Aenwynn Welcomes You To These Lands, Adventurer
One of the best things about Make Them Awesome is that how we're all into coming up with original characters and how it gives us freedom to present them however we want.
Now if we just had more control on shooting things outside. But we'll get to that eventually.
So this initial costume was something that was made back in 2015. Mermaid Child had asked Tacocat to come up with an 'elf queen' costume for a Halloween party. Just the base costume... no wigs or props or anything like that.
Fast forward to Halloween time 2018.
While we were working on putting together our Halloween Love Live set wanted to get some shots together to enter for the annual Ardaween contest by Arda Wigs. The only problem was that neither Honoka or Eli were using Arda wigs. Allybelle already had an idea that would work with her existing vampire Eli costume, a makeup change, and an Arda wig. But we couldn't quite say the same for Mermaid Child. At least for changing out the wig for something that would make sense for the ringmaster costume she had for Honks.
But then Mermaid Child remembered she still had the elf queen costume. And wanted to use it for her Ardaween entry.
We were trying to figure out what wig to use for this. At the time we had two possible wig choices; both an Amber from Arda, one in light grey and one in ash blonde. The ash blonde one was actually the one Mermaid Child used for Sylvanas. Once we had talked about the makeup style that was going to be used I suggested using the Sylvanas wig. Which in the resulting pictures worked really well.
Very shortly after that Mermaid Child really wanted to do a photo shoot of that character. Which I was completely down for. But we would introduce a few changes.
One, she wanted a longer wig but in a silver color. So we ended up getting a Silky Le Tigre in Sterling from Arda Wigs. Tacocat applied a 'beach wave' to quite a bit of the wig along with some braids which worked well.
Second, we didn't want want to present the character as 'evil'. While not intentional there was a tad bit of that vibe in the Ardaween shots. As an original character we were thinking more 'mysterious'.
Third, as an elf I knew I didn't want her main weapon to be a bow and arrow. Elves as archer types are way too predictable. So I knew we had to change it up. During an after Halloween clearance sale at a local Spirit store we found a dagger that would work really well for the aesthetic we wanted. Initially I wanted another weapon to add to it like a short sword. But everything I was finding that we could get in time would look really out of place. So we dropped the second weapon idea.
As for where we would shoot there was a place I had in mind that I thought would work well for this character: McKinney Falls. I had actually found out about this location earlier this year when someone I had worked with in the past posted photos of it. When I had checked it out at that time I knew it had potential for a number of projects we had been bouncing around. With this particular project I knew I had to go look at it again. There were a few spots I already knew would work well but for this scouting adventure I took some hiking paths I hadn't before. Ended up finding even more spots that were absolutely perfect for this character.
Also ended up taking an unintentional three mile walk on one trail since I didn't realize I needed to make one specific turn off to get back to my vehicle. Ah well. That part of the scouting trip was delightfully quiet and I'm pretty sure I walked off most of the food from Thanksgiving.
There would be one bit we wouldn't figure out until after the shoot: what to call the character. As I mentioned in the post for Sugarbelle I feel that giving a name to an original character helps grow some attachment to the project and provides some emotional investment. But for a while it would elude us. For some reason Mermaid Child suggested that 'Turnip Queen' should be part of the name. Don't ask, I don't know either. Good thing we didn't go down that path or else she might have become 'Turnip Rutabaga Salad, Queen Shitkicker of Fuck You Mountain'. Don't ask about that idea either... it's better that way.
So after playing around with some name generators and what not Mermaid Child came up with the name Aenwynn. And we went with it.
The Shoot and Editing
Good God... I swear the weather likes to fuck with me when doing outside shoots.
Originally the weather was going to be partly cloudy though a little bit cooler than the preceding days. Given the forecasted cloud cover was to be really similar to my walk through a few days prior I figured I'd have some sunlight to use with shooting.
Turned out to be completely overcast. With typically 15 mile per hour winds.
In my planning I had taken some of the lessons I had learned from the Swan Princess shoot to apply here. Primarily how since there would be limited space to work with we should keep the gear carry simple. So I went with two Godox AD200s, two Wescott 60" shoot through umbrellas, and one light stand. If I absolutely needed to I could have someone hold a light with an umbrella.
Which was really how we did all of the shoot. Most of the the time using a stand just would have not worked. So Luis would end up hand holding an AD200 with an umbrella for the entirety of our shoot. Since we only had the umbrellas there was one point where we had to get creative and use a jacket to block light from one side of the umbrellas since we didn't have softboxes with us.
If I could have I wish I would have had more powerful lights to help bring the backgrounds out. Since it was overcast we pretty much had no sunlight to help with this and the AD200s are not powerful enough to help with this at distance. And even if I had some AD400s or AD600s available I'm not entirely sure some spaces would have allowed us to work well with them.
Another bit of gear talk: I honestly hate the 18-55mm f/2.8 lens I have. It is not great at getting focus in lower contrast situations, especially at distance. In some cases I thought maybe going to f/8 would help here with sharpness but that was not the case at all. The only reason I even bothered with trying it at all was I knew I wanted to get some wider shots. I'm not sure if there's just an issue with my copy of the lens but compared to what I get with my 35mm f/2 I can't rely on it by any means. So I will be finding a replacement.
Since my lighting situation was far from ideal during this set I would have to do more work in editing. So first I wanted to make sure I had a really consistent look for lighting before I edited my images further. In most cases I brought up the Exposure in Camera Raw by a third of a stop and then really made adjustments to Highlights and Shadows to get a consistent starting look across all of the frames.
After that I knew I wanted to bring up the greenery that was all around. With it being so overcast I thought that 'tapping' on the midtones in the Green channel was my best bet. That worked pretty well not only for the plants but giving a bit more life to Mermaid Child's skin tone as well. A bit more adjustment with Spot Healing (since wigs like to go crazy in wind) and Brightness and Contrast I showed the images to Mermaid Child. And she was happy with them.
Man, outside shooting sure can be a pain in the ass.
I really need to figure out some ideas on how to work with ever changing lighting situations. Most of our recent outside work as of late has tended to be rather random. Things like really random cloud cover that would give us great light one moment and then nothing a bit after. Or things where I'd check the weather forecast the day before and it would be all 'Partly Cloudy'. And then the day of the shoot it would be all 'LOL fuck you JK, overcast'.
More for me to learn in that regard.
Overall we did get some really good photos for this set. And we certainly want to do more at McKinney Falls.
Just hopefully the weather plays nice next time.