Secrets of the Forest

“This piece is photographed in Sweden just outside a small village called Traslovslage in which I live. It all started out as a simple sketch on a piece of paper inspired by my own nightmares and the unpleasant feeling of sleep paralysis. My first sketch looked nothing like the final image. Not only because I lack sketching skills but the idea simply looked different then. The original thought included a bed without a mattress to illustrate the feel of [being] uncomfortable. Also there was supposed to be chains attached to the models hands and feet, one chain for each hand and foot, holding her from being able to fly away or “wake up” from this nightmare. It wasn’t even supposed to be shot outside.

The idea changed, or developed if you may, when I found an old bush out in the fields outside, which had all its branches burnt by fire somehow. It was completely black and all that was left was those eerie, thick, black branches completely stripped of green leaves and life in general. So what I did was that I went out and cut down a few and brought them to my garden and thought I may have use for them because of their coolness. I cut off the remaining mini branches sticking out as I found them annoying. I started playing around with them a bit, sticking them in the ground in a circle which I thought looked incredible and I wanted to use it in my photos pronto! So I did. I left the uncomfortable bed and the chains out of the picture and decided to go with the branches instead. Combining it would probably look too try-hard was my opinion.

I found model Linda Flodin who would help me make my idea come to life. I told her to wear something sleep-wear-like but as elegant as possible. So she found this dress (see picture) which was perfect and I couldn’t have found anything better for this particular shoot.

I am often out walking in the small woods nearby where I live and I found the perfect spot for the shoot when I was out location scouting. One might think the spot is in the middle of the forest somewhere (or at least I hope so!), but that is not the case. Right behind me and my camera is a neighborhood full of houses and a small parking lot.

The shoot got a bit stressy as dark clouds started gathering in the sky which made the environment pretty dark and the sun was also about to go down which is why the EXIF data is a bit questionable. To get Linda to levitate, she was laying on two stools. One for the lower back and one for the feet, which was easily masked out in post as I had an “empty” picture of the environment below. I’m really happy about Linda’s effort, she did a great job and got in my opinion a very realistic levitation pose.

Quite some photoshopping have been done here, as well. Cleaned it up a bit and then worked a lot with color grading and dodge/burn on the subject. I have recently gained interest in swedish folklore which have influenced the way I edited this picture in the greenish way. Artist John Bauer illustrated swedish folklore and often in a greenish way which had me inspired to do it this way.“- Valle Hemlin

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
1/15 sec
ISO 1000


  • http://www.snaphappypbc.com/ Snap Happy PBC

    I absolutely adore this. I find the story behind the photo very interesting.

    I’ve experience sleep paralysis as well. Superb job.


  • Valdemar Hemlin

    Thank you very much, Chelsea, it means so much to me getting appreciation for my work like this and motivates me to keep it producing :)

    Your photos are very cute and beautiful btw!


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