Wilhelm Photography Blog

The Evolution of the Wilhelm Family Christmas Card

 

The making of our Christmas card started out a silly, super amateur, low quality joke about our dog. What used to take part of an evening to create now takes days of shooting and editing for me. All year this card is in the back of my head with thoughts like, “What am I going to do this year?, How can I make it better?, and Why did I ever do this to myself?”  However, once it is done, it is one of my favorite projects of the year because I get to create it with the family. My kids are completely aware of the whole process now and are fantastic little actors. It is exciting to explain my vision, know they are going to actually keep it a secret, and watch them pretend in front of the camera.

I am excited to have this blog as an avenue of sharing my card with friends, clients, and those that I hope to meet in the coming year since I unable to mail it everyone! Come back to see the new card each year!

 

I shot the first card with 35mm film and the next few with a lousy 2 megabyte  point and shoot.  You can see that as our equipment progresses the image quality does as well.  After starting our business and investing in professional gear we have been able to pull off crazier scenarios.

Every year, we hear one of three questions:

1) How did you get your dog to do that?

My answer: Really big treats.

2) What are you doing this year for your Christmas card?

Answer: I can’t tell you! First of all, I don’t usually know. Second, sometimes “plan A” doesn’t work out.  Third, it is a surprise, of course!

3) Can we be added to your mailing list?

Answer:  Our mailing list is getting ridiculous, so I am very glad to have internet and Facebook to share easily with all of our friends, family, and clients!

Here are our cards starting from 2004 in case you want to see them all!

2004 Where’s Wallace

Card Caption: Merry Christmas from Ben, Tonya, and… Wallace?  Wallace? WALLACE?

2005 Merry Mistletoe

2006 The Star of Christmas

2007 A Simple Family Portrait

2008 Up, Up, and Away!

2009 Wallace Saves Christmas

2010 “You aren’t taking a ridiculous photo of me this year!” ~ Wallace

 

2011 “Just Wrapping Things Up for Christmas.”

2012  is a sad year for our tradition.  Wallace passed away in January, but we have a card to close the chapter on this series.

2012 “Sorry, without a dog we just don’t have enough talent to do our Christmas Card this Year.”

2012 Wilhelm Photography

2013 Walking in a Wilhelm Wonderland

2013 Wilhelm Photography Christmas Card

2014 We Got a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Our family got a big surprise this year! Fortunately for me this isn’t our real gift. I just rented the hippo *wink*If you don’t know the song that inspired this you can hear it here: I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oOzszFIBcE)

Hilarious family Christmas Cards

2015 May the Force be with you

I didn’t intend to ride the StarWars trend but it happened anyway. I still can’t believe the Death Star made it into my Christmas Card! Although, I this required some major photoshop work, if you click the image to see the original post, you will know actual damage occurred in my home last year for the making of this card. If you follow the blog, you know that we did very elaborate costumes from Episode 1 this year for Halloween which inspired this design. You can see them here: StarWars Halloween 2015

 

I hope this makes your Christmas merry and adds a good laugh. I love to hear what you think! So feel free to comment, share, and pin away! Watch for my 2016 card!

Mario Bros Halloween 2016

 

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Super Mario Bros Halloween Costumes

Many of you know that I walk in the Halloween parade with my kids each year, and we dress in a group theme. This year, we decided to go as the Super Mario Bros gang. My kids are big fans. I still have an original Nintendo, and we play it together as well as the newer versions. I don’t understand many of the new video games. It seems like they don’t have a point. I mean, if you aren’t saving a princess, you might be wasting your time. 😉

The parts fit each of us well in terms of size. My oldest daughter made a nice tall Luigi in comparison to the short character of Mario. I make our costumes from thrift store finds and craftiness, so I was excited that Mario and Luigi would be easy to put together. I even found their hats at the thrift store which was a big relief! I just had to add some yellow buttons and mustaches- the added bonus was that their costumes were also pretty warm for the chilly parade weather.

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My middle daughter was excited to be the pretty Princess Peach after being the green wrinkly Yoda last year. She already had the light pink dress, so I added puff sleeves and the other details from a dark pink thrift store prom dress. (I really don’t know how to sew, but if I can steal pre-made pieces I can get them attached well enough.)

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So, the difficult costume was mine. As the largest of the group, I was given the task of becoming Bowser the villain of the video game series. Let me tell you…this was hard. I was very lucky to find three yellow pieces at the thrift store that fit me and made the base of this costume.

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Then came huge amounts of felt, duct tape, foam, and just about 60 snow cone cups. I had two hot glue guns running full blast and I burnt all of my fingers but 3. The shell is made from a trashcan lid that is padded and covered. My head was the real sticking point. I tore the head apart four times and thought I’d never pull it off. I started with an old bike helmet an just kept gluing. The lower jaw actually moved with my jaw (I was a bit proud of that.) I thought I did a pretty good job, but I heard one kid call me a rooster and another said, “look mom, I found a pokemon!”

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We decided to see what we would look like if we were inserted into the older versions of the game…

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If you enjoyed our Mario Bros theme this year, be sure to let us know! Shares are a Halloween treat for us so go ahead and SHARE. And if you get some video gaming time…go save the princess!

