Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios is the inspiration for my latest YA fauxto and I have to say that this fauxto has just shot to my top five all time favorite shots.
First, let's talk about this book. Since it doesn't come out until October, here's what you need to know: Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.
This book is dark and sultry and oh so wonderful vibrant and colorful. Heather is a master at painting pictures with her words and there are eons of scenes in here I could have attempted to capture, but the one I chose is perhaps the most pivotal moment in the whole book. I won't go into details about it because I don't want to spoil it for you, but here's a non-spoilery part of the moment I tried to capture:
". . . showering her in a golden dust just as her fists crashed against the bottle's walls."
There was something about "golden dust" that sparked my imagination and so off to the craft store I went.
A LESSON IN CHALLENGING YOURSELFThis is the first fauxto I've shot in M mode. M means manual. It means you control everything. It means you have to know your shit. And up until this point in my fauxto career, I've been a little terrified of M mode. A and S modes are cool, but M mode felt like a level of skill just beyond my reach.
I initially wasn't going to do this fauxto because I thought it would be too hard to achieve without a proper lighting set up and I was too scared to try M mode. So I threw in the towel before even trying and instead shot an entirely different concept. I was really close to settling for that shot and posting that. It was okay. But just OKAY. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. It was too simple. It was something I would have been fine with when I first started this project two years ago but I came to the realization that I should never settle for just okay. I should never just feel satisfied with a work of art. As an artist, you need to push yourself. You can't just be satisfied. Each new piece should be a challenge to do greater next time.
And so my C grade fauxto was archived and a new determination to succeed took over.
HOW I GOT THE SHOTTo achieve this shot I purchased a gold bracelet that looked similar to the one of the cover of the book, three small bottles of gold glitter (you never know how much glitter you'll need), hairspray and plastic black tarp. I taped the tarp to my wall and let it drape down to cover the floor, essentially creating a right angle.
I hair-sprayed the part of the tarp that was on the wall and sprinkled the glitter all around so it would stick. On the tarp section on the ground I dumped half of the bottle of glitter all around, leaving a strategic pile in the center.
Now for the hard, time consuming and awkward part. THAT IS MY HAND. And NO, I did not use a timer or a remote. I wore the bracelet on my left hand, held the camera at a vertical angle with my right, got all the way down on the floor in the most uncomfortable position I've ever been in and began shooting.
To get that glitter shattering effect I basically just slammed the palm of my left hand into a big pile of glitter and tried to time it exactly with the camera in my right hand. Since I was so low to the ground I couldn't get my eye through the view finder so I basically just had to eyeball it each time.
I shot the whole thing in M mode (!!!!) without a flash in about 100 takes. It took about an hour.
ABOUT THE EDITINGOnce I decided I had enough glitter bombing (the glitter is EVERYWHERE, even after I vacuumed twice) I popped the raw stills onto my laptop, silently praying to the fauxto gods that I would get at least ONE decent shot out of this where the glitter would look like a shower of golden dust.
In most of the shots either the glitter would look great but the hand and bracelet were too out of focus, or I didn't time it right and the hand was in focus but no glitter was flying around. There were a few that worked well but the glitter wasn't bombing near the bracelet, instead it was coming out of the hands.
But then, there it was. The Perfect Shot.
I think I actually yelled or made some kind of goat-sounding noise when I saw it because I knew right away it was perfect. And the best part was, my first attempt at M mode was a massive success. The lighting was dark and moody but the gold was shimmery and bright. It was so good that I didn't do any major Photoshopping. All I did was crop, rotate and boost the contrast very slightly. That was it. I didn't fake any of that glittery in Shop or clone stamp any of it. This is a 99.99% natural fauxto.
Honestly, I look at this thing and refuse to take any credit for it's success. It feels like it was all just luck and chance and not really any skill. But looking back on most of my fauxtos, that's kind of how I feel about all of them. I feel like I just get lucky. Maybe that's why I'm still a fauxtographer instead of a photographer. Or maybe that's what real photographers feel too? Either way, I'm very proud of myself for taking a challenge and pushing myself to try M mode. I'm like a shooting star. I've come so far. I can't go back to where I used to be. It's a whole new world.
(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)