The Autumn Witch (a different Halloween photo shoot)

The Autumn Witch 

Just the mere mention of the word Halloween will conjure up images of witches along with the rising of a full moon on a cold autumn night. Today we often think of the green faced witch with the pointed hat from the story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, most of us know that a true witch was something different. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth the image of a witch was depicted as an old wart ridden crone and yet again this could be somewhat misleading. Truth be told witches could have been young or old, rich or poor and ugly or as beautiful as can be. 

In most cases the label “witch” was something that was bestowed upon a female by the society that surrounded her, by the people whom she knew as members of her community, her church, friends and often her own family. It did not take much to acquire the label of being a witch. All you had to be was different, look different, talk different or be able to do something out of the norm such as cure a sickened person with some herbs & wild roots. Being different was truly the key thing that all witches had in common. Sometimes her difference was that she stood strong and she spoke up to be heard above the men. Going against the grain of society could often be a death sentence for a woman of these early times in history.  

While we have all heard the stories of witches being burned to death, many were hanged or died during the torture of an inquisitor. And then there were the few… There are a few incidents in history where accused witches merely perished from the sight never to be seen again. This only added to her guilt and the mystery of her magical powers, when in reality she had just slipped out of town under the cover of the nights darkness and cast herself to a life of solitaire among the forests and the fields.  

So, it is here we find our beautiful Autumn Witch wandering her new found queendom. A queendom she presides over not as a ruler but, as a care taker, for we know the true ruler of the forests & fields is the queen of all queens Mother Nature herself. However, the Autumn Witch will spend her time becoming one with the wildlife and the land of which she dwells. She will bathe in the pure water of the mountain streams and adorn her beauty with that which Mother Nature provides her. Once a witch and now a queen she wears her new found crown with peace, dignity and pride.  Peace and solitude preserve her beauty and allow her inner spirit to grow and glow beyond that of any woman bound by the chains of society’s oppression. Yes, she “is” truly different… with and unbreakable spirit, inner & outer beauty and a mind of her own.










The name says it all… “A different Halloween photo shoot.” 2020 has certainly taken a toll on my photo shoot creativity. Due to restrictions from the virus crisis the budget for a creative photo shoot just did not exist. You can have all the creativity you want however, if there is no budget the creativity will just sit inside your mind and… well, that is about it, it will just sit there. It is kind of like being hungry and having no money for food.  

In January I had set many goals for my photography for 2020. One goal was to achieve an awesome Halloween photo shoot such as I did back in 2016 when I wanted to create a portrait of a clown. The idea was an evil clown walks into a studio to have a photographer create a portrait of him. The shoot had a budget that allowed for a paid model and SFX makeup artist. Without a budget there would have been no makeup and therefore no clown and no shoot. 

The virus crisis killed many people and that is truly the saddest thing about 2020. But there was a lot of collateral damage from the crisis with shutdowns and job loss. My photography business has been almost nothing, other than a few portrait jobs here and there. Certainly, no big jobs like weddings or events. 

As the year was passing by, I watched as many of my goals fall by the wayside and I did not think much about it. As Halloween was approaching, I suffered with the death of a 30-year-old family member who suffered from addiction and then my elderly mother was injured in a fall. Could 2020 be any worse of a year? Yes, actually it, could.  

I had actually told the model whom I been planning on shooting with that I was cancelling all future shoots until further notice. I felt I needed to take a step back and… Then it just hit me, the thought that I was letting it win. “It” being the year 2020 and all the horrible misfortune we have all had to deal with. I’m not a quitter, I have never quit anything. I have been beaten down, beaten up and left a bloody mess by many things in my life and all those beatings have been the result of not quitting.  

So only a few days after telling the model I was cancelling all future shoots, I contact her and contradict myself saying I want to do a shoot. (My whole life has been a contradiction lol.) It would be a Halloween shoot and like 2020 it will be not a normal Halloween shoot. Actually, I had no real idea because in January I had set a goal but had never came up with an idea because Covid hit and everything came to a grinding halt.  

So, I turn to my various places for inspiration. Places like magazines, (remember them) yes, I still subscribe to various magazines like Vanity Fair, Vogue, Cowgirl and more. I also spent hours looking at and Pinterest as well Instagram. I think it was Instagram that I was looking at when I came to the realization that most all Halloween shoots involve makeup, lots of makeup. I found a little money for a budget but, not enough for makeup & wardrobe. So, let’s just go with wardrobe. As for a theme… I just sat there thinking “Halloween” and how many times I see girls dress up as cats & witches. Then It struck me that the typical “Halloween Witch” with the black dress and pointy hat is as far from what a true witch even looked like. And then I remembered years ago reading a book (can’t remember the name) about a girl in medieval times who was accused of being a witch. She never really did any real hocus pocus and her crime was that she was good looking and out spoken. The other women had deemed her an “odd character” because she drew the attention of men, sang to herself and when a child in the village she had been looking after became unexplainably ill… well you know how the story goes after that. She’s different so she must be a witch. Before they could round her up and put her on trial, she disappeared. Her disappearance only confirmed that she must be guilty and confirmed she was in fact a witch. In reality, she had slipped out of town in the middle of the night and lived as an outcast in the forest… and then the story continued on. 

