professional photographers and prop designers to help us with this water shoot for a doll, seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

So, I decided that at this point it, a simpler solution was to build an artificial pond in my studio. There will always be real ponds to shoot later when i’m more capable of such an ambitious undertaking.

This is a small segment of how I went about building a small pond for a doll shoot.

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First I went to China town and bought fake water lotuses and a lot of black fabric at a fabric store. Tarp was laid out and walls raised to create the depression.

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Then, Chad and I went to the beach just in front of our building and collected several pounds of sand and small and pretty pebbles to make the bottom of the pond which we then filled with over 50 liters of water.

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Then i went to the park and crawled around in the abundant underbrush for half an hour, finally finding the perfect log to accessorize my pond. However it was full of worms and rot and I was pretty disgusted. But art demands sacrifices, so I heroically dragged the log half a mile to my apartment and hosed it down in a parking lot. I also collected some red maple leafs on the way to echo Kia’s bright red hair.

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Then I spent several hours in water, arranging the pebbles and lilies and setting everything up.

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Something always kept falling over or floating away.

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It took me several more hours to figure out the best lighting arrangement for this set up as there was a lot of reflections coming from the white tarp and the water, and I’m not a professional photographer and so it takes me hours through trial and error to figure out what works best. Chad helps me out a lot of course, but i’m usually determined to figure it out myself first. A lot of times he rushes in to my rescue at the sound of me crying or stomping around because i’m too frustrated.

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I love technology. The Camera being tethered to my Macbook Air allows me to see each shot on the big screen immediately, so that I can see what aspects of each photo need improvement: Lights adjustment, pose adjustment, props adjustment, angle change, etc.

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And so, 3 days and about two hundred photographs later only 10 weren’t bad and only two of those made it on the website. I was able to get something close to what i was envisioning, and although I can’t say that building and shooting the pond was particularly fun because it was so difficult, more annoying actually, but it was certainly an interesting, learning experience. Like an exercise in stubborness.

25 Responses

  1. miss LK says:

    The faux lotus flowers actually looked rather real and had a sheer quality to them or perhaps it was the lighting that did the magic. I also liked how the drift wood log anchored the backdrop.

  2. noxy says:

    that was fascinating. I love seeing “behind the scenes” footage. My boyfriend thinks i’m in sane cuz I’ll actually watch the director’s commentary for a movie. Love seeing (or hearing of) all the little bits fitting together. The pond looked gorgeous. And Kia is definitely one of my favorites. Any chance we’ll ever be able to see the other 8 good shots?

  3. Anne says:

    Excellent article! So interesting ^_^ Your little pond is really cute and it does make it with the doll!
    Thanks for sharing :)
    Anne (Paris)

  4. Michelle says:

    Loved reading this! For one thing, I can definitely understand and relate to what you went through. Even though I’ve never built a pond, I’ve built some pretty elaborate sets for my own doll pictures. With many of my pictures, I tend to get overambitious and obsessive and end up wanting to pull all my hair out by the time the set or backdrop is finished. Then as you said, there are the hours of working out the lighting (and the camera angles), as well as constantly adjusting things that fall over or move in the set as you are taking the photos.

    I always say I will never do something like that again, but after enough time passes and I forget the pain, I end up doing something like it again!

    Anyway, your the picture you showed turned out beautifully! Thanks for sharing your experience with the pond and for your blog in general (I love reading it!).

  5. Lumina says:

    Always wondered where did you take a photos of Kia! Now I now… It is interesting to read. :)

  6. Marina says:

    I’m glad you guys are enjoying this post as i was afraid that the length would discourage people from reading it.

    I also love watching behind the scenes footage! The effort and the budget that go into producing one person’s idea is so awe inspiring. Sometimes when i’m down, I watch several hours of Lord of The Rings-behind the scenes to get inspired by the efforts of hundreds of people who worked together to create this masterpiece of modern cinematography.
    And then i get jealous because i wish i had all that staff on hand to make all my dreams come true.

  7. Erin says:

    Necessity is the mother of invention :D Nice work.

  8. Judy Richardson (Jinky) says:

    This is very interesting! I especially love that you expressed your frustration in different parts of the process… its very inspiring for us to be able to read about your creative process and see the finished process! Please keep posting things like this! Thanks

    Judy (Jinky)

  9. Judy Richardson (Jinky) says:

    I meant… finished product! Oooops O.o

    Judy

  10. Ilona says:

    I get jealous of how much motivation and determination you have to make even your photographs perfect, even though you’re not a professional photographer. You might benefit from all the modern technology in the world if you had access to it, but with your hard work, talent, and attention to detail, you’ll always produce stunning pieces, even if you don’t have all the equipment/props you need.

    The Kia photo shoot is definitely my favourite and now I can see what went on behind the scenes. Very interesting! I was actually very curious about that photo shoot…

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really admire how much hard work you put into everything you do. It always pays off!

    It is also encouraging!! :)

  11. Marina says:

    Thanks, Ilona!

    I’d like to think of myself as driven, but i also have days, sometimes many in a row, when i can’t seem to work at all.

  12. christine says:

    I noticed that in some of your progress pictures you have stacks of books and a sketchbook filled with clothing designs and sketches. I was wondering one day you would share some scans of some of the pages in your sketch book or if you could suggest any of your favorite/most resourceful book for your costumes and beading designs.

    thanks! and keep making gorgeous dolls. :)

  13. Silvana says:

    Wow Marina I was impressed to know the lake as was done for the photo. I was sure you had photographed in a lake of truth. Wonderful work you did. The scene was perfect, beautiful landscape perfect for Kia.
    I like the way you expressed the process of carrying out their work and your frustation!
    Congratulations!

  14. Cyriaque-L says:

    A very good idea to let us know the way you work. That’s a lot of work but the results is really good. What a lovely universe you create.

  15. Janis says:

    This is a beautiful presentation. I love your work. You seem to love what you do and really put yourself out there. I am trying to follow your blog , but I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

    Janis

  16. That is amazing and so are your dolls!!! WOWZER…crazy amazing:)
    Thanks so much for sharing the process.
    I too want to follow your blog but couldn’t find where to either.

    HUGZ
    Jacqui

  17. Marina says:

    It’s strange that you can’t find my blog….because this is it, you’re here. Follow it. :)

  18. Sarthak says:

    The write-up for your “shoot-a-doll-by-the-pond” is really captivating ! i thoroughly enjoyed reading it, it is so well done that it makes the reader feel as if he were there while the whole process is on. i truely appreciate your work, and all your dolls, not only the nudes but also the costumed ones are truely enchanting, hope to see you share more of your experiences !

    Regards,
    Sarthak

  19. Natasha says:

    Я была абсолютно уверена что это фотошоп=)

  20. Lavinia says:

    I´m amazed looking at your dolls and this scenery, it´s like a dream came true!!! congratulations, your work is unique.

  21. 血翼天使 says:

    老实说,这个叫我纠结了很久啊……太喜欢这个了!!
    很想效仿着也给我的娃拍一组~嘿嘿

  22. Eva says:

    You do amazing photography for someone without formal training. Have you considered taking classes of some sort to learn more about the lighting and reduce the time (and frustration) you have to put into it to get those amazing results?

    Thank you for sharing the process. It’s neat to see what went into the artificial pond. :)

  23. website link says:

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