behind the scenes

Aegis

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The idea for this character stemmed from an old concept I shot with Cassie over a year ago, where I placed her in the freezing cold in a slipdress wearing a candle crown. I had been wanting to make my own, original candle crown for quite some time, and the notion of candle pauldrons had also floated into my brain. So, I decided, for my first attempt at a handmade costume piece for dreamscapes, that I would create those as a sort of precursor to more elaborate future costumes and shoots—both of which I am currently creating and planning. The glass ball in her hands with the candles inside was inspired by a photo created by Oprisco (http://www.flickr.com/photos/oprisco/).

I knew I’d need a base to work from for the candle crown, so I bought a cheap tiara at the local costume shop and about fifty dollars’ worth of candles. My friend Matt came over the first night I worked on it to help me out, and since we weren’t able to obtain the mini blowtorch for melting the candles down rapidly, we had to use candle flame instead, which ended up being incredibly time consuming. Matt and I worked together to place all of the candles onto the tiara and melt them to the metal. I put Dark Crystal on the TV and we worked diligently for the entire movie before he had to head home. I spent another three or so hours the next day, melting drips upon drips upon drips to create the final result. The pauldrons were another story entirely. Since I was utilizing a dress form which certainly had different proportions than the model, I had to make do with melting them onto wax paper on the form… I would later melt more drips directly on to the model’s shoulders and arms to properly place the pauldrons.

About halfway through the process of creating the crown.

About halfway through the process of creating the crown.

This was the first shoot that I worked with a model who is signed with a company, namely Seattle Models Guild. Typically I’ve shot mostly with Cassie or friends of mine when I’m not taking self-portraits, but for dreamscapes, I knew I wanted very specific looks for each image created, and that I needed to start branching out. With the knowledge that Cassie will be moving to the east side of the country in a few months *sniffle*, I knew I needed to start working with new models and broadening my horizons further. Alexandra immediately caught my eye and was incredibly patient during the shooting process. Her mother came along on the day of the shoot and was very enthusiastic and supportive, which helped allay my awkward social discomfort that usually sets in whenever I work with new people. This was also my first time in more than a year to work with a makeup artist, and it was my first time meeting Lauren (https://www.facebook.com/lchairandmakeup), the MUA, in person as well. Lots of firsts and nervousness during this shoot for me…

Lauren styling Alexandra for the shoot.

Lauren styling Alexandra for the shoot.

Lauren and I had discussed the makeup ideas prior to shooting, and we’d decided on ghostly pale lips and complexion with smoky eyes. She took it to the next level by contouring with a charcoal eyeshadow, and the effect was hauntingly gorgeous. While the makeup wasn’t able to display its full glory in the dimly lit forest where I shot the image, it still added a great deal to the eerie mood I was hoping for. Once her makeup was done, Lauren did a quick messy up-do on Alexandra, and we then ever so gently set the candle crown in place and pinned it until it was relatively immovable… It weighed a great deal, so I knew I didn’t want to burden Alex with it for too terribly long. She had to very carefully climb into the car so as not to damage the crown, but she was able to fit just barely…

We drove to my nearby forest, and since I hadn’t scouted beforehand, we simply walked through the trails for about ten minutes until I found the perfect location for what I was looking for. A bed of ferns lay at the base of the giant pine tree, and I had Alex positioned on top of the ferns and directly in front of the tree. It was incredibly chilly out, so we had her bundled up until the absolute last moment prior to setting the final details (melting the wax onto her shoulders) and finally, lighting the pauldrons and the crown. All of us were fairly nervous about lighting the crown, as it sat dangerously close to her hair, so it was imperative that she be perfectly still—which she was. I had set up my camera, and I quickly lit the crown, pauldrons, and candles in the bowl and ran over to my camera and began frantically shooting.

Since the pose I was going for was static and I simply needed her to open and close her eyes and softly change her expressions, the shooting process did not take too long. A very slight breeze was blowing in the wood, and one of the flames managed to melt the uppermost candle, sending wax cascading down Alex’s forehead…right onto her eyelid. She very quickly informed us of the predicament, all while enduring the pain of the hot wax and remaining perfectly stagnant in her pose.

After the wax scare, we decided to only light a few of the candles for the round of shooting that would involve smoke bombs. I felt absolutely terrible for the painful experience, particularly since we’d only just met! Sometimes I really wonder how I must appear to people who first meet and work with me--pretty bizarre and slightly insane, I’m sure.

Me melting and rapidly cooling the wax pauldrons onto Alex.

Me melting and rapidly cooling the wax pauldrons onto Alex.

Alexandra holding steady while we light multiple smoke bombs all around her face. I swear I don't torture my models...

Alexandra holding steady while we light multiple smoke bombs all around her face. I swear I don't torture my models...

We also were interrupted entirely by a woman on horseback who asked us to move off of the trail and into the brush so as not to frighten her horse. I let her know we could move but that I really needed my tripod to remain where it was. We all moved into the brush, save for Alex, who sat stationary on the ferns. After a minute or two, the woman informed us that the horse was now too scared to pass, so perhaps we should come back out onto the trail… Which we did. *Finally* the horse moved on by, and the woman remarked on the scene we’d set up. I fully intend to start scouting more remote locations for these elaborate shoots. And this is also the last dreamscapes shoot I will be doing where I won’t have scouted beforehand. I want to produce each image with greater and greater care, and push my limits as far as I am able.

I was thrilled with the shots I got that day, and Lauren and I celebrated by getting some delicious miso soup and shake onigiri from a local Japanese restaurant. Very much looking forward to the next shoot, where Lauren and I will work together again.

Source: aegis