I had a playmate down the street from me growing up. His name was Andy and he was a few years younger than me. I was around seven and eight years old at the height of our playtime together. We rode bikes, paddled around in his above ground pool, collected rubber bands from the post office parking lot one street over, made forts, and built things. One of my favorite things to do was to set up a scene with his wooden train set. Once we set up our “elaborate” train world, we would tie thread to the front of the train, shut all the lights out, and pull the train through the world we built while spotlighting the train with the flashlight. It was like it was moving by itself and it was very cool, this tiny world.
I got to play like a kid again with this year’s holiday card. I came up with the idea last year and kept it in the back of my mind until recently. I knew I wanted to play off the word “gnome” and then dress Harlow as a gnome.
I mean, of course I did.
I found a kid’s shirt at Goodwill for her to wear, and made a beard and cap for her, then I built a temporary studio in the house. She knew something was up. I swear she gave me a knowing, suspicious side-eye while she watched me set-up;
In the bottom of the above picture is as tiny yellow chair I needed to put my camera on because I knew the perspective would be important later. From the ground was too low, and from my tripod too hight. I used a cable to trigger the camera, and along with the best of treats, we (the dog and I) got the shot we needed pretty quickly. It’s like Harlow and I have been doing this for eight years or something! She was such a good, patient model;
I think my favorite thing is she always looks pissed off in the final result. Ha!
I knew I wanted to photograph my little Gnome Harlow in front of her woodland home. So I bought supplies to make a tiny set, which included a wooden fairy door I bought on etsy (and proceeded to paint because of course I couldn’t leave it plain), some tiny mushrooms, trees, and something to resemble grass. And spray snow. Yes, spray snow.
I made a mock Gnome Harlow while I made my set to try and get a sense of the perspective, layout and composition. I figured out that if I put it all on a cardboard box, I could glue tacs on the bottom of the scene elements and be able to move them around a little – carefully. Some wood skewers kept the door upright. I decided the smallest mushroom would be used as a place-marker for where Gnome Harlow would need to be photoshopped in later:
The next step waited until I was home in the middle of the day. I had lit Gnome Harlow very evenly in the in-house studio, so the scene she would be placed in later needed to be lit in the exact same manner. And gnomes live in trees, (or is it mushrooms?) so I needed the tree outside. I put the model on a TV dinner tray to bring the door right up to the tree so it looked like the door was going into the tree.
I then sprayed a bit of fake snow all over everything and shot at a variety of angles, all the while keeping my focus on the little mushroom so Gnome Harlow would be sitting on the right plane when placed in there later. ;
Next was getting Gnome Harlow photoShopped into the scene. I had fun learning how to do this layering technique in the program on my computer, but ultimately, I paid a fee to a pro online to photoshop her into the scene for me because I just couldn’t get it right.
I added shading under her belly, made the whole image darker and richer in color, and brightened her eyes a bit. I also played with the crop a lot, and then added the text once I finally decided what I wanted it to say.
But it still didn’t look finished. There was a lack of Christmassy festiveness. So I did a search online for cut-out string lights and found these;
I placed those over the image, and then made them go out-of-focus so that it gives it some depth and voila!