Now that A Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters, Chapter 2. A Witch in the Wilderness, is available for you to read, I wanted to share some behind-the-scenes photos. Below you can learn all about the costumes and photography!
Costumes – Steampunk Witch (Baba Yaga)
The original design and costume for the witch comes from designer Alisa Kester who provides 30 costumes for this book. She made a concept sketch first, and then built the outfit.
I also did a concept sketch based on Alisa’s in order to get a feel for the shape I wanted to capture with the monster.
The mask was sculpted out of paper-clay on top of a plastic form. Alisa built the costume out of leather and the skirt out of numerous fabric scraps. Once the costume was built, we had a costume fitting with the model, Lizzie. Lizzie is also the hair/make-up designer for A Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters, and she also portrays other characters.
Photographing the Witch
Lizzie and I photographed the witch in both the woods and in the witch’s cabin.
At Halloween I found a pile of life-size skulls at Michael’s, and I bought them all for the witch shoot. I also got a severed head at Spirit Haloween stores. These heads are carried around in a sack by the witch.
To prepare for the shoot, Lizzie did some monster f/x. A man named Blake taught me the process of taking toilet paper and liquid latex and smushing them around the skin to create a nasty effect. Lizzie used this process and then covered it with make-up to make her skin look old and broken under the mask line.
I also bought some french-tip press on nails and then painted and dirtied them up so that the witch fingers looked gross. Below you will also see the cleaver. I bought the clever at the Antique Market, but it had no handle. My dad carved the handle and attached it to the blade for us!
I also asked Jen Driver, a jewelry designer who uses found objects in her creations, to make a witch necklace out of bone for us. She used chicken bones, bone beads, crystals, jute and silk to create this fantastic piece. The noise it makes when you walk is great, as it clatters together spookily. You can see some of Jen’s other work in HUF Magazine, where her jewelry is featured in an editorial that I shot.
I bought an old fishing net at the antique store to carry the severed heads.
Lizzie and I went out into the woods only a short time before the park service came in and removed many of the dead trees! So, we got the creepy effect just in time!
But we also had to take pictures of the witch indoors in her spooky Cabin! I wanted some witch decorations for the set. I found this wonderful tutorial on how to create your own witch jars by Dead Spider. I used many of her techniques to put these together, but I also wanted something a little stranger, so I melted candles on some bottles and on one of my skulls from Michael’s.
A lovely woman named Jackie operates an Antique store connected to the Antique Market in Bozeman, MT, and she was gracious enough to let us photograph in her shop! She was very supportive and helped us prepare the set using her merchandise, showed us where the plug-ins were, and made us feel right at home. Her store actually displays the antiques in booths that are sort of like dioramas, and there’s a cabin built into part of the shop. This is where we took our pictures.
After the shoot I review the photos.
I then select the photo which I think is the best for editing.
But most importantly, when done with a shoot, Lizzie and I eat all the food!
Costumes – Philomena Dashwood
This is a green silk riding outfit for our heroine, Philomena. I started this project with my mother.
To dress Philomena, we first we made the jacket and skirt, both made from green silks of different colors. I also made a green sheer underskirt with ruffles at the bottom. This underskirt is made of roughly 12 yards of fabric! And it still looks pretty droopy, but it fills the silk skirt very well.
I got some antique buttons with green rhinestones in them for the front of the jacket. I sewed them on with a secret! I put snaps underneath to keep the stomach flat.
The snaps work better than the buttons at keeping the whole garment looking like a sleek riding outfit. These snaps are hand sewn on.
I also made a lace Jabot for the dress out of Venetian Lace that was left over from a custom job. I used a tutorial from Relished Artistry. I also made an ivory silk blouse. Riding outfits are traditionally based on masculine cuts, which I think is reflected nicely in the shoulders.
You can see all sorts of examples of this neck-lace on Relished Artistry, and some of them are super fun and creative!
I finished the dress by adding lace around the bodice edge.
Below you can see Brin in the finished costume.
Costumes – Percy Longville
Percy also had a green outfit that I made myself. His clothes match whatever Philomena wears, and the color schemes of the photos were also based on these color palates.
The green color really doesn’t show in the pictures I took, for some reason. The green outfit is also double breasted, but has six buttons instead of four.
The Leather Pockets which accompany these outfits were created by Chateau Nifty Pop on Etsy. Percy keeps a journal and writing supplies with him at all times, and so I wanted to give him a steampunk staple accessory that continues through nearly all of his costumes. I custom order this piece and was very pleased with the quality.
A close up of the leather pockets.
Photographing the Heroes
When it came to photographing our heroes, Brin used her connections to find a friend who owned a well behaved horse. We needed a horse who could wear steampunk goggles without feeling antsy.
I recently found out that Sophie the horse passed away. But her owner says that Sophie was very pleased to be a model, for the horse was a bit of a show off.
We shot at sunset to capture more of a low-light effect, and to capture more muted browns and greens.
At the end of the shoot, the owners of the ranch taught us all how to throw a lasso, which was fun.
After the photos were taken, I selected my favorite and did a mock-up of how I wanted the Witch House, which walks on mechanical legs, to appear.
It was then time to build a miniature of the witch house. I built the house out of Balsa wood and a bird house. You can see it in the middle of production below.
When it was finished, Catey and I photographed the house separately and then photoshopped it into the chosen picture of our heroes.
I hope you have enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at Chapter Two!
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