This week’s photo story is of the wonderful Leigh Bardugo. This photo had such a fun evolution, and I cannot tell you how happy I am with the result. But, before I get into the meat of things I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to grab a copy of the calendar; the proceeds go to charity, so it’s for a great cause!

Let me tell you a bit about Leigh. I adore her. She’s fun, has a great sense of humor, and is a wonderful writer. Don’t believe me? Well, her most recent book, Six of Crows, just hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. So there are lots and lots and lots of fans to back me up on how awesome she is. If you haven’t read any of her stuff, start with the Grisha Trilogy, which is a favorite of mine.

Leigh came on board when I was still working on the last calendar. She enjoyed my work and thought it would be fun. So when the time came to brainstorm ideas I asked her what sounded good. Her reply was basically along the lines of “I’d really love to be a winter witch in snow.” I love snow; winter is my favorite season. There was just one small dilemma- she lives in the consistently warm Los Angeles area. Not a lot of snow in Hollywood, just sayin’. But I was determined to do what I could to bring this to life.

Leigh’s coloring doesn’t work well with ice blues and stark whites, so after some chatting about options we went with cream, gold and red velvet. The initial idea was to also include in the photo this gorgeous (and giant!) gold antler headpiece that Leigh had.  I brought on board an awesome seamstress named Jessi to work on Leigh’s costume (She’s currently making costumes for the Divergent series movies!), and based on some rough sketches I sent over she was able to create a stunning costume.

My idea for Leigh’s costume.
Jessi’s magical final result!









I decided to come out to the LA area right around New Years, when the somewhat-nearby ski resorts had at least a chance of some snow on the ground. I knew I wanted some animals in this photo, as we were planning on being out in nature, so I contacted my falconer friend Rebecca, and she was able to acquire a gyrfalcon hybrid for the shoot. Gyrfalcons are the most arctic of the falcons and are mostly white, which is why I wanted one. Meet Banshee!

Banshee the Gyrfalcon hybrid!

We drove a few hours East into the mountains, and while Leigh was getting ready I scouted around the area for snow. About five minutes down the road was a small state park with some snow on the ground and a gorgeous western view.

Rebecca and Banshee standing in for a test shot.
Rebecca and Banshee standing in for a test shot.
Getting ready for her closeup!

In fall and winter, if you’re lucky, when the sun is setting you can get this amazingly golden light that is more intense than any other time of the year. I wanted to see if we’d luck out, and boy did we ever. The lighting for this shoot was some of the prettiest lighting I’ve ever shot in.

Rebecca helping Leigh with Banshee. You can see the coloring starting to shift into that warm golden light.

I hardly had to do any editing to this photo, the location and lighting were so perfect. We decided the headpiece was too ornate with everything else going on, so it’s simply Leigh, Banshee and the gorgeous sunset. This is one of my favorite shots for the sheer simplicity and beauty.


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; it will be one of the awesome guys! And don’t forget to grab a copy of the calendar (remember, all proceeds go to charity!).

Did you miss the previous calendar stories? Be sure to check out the creation of Tony DiTerlizzi’sKami Garcia’s and Garth Nix’s images!

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