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First post of 2014!

How was everyone holiday and new year’s celebration?  Geoff and I had the chance to take a little road trip to see some family, which was really fun!  We got to hit some stops coming and going we’d been wanting to see for a while, so I’ll just get right into it.

First stop was the Arizona Deer Farm!  I visited the deer farm with my family when I was about 4 or 5, and I remember it quite vividly.  I was very excited to realize that not only was the place still around, it was pretty much right on our way!  It’s more of a large petting zoo than a farm per say, and they encourage photographs to be taken.  I have a series coming up which is taking a lot of inspiration from deer, so it was very much a win-win situation for me!  Thanks to Geoff for taking all the photos that have me in them!

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There’s a path for people to walk on, and most of the deer mill about freely inside a large enclosure.   They have plenty of places they can go and hang out or take a nap that are well off the path, so they only are interacting with you if they want to.  And since you get a big cup of feed when you go in, many of them want to 🙂

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Most of the deer are fallow deer; as you can see, they don’t get terribly large, they come in a variety of beautiful colors, and they retain their fawn-like spots into adulthood.

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The price of food: one smooch on the head. This one thought it was a fair trade.

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Checking my hair for edibility; sorry, buck.

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Sadly, my coat is also not edible.

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The males have the most stunning antlers of any deer I’ve seen!  I took lots of photos of this handsome gentleman.

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Once we arrived safely in Kansas, we settled in to the cold weather.  They had an unusual amount of snow for this time of year, which was sighed at by all the locals but I rejoiced in.  We met up with Erick Riedell, a friend of Geoff’s since Junior High, who also got ordained and married us, and who is also a photographer.  In addition to being an all-around great guy, he’s a cancer survivor twice over now.  He had volunteered to be a part of DreamWorld while we were back, and I wanted to find a way to honor his battle and triumphs… hopefully I’ll be able to share the result of that shoot soon!

While we were wandering around a snow-covered wood for the shoot, I was enchanted by the fairy-world sparkle the snow gave all the plants.  I snapped this shot, which reminded me of the fairy tale of The 12 Dancing Princesses and the underground world where all the trees and fruit are made of jewels.

Little Jewels

Little Jewels

On our way back home we stopped at the Wigwam Motel, the epitome of Route 66 kitsch.  We’d stayed there once before, and while the rooms are humble, they are so fun to stay in!  It looks like very little has changed since it opened in 1950.

A cellphone snap of our wigwam.

A cellphone snap of our wigwam.  Those are my gloves on the car trunk, not a wad of used tissues as it appears.

As we made our way home from Arizona, we stopped at The Roadkill Cafe, another historic Route 66 stop.  They had great food (which was not at all made out of roadkill) along with a lovely hand-drawn sign honoring the fallen Hotshot firemen.  I had an unsettling moment when I saw the sign; my heart sank at the reminder of all the brave souls who were lost that day, but I loved that the cafe was honoring their lives and memories.  Regular readers will remember why the loss was hard for me.

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Thank you, Roadkill Cafe, for your very sincere and personal gesture showing your gratitude to the firemen heroes.

So now… on to the first photo of the year!  As much as possible, I feel it’s important to start a year off right with my photos.  Get going on a direction that will determine a positive trajectory.  I wanted my first photo of 2014 to be one I’d look back on proudly.  This photo ended up being quite a bit more work to edit than I’d expected, but I felt waiting a little longer would be worth it.

This concept was actually one I’d shot with Katie at our very first shoot many months ago, but it just didn’t turn out quite like I’d wanted.  The concept was a DreamWorld character; a wind spirit, or perhaps wind goddess would be more appropriate.

I started by making her an art nouveau-inspired headdress.  I remember I’d been looking at one of my books on Alphonse Mucha and had wanted to make a headdress similar to what many of his women are adorned with.

I used my foam head to pin and hot glue sensual, looping ribbons into a headband shape.  The forehead and sides were decorated with masses of little white flowers and small glitter-covered styrofoam balls in a variety of sizes.

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It was meant to be worn rather low over the forehead, which almost instantly gave it that art nouveau feel.

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After that, I hot glued long strands of ribbon to the headband and dotted them with a few more of the styrofoam balls which would help show the blowing wind, along with making it feel more magical.

The second shoot went much better than the first one did!

Where Earth Meets The Sky

Where Earth Meets The Sky

Where Earth Meets The Sky - detail.

Where Earth Meets The Sky – detail

Katie always plays ethereal goddess-types so easily!  Her acting chops are so important to the kind of photography I do.  We both would like to see this kind of headdress become fashionable so we could just go around wearing them all day, at, say, the grocery store… so how about it?  Would you like a wind goddess headdress of your own to help start a trend?  🙂

Thanks to Katie for her patient modeling and to all my readers!  I hope your year has been off to a great start!

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Close up of In The Lilac Forest

Close up of In The Lilac Wood

This photo and post was supposed to go up over a week ago, but some MAJOR computer problems which ended in having my entire operating system having to be reinstalled slowed me down considerably.  (Let me briefly insert a shout out to my Computer Guy; Ara at Crown City Computer.  He knows his shit and is more than reasonably priced.  No one else touches my computer; I totally trust him.)

I had planned on releasing these to coincide with both Peter S. Beagle‘s birthday on April 20th, and the launch of the Last Unicorn cross-country movie screening tour!  The tour is going to be amazing; not just will you get to see the fully-restored gorgeous film on a huge theater screen, but Peter will be there to do signing, a Q&A, and they’ll be selling more Unicorn merchandise than you can imagine.  Check the official tour site to see if they’re coming near you; you can write to them if you’re area isn’t listed, and there are a number of ways you can help out with it too!  I was very sad to have not been able to dash up to San Francisco for the inaugural night, but with any luck, the tour will find itself in Los Angeles before too long 🙂

While nasty, external, computer-virus forces made me change my plans, I’ll still release this photo in honor of Peter’s birthday and the start of the tour!  Happy birthday, Peter!!

