A Visit to Madame Leota- a Halloween theme photoshoot

Posted on Oct 30, 2021
A Visit to Madame Leota- a Halloween theme photoshoot

I probably say it every year. My favorite thing about doing this Halloween project for the past nine years (nine???), is the ability to bring a little magic and creativity during a time when we feel burnout most heavily. This is truer still, in the wake of a pandemic we are all still trying to heal from.

We so wanted to travel again this year. We were hoping to go to our beloved Disney World and experience it during Halloween.

Alas, the Delta Variant  had other plans, so we postponed ours. But did that keep us from bringing a little Disney magic into our October this year? Nope.

In fact, we chose this year’s theme because of that. And we called upon a fellow Disney enthusiast to help us get it right.
I messaged our buddy, Jill Furlong (fabulous photographer behind Florida-based Playful Paws Photography).
We bonded with Jill over our mutual love of all things Disney, and right before the world went into lockdown in 2020, we got to park-hop all over Walt Disney World together. When we decided upon this year’s theme, I knew I had to reach out to Jill.

Massive thanks to you, Jill! Thank you for helping us make this a reality!

Summoning Help

I sent Jill this rough sketch, and asked her to come with us (virtually) back to The Magic Kingdom and into The Haunted Mansion, to pay a visit, and therefore pay tribute to Madame Leota.

Rough sketch of photo concept.

If you’ve ever had the joy of visiting The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland or Disney World, Madame Leota is a staple of this beloved dark ride. I’ll let you do your own nerdy research on her, and make sure you watch The Imagineering Story and Behind the Attraction on Disney+ if your really want to geek out.

With Jill’s help and insight, we figured out the right props to get, whether the Madame’s crystal ball was floating or on the table and the right shade of her skin and hair. All very important details!

Communing with the Spirits

We knew we would likely shoot this over a couple of days, so we setup in our garage. We are no strangers to compositing several images into one final piece, and this would be no different. However, we always try to get as much as we can in-camera first, rather than leave the magic to Photoshop.

Fun Fact: our new camera system allows us to shoot to our laptop wirelessly (we had enough to trip on without cables everywhere), so we could all see what we were doing on a bigger screen and control the camera settings from there. Nerdy and Awesome!!

We borrowed a table, some epic drapes and vintage Tarot cards from our friend Jen (who year after year, helps us pull this together!).
Taking advantage of Petaluma’s wonderful antique shops, we rented a fantastic antique chair and a crystal ball. Among props we bought to keep were a feathered crow, my new favorite thing: a floating candle set, and a very bright blue wig. We also brought in our trusty little fog machine for good measure… because what is Halloween without a little fog?

I believe we composited a total of 6 individually lit images: 1) ambient scene, 2) foggy scene, 3) crystal ball on a tripod, 4) crow on chair (painted with light), 5) a very wind-blown Nat as Madame Leota and last but not least 6) Willow on set.

ambient scene

crow, painted with light

crystal ball on a tripod at forced perspective to make it look bigger.

Nat as Madame Leota, with a fan to lift hair up.

The bestest girl, practicing “paws on” trick and watching my hand on top right corner.

Our Tribute to a Childhood Favorite

Bill stitched everything together carefully, and I came in after to polish it up, adding a little blur and enhancing light and shadow.
We hope fellow Disney fans take joy in this, our little tribute and our own interpretation of our favorite disembodied Madame.

As always, thank you for stopping by for this, and for those of you who message me saying you look forward to this every year… I hope you know just how much that means to us. Other than our favorite dog muse–you and your words are what keeps us coming back to do this, year after year.

Here’s the final piece, hope you enjoy it!

Willow pays a visit to Madame Leota

Happy Halloween, friends! 

Want to see previous years of our Halloween theme photoshoots?
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
Year 5
Year 6
Year 7
Year 8

This photograph is ©The Labs & Co. All rights reserved. Thank you for sharing our work! But please be kind and give credit.

1 Comment

  1. Mama Linda
    October 31, 2021

    Again…. SO proud of you for your creativity, dedication to produce what you LOVE, and ability to transform the ordinary to the EXTRAORDINARY. Love you both ❤️❤️