Till the break of Dawn, how I did it.

Almost 10 years ago, I had a creative vision, a dream that came to me during a drive down the M11. In the distance there was a beautiful sea of bright yellow flowers that caught my eye. The view was breath taking! Little did I know that this view would haunt me yearly, tease my mind as I saw these fields come to life with their beautiful vibrant colours. I needed to shoot a portrait among the Rapeseed (Brassica napus) flowers of spring.


Rapeseed ( Brassica napus)

This year I ventured out to shoot landscape landscapes images for my website. A client had just purchased a canvas print from my website to hang on their walls, but they wanted to order some more prints. They contacted me with a loose brief of the types of images they were after. One of their requested options were shots of spring from the British countryside.



While I was out shooting, these yellow flowers called to me so I contacted my friend Dawn Eseff of Dawn Eseff Designs, expressing my wish to do a shoot. Describing what I wanted to do was the difficult part as I had so many ideas running around my mind.  Even then I wasn’t 100% certain of exactly what I wanted; What I did know was I saw my model in a long flowing dress, against the backdrop of the rapeseed flowers of the countryside. We were going to shoot in the fields in such a way that the finished image would be an artistic surreal representation of the vision. Little did I know that unknowingly, she shared the vision and was on the Asos website picking out a dress to embark on the journey with me. Two days later, we were shooting.

Dawn Bohemian

Dawn Bohemian portrait

Inspired by the likes of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí  who painted some surreal masterpieces to British Fine-Art & Commercial photographer Miss Aniela who is my idol as far as surreal fashion photography goes even though she shoots Nikon lol(sorry couldn’t resist). I watched her created a shot on Creative Live one day and I got some great tips. One of the first ideas I had for this shot was to use yellow or blue butterflies, and then I saw a photo Miss Aniela had done with some yellow birds. She’d also done one with fire, which I didn’t want to copy, but both would have complimented the flowers so nicely that I was very tempted.

Gear I  used in the shoot were as follows

  • Canon 5D MK III
  • Canon EF50mm f/1.4 USM
  • Canon 600EX-RT flash
  • Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 & Flex TT5
  • 1x Reflector
  • 2x stands
  • 1x Tripod
  • Sekonic L308S Light Meter

The time of the day we did the shoot was against all the rules you’re taught But i’m a creative photographer and I love breaking rules! First I exposed for the background as it was a beautiful spring/summers day blue skies, white puffy clouds so I wanted to capture that as that blue in contrast to the yellow & green made a very colourful photo on its own. I set my Canon 5D MK III to ISO 100 & aperture to ƒ4.5 shutter speed 1/1000s. This setting under exposed my model, so now I needed to light her while also freezing the dress blowing in the breeze. One small problem, rapeseed are very tall, there was no breeze, so we had to fake it by dropping the dress to make it appear as if it was blowing. The flash was just out of shot to her left about 6ft away at a 45º angle, zoom set manually as I needed a fairly wide blast of light at half power. Reflector just out of shot to her right & catching the light from the sun & the flash, filling in the shadows on her face just enough. I checked these settings on my meter and adjusted until my scene was exposed the way I wanted it. Then played hide and seek with the sun & clouds until the conditions were perfect. On the day I had no assistants so Dawn was also responsible for floofing (aka creating breeze) the dress so I could catch it like it was blowing in the wind. The final shot you see here are two shots we had quite a few to choose from.

Dawn Bohemian 1047-Edit.jpg

Original edited in Lightroom & Photoshop

Shoot done I now had the fun job of finding a public domain painting to combine with my photo to bring my dream to life but I was still thinking butterflies. I quickly found that yellow butterflies are really hard to find. Then I thought fire but not just flames but a phoenix with the flower petals blowing in the wind as if trying to escape the impending doom. Nope taking way too long then I saw this photo of a boat shipwrecked & thought to myself, wow! This is it!


Public domain painting

Final Edit

Perfect, now to composite the two photos in Photoshop. Opened both images as layers, added a layer mask on the painting, filled it with black, then with a big soft brush slowly painted white on the layer mask of the ship until the elements that I wanted in the final photo were coming through. I needed the blue in the sky to come through just enough to seem like the ship was still in the ocean. Once I was happy with how it looked, I then added two layers, one for dodging, one for burning the image to give it a nice contrast while making it look like it was almost real and the flowers were a part of the boat. Added a curve layer to give the image a bit of punch but yes a ghost like feel. Finally added a vignette, flattened the photo, saved it to the final image which you see below.

To view the original image please click here!


Till the break of Dawn

If you’d like to see more of my work, enquire about making a booking, order prints or have any questions about this blog please click here to get in touch. Contact details are on my website here.

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