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I’m so excited to start sharing the stories behind the 2016 Beyond Words author calendar. Each is unique, and there are many parts that brought together the final product. I’ll be posting a new blog every week for twelve weeks, going over each photo. Don’t forget to grab a copy; the proceeds go to charity, so it’s for a great cause!

I wanted to kick off the series with the cover image, which also happens to be the month of September in the calendar: Tony DiTerlizzi! Tony is best known for co-writing The Spiderwick Chronicles with Holly Black, and he has a ton of other cool things out, including my personal favorite, the WondLa series.

When I was at Tony’s house getting his measurements we discussed ideas for his photo, and when he said he’s comfortable around birds (one of my favorite props) the image of a bird storyteller popped into my mind immediately. I saw this storyteller reading to his bird friends in the woods. Tony loved the idea, so I went with it, and the planning began.

We talked about trying to shoot in the fall, and I planned Tony’s outfit around autumnal colors. I got in touch with a local falconer and was able to acquire her time and her incredible diversity of species. She also happens to collect antiques, and once I told her the general vision of the photo she let me use some of her unique, gorgeous pieces, which made the photo look even more magical.

The way I did this image was by compositing a bunch of images together. Basically, I put the camera on a tripod, figured out where I wanted it, and then took a blank shot of the background:

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Then we locked down Tony’s pose:

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And then, one by one, we started adding in the birds to their designated spots:

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The final image took a lot of work, with all the blending of the different layers. But It’s one of the most magical images in the calendar this year, which is why I chose it for the cover. It embodies the essence of this project, the fun and whimsy I was aiming for.

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And Tony seemed to enjoy himself too. :)

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Stay tuned next week, I’m going to go into the details of Kami Garcia’s photo. And don’t forget to grab a copy of the calendar! 

Special thanks to Joe Dulude for taking some great behind-the-scenes images. There were many fun ones to pick from!

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