photo designCapturing the essence of our children serves as a lasting reminder of innocence, lineage and the magic of life. We were recently commissioned to conduct a photo shoot of a young girl with a fantasy unicorn. The girl’s mother had the concept of capturing a mythical journey with her daughter and the pony of fairy tales. This story documents the project as it went from planning to print.

We received a call from the ambitious Mom who said she wanted a photo shoot of her daughter. While we offer photography services for our clients, portraits are best taken by those who specialize in that field. We initially declined the project, while referring photographers in the area. But, because the Mom also saw my Loudoun Landscape Photography work, she insisted that I’d be the best person to handle the project. We relented and agreed to accept the project.

The next step was to determine a location for the photo shoot. Being an enthusiastic Loudoun hiker and explorer, I know many places in the area that could be used for such a shoot. I suggested that we use the former Virginia National Golf Club (now owned by Shenandoah University, no longer a golf course) as the grounds to conduct the photo shoot. It offers beautiful open spaces along the Shenandoah river, rustic fields, ponds, tall grasses and historic trees. It turned out to be the perfect location to capture the magical journey.

Following approval by the university, we scheduled an early morning shoot in October of 2015. The ground was soaked with morning dew, spider webs were sprayed over vast areas, and just the right amount of haze hugged the ground. A perfect setting to bring the Mom’s concept of a fantasy shoot to life. The enthusiastic Mom, the pony’s owner, the young girl and I proceeded to various locations on the property. The shoot was a success.

The next step was to cast a careful eye on the two hundred plus photos captured that morning. The goals was to use the most inspiring ones to help tell a story. The story did not develop until this point, however it emerged naturally. We began to realize that a narrative of meeting, becoming friends, and embarking on a journey was theme. The three chosen photos tell the story of a little girl who meets a unicorn, befriends it, then finds adventure with the creature.

Now that a story had developed, it was time to edits the photographs to help tell the story. A significant transformation occurred from the original photographs to the prints that hang in the client’s home today. The Mom directed the changes of each photo such that they supported the story and notion of a magical journey. These changes included changing the palette to gray scale and then, using Photoshop, changed the elements to highlight the adventure in the most meaningful way.

The finished pieces

The pony’s reigns and harness were removed in each photo, grasses made to appear more uniform, elements were isolated so that they could be individually enhanced. The background, the foreground and the live subjects were all placed on separate layers. Each of these were edited to bring out the story while introducing storybook effects. Fog was added, trees were trimmed, skies were adjusted or recreated by hand, stumps were removed. These changes require several months of coordinated planning and effort. As the client and I worked together, it became an exchange of change lists and ideas.

The three chosen images were professionally printed on canvas measuring 16″ x 20″ using archival inks and high quality canvas. They will last a lifetime, in terms of the memories created, and the pieces themselves. It was an honor to accept this challenge, and deliver the dream held by this determined Mom. Seeing the joy in her eyes upon delivery of the prints made this a completely satisfying project.