A little backstory on this season's Halloween photo. This is an image from one of two different "test shoots" I did recently as a trial run for the new 1800's library set I just built for our upcoming winter photography shoot. Being that Halloween is coming up I wanted a suitably gothic subject so I chose the legend of "Vasilisa The Beautiful." For those unfamiliar with the story it's the Eastern European legend of a young Russian maiden who is kidnapped by a tragic, undead knight named Kashi, the Deathless. Kashi is immortal because of an unfortunate encounter with a witch, who trapped his soul in a needle, which was then trapped in an egg (which was trapped in a duck that was trapped in a etc, etc but that's another story).
According to legend Vasilisa escapes when she kills Kashi by breaking the egg, which had been retrieved by a heroic knight named Ivan who had just arrived to rescue her from Kashi’s castle. Heartbroken, Kashi's last images of this world are that of his beloved Vasilisa betraying him to this heroic, young knight.
However… a lesser know part of the tale is that whoever has possession of Kashi’s soul also controls Kashi himself. So this got me thinking. What if Vasilisa decided she wasn’t so helpless after all? I could imagine Vasilisa sitting there, caressing the newly recovered egg, as Kashi and Ivan battle over her destiny, and realizing…
“hmmm… this egg… MY egg… my… precious!”
Then, boldly, she stands to face the two warriors and presents the egg. But, instead of breaking it, she turns. And walks away.
“Kashi… kill him!”
So what would Vasilisa “the Beautiful” be like ten, twenty, maybe even a hundred years after that fateful day? How would her murder of Ivan and constant possession of this cursed, undead soul (it’s really more of a horcrux, right?) change her? Perhaps instead of a princess she would become… a Queen! Beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”
Sound familiar? It’s a fascinating thought to me. I love exploring the idea of “falling to our temptations.” So the purpose behind this photo is to give a glimpse of Vasilisa years later, master of Kashi, lord of her kingdom, “beautiful and terrible, both adored and feared. Herself now trapped by immortality and her bond to this cursed, undead soul, she lives our her beauty amongst the bones of the future she chose not.
I learned a lot on these two test shoots (and I’ll post the image from the other shoot as we get closer to Halloween) and I had to fix a ton of my bad decisions in post. I’ll see if I can post a few videos of me “fixing” these images over the next week or so. Ultimately, it’s the incomparable talents of my Vasilisas, Alexandra Renee and Inna Zagariya, who made these images what they are.
This was shot on a Pentax K3 with a Pentax DA 35mm f2.8 Limited lens.
1/125, f3.2, ISO100
Lighting was provided by 6 Yongnuo 560mkII speedlights triggered by a 560TX. I had one light in the upper right corner of the window with no modifier (outside shining in). I had two on either side of the model using Gamilight Box60 striplight modifiers (to pop her from the background), one key light to my upper left using a Gamilight Square43 modifier, and the other two using Gamilight Spot2 snoots specifically to illuminate the glitter on the subjects body and in the fabric. Color was added via various shades of blue gels. Model and MUAH was the fabulous Alexandra Renee.