Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Stories Behind the Images No.3 – Poppy in the Water Spray


This month’s image marks the introduction of the hosepipe ban – I can’t imagine that there will be many pictures like this this year!

This is one of my favorite pictures of all time and when I think of it, I think about getting oh so very wet! We were playing in the garden on a hot summer’s day and so getting out the paddling pool seemed a good idea – what child doesn’t enjoy playing in the water?

I knew from previous pictures taken over the years that the best water shots often combine dark backgrounds – trees, fences, hedges, that kind of thing – and back lighting, so that the water spray shows up and glows in the pictures. There was a perfect spot outside the back door, so we dragged the paddling pool over (always so much harder than it first looks). While I don’t like arranging tableaux photographs, I’ll do try to engineer the action into the best light to ensure I can take the most interesting pictures.

Poppy was having a wonderful time splashing away and I took a whole sequence of pictures. As I shot, I realised that it would be wonderful to show Poppy completely surrounded by spray – immersed in the joy of the moment. I don’t tend to use long telephoto lenses that zoom in and capture tiny details from a long way off, so I ended up with a 50mm lens on my camera, lying a metre from the paddling pool shooting, while listening to Poppy’s squeals of delight as she tried to splash me as much as possible. ‘Bigger splashes, bigger, bigger!’, I cried until, click, we had it!

Sometimes you just know when you’ve nailed the shot and I knew I would be thrilled with this one as, dripping, I asked Poppy’s mummy for a towel.

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