My Tiny Studio ~ Message in a Bottle

So, just when I thought that my MUSE was giving me a break, she returned at about 01h30 this morning with a huge grin on her face. Yes, before I could even get a word in, she promptly dropped TWO new concepts on my pillow, and that kept me awake for most of the rest of the night.

Not sure which one to tackle first, I shared the two concepts with my daughter Marcelle who I always consult when in doubt of my artistic direction. She calls a spade a spade, and for this reason, just like my now resident Ozzie daughter Jenna, I often bounce ideas of both of them. They are after all my appointed “accountability partners”, cough cough!!!

I made a call, and then drafted a short shopping list, and headed to the local Pet Shop for some props I required to bring this scene to life.

Why a “Behind the scenes” look?

I am a strong believer in not showing the “behind the scenes stuff” since it potentially removes the mystique behind the final Artwork, but again in this case, I believe that you will find it all rather fascinating, more so when I tell you that everything you see in the final Artworks was sourced, built, photographed, and then finally “digitally massaged” into forming the compositions. No additional external digital content was used at all, and this is how I would like to keep it for future “My Tiny Studio” projects, i.e. “virgin content” that has never been used by anyone else.

The Shopping List

The concept for this composition was based on a "split sky / seascape" image, with the "glass ship in the bottle" being the hero of the
 scene. I received this ornament about twenty five years ago from a supplier as a birthday gift. I wanted to create an underwater 
"coral reef" scene, and the best idea I could rustle up was to use one of those marine tank backdrops, and hence my visit to the Pet Shop. 

Given the image that I finally selected, I could not help myself but to grab the Grecian Column ornament on the way out. A quick stop 
at the local grocery store to purchase a packet of Maize Meal for the "sea sand", and I was ready to start constructing the new set. 

I was able to strip out all the non required components from the set I had created for yesterday's project, namely "Ninja", leaving only 
the Christmas Lights. I turned the cardboard box upside down, and began to cut and fit the marine tank backdrop, which needed some 
physical "Cut and Paste" of the image to make it work for the underwater scene.

The Setup

The image top left above shows the process of gluing the marine tank backdrop to the inside of the cardboard box. In the image top right, 
you can see that I have created small boxes to cover my Christmas Lights, which I then covered with Maize Meal to hide them. 
The image center bottom shows the "glass bottle with ship" secured into position with threads of cotton attached to the top of the box. 
I then raided the pantry and added some soup mix barley to enhance the look and feel of the fake sea bed. 

I also decided to include a "treasure chest" which I decorated with some of my wife's jewellery. In the process of raiding her 
jewellery box, I came across a silver pendant containing a photo of our late son Jonathan, and promptly decided to include this special 
piece, (albeit that the locket is currently broken), into the scene. A personal touch! ~ Why not?

And so I hit my first problem…

The building of the sets generally runs smoothly because I normally have a good idea of what I am trying to achieve ahead of time, always keeping the “end result” clear in my mind as I go. But very often, I have to chop and change things as I go, which always results in a better final composition.

As I setup all the required lighting, which as you can see is rather rudimentary, I realized that I had a BIG PROBLEM.

I was not able to get the marine tank backdrop bright enough, and when I increased the dimmer on one of my light fittings, I was getting a horrible reflective FEEDBACK from off the SHINY plastic image. WHAT NOW???

I popped back to the local stationery store and purchased a can of “matt fixative”, that stuff you use to finish off charcoal and or pastel drawings. I thought that if I sprayed the backdrop with this stuff, it would remove the glare. To a large extent it did work, but I was still not happy with the lighting.

I then had a brainwave !!! ~ I decided to remove the back, and half of the rear side panels of the cardboard box, leaving only to marine tank backdrop in tact. Next, I placed lighting behind the backdrop in the hope that it would make it glow, and in so doing, resolve the problem ~ AND BOY IT SURE DID!!! (Happy Dance)

I was now ready to capture some test shots!

Camera gear and software applications used

  • All imagery was captured using my beloved Fuji XT1 and my Fujinon 10-24 Ultra Wide Angle lens.
  • As previously mentioned, the lighting I used was very basic DIY, but highly effective.
  • Photoshop cc 2017
  • Exposure X2
  • Aroura HDR
  • Nik Analog Efex Pro 2
  • Manfrotto Tripod 055PROBX with 804RC2 swivel head
  • Ariana FalerniWall Display Collection
  • Auto FX Mystical Ultimate Suite 11 x Pack Bundle
  • RAWexchange Magic Brushes



This is no doubt the most challenging, time consuming, brain wracking, yet creative and rewarding Photo Artistry project that 
I have tackled to date. I am however having second thoughts about my MUSE, and how "she" feels about my recent complaints 
regarding those middle of the night visits. I take it all back, you are welcome to call whenever you see fit.

I trust that you have found the “Making of ~ Message in a Bottle” most informative and inspiring.

I am looking forward to sharing my next “My Tiny Studio” project with you soon. 

I believe that I will be taking a break after the next and final piece of this Series to recharge

my batteries...

The Final Composition


In closing

Previous “My Tiny Studio” projects

  • You can view “The Making Of” my First Project entitled “The Awakening” in this new series of works right here
  • You can view “The Making Of” my Second Project entitled “Forbidden Fruit” in this new series of works right here
  • You can view “The Making Of” my Third Project entitled “Light” in this new series of works right here
  • You can view “The Making Of” my Fourth Project entitled “Ninja” in this new series of works right here

Do you want to learn how to create Digital Art like this?

And hey, if this field of Creating Digital Art interests you, why not take the plunge, and start learning how to create beautiful imagery just like the ones in this magazine by Registering on the Sebastian Michaels “Photoshop Artistry Grunge Course” just like I did almost four years ago.