Fairies, forests and fantasy: A Making Of

Last summer I did a shoot, which was a much bigger idea than I bargained for! I sat on this picture since; few futile attempts at editing it were disastrous. I wondered: how should I retouch it? Could I retouch to the level that this is asking for?

3 weeks ago, I decided to just do it or forget it. Sometimes you just need that breathing room, and then some tough love! After much patience and multiple failed attempts, it was finally ready. Not perfect (but what is in the artist’s mind!), but I could finally let it go. This is how it all went down.

Continuing my series of flowers, women and self-designed dresses, this idea was inspired by sunflowers. I LOVE SUNFLOWERS! I mean, they are a perfectly mathematically calculated natural creation:

The flowers within a sunflower head are clustered in a spiral pattern whereby each floret is oriented towards the next by the golden angle of 137.5°. This produces a pattern of interconnecting spirals. The number of left and right spirals are consecutive Fibonacci numbers. Normally there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other. Very large sunflowers can have 89 in one direction and 144 in the other." (quote)



I knew this had to be shot in nature, with an overhanging canopy of trees. I had yet to shoot such a concept on location, with whole a team, props and, not to forget, lighting. It was a challenge that had yet to be conquered! ARRR!

A few years ago, I had visited a little island on Lac Ouareau (St Donat, Quebec) with my friend Robert to photograph some abandoned log cabins. That location had always felt very magical; Lingering old energies and the quietness only broken by the occasional lap-lap of wakes. 1h 30 drive for a photoshoot? But of course!


Now, it had been a few years since I visited the location. Were the cabins still an option? It was just a chance we would have to take. Location: half check.

Conceptual drawing: check

Acquire material and make dress with very helpful cat.

Styling, props: check.



Well, we are taking a boat that holds 4 people. With equipment, we can only be 3. So photographer, captain/assistant and model it was. There would be no makeup or hair person. *omg* I know nothing about makeup*. Challenge two: accepted.


Challenge three came rather fast:  Taking my preciousss camera and lighting gear on a speed boat, in a huge lake. Uh oh, I am not comfortable with the idea…

But Robert was prepped to the max – if there is ever an apocalypse, head to Rob’s house to ensure survival! He had two of MEC’s dry packswhich kept the cameras, two alien bees, vagabond mini and cactus flash triggers perfectly dry! :D

Last element you cannot control for an outdoor shoot: the weather. And yes, rain it did.

Luckily we saw breaks of sunshine amidst the rain. And the fairy was finally released.

The setup, makeup, fabric draping, hiding from the rain on and off, and actual shots took us a good 6 hours. By the time we were done, dusk was nearing. But we weren’t ready to leave! We had yet another idea that had to be shot.

Rob confirmed he could drive the boat in the dark. So off we went to another little island, which harbored the perfect tree for one of my favorite shoots of all time.

Sometimes the lesser planned ideas are the best. I was very skeptical that this would work, but model Assi was very excited about it. She was also down for a posing challenge- just her and the fabric.

Single light setup, mosquitoes freely feeding off of us, calm breeze that perfected the smoke and it was done in not even an hour. This was 20 meters of cotton fabric doubled-up.

At the end of the night, we made the decision to leave the fabric on the trees and maybe it would brighten up someone else’s day. Little we knew that a friend of Rob would come across it a few weeks later and post some pics online of her magical discovery!! And the fabric-tree lived happily ever after : )

Post processing:

The night shots required minimal editing: they were color corrected and that’s about it. They just worked.

The fairy concept picture took me a whole season to edit as I had never attempted this type of fantasy editing.

Overall, I look at this shoot as an achievement, something to cross off the list: shot on an island in the middle of a lake on a rainy day and at night without makeup or hair assistant. Shot on a location with dangerous nails everywhere and barefoot model. Believed in my team and without them, none of this would have been possible.


Interesting fact about the abandoned log cabins: They were used as fishing lodges back in the days and here are some shots from 1972 of when they were inhabited:



  • Photography, Concept, Wanna-Be Designer: FAYA
  • Model, makeup: Assi
  • The grand master of all, Captain, Assistant, Cottage bearer, and BTS pictures: Robert Zbikowski
  • Coloring and toning consultation for fairy photo: Michael Denesyk