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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trees, cows, birds, and a mystery author...oh my...

I think I'm finishing up my series on getting a good author photo.  It is a sign that I am a novelist that I've already written two long posts on this subject, and this one will probably be longer than I intend, when really all I needed to say was, "Hire a professional to take your photo.  You'll be glad you did."

Okay, Artifacts came out in 2003.  I just couldn't bring myself to keep using the old publicity photo.  Now, people still recognize me from it, so I don't think I used it too long.  But I didn't want to see the day come when I arrived at a signing and the organizer greeted me with, "Who's that old broad?"

I know people who have been using the same photo for forty years.  Seriously.  And you have to have a little sympathy in your heart for us, because how many professions force you to watch yourself deteriorate over time?  But getting a new photo is the only alternative to the inverse Dorien Gray effect, wherein your photo is simply gorgeous and you look like the portrait of Dorien Gray.

I'm not stupid, so I called Randy.  We drove around to scout locations, and found some glorious spots on a prairie ringed with ancient live oaks.  Then we went back for the shoot, with his assistant Lindsay planning to meet us shortly.  Except we found ourselves in a cow pasture behind a locked gate, with Randy frantically calling friends far and wide because somebody had changed the combination.  We worked assistant-free for a while, then Lindsay sneaked through the gate by tailgating someone who knew the combination.  We got these shots.  (Among others.  I'm not stupid enough to show you the bad ones.)

Don't you just love how he used the background?  I'm tellin' ya.  Hire the best. 

Next, we needed to move to the other location.  But remember how Lindsay had to sneak through the gate?  This means that we still don't know the we can't get out of the cow pasture.  So we park by the gate.  Randy gets back on the phone.  We wait for someone to drive up who knows the combination.  And the sun sinks...

We decide to use the time by taking some photos right where we are.  We took these shots with no special background at all, just some trees, some nice light, and an artful photographer's knowledge of how to use fuzziness to advantage.  Imagine cows mooing peacefully in the background.

Finally, finally, we got out of the pasture and reached the last location, one of those humongous trees that make north Florida so glorious.  The light was fading, and we three artists shifted into get-er-done mode.  I leaned on the tree branches.  I crawled around in the tree in shoes that were not meant for such things.  The camera went snap, snap, snap, while Randy's did his photographer thing to keep me going.  "You're doing great, Beautiful!"

Then, as it was really getting dark, he told me to lean against the tree and hold real still.  His assistant held some kind of reflective thingie up to catch the last ray of light and reflect it on my face.  He explained that even a flicker of movement in my eyes would screw up this very, very long exposure.  Then he said, "Cross your arms.  Now...   Don't.  Move."  Apparently, I didn't.  In the background, as the sun set, I could hear the prehistoric rattling cries of sandhill cranes settling in for the evening.

That last shot was the one I chose for my website and the one I'll use most.  To prove this part of my story, I'm posting the uncropped, unretouched proof.  (In fact, that's what all of the photos on this post are.)  Look on the right hand side, and you'll see the blurred image of Lindsay's reflective thingie, capturing those last rays of sunlight.

Until tomorrow,
Mary Anna


  1. I duct taped my camera to a ladder and stood in front of it to get my photos. Is this where I went wrong??? I'm thinking this is why you look like Mary Anna and I look like Sasquatch? Right?

    NOTE TO MARY ANNA'S READERS: Don't let the woman fool you. She is incapable of a bad photo. She's as beautiful as she appears to be. Of course, Randy is talented, but he could have used crayons and a brown paper bag ... and STILL Mary Anna would look gorgeous. I'm just sayin' ...

  2. First of all, I know Sasquatch and you, ma'am, are no Sasquatch. You're beautiful. And at least you didn't lean against the wall and get your husband to snap it. You used a great photographer--yourself.

    Crayons and a brown paper bag? Great idea. Next time I need a photo, I'll know what to do...