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Today’s post comes from Faya. Originally from the tropical island of Mauritus, Faya is now based in Montreal, Canada. Her main focus is band photography in parallel with experimentations in fine art. Visit her website:



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

After much patience and multiple failed attempts, it is finally ready and this is how it all went down.


Wanting to continue a photo series with flowers 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.(quote)


I pictured this shot in nature, with an overhanging canopy of trees. I had thus far never shot such a concept on location, with a team, props and, not to forget, lighting. It was a challenge that had yet to be conquered! 

Concept drawing

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. 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.


To match the sunflowers and the location, I chose to go with yellow fabric. 20 meters of cotton fabric and veil was purchased from Fabric-ville and off I went to design the dress.

making dress


A boat was required to get to the location. We had one that held 4 people. With equipment, we could only bring 3. So photographer, captain/assistant and model it was. There was no room for a makeup or hair person. 

Gear Care

I was not at all comfortable with the idea of taking my camera and lighting equipment on a speedboat. Thankfully, Robert had the perfect solution: MEC dry packs! Two of them kept everything perfectly dry, not only from the boat splash, but also from the rain, because, oh yes, rain it did!

Full set BTS Hiding from rain

The Shoot

It was very interesting to revisit an abandoned location after a few years. Mother Nature was taking over fast and there were a lot nails sticking out of old boards everywhere, while the logs on which model, Assi, was perched, barefoot, were not stable. But she is a very brave and patient one.   

I used color gels on the flash heads for a more moody feel and released smoke bombs to add to the magical atmosphere. Here is the final lighting setup with 2 Alien Bees powered by one Vagabond Mini.

Fairy Shoot Lighting Diagram

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 Assi was very excited about it. She was also down for a posing challenge- just her and the fabric.

  Night Shot2_FAYA Night Shot1_FAYA

A single light setup, mosquitoes freely feeding off of us, calm breeze that perfected the smoke and it was done in not even an hour.

Night Shoot Lighting Diagram

At the end of the night, we made the decision to leave the fabric on the tree 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 :)

fabric friend1  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, firstly, never attempted this type of fantasy editing and secondly, I could just not get the coloring right and kept giving up. I did regret the use of the color gels then.

Requiring a second opinion from a trained eye, I sent the picture to my friend, Michael Denesyk, works predominately in the medium of painting.

His recommendations made me see this picture from so far out of the box that I started trying different crops, editing the composition, but what worked in the end, was just horizontally flipping the picture. Magic, you say!

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 a makeup or hair assistant, shot on a location with dangerous nails everywhere and a barefoot model. I 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:

cottage 1 cottage 3

About the “How to Shoot It” Series

This educational series highlights amazing images from our writers as well as our community. The goal is to not only feature inspirational work but to provide valuable education for our photography community. If you would like to submit your work or shoot to be considered, please click here to submit.