Many a would-be photographer picks up a camera for the first time in the hopes of capturing something impossible on camera—some fantasy or dream that they’d like to immortalize in pixels or film.

Ronen Goldman is doing exactly that with his “Surrealistic Pillow Project,” turning dreams into images bursting with meaning and significance for him. And his latest addition to the series, a photograph called Making it Out Alive, might be his most meaningful yet.

At first glance, you might think we’re just looking at a cool surrealistic shot… full stop. But there’s a story behind this image, as Ronen revealed to the folks at The Wonderful Machine:

This image has a lot of meaning to me. My wife and I recently recovered from quite a traumatic period in our lives. After this difficult time, I felt that she emerged from that shipwreck of an ordeal as a real hero, while I still feel bogged down, drowning and engulfed by jellyfish, not completely out yet. Creating this image is my way of illustrating the situation in a way I can share with others.

The image is, in the end, about struggle and “making it out alive.” And the photo itself took some serious time, effort, and wading through freezing ocean water to capture.

Fortunately for us Ronen, who is an advisor to photo editing app Enlight, worked with the company behind that app to document the method behind the madness of this shot. From sketching, to creating realistic looking “jelly fish,” to the shooting day itself, check out the video below!