Imagination Session: Ocean Journey Into the Unknown

Girl riding a turtle -- mermaid castle

For several years, I’ve had the honor of photographing family sessions with the two beautiful young ladies in this unique portrait. So when it came time to create an Imagination Session for them I knew it would have to involve some sort of legendary adventure. This particular session was first inspired by big sister’s love of marine biology and all manner of sea creatures. Growing up is an epic journey into the unknown, and I pictured her voyaging out into the world on the back of a giant sea turtle. So many new experiences and challenges to enjoy and conquer! Her younger sister is growing up too, faster than you can blink.  So friendly and full of girly sweetness, we decided to give her a world of adventure of her own as a mermaid under the ocean. So there you see them independent, but forever connected to each other. 

Behind the scenes at an Imagination Session
Having fun behind the scenes at our ocean adventure Imagination Session in Wilson Park, Fayetteville.

To bring this vision to life, we started by choosing a setting: The Castle at Wilson Park, in Wilson Park in Fayetteville, which was my inspiration for the mermaid’s underwater kingdom.  Originally named “Point 7,” this sculpture has sparked the imagination of local children and grownups for nearly 40 years.  Artist Frank Williams began construction on the castle in the summer of 1979, and took more than a year to complete.  Its magical, gothic design and colorful mosaic accents are inspired by the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. (Check out this link to the artist’s website to learn more about this amazing sculture and its creation.) 

I photographed both girls on location at Wilson Park, using the sculpture as my composition base and the foundation of the rest of the image. The mermaid sister wore a swimmable monofin and mermaid tail skin from Fin Fun. I photographed her on the sculpture itself to ground the image in a sense of scale, and to ensure there would be uniform lighting, color, and sense of place. Likewise, I also found a spot for our voyager sister to pose as if she were on the turtle’s back. She did a fantastic job, especially given that she had to imagine something that she couldn’t see and didn’t yet exist! 

Behind the Scenes Mermaid and Giant Turtle Imagination Session
On location at Wilson Park Castle in Northwest Arkansas with children’s creative portrait artist Vivlio Photography.

Back in Photoshop, I rescaled our mermaid so we could make out the beautiful details of her costume and so that The Castle might feel a bit smaller and more like a design accent you’d see in a fancy fishbowl.  From there, I used a variety of commercially purchased and licensed stock overlays to fill the scene with fish and make the sculpture appear as if it was an abandoned mer-fortress that had been carved out from an underwater coral reef.  I then cut the older sister’s likeness out from the background, and digitally placed her onto the commercially purchased and licensed image of the turtle, which I then placed at the water’s surface in the underwater castle image. I wanted to be able to imagine some sort of destination for her to aim towards in the distance. So, I went into my personal photo stock library and pulled an image of an island in the ocean that I had taken some years earlier while traveling in Brazil to insert into the background of the scene.  Finally, I used a photoshop brush to create the silhouette of the birds flying off to into the sunset towards the island. 

Silly faces and sisterly affection at our Imagination Session
Silly faces and sisterly affection at our Imagination Session in Wilson Park.

I think my favorite part of this image is that, even though it promises an adventure and a journey, it feels incredibly peaceful to me.  

What emotions and images does this artwork evoke for you? 

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500 W Capitol Ave # D157

Little Rock, AR 72201

t. 479-310-0575


Vivlio Photography is a child and family photographer in Little Rock, Arkansas. I help parents in Little Rock and all over Arkansas to capture their kids' wildest dreams and imagination and bring them to life in creative custom portraits.

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