So, there it is, that is my photo shoot idea. It will be a different kind of witch photo shoot because 2020 has been a different kind of year lol.  

As I was putting together all the ideas for the shoot wardrobe, location, shooing date ect… I thought about how today’s society is not much different than that of long ago. Being different always comes with a price tag. Being different comes with scrutiny, labels and judgments. But, being different is what make life exciting.  

Happy Halloween 2020 


The Conclusion to the Iron Factory Shoot. ( It felt more like a gnat bothering a horse.)


So the Iron Factory Studio shoot is done and “in the can” as they say. Now I will let the images sit and age for a while. No seriously I have so much going on at this time I really have no time to edit. Besides the other half of the project is still to happen. I will leave for my trip to Southeast Asia on November 16 and return in December just before Christmas. So the final edits for those images will not come until late January.

Iron Factory report: The day starts as we arrive in Philly and the GPS wants to take me up Fontain Street the wrong way… oh boy! So as I arrive Aryn Wilson (makeup artist) is already in city and waiting. Kendall Strampel is arriving just minutes after me. Looks like we got us a photo shoot! I meet with Kat from the studio and she lets me in, shows me around and “we’re golden” good to go. Oh did I say it is on the third floor and no elevator… Yeah boy, I have a whole Durango full of studio gear to be moved up and set up and I have one hour to do it. I brought one huge muscle man named “Tiny” and we did it. Studio is up and running as scheduled. I love when a plan comes together… cheap lines from 80s TV shows always make blog post more interesting.

So Aryn has Kendall ready pretty close to schedule and we’re test shooting, take a short break and get right to it. I had the normal gremlins that can always be expected when shooting tethered to an old laptop and using Lightroom 3. So I dumped that plan and went to camera WiFi out straight to my tablet for review. Most of the shoot was using the awesome Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 USM II, keeping somewhere at or close to the sweet spot for that lens, about f/7.1 to f/8 ISO 50 and shutter going between 1/80 sec to 1/160 sec. Mostly 1/125 second. The Paul C Buff White Lightning’s were working hard all day at about ¾ power. Lots of “creative” light.

At one point a guest whom I had invited stopped by, we had never met and she wanted to see what it was and how it is that I do. Seren was a perfect guest, she accepted my invite and she visited and departed after she seen and learned a little about what I was doing. Always refreshing to meet new people on the fly and make a true connection, thank you Seren.

My Thai wife had made lots of Thai food & fresh fruit for the crew and models and Kendall’s parents. I think we had all bases covered for comfort as best as we could. Now the call comes in that Cynthia Ann has arrived and she will need to be escorted to the studio. There was a rowdy bar just around the corner and the game was on so… well it’s only the right thing to do; we take no chances when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of the ladies. So I headed out to the street, located her and we walked & talked. Both models were at their best and it made for a great shoot. The theme for the day could have been “contrast” as working with two young ladies who are so different. Kendall who is so peaceful and soft spoken in her angelic light southern draw, her voice is light and she is just so cool to be around. Cynthia Ann on the other hand is very talkative and humor cranked to 110%, she exudes positive energy to everybody in the room. I love her so much because she talks as much as I do… maybe more and she is 100% real to the core. What you see is what you get. Creepy thing is… when I go to give Cynthia a command or direction she does it as I’m thinking of it. This is not a joke; she truly knows what I’m thinking. I noticed this the first time I shot with her while doing a test shoot. Think about that for a second… you are working with somebody who can do what you say before you say it and they don’t even realize they’re doing it. I still am very puzzled by it, but I’ll take it any day.

So soon Kendall had transitioned from fashion to fitness looks and she was done for the day and headed back to the Lehigh Valley. Now I’m left with Cynthia Ann, who while on break finds joy in punching me as hard as she can in the arm & shoulder because I told her she can’t do “fitness” shoots because she has no muscle. Did it hurt you may ask? Let’s see… 105 lbs hitting 270 lbs… it better not hurt lol. It felt more like a gnat bothering a horse. Yes we have fun. Soon Cynthia’s session was ending and I escorted her to her car, while my assistant escorted Aryn to her car. All ladies safely on their way home so now it’s time to tear it all down and head home ourselves. I was tired and hungry; I had one coffee, one bagel, two cans of diet soda and three bottles of water all day. I stopped for nothing. While models were changing or on break, I would be changing out softboxes, fixing lighting or reviewing images. Fun for me though.

So in conclusion did I get what I came for? Yes! Yes I did. It was a well-planned shoot and in taking Frank Doorhof’s advice from his latest book “Mastering the Model Shoot (Everything the Photographer Needs).” Frank says “Always schedule three models and at least one will show.” Well… Reese called the night before and said she would not be able to attend. There are no hard feeling and I told Reese “there is always another day” and I understand. After all Mr. Doorhof told me this in his book and I believed it and followed his advice from the start. I actually owe a lot of the success of this particular shoot to the advice and information found in Frank’s book. Thank you Mr. Doorhof for a well-executed plan to follow. I would recommend this book to anybody wanting to run a shoot smoothly for the first time. Make it easy on yourself, follow a master.