Motherland Chronicles #7 - Self Portrait in Water

Motherland Chronicles 7 - Self Portrait in Water

Photography: Jingna Zhang
Photo Assistant: Ngoc Vu

Wow this shoot. I don't even know where to begin. It was... tedious, but there's nothing quite as satisfying as laboring a bit for what you love.

I get asked on how to take or set up for self portraits, so here's a little on behind the scenes for this shot. It's pretty similar to how I take self portraits normally, just a little (a lot) more work.

I got a kiddy pool for the shoot because it's just kind of too limiting space-wise (and dangerous) in teh bath. But the pool I got turned out larger than necessary, then we had to forget to get a hose, so filling it up to just a quarter took Ngoc and I an hour of ferrying water via containers around the house. (Emptying it was worse, it was like never-ending scooping T_T)

AND IT WAS SO COLD. We turned the heat up super high but it was still freezing because the heater is all the way in the kitchen and so the living room remained super cold. T_T Thankfully Ngoc was there, and she was able to fetch me hot water every once in a while to keep the water temperature from dropping off to too cold. But the few times I shivered in the water though, my mind kept going back to the 1001 shoots where I tortured my models in various situations of cold before. I AM SO SORRY. You know I love you all. ♥

The whole setup for this shoot took about an hour to arrange on top of the water-filling. It was a really slow process because I needed to gauge where to position things, then take a shot to see how it looked on camera, then rearrange and repeat.

The camera was mounted on top of my tripod, held at a really precarious angle because with its legs fully opened, the 70-200 is just a tad too close for the nearest focal length (ugh). So we taped 2 bottles of softdrinks to one of the legs to help keep it steady. And hooray!! No camera falling over this time! (Just once almost.)

Except I dropped my phone into the pool while trying to do light check. Gah. Thankfully after immediately powering off and a heater and 2 nights in a bag of rice it seems to work fine now. Why do all my self portrait shoots include equipment accidents. D:

Anyway so, hooked up to the camera were my laptop for tethering so I can see the screen, and also sync cord for the flash because I was using the hot-shoe for wireless shutter release.

I already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the shot to look like so it was just getting the lighting and framing right, then populating the shot with flowers and getting my hair in place.

The original idea was to have my hair flowing downwards, but turns out it was a bit too short to stay around my collarbone and just keeps falling behind my shoulders instead. I tried moving them to the side which had a really nice effect that looked like painted windswept movements, but I couldn't get the framing right because I had to keep moving while trying to pose and not crash into my tripod and press the shutter so... change of plans.

Mirror time! I would check it for placement of things and direct Ngoc on how to arrange my hair and the flowers. And after a dozen or so stop-starts this was it.

We started the shoot around 1 or 2 in the afternoon and finished packing up around close to 9pm at night. I don't think I've ever spent so long on just one photo, but it was certainly an interesting experience. Makes me itch to do more shots in water because now I think I can do better and just want to explore more things overall. But ahhhh the pain of filling it up, cleaning up, the cold! Maybe when it starts getting warmer. 

But I mean, look at this, isn't the way water catches light amazingly beautiful? Totally going to have more water-related photos in the future.