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Blueberry Blues

by Olga Astratova

"When contemplating the nature of simple, everyday objects, we can sometimes see "the other side" of their existence, and these are the feelings I wanted to share through this image."
Canon 5D MarkII  .  Canon 24-70mmf/2.8L  .  40mmmm  .  1/2ss  .  f/2.8  .  ISO200
I wanted to embed a kind of riddle and mystery in this image, and at the same time an element of uncertainty. The girl's face is intentionally hidden to emphasize the lack of specificity of the main character, depersonalizing the image in a sense. We may not know what the girl actually did, but her action is linked with the bowlful of berries.
The idea behind this picture is not an action, but a state — a time slice between events. The girl's dress is a symbol of a past century, which I find captivating and was of outstanding importance when creating this picture. The dress served as a key link to the uniformity of color, which created a certain atmosphere and gave structural integrity to the image. Finally, the blueberry has the reputation for being miraculous since ancient times. 

The blueberry’s shape and color attracts attention and provokes ambivalent feelings — conciliation and harmony on one hand, and a kind of premonition on the other. When contemplating the nature of simple, everyday objects, we can sometimes see "the other side" of their existence, and these are the feelings I wanted to share through this image. Excitement, unexpectedness and suspense are the main emotions that I wanted to combine in this image.

The preparation for the shoot was quite straightforward. I already knew that I needed a bowl of blueberries, and I managed to find the matching dress at the local theater. This image was composed and shot as one picture. When I began to shoot, it took me a few attempts before I positioned the model in the right place, mainly because I wanted to emphasize the blueberries. As I composed the shot, I opted for a focal length of 40 mm and an aperture of f/2.8. I used a tripod, shot in RAW format and in Manual mode. For the correct exposure, I used a Sekonic L-358 light meter. The natural light was coming from the window on the left, and I used a silver reflector disc on the opposite side to fill in the shadows.
I used Photoshop CS5 to process the image.

1) I Cropped the image on both sides.

2) After that, I realigned the buttons on the model's dress so that they formed a straight line. 

3) Next, I closely reviewed the berries and used the Patch tool to repair minor imperfections, like a few small dots and blemishes.

4) Then I created a new layer and filled it with a mustard yellow color, set the blending mode to Soft Light and left Opacity at 100%. 

5) Next, I created a new layer and added a textured photo from my archives that resembled scratched vintage film, set the blending mode to Pin Light and Opacity to 14%. Using a layer mask and a soft Brush, I removed approximately 50% of the texture from the model's face, the berries, the bowl and the table.

6) Then I created another layer, filled with very light cyan, set the blending mode to Linear Burn and left Opacity at 100%. I used a layer mask and a soft Brush to remove the color effect from the bowl and the table.

7) To create even a stronger blue cast, I added yet another Solid Color layer filled with sky blue, set the blending mode to Soft Light and Opacity to 40%.

8) Next, I increased the Saturation of blueberries to +15 using a layer mask. 

9) Finally, I slightly increased the overall contrast using a Curves adjustment layer.
1) Think of a way you can visually express your state of mind, idea or emotion, and then recreate it as an image.

2) Sketch your ideas on paper. It will help you understand what you're trying to achieve and what you want your final image to look like. 

3) For this kind of shot, plan in advance. Sometimes it may take time to find the right location, model or accessories. Don't make a compromise. If you're happy with your initial idea, go for it, and shoot it exactly as you imagined it!
I'm a fine art photographer from Latvia, focusing in conceptual and portrait photography. In my work, I often refer to those little moments in time and those subtle associations that can only be expressed by images and afterward, experienced through them, be it an imaginary world or inner self, simple things or complicated feelings. The thing I love about photography is being able to create what I see in my imagination; I find this process really inspiring!