Free the Naiads! Chapter Three: Mysterious Pond in a Store Room

· 8.May.2018

My ongoing project “Free the Naiads!” (1,2) has recently seen the birth of its third chapter, hence I’m here sharing it with you on FujiLove. In this project I am trying to look at the inner and spontaneous female sensuality, embodied in the ancient Greek mythology by the nymphs. The naiads are “fresh water nymphs” and, as such, were considered to preside “over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water” (cit. WikiPedia).

My project depicts, as “daydreamingly” as possible, the fate of the seven naiads in the removed painting from Manchester’s Art Museum. In my vision, it is not for men to hide and cage the female sensuality (and sexuality), and, as the semi-gods that they are, the naiads are rising free again, not by fighting, but simply thanks to the same sexual power men tried to shut. Hence, the plastic used to box them becomes the water they thrive in, the dust in the forgotten storage that they have been kept in becomes the mist they appear from, and so on.

So, for my third installment, I wanted this naiad to find herself in a pond and to live in it as she was free, no matter how she and the pond were actually boxed and stored in a room. Now, creating a pond in a photographic studio is not exactly straightforward, so I had to call in an expert in floral design, Azzurra from IoFiori. Azzurra helped me with figuring out which kind of plants I needed to create the effect I had in mind and, on the shooting day, she came to my studio and “set the pond up”.

The plants were placed so as to create two sorts of “scenery flats”, with only a bit of depth, leaving the centre of the stage emptier for the model. We used a mix of tall and short plants, not only to create more texture and colours, but also because the short plants were used to hide the vases for the tall plants. While Azzurra was setting up the plants, I stayed behind the tripod with my X-T1 (coupled with the XF35mmF2) on it, checking for the right framing. After a few iterations, the “pond” was perfect.

To cover the whole scene with the plastic sheet, I unrolled it over the “pull down” backdrop, without unrolling the background itself. I had to previously attach two plastic sheets together to obtain a 4mx8m plastic sheet that could cover the whole scene. The plastic sheet went all the way down in front and behind the “pond”, but was totally open on the two sides, to allow fresh air to get in the middle and the smoke to get out.

I worked the whole illumination with only two strobes, my beloved Godox AD-360, both placed behind the scene – one on the left, high from the ground, facing up against the white ceiling, and one on the right, low on the ground, and facing at the white wall on the side. I placed the strobes in order to produce a sort of sunrise on the left, bouncing on the water of the pond on the right. The light coming from behind would have produced only silhouettes if it wasn’t for the (intended and) combined effects of the double-layered plastic sheet and the smoke in between, which softened and bounced back at the plants and at the model part of the light. The final effect was exactly what I was looking for.

The smoke machine was placed on the right (out of the framing) and on the ground in order to create a sort of haze that, trapped between the two plastic sheets, really gave an effect of water and mist. During the shooting, from time to time the smoke would be too much, so we had little breaks to let it disperse before pumping new smoke and start shooting again.

Make-up was executed again by Eleonora Eilythia. We worked on the same mood we established the last time, creating a special make-up that would transform the model into something close to an exotic goddess. However, this time Elisa Zanotto, the model, added a pink wig to the mix, which Eleonora combed beautifully in a “Venere di Botticelli” style.

About the beauty and intensity of the model, Elisa Zanotto, there’s really a lot to say but a little to add once you’ve seen the photos: she’s an actress, a category I really love to work with in my shootings thanks to the way they work on the subject, the intensity they know how to produce and the truth they can add to the whole image.

I used the X-T1 with the XF35mmF2 and the X-T20 with the XF56mmF1.2, setting both cameras at ISO 200 and 1/180th of a second, while tweaking the aperture from f/5.6 till f/14 to work on the overall exposure effects.

The post-production was done solely in Lightroom so it’s only basic editing on colours, contrast, highlights and shadows. This time I abandoned my beloved CLASSIC CHROME, and went instead for the PROVIA/Std RAW profile, which proved to add less contrast in the shadows and keep better green/yellow colours cast by the plants and parquet on the scene, both needed in order to increase the “pond effect”.


Chapter four of the project “Free the Naiads!” is currently under planning, and I hope to complete it within the next thirty days so as to have it ready for my next article on FujiLove. However I’m still working on many little details, which are taking longer than expected to be fixed. That said, I have photographed so far four of the seven naiads to complete the project, so there’s definitely more to be expected. I hope you’re enjoying and will keep enjoying it! Please, feel free to ask whatever question you may have in mind, either here with a comment or directly to me by email!