The Three Acts - Visualising the Imagination

The initial concept was hatched some time ago. Utilise a wide sweeping landscape to make an emotive portrait. I guess it was a shoot idea that's been on the list for a while but the right opportunity hadn't presented itself.

In planning the project, some key factors needed to be decided. Primarily "what's the story"? Is this to be just a photo of a model standing in a field? How can the shot be composed so it isn't just that?

Whilst the idea was cooking away in the background, I came across a digital illustration by Tebe Interesno that I kept revisiting over and over again. It's an image of a coastline. Suspended in mid air above the water is a steam engine, steam and smoke billowing from the stack. The overall feel is quite desaturated, and probably could relate to different people in different ways.

Is the engine just out of context?

Is the engine a metaphor of the result of over productivity?

Is everything about to come crashing down?

Fairly gloomy, but that's driven by personal interpretation.

With more thought, it was becoming clear that one photograph might not be enough. It wasn't so much a challenge in making one interesting photograph, it was including all the interesting elements which resulted in needing a bigger canvas.

Having completed a great outdoor country portrait shoot last year, I was hopeful the same location could be used. Shooting there in mid winter should reveal a much different character and provide a more dramatic canvas. Planning took some months as did deciding on the key optical elements to include.


Photographically, I need to bring a large sense of space to create isolation. The 17-40mm L in its first genuine outing created the optical effect I was after. My initial intent was to shoot the sky separately & create a composite final image. The weekends leading up to the shoot didn't provide what I was after. As good fortune would have it, the day of the shoot provided an almost perfect canvas.

Orb placement.

Some of the elements in all three frames are composites. As you can see by the field of zombies, placement of the orbs was a completely manual process. Invervalometer set to fire every 10 seconds for a period of 150 seconds. The tricky bit was dodging cow pats and placing the orb within a 10 second window. The glowing orb held by Tori is glowing genuinely, as it was fitted with a remotely fired speedlight.

The setup for the second shot was conceptually the hardest. I had a vague memory of the outlook from this location. Calculating the scale and composition of the hay bales beforehand was challenging. The answer was to use as many bales as it takes to sit Tori clear of the ground then move the camera to suit. All while hoping Carl (the trusty steed), stayed put. The glowing orb was also a little more challenging, and may have been digitally enhanced somewhat.


Again, the sky is genuine.

For the final shot, a conclusion was to be reached. Touching on an earlier point, the story of these three frames is largely up to the beholder. All I offer is the title of each image to compliment the narrative.


Generally, a door can be two things. Open or closed. We can be lead to the door, we can knock on the door and we can open the door. The final question is where does it lead?

Thank you to Tori for the location, props, outfit and valued creative input (it's a colaboration after all!) and Carl the horse.