Project 52

Assignment 16 - The Origins of Halloween

This week's assignment was to illustrate an article on Halloween.  There was a very precise layout with text occupying most of the right hand side of the image.  The dimensions of the layout and image were to be 11×17 – an 8.5×11 magazine two pages across.  The key was to ensure that nothing important fell in the gutter (center of the magazine), there was nothing distracting under the text, and the text would be legible since it was in white.

I contemplated a few ideas:

  1. a Martha Stewart-esque scene with cookies and candy neatly arranged on a table
  2. a witch sitting at a table stuffing herself full of candy with empty wrappers strewn about
  3. a graveyard scene with someone ghostly walking through.

While the Martha Stewart shot was the most "portfolio worthy" idea, I decided to recruit my cousin Courtney to play the part of the ghost in the graveyard during a trip to my home town on Halloween weekend.  We found an example of the ghost costume, and Courtney went off to buy materials and construct the outfit.  I set about thinking through the options: Should we have some motion blur to the ghost as if she's moving?  should I gel all the flashes blue so it has an eerie feeling?  Could I find a portable fog machine that wouldn't need to be plugged in to make fog on the ground?  

The morning of the shoot I scouted 3 cemeteries, all of which had sections of very old gravestones.    I put out a last minute call for a fog machine, but ended up purchasing one and I borrowed an inverter to run it off my car battery.  I also recruited another person to help with logistics at the graveyard. 

When the time for the shoot arrived, we went to Glenwood Cemetery in Geneva, NY.  As we looked around, we found an area with several larger, but older, tombstones and settled on one with a sculpture of a woman on the front.  We referred to her as "The Lady."  We set up the scene to look as if the ghost was visiting her grave site.  I set up a light on the ghost, which was set to rear curtain sync, which means we'd have the ghost move and it would look as though there was an aura behind her.  I also set up a spot light to shine on the face of The Lady.  The final light was going to light up the fog in the foreground of the shot.  Unfortunately, after several attempts, we couldn't get the fogger to run off the car battery.  I decided to add that in post-production if we thought it would be necessary. 

We took several shots of the ghost moving to get some options for our final image.  We tried a few different angles on the lighting on The Lady as well.  We also lit up some of the surrounding tombstones so it didn't look like The Lady was by herself in an empty field. 

After packing up and returning home, I set to work on editing it.  The resulting image is a blend of five different shots, converted into black and white, with fog added in Photoshop.  This is what we created in the layout given:

I'd love to hear your thoughts / comments below.  Thanks for following along.  Next week's image is to be shot for a poster for a public safety campaign urging parents to give kids cellphones for use as a safety device.