Photographing Woodland Nymphs

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"A dryad (Greek: Δρυάδες, sing.: Δρυάς) is a tree nymph, that is a female spirit of a tree, in Greek mythology. In Greek drys signifies "oak". Thus, dryads are specifically the nymphs of oak trees,[1] though the term has come to be used for all tree nymphs in general. "Such deities are very much overshadowed by the divine figures defined through poetry and cult," Walter Burkert remarked of Greek nature deities.[2] They were normally considered to be very shy creatures, except around the goddess Artemis, who was known to be a friend to most nymphs."Wikipedia

Here is a creative project that will take you into the woods and let you be creative while enjoying the bounty that nature has to offer. It is rather simple when you think about it since it takes some creative locations like a forest like location and some creative costume making but if you go traditional, some yards of cloth should be sufficient.

Wood nymphs are creatures from mythology that are "said" to inhabit the woods and take care of the plants and any living thing that dwells there. Their clothing is simple as a piece of cloth that covers them much like a toga does is what they were said to wear. This along with long flowing hair completes the picture.

Female models should be made to look as if they were these creatures that live in the woods thus make up is important but mostly on the face.A prop like a flower or greenery headgear/crown should be used and maybe a wooden staff. The main point of focus are the models interacting as if they were part of the environment.

You will also need the use of a good flash unit since woodland areas tend to produce deep shadowed areas. A zoom that lets you crop on the spot as well as some planing are the rest of the essentials needed for this project.

woodland-nymphs

Used by permission from the artist
Used by permission from the artist | Source
CC BY-ND 2.0
CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

Keep in mind that this project does not involve simply using a pretty model and just photographing her in the woods. Nor does the project call for dressing the model in sensual clothes or does it involve nudity.

If you research what these mythological creatures were supposed to be and do you will see that they were simple elf like beings living in the woods. This is the essence of the project.

Sure, using pretty models and perhaps adding some props like leaves and flowers to the hair and to the clothing, using some creative make up and perhaps some elf like ear pieces can enhance the shoot but being creative with your angles, perspectives, lighting and choosing the right locations is much better than relying on props.

But if you are going to use props some of the best ones are commercially made butterflies where real butterfly wings have been attached to fake butterfly bodies, silk flowers made to look real as well as enhancing the set up with some commercially made plants, small tree trunks and twigs.

Remember that you should focus closely on the model, although you should include parts of the environment if you zoom out too far, the model can become "lost" in all of the other elements.

The location should be one that has heavily wooded portions but that it has at least an open space to allow easy access and where you can set up with some degree of ease. The area should also include elements such as water, rocks, flowers, ferns, vines, shrubs and so on.

Avoid areas that are insect infested or ca pose safety issues. Be mindful of public spaces where commercial photography may be restricted or even prohibited as well as the amount of public presence. Public curiosity is great and even welcomed but too much of it can ruin your shoot.

This photo project deals with wood nymphs, but there are other variations which are almost identical in their interpretation and scope. Tree nymphs, Earth nymphs, and to some extend water nymphs, are all in the same realm so far as the model's appearance, most of the props and clothing.

Their appearance and resulting photographs can be very similar with the notable exception of water nymphs which most often are depicted in a water element and mostly nude.

This and other variations fall under the cosplay genre. As you may know cosplay involves individuals dressing up as their favorite make believe characters and the genre offers a multitude of characters.

If you do a photo project around cosplay then you will be photographing any person dressed up in a costume. However if you break down the cosplay theme into categories then you can have an almost unlimited source of subjects as there are comic book heroes, characters from fables, cartoon characters and many more, including characters from mythology such as elves, monsters,ogres, wizards and such.



Used by permission
Used by permission | Source

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It would be very helpful to count with the aid of a digital editing program like Photoshop or Gimp.

With these programs you can play with the colors and adjust them as you see fit or even to create a mood, change the brightness, crop if you need to, add some digital elements and combine images with the layers program.

Another useful application for a digital program is that if you do not have access to a woodland location you can take the photographs of the model posed against a plain background and just add a digital "forest" and other elements to complement and complete the scene later.

© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez

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