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It’s time to go behind-the-scenes on the second revealed image from the 2016 Beyond Words fantasy author calendar: Kami Garcia! Don’t forget to grab a copy of the calendar; the proceeds go to charity, so it’s for a great cause!

Kami Garcia is best known for co-writing the Beautiful Creatures series with Margaret Stohl, and she’s also the author of the Unbreakable series. When I started planning this image Kami had some really cool suggestions. In her area are the iconic steps from the movie The Exorcist which she thought could make a fun background and story for the image. I loved that idea, so we moved forward with that location as the plan.

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A still from ‘The Exorcist’

The Exorcist steps are really steep and narrow, and at the time of shooting there was some scaffolding on one side, so shooting posed an interesting challenge. I decided to frame the photo from the top looking down. The idea was that she was some kind of cool evil witch climbing up her magic tower, and I knew I could work with both the angle and the general vibe of the area to fit into that theme.

Positioning test 2
Positioning test 2
positioning test 1 (with Angel, my assistant for the shoot)
positioning test 1 (with Angel, my assistant for the shoot)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For both calendars I have made pretty much all the components of the costumes the authors wore. Kami however had a really amazing dress that was perfect for the vibe of the calendar, the dress she wore to the Beautiful Creatures movie premiere. I still wanted to make it a bit more, so I added on two layers of black feathered collars and a train made in the same style as the dress. 

Margie and Kami at the 'Beautiful Creatures' premiere in 2013.
Margie and Kami at the ‘Beautiful Creatures’ premiere in 2013.
Angel fluffing the train
Angel fluffing the train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjusting the feather collars.
Adjusting the feather collars.

Because the left side of the photo had all that ugly scaffolding–definitely not magical–I decided to composite a bunch of photos together on the right side and then mirror them to cover the left. I took a lot of filler images, shooting all around the steps.

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some examples of the filler photos for later compositing.
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Then came the compositing. Stacking layer upon layer of images, matching angles, adjusting colors, and adding some atmospheric textures to polish it off. The final Photoshop file is somewhere around 8 GB, which is officially the largest PS file I’ve ever made.

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The beginning stages of my compositing. You can see at one point the sun went behind some clouds while I was shooting, causing different color casting in the images that I needed to match later.

This image was surprisingly complex despite its seeming simplicity, and I’m extremely proud of the final result. Kami looks stunning and the image definitely has the feel of dark magic.

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I’ll be posting a new blog every week for twelve weeks, going over the creation of the photos. Stay tuned for next week’s reveal; I’m deciding between Garth Nix and Lev Grossman, so don’t miss out! And don’t forget to grab a copy of the calendar! 

Miss last week’s calendar story? Be sure to check it out.

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