I wanted to take some of Unicorn and bring it into DreamWorld, so I decided to build a special corner just for it.  The evocative first line of The Last Unicorn reads, “The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone.”  So, I decided to build my own lilac wood.

I pondered over ways I could do this, hopefully without spending any money, as I was quite broke.  It happened that I already had a large supply of beautiful fake flowers, which I had purchased for a different DreamWorld photo, and I also had several yards of a nice gray/green fabric.  The fabric would be a nice backdrop, and I could smother it in flowers.

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Assessing what I had to work with

I debated between sewing or hot gluing the flowers on, and decided on hot glue in the end.  Sewing would have assured no damage would have been done to the flowers, and a very easy removal process (since they would all eventually have to come off to be used in the projects they were originally intended for) but would have been a much more labor-intensive and time consuming process.  Being short on time, I went with hot glue, thinking that I’d mostly be applying it to the flower bases anyway, which you won’t see much of in this photo, or the other photos they’d appear in.  With that solved, I started with gluing a healthy covering of leaves to the fabric.  I wanted enough on as a base so that as little fabric would be seen as possible.

Gluing leaves on.

Gluing leaves on.

The couch became the holding area for my flowers, which I sorted roughly by color.  I was trying to minimize the use of the white/creams and pinks, since it is a lilac wood, but I knew I’d end up needing at least some of them, both to cover my whole backdrop and to give it a more natural variance.

Flowers sorted by colors.

Flowers sorted by colors.

It became apparent that draping the fabric over the coffee table was just not going to work; I couldn’t see enough of it at once.  I was carefully planning where the different colors of flowers would go, and being able to only see a segment of it at a time wasn’t working.  So Geoff helped me move the coffee table and I took over the entire living room with leaves and flowers and fabric.  Geoff is always extremely good-natured when I do things like this, which is fairly often.  🙂

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I started simply placing the flowers where I thought they should go, and when I felt more confident in their placement, upgraded to hot gluing them on.  I knew I wanted one side of the finished photo to be a bit lighter and pinker, and the area behind where I’d be standing to be more dark and purple, so I tried to at least roughly stick to that plan.

I also have to say, my cats both showed heroic self-restraint in not trying to eat all the flowers.  They should be commended, as I’m sure it was no easy task.

Byron did try to help several times, but that's just being polite.

Byron did try to help several times, but that’s just being polite.

Hot gluing continued until I had my whole backdrop covered!

Yay!

Yay!

Since the photo was going to be a self portrait, and since I do not look like a unicorn (sad, but true) I wanted to include something that would be a nod toward unicorn-ness, beyond the white hair.  Taking a cue from Amalthea’s forehead mark that looks like a flower, I crafted a little flower amulet with an amethyst-colored crystal in its center.  Simple, but quite pretty!

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You can’t really see what a pretty (and sparkly!) purple the crystal is in this photo, but I can promise you it was beautiful!

With everything created, I set out to take my self portrait the next day.  I absolutely love our house, but it is small, and it can sometimes be challenging to take photos inside it.  After weighing a number of factors (including the important one where the cats want to play with any backdrops) I decided to set up in the bedroom.   I used masking tape to hang my flower-covered backdrop, and even with the TONS of flowers covering it, it remained light enough to stay up.  The camera was perched precariously on a hardcover book in the middle of the bed, and every time I sat down to change the settings, it moved slightly, so this was far from an ideal setup, but I managed.  I used my new lights and gels, using a blueish gel on one and a purple gel on my hair light.  I sat on the stool, which helped keep me pretty consistently placed.  Overall, it was a bit crude, but it worked!

My "studio."

My “studio.”

I took several shots bringing parts of the backdrop closer to the camera, to give a greater sense of depth to the photo, holding the butterfly in various positions and flipping my white wig around.

With the how of the photo’s creation done, I’ll talk a little more about the why.  I’m sure you are all very familiar with me talking about what a monumental impact The Last Unicorn has had on my life.  It inspires me both in art and in life.  I identify strongly with the characters, but perhaps most of all with the unicorn, feeling trapped in a dying body not her own.  With my constant health battles, I often feel a prisoner of my body, that my soul must have been designed for some different kind of housing.  Yet it’s through the unicorn’s entrapment in her human body that she grows and becomes greater and deeper.  She learned to love, she experienced heartbreak, she knows regret.  Even returned to her true, unicorn body, she carries those lessons with her… and while they have made her a better and more complete being, they were not without pain.  It’s a heartening story for me to remember and think that one day, I will see how my trials and suffering have changed me into a more complete being too.  I hope 🙂

The butterfly, like the one in the book.

The butterfly, like the one in the book.

The finished amulet, attached with garment tape.

The finished amulet, attached with garment tape.

A red, bleeding rose over my heart, touching on the pain and heartache the unicorn endured.

A red, bleeding rose over my heart, touching on the pain and heartache the unicorn endured.

The hair wind-whipped into a horn-like shape, giving off a bit of a glow.

The hair wind-whipped into a horn-like shape, giving off a bit of a glow.

I hope you enjoyed hearing more about how and why this photo came to be!  And a very happy, if belated, birthday to Mr. Beagle 🙂  I hope he realizes how many lives have not only been touched but utterly changed for the better because of his writing.

In The Lilac Forest

In The Lilac Wood

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