Hey peeps, time for photo number 2: Brandon Mull in ‘Dragons for Sale’:

Copyright Lauren Zurchin Studios. It is illegal to use this photo without permission
Copyright Lauren Zurchin Studios. It is illegal to use this photo without permission

I was so excited to have Brandon for this project, as his Fablehaven series is one of my all-time favorites. The gypsy salesman idea came to mind with Brandon’s friendly, all-american face. I was like yeah, most people would buy something from this guy (this is made even more true if you ever talk to him, he’s super nice). So I started trying to figure out how the heck I was going to make this happen. Honestly, the way things lined up was nothing less than magic.

I used to live in Salt Lake City, near where Brandon lives, and I have a good friend named Rhonda who was going to let me build in her back yard a set to look like the inside of a gypsy caravan. For inspiration I randomly googled gypsy caravan to get ideas, and I discovered that there are people who make modern gypsy caravans that pop up and are totally a real trailer, but look old-fashioned. And they happen to live in Salt Lake City. This was a wonderful coincidence, and they happily got on board with the project.

Here's my sister and shoot assistant Dana posing in the field
Here’s my sister and shoot assistant Dana posing in the field

The caravan guys (Brad and Dave Atkisson, father and son of and the nicest, coolest people ever) were happy to help however they could, and Dave happens to be friends with a Salt Lake big wig who owns pretty much all the property in the mountains around the city. We went to private land, to a field up one of the canyons which was filled to the brim with yellow wildflowers. It was absolutely gorgeous (As you can see in the photos!), and I couldn’t have been happier on the location.

Something you’ll notice about each calendar photo  is that there’s something birdy in each one. For those who don’t know me, I used to train birds for years, doing bird shows and education. I am a hard core bird nerd, and when I was putting this project together I wanted something ‘bird’ in each photo (Lauren Oliver has peacock wings, for example). Brandon got Henrietta, Rhonda’s black and white striped chicken (you’ll see her in the cage hanging from the caravan)! I thought it was appropriate, since Brandon has a magic talking chicken in his Fablehaven books, so it made me happy to add her to the photo (there are also birds on the box he’s holding, in case she wasn’t cooperative).

Dana holding Henrietta for a quick photo
Dana holding Henrietta for a quick photo

The initial plan for the box was to put my flash in the box with a colored filter, so Brandon would be cracking this box which was leaking a mysterious colored light. But that was an epic fail, and I was at a loss as to what I could do to make it look magical. I had a few boxes of sparklers left over from one of the other photos (you’ll find out who in a week or two!), and on impulse I clustered them and lit them, and they flared up looking like a baby dragon expressing severe frustration at being stuck in this box. So the magic light box became a baby dragon box, and I couldn’t be happier. We need dragons in this calendar in some fashion anyway.

I may tweak this photo some more, I’m currently having a severe debate with myself about photoshop effects and layers and things that could make it look more fantasy but may pull from the authentic integrity of the photo. Not sure, we’ll see. But in essence, this is the photo, and I hope you like it. It was a blast to shoot. And support Brandon, he’s great! He’s on twitter and has a cool website. Don’t be shy, tell him how awesome he is and that he should take up selling baby dragons as a side-job. Also, don’t forget to check out the other photos in the calendar, and be sure to pre-order the calendar here! 


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  • susan

    It turned out excellent! Love the colored bottles of liquid on the table and Brandon’s clothes give just the right fantasy look. Nice. :)

  • Beverly A Ray

    Love this picture, Brandon and Fablehaven. Where will the calendars be available?

    • Lauren

      I’m working on contacting various bookstores now, but it will be available online for sure. :)

  • Maria

    I love this photo and story about setting it up. Brandon is a great gypsy! It would be coll with a vivid blue sky and dragon cloud.

  • Mosey

    Any guesstimation of when the calendars might be available?

    • Lauren

      We’re going to press at the start of October, so I’m guessing middle-end of oct?

  • Sedjwick

    Very nice. I can almost imagine that he’s an actual gypsy trying to sell someone a baby dragon. I love the way this one turned out, and how perfectly everything came together for you with it. As for the birds, that’s pretty awesome. You’d get along great with my brother. He loves birds. Loving this. Can’t wait to get my own copy of the calendar.

  • Marjorie

    I love the way this photo engages my imagination–I may not see a dragon but I know he’s in there!

  • Mary Flavell

    oh wow .. . fire and smoke spitting out of the box is genius! I’m actually really glad your original idea fell through and this was the alternative. Fantastic!!!!