Into The Woods is the image that started The Pyjamas Project off. It is an idea for an image that I have had in my heads for a while, but never really had the image complete until I found a reason for it. Originally for my A Portrait Of Myself project the image was to portray the feeling of being alone and not knowing what is happening in the world around you. I think that is a feeling that a few people have felt during the current situation with COVID-19.
It is a feeling that I have spent many night awake in bed thinking about. When the opportunity came up with my A Portrait Of Myself project I couldn’t wait to get out there and give it a go.
Okay, so the reality is that I didn’t really go out Into The Woods to take the the photograph. So what was the inspiration behind the image and how was it created?
There were two elements that inspired this image. The first was that I was in bed when I came up with the idea. The second was that I felt as though I didn’t know what was going to happen next with COVID-19.
The pyjamas came from the idea that I wanted to feel vulnerable. I wanted the pyjamas to be traditional as well, blue and white striped like the ones in The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to get simple blue and white striped pyjamas, so had to settle for something similar.
The woods part of the image was one that developed the more I though about it. The original idea was to be of me tucked up in bed at night with just the light from outside coming through. Then when I was having my morning coffee watching the birds I thought about being outside at night. The idea then evolved into being lost and alone in the woods at night.
Just goes to show how sometimes you don’t have to go with your first idea. Sometimes you should write them down and think about them for a while so they can develop in your mind. I have a book now to write down my ideas. Yes, I have got a few more ideas that are still in the thought stage, so keep an eye out for them. I post them first to my Facebook Page if you want to see them first.
When it comes to images that are in your mind I don’t really think that there is a right or wrong way to create them. Sometimes it is best to ‘script’ the idea so you have an idea for what you are doing. Other times though I find that a flexible approach helps as while you are working on the image new ideas may come to you.
For this image though I did do a little bit of preparation in thinking of what elements I needed in the image.
The Striped Pyjamas
This was the original thought for the image so it needed to stay. The difficult part was finding the right pyjamas, at the right price. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a pair of pyjamas that I would probably only use for this image. As I was unable to find some within my budget (I did see some but they were £420) I decided that I would have to settle for a close option.
I wanted the image to be in the woods at night. Not wanting to go out to the woods in the middle of the night, in the cold, wearing my pyjamas I settled for finding a image that was close to what I was looking for. For my images I have been using Pexels, however, as the project continues and I need more images I may use one of the stock image libraries.
I needed something to create light around me but allow the edges to still be in darkness. My first thought was a torch or a candle, however, I finally settled on a lantern. As I didn’t have a lantern that looked how I wanted it to I got another image with a lantern in it.
The image of me was taken indoors, on the landing at the top of the stairs to be precise. It is an area of the house that has good light and not being in the studio due to the lockdown I didn’t have my usual lighting set up.
Before taking the self portrait the first thing that I did was to look at the background image. I needed to work out the best direction for the camera so the perspective of my self portrait worked with the background. I also needed to think about where the light would be coming from, both from the window that was my light source and where it would be coming from in the image.
In the image I was going to be holding the lantern so I needed my face and the front of my body to be facing the window.
I also wanted the image to show me walking into the woods so the image had to be taken from behind, with me holding up a pretend lantern.
To take the self portrait, I set the camera up on a tripod in a position that gave me the right angle that I needed. Then I set the focus on where I was going to be stood and put the camera on manual focus so the focus didn’t move. Once that was all set up it was a case of using the camera’s self timer set to 10 seconds, I needed time to hit the button and then get myself into position.
It took a while, and quite a few adjustments, to get an image that I was happy with. A few times I did import the images and look at them on the computer so I could see how they worked with the background.
It was worth it though as practice does make perfect as they say.
It takes time. If you are looking at creating an image like this my first bit of advice is allow yourself plenty of time.
The first image that I imported was the image of the woods for the background.
I wanted the image to be at night so the first thing that I replaced was the sky. It wasn’t perfect but I had something to work with and the edges of the image would be darkened later in the editing process. It gave me a starting point and that was the main thing.
Now it was time to put me in the picture. I took my self portrait and masked the image so that I was the only thing showing. Then it was a case of moving me around the image and getting the size and dimensions right.
I also had to add a bit of blur so that I matched the background image. Then I also added curves layers set to screen and multiply so that I could increase the highlights and decrease the shadows where I felt the image needed it.
Now it was time to add the lantern. I decided on this lantern in an image from Pexels. Using the same method as for adding my self portrait I added the lantern to the image. I had to make sure the image was also positioned to be behind my arm. The layer needed to be on top of my arm ready for when I started to add the glow effect.
The glow for the lantern was achieved using three layers of different oranges set to either hard light or soft light. I then masked each layer to allow some of the light to wrap around onto my body and head.
I also needed to remember that as the lantern was in front of me my body would be leaving a shadow behind me. The shadow was applied using another curves layer, set to multiply, which was masked so that I could paint in where I wanted the shadow to appear.
Once that was complete it was then a case of using more layers to darken the sky and areas around me, so that I appeared to be surrounded by darkness. To add further atmosphere to the final image I also used three different texture overlays, one of which was snow to enhance the feeling that is was a cold dark night.
I hope you enjoyed this behind the image. Please leave your comments below and head on over to my Facebook Page so you can be the first to see my latest work.
If you have any suggestions for an image just let me know.