“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” ~John Muir
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A walk in nature, through a park, even around the block, can clear my head and help me to listen… to “send the committee out for lunch” as a teacher of mine used to say. One of the reasons I film/photograph almost everything outdoors is that I’m less distracted. Some may think a studio is a nice controlled atmosphere, but when outside, I (and often my cast and crew) can take all of my preparation and let it breath. You’ve planned for months what shots to get, how to say lines, what scene to do when, but once there the project takes on another phase of its life. For instance, we went out the night before this shoot to scope out a location. I held an image in my hand with the exact framing I wanted. We walked around, found a good spot, but when we went out the next morning, the light was gray and flat. So we walked around again and came upon the location above. Not only was the light gorgeous, but it was more exact to the image I had in my head: the framing by the trees, and the perfect tree for her to lay on. In other words, I prepped in order to let go, and listen, to find in nature exactly what I needed. I don’t care to limit myself as an artist at any particular point during a project. Inspiration for me, does not stop coming once I step on set.
I shot this photo in the Smokey Mountains of TN a couple of weeks ago, while there for a family reunion. The fairy (look closely, you’ll see her wings) is my cousin Donna. This is the first time I’ve asked a family member to “sit” for one of my photos. And she was perfect for the idea being someone who loves to be outdoors, and possesses a deep respect for nature and all of her creatures – a true “fairy” heart.
Donna chose the dress, and I loved the white/red contrast against the green of the mountain forest. But I never know how colors will end up in the final version. I played around with the background a bit and settled on subtle shades of gold and dark pink, complimenting the dress, but not overwhelming it – and making the spot of sun, pop, to where you can almost feel its warmth. Overall, I wanted this image to look “real”; as if you would stumble across this scene during your next walk in nature. Her wings are faint, not distracting, because they are a part of her, as the trees, the sun, and the moment of peace are an extension of her.
And I hope that’s something I’ll never forget. The comfort the fairy in this photo embodies is one that exists deep down, one that cannot be pushed out by a committee. But on occasion we do need to walk into the forest, deeper into ourselves, and let the sun tell us its tale.