Making Plans: Brainstorm Session #1

In the past six or so years that I have been a practicing photographer (can I actually call myself that), I have been working on and off to hone my skill. As I’ve stated before, this year I want to take time to reestablish my love of photography and really grow in the art. I’ve taken steps toward doing this by purchasing The Photographer’s Playbook which has certainly gotten me excited and thinking about new things to try, and I’ve converted an old sketchbook from my puppetry class into an idea book for my photography. And then a few days ago I had this brilliant idea (well brilliant for me and my skill level anyway). And I’ve decided that with the interest many of my friends have shown in the idea, I want to share my brainstorming process and give them the opportunity to provide feedback, pose questions and solutions, and be as involved creatively as I am in making this year’s worth of photography a great one. So let’s get started!

The Idea

I am a diehard fan of fairy tales. I love everything about the magic and adventure with its witches and royalty and majestic scenery. And so I wanted to bring my love of fairy tales and the like to life. I’ve already done something similar to this during a collaboration with a friend, but it was a modern take on fairy tales. I want to go bigger than that. As I described it on Facebook:

Photo Shoot Idea

To be fair, photographers do stuff like this all the time. But the point isn’t that it’s actually pretty common as far as fantasy photography goes. The point is that it’s new to me and my models which means there’s so much room for us to play and learn (which I will get to momentarily). This is what happens when I have Into the Woods’Giants in the Sky” stuck in my head. But this is it. This is the general idea, and it’s something I feel strongly about as far as challenges go.

The Vision

I pose my first question to you all: close your eyes and think of a magical world that’s not already established (like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings); what do you see?

For me, I see waterfalls/some sort of hidden oasis, large open fields of tall grass, fluffy clouds, majestic mansions with spiral staircases and ivy covered stone walls. I see animal companions, long, flowy dresses with colorful leaves all around, horses, knights fighting dragons, flower crowns and crystal balls. I see frightening villains with horns and black capes. I see lovers separated by fate. I see all of that among a world of other things.

Those are the kinds of things I want to work into this photo shoot. And that’s certainly no easy feat. But it’s worth a shot, right?

Along with just closing my eyes and seeing images worth attempting to recreate, there’s also the questions of theme, intent, etc. One idea that I’ve had is to truly create my own fictional world like Middle Earth or something and use the photo shoot to tell one big story about that world and its inhabitants. It’s an idea I enjoy toying with simply because it provides a bit of a focus to the challenge while also being a catalyst for the creativity of me and my models.

The Inspiration

Aside from “Giants in the Sky,” the search for inspiration is already well underway. I mean, obviously there’s Disney and Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings which are easiest to go to as far as magic, fantasy, and adventure go. But there’s so much more than that. I mean, even still on the surface are things like The Chronicles of Narnia, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and Greek mythology (which is a great source of mythical creatures that could be found in this fictional world we create). But inspiration for me comes from more than just books and movies and history. Inspiration comes from the ideas of my friends, music, clothing, and most importantly, other photographers.

In beginning my research for this project, I’ve started looking for a myriad of things: tips/best practices for fantasy photography, equipment reviews, tutorials for costumes, makeup, and post-production work, etc. And of course that means I’ve been looking into the work of more skilled photographers and studying their images and the choices they make. One such artist I’ve discovered is Ukrainian photographer Anita Anti. I love coming across different artists and seeing their work. It’s an inspiration to me to try new things, push my limits, and strive to get better. Seeing other people succeed at their craft is so marvelous. And everyone’s style is so different. Anita has some fairy tale work that caught my attention (among her other gorgeous portraits), and I look forward to analyzing some of those images to see themes, techniques, and more that I can learn from for my own future practice.

Of course, I am always open to more suggestions of artists, songs, movies, books, etc. So send those things my way if you have them. I’d greatly appreciate it.

The Challenges

This is where things get complicated. I was met with a wonderfully warm response from so many of my friends when I first posted about this idea. It’s been almost three years since my last big photo shoot, and it’s nice to see that so many people are still interested in participating in my work. But along with that comes a great deal of questions and concerns:

  • Where do I host this shoot? In Nashville? In Berea? In Honolulu? Somewhere else? A lot of the people interested in taking part in this shoot are scattered across the country. To be honest, hosting it in Nashville is easiest for me since it’s home, but that’s also assuming I return to Nashville upon moving back to the mainland. However, I don’t want to limit those who are genuinely interested in participating, so how do I hold such a photo session and allow more people to be involved? Do they come to me? Do I tour the shoot and travel with it cross-country?
  • Do I want to pick a time period and try to work within the context of its historical aspects like clothing and architecture? And that then leads right back to where I shoot. Can I find kinds of places I envision in Nashville or Honolulu or elsewhere in the US? How do I and my models reach those destinations?

There are questions pertaining to technique and execution:

  • I work with a glorified point-and-shoot (Nikon Coolpix L110) and have limited control over my settings. How then do I best utilize my camera in my surroundings?
  • How do I photograph flowing water?
  • What’s the best lighting to shoot a grand castle-esc house?
  • Where can I find horses?
  • How do I make smoke for a witch and how do I light a photograph that uses such an effect?

From all of those questions stem all kinds of things to mull over and consider:

  • There is so much I still have left to learn about my art, and this type of photo shoot can really stretch the limits of my creativity.
  • This type of photo session encourages me to not only find new places to film but also to rediscover the places I often frequent in completely new ways.
  • This shoot would break me out of my comfort zone. I am known for portraits (which I certainly love), but a fantasy shoot is vastly different from the styles of my usual work and can not only help me develop new/stronger skills but also bring in potential new clientele.
  • Shoots like these often utilize Photoshop in post-production. This opens up a continued learning of Photoshop which can really come in handy not only with my editing possibilities but future jobs (places are always looking for people who can use Photoshop).

There’s so much to be learned from this photo shoot. So many questions and problems to solve. I’m quite excited to dig into all of this.

The Next Step

So where do I go from here? Well, tackling the issues above is certainly one place to start. A lot of this depends on what happens after I graduate. I’ll have to factor in whatever job I land, the cost of travel, props, equipment, etc. But it also just provides me with one more thing to prove my ambition and willingness to do something amazing. I’ll continue conducting research, getting inspiration, and brainstorming. And hopefully others will add their input and help me to make this a one-of-a-kind experience. So whatever thoughts you have, send them my way. Shower me with your ideas, questions, concerns, inspiration, etc. I want this to be something special for all of us.

The future of McClish Photography Studios is underway. And I think it’s going to be fantastic!

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