Willow, this is for you – a Halloween theme photoshoot
We’ve been doing this anti-burnout creative project for ten years! This year marks the tenth concept we bring to life; and our supernatural dog muse celebrated her 10th birthday. Every concept is tied to her, inspired by her, dedicated to her, created for her because… she came into our lives and opened a portal to magic and creativity. “Forced conforming”? With a muse like Willow? Never. In fact, this year is the Most. Metal. Ever.
“We’re the freaks because we like to play a fantasy game.” – Eddie Munson
Escaping into and taking refuge in a good story is a life-saver. Especially when we are burnt out and in need of that spark of hope; that in the end everything will turn out ok. We had been wanting to pay homage to Stranger Things for years, but Season 4 sealed it for us.
Well, that and a joke about my hair resembling that of an instant favorite character, Eddie Munson.
While on a commercial shoot for dog beds, one of us normally stands in for the dog model to briefly check light, focus and composition. These normally end up as hilarious outtakes. Maybe it was the goofy face I made, my tattoos or just my hair that caused Bill to laugh, saying “hey look! It’s Eddie!”–all I know is that was the spark for what we knew would be our year 10 Halloween photo theme.
Master of Puppets
Let’s get one thing straight right here, right now. The only master here, is Willow. We are her devoted puppets.
In our version of this story, the beastie bats are are rallying around the music, ready to seek and destroy the evils, the nightmares, the bullies, the racism, the viruses… the real monsters, the ones that often look nothing like monsters at all. To hell with them, and there’s no better way to imagine that channeling of energy than a Metallica song.
It begins and ends with Will
Well, Bill actually and some creative will for sure! Our creative team this year included our dear ride-or-die bestie, Jen (who helps us with this crazy thing every year) and our beloved bestie, Trouble Twin Amy who flew from Seattle for this and managed to take the BEST behind the shenanigans photos we’ve ever had!
After brainstorming the photo and dissecting its parts, I created a rough sketch. These sketches, silly and loose as they are, served a greater purpose than just letting everyone into the cabinet of curiosities that is my imagination, it got us all excited (and nervous) thinking: “Shit. How will we pull this off?”
Enter the Will of the Universe. We had zeroed in on a shoot location. With the right lighting and weather, it could look dark and desolated, like the Upside Down (why do we always end up shooting at night?). As if on cue, our location had a little kiss of fire, likely from a controlled burn, which only made it even more perfect for the overall scene.
Hellfire Club t-shirt acquired, we split the shoot in two: Eddie in the Upside Down, and the Willowbats.
Our Upside Down was lit with one strobe paired with some bounce from a reflector. We lucked out with cloudy weather we enhanced later, adding the telltale red hue and lightning storm from the epic scene.
Bill’s beloved guitar from his teenage years–which he recently restored–would be taking center stage. He had to teach me how to hold it, and how to look like I knew how to play anything on it, let alone a Metallica classic.
Hey Siri, play Master of Puppets by Metallica
When music is at the heart of the theme, you kinda have to play it to embody it, right? And so it was that Master of Puppets played as Ames and Bill directed me to throw my head back, making sure my fingers were on the right spot on the guitar and trying not to laugh at Willow who kept wondering into the shot to chew on a stick. At one point, she became bored waiting around for us to dial the lighting in, so we had a little bark duet, with me singing “master! master!” and her replying “bork! bork!” every time.
As night fell, our lighting kicked in and we had that eerie feeling where everything started falling into place.
Could not leave this scene without paying homage to a favorite Hellfire Club pride moment… and soon to be my new profile photo thanks to Amy Soper.
For the Willowbats, we always aim to make it easy and fun for our goodest girl, why do it otherwise? Her shoot involved a trip to her favorite beach where we ran around the sand dunes, chasing cookies and wearing a pair of bat wings she is very used to wearing. We needed to get various poses and directions of her moving, in a background that made it fairly easy to clip her out. The natural light on her would mimic light coming from that lightning we would paint in later.
Fun Fact: Bill only played hard rock and heavy metal while working on the digital composite. In more ways than one, music is the real hero of Stranger Things, season 4.
I believe we composited over 10 individual Willowbats into the scene, each one eliciting giddy laughs from us both.
As Eddie himself would say: “This is why we play.”
Our Tribute to our Master Muse, a favorite show, one killer band, the power of music and a love note to anyone unwilling to conform.
As always, Bill stitched everything together meticulously over the span of a few weeks and I came in after to contribute some final touches, and give a few suggestions. Regardless of what takes center stage on each of these projects, I always want to bring it back to Willow.
She started all of this, and we will do this with and for her for however long we have the sheer pleasure to.
Just like Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill saves Max from Vecna’s grasp; the same way Master of Puppets channels Eddie’s ultimate show of friendship–such is the presence of our favorite song, one dressed in the notes of a dark silhouette, crescent moon eyes and a perfect favorite lyric that goes: “Never change, Willow the Wild. Promise me.”
As always, thank you for sticking this out with us for 10 years, saying you look forward to this every year… You may never know just how much that means to us. Have a happy, fun and safe Halloween!
Here’s the final piece, the most metal EVER!
Happy Halloween, friends!
Want to see previous years of our Halloween theme photoshoots?
This photograph is ©The Labs & Co. All rights reserved. Thank you for sharing our work! But please be kind and give credit.