Today I’m releasing one of the more evocative photos from the calendar shoot: Brandon Sanderson as Father Earth!

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


Salt Lake City, UT has a high concentration of authors, and I had an idea to do something at the Bonneville Salt Flats even before I had the authors on board. I initially had this idea for a woman, with her growing a tree out of the nothingness, but after some good pow-wowing with friends a more dynamic, masculine idea took shape. Brandon is pouring out the life energy of a new world. This photo has such a wonderful, unique feel, and I’m really pleased with the final result.

Behind the scenes of Brandon's shoot
Behind the scenes of Brandon’s shoot

I wanted Brandon’s costume to be rather simple to fit the feel of the location, so I chose a sage green velour for the cloak with some green rope trim, and a simple linen shirt and black pants. As for that yellow/green energy liquid, what you’re seeing is the juice from around a hundred glow sticks. Yes, you read that right, that glow is not photoshopped, that’s legit neon glow. I had no idea if it would work, how it would look, and if I could make it do what I needed, but, like so many things in this project, things leaned toward my favor, and it worked out even better than I planned. Mike Macauley (my friend and boss from came up to help with the shoot, and Forex dragged another friend along, so there were lots of hands to cut the sticks.

The Harvest Moon rising over the Bonneville Salt Flats
The Harvest Moon rising over the Bonneville Salt Flats

When I did a test shoot of the flats in July with my sister, they were completely dry, only white barren salt. But right before Brandon’s shoot the area had gotten a lot of rain, and the flats were flooded. I was worried it wouldn’t work for what I needed, but it actually worked better, the water allowing the glow liquid to float on the top and giving me more substance overall to work with. There’s a cool reflection of the sky also, which adds a nice eeriness to the photo. If you look you can see Brandon’s kneeling and standing in the water, like a champ. These authors really do allow me the freedom to do strange things! :)

As we were getting ready for the shoot the harvest moon rose up over the flats, creating amazing lighting and really lending a fantasy feel to the shoot in general. It was a beautiful evening for a magical photo shoot, and there’s something special about knowing this huge orange moon was looming just out of shot.

I am beyond pleased with the outcome of this photo. The feel, the framing, the lighting, all of it. It has a lot of power in its simplicity, and it’s one of my favorites. I hope you like it as well! Be sure to let Brandon hear the love! And don’t forget to check out the other released images! Plus, be sure to pre-order the calendar! 

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  • Jasmine

    LOVE IT! :D When do we get to pre-order?!

    • Lauren

      Soon, hopefully within the next week! :)

  • Stephanie

    WOW! What a beautiful scenery! :D

  • Sabrina

    I can’t find the bird in this one

    • Lauren

      … you know what? You’re absolutely right! I had a little thing to put on his outfit and in the chaos of the photo I completely forgot it. Wow. Good catch. Well, the intent was there, and I nailed it in every other one. Oh well!

  • Deana

    Love how the water reflected his image.
    Did you get the pour right in one go? Or was another round of glow sticks needed?

    • Lauren

      Actually, we did it a few times, but because the glowstick liquid mixed with the water, we were able to baste the liquid back in to the container for additional pours. Though this photo was from the first go, as the lighting was best.

  • Kristin

    I LOVE this picture but I have to ask, is it good for the salt flats to be pouring glow stick liquid on to them?

    • Lauren

      The liquid was actually floating on top of the water and was rather easy to gather up. :)

  • Mary Flavell

    hahaha I adore Brandon’s expression in this shot. He’s normally got such a happy-go-lucky expression that this intent, almost dour look just cracks me up!!!