Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Ashfall, originally uploaded by margotwood.
This book. Oh this book. Ashfall by Mike Mullin is one of the best dystopian I've read since The Hunger Games. There I said it. It was so good, I just HAD to include it in my YA photo series.

Unlike other dystopians that have come out post THG (Divergent, Maze Runner, Delirium, ect) this one could actually happen. There really is a volcano beneath Yellowstone National Park (I should know, I did just visit there this fall), and it really could erupt at anytime and we are "overdue" for a volcanic eruption. So what would happen if that volcano erupted? Well, that's the question Ashfall answers.

This book is raw, horrifying and sometimes hits a little too close to reality for my own comfort, but that's why it's so good. The story follows Alex as he treks across states lines directly after the eruption. I would have preferred for this portrait to have been one for Alex, but since I could find anyone who looked the part and was willing to let me destroy their face with "ash" (I'll to that part in a second), I decided to just do a character portrait for Darla, the girl Alex meets along his trek.

Darla is a badass. She is by far the coolest female character I've read since THG because like Katniss she starts off a badass already, she doesn't suddenly become a badass throughout the story, she just already is. But she's also completely real and flawed (aren't we all?) and that's why I love her so much.

Now onto the actual taking of this photo. Ash.....such a simple concept, an ash covered face, but you'd be surprised at how difficult this was to actually pull off.

First I tried to create real ash so I burned some paper and that did nothing but set off the smoke alarms and make my whole apartment smell like a camp fire. Next I tried a variety of makeup powders like black and grey eyeshadows, but they weren't thick enough and there wasn't enough there to cover my whole face. So finally, I gave unbleached flour a try and voila! A little Vaseline was used to make it all stick and then some retouching in Photoshop helped give it a greyish tint to it.

I took several shots and even finished editing a completely different photo that was really dark and really textured (a much different vibe than from this one you see here) but ultimately decided to go with this shot for a few reasons:

1. I like that Darla is looking up, as if she's looking up to the sky where the ash is falling from.

2. The color scheme and tones fit the cover of the book better.

3. This is a little less intense. My other fauxto was darker and more intense, but the more I thought about it, the more I remember the lighter, funnier moments of Ashfall as well as the darker moments, so I felt that the photo shouldn't be as "dark".

What do you think? Have you read Ashfall? Does my fauxto do it justice or should I go back to the drawing board? I'm on the fence, I do like it, but I still think it isn't 100%. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

PS- This photo I took while visiting Yellowstone this fall totally reminded me of this book.

PPS-  I thought I should mention that if anyone also tries to do a photo using flour, I should share my "lessons learned": DO NOT wet your hair before adding the flour, because the moment you step in the shower afterwards to wash it all off, the flour will become dough and it will get supremely stuck in your hair. 


  1. Love it! Ashfall just moved up in my TBR pile! And unbleached flour-- genius!

  2. I haven't read ASHFALL (yet) but Sarah loved it. I ADORE this photo, though! (And yes, the one you used is better than the alternate.) Your expression is just so... emotive. I think this ties with the DOSAB pic for my favorite in the series.

  3. Haven't read ashfall but love the picture! The way the whites of the eyes looking up pop against the grey face really does add to the less dark picture you used. Can't wait to see more of these!

    1. Thanks for the feedback Alwyn! I'm glad that people who haven't read the book can still appreciate the photo and hopefully spark their interest in reading it!

  4. Darla is a FANTASTIC character, and you've captured her essence. I like the "dark" one too, but your instincts were right with the first one. Hope is one thing that helps you get through the book. xx

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! Any other books you'd recommend? I'm glad you liked Ashfall as much as me. It's such a great book!

  5. Heck yes, Darla! She is so freaking cool. I love her. I love how much she's a badass and how Alex is useless most of the time.

    I don't know if it's a hundred percent, but I do like it a lot. Maybe you could have a bunny in the picture. THAT BUNNY. *weeps forever*

  6. I haven't read this one yet, but I want to now! Very cool shot. And the book sounds awesome. :)

  7. Mike Mullin, I applaud you. You are a new and formidable force to be reckoned with in YA Fiction, and I can't wait to see what magic your fingers create next.
    I like this site :: delicious BeefJerky

  8. This book went on my favorites list as soon as I finished it. I will be impatiently awaiting the second installment. If you like books that have anything to do with an apocalypse, you definitely need to read this!