 

 

O is for Orchard Orbweaver

You might not like spiders, but if you are a bug-hater in general this guy is really on your side. The Orbweaver usually makes his webs low to the ground or in bushes. His main mission is to control the insect population in your garden. Well, his main mission is to eat, but that is a bonus. My favorite thing is the crazy vibrant colors on this species of spider.

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The orb weaver spider’s web is often oriented horizontally, with the spider hanging down in the center.

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They are tiny. I am sure that no spider is tiny enough for you, but this guy is atop a hosta bud to give you some size reference.

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Hairy legs

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I love how clear and iridescent his long eight legs are. This shot captures the morning dew still clinging to the web.

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I am excited to get back to my A to Z blogging challenge in the New Year. If you are a fan of my photography or follow my facebook page, I am sure you have seen macro (close-up) photos of bugs, spiders, and plants popping up here and there. I love macro photography, and I love tiny critters! I realize, however, that some of my fans follow my page for my portrait work and don’t love seeing hairy eight legged things showing up in your newsfeed.  I still have to post a favorite now and then, but the majority of my artwork is posted here on my blog. I hope to post more frequently with all my growing styles of artwork. With my nature photos my goal is always to photograph them in a mix of artistic and documentary styles so that you can enjoy the little creations from afar and learn a bit about their mini world.

I have to show you our “babies.” My kids collect praying mantis egg sacks, and patiently waiting for them to hatch. They are easy to spot in bushes in the winter.  This year, we had a surprise in our Christmas tree and on New Years day our tree had about a hundred nymphs jumping across the pine needles.

This is what an egg sack looks like- a bit foamy.

Praying Mantis Eggs Sack www.wilhelm-photography

When they hatch, there are anywhere from 50-100 praying mantises!

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And they are SO tiny! We release most of them when we raise them, but keep a few and separate them so they don’t eat each other.  We feed them aphids, that is what the green specks are in the photo below. Since we are raising some of our New Years babies, I actually bought flightless fruit flies that I can farm at home to feed them. It is working well, but I think I am among the very few that have willingly brought fruit flies into my home! Here is a day old nymph on the needles of our blue spruce. A Christmas light is the “sun” you see in this shot.

Sunrise in the Christmas Tree

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They are perfect replicas of the adults. As they grow they molt their skin.  It looks like a dead mantis at the bottom of the jar, but it is just a shell of one. They are fascinating to watch.

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This is Praying Mantis Yoga 🙂

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No doubt you will see more of these guys as they grow! Thanks for checking them out! I am hosting a challenge on Viewbug for Praying Mantis photos. If you want to join- it is free! GO TO VIEWBUG CHALLENGE

 

Merry Christmas!

I didn’t intend to ride the StarWars trend this year, but it happened anyway. If you follow the blog, you know that we did very elaborate costumes from Episode 1 this year for Halloween. You can see them here: StarWars Halloween 2015

I was one week into December and still had zero plans for the Christmas card. That is when my friend’s son Noah showed me that he has last year’s card on the fridge. I looked at the photo of my three kids on the back and panicked. Not only did I not have a plan for the card, but I had been so busy this year that I didn’t take a photo of the kids for the back of the card. The most recent images I had were from Halloween. Between that and my friend’s son talking about how Darth Vader should be on my card, the idea was born.

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The next two weeks, I tried to figure out how to make the tree look like it fell over after being sliced with a lightsaber. I came home one day to find my tree on the ground with balls smashed to smithereens. I was a bit heartbroken, but obviously this meant less photoshop. We bought lightsabers and cleared the evening for our annual photo shoot. I spent the rest of the week repairing ornaments. I was able to fix all the ones with sentimental value, and we all agreed that our star was lame and needed replaced.  I added snow to the back images for that Star Wars classic Christmas effect- hehe

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So, the Death Star made it into my Christmas card… Not going to win any awards for beauty this year!

I hope that makes your Christmas Merry!

Need to see the previous years? Check out our

Christmas Card Traditions Blog

Moth Madness

I have been creating a collection of moth photos, and I am very excited to introduce to you several kinds of large moths in our area.  These tremendous moths, despite their size, are rarely seen due to their nocturnal behaviors. They are much more lovely than you would expect from the porch light sightings where we commonly get a glimpse.

My four moths all come from the order of Lepidoptera but will represent some different families within that large encompassing order. First, lets look at the Saturniidae family. Saturniids include the largest of the moths including giant silk moths like this Polyphemus Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This moth is easily identified by the eye spots on the wings. So much so that its name was given in reference to the Greek myth of Cyclops Polyphemus.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

It is easy to distinguish between males and females. The above image is of the female with less feathery antenna and below is a male with very pronounced and bushy antenna. They detect the pheromones of the female.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Males will fly for miles in one night to find a female.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

My next moth is from the same order and family, but it is the only moth with this color pattern. This yellow beauty is the Imperial Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This is the only moth to be yellow with a tan/lavender or brown/pink pattern on it’s wings.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

The caterpillars of the imperial moths dig underground to form their cocoons so you will not find them hanging on vegetation in your yard.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

This one was missing an antenna when I found it.  I wondered if that would affect his quality of life. However, I found that these moths do not live long as adults. In fact, when they reach the adult phase, their mouth parts are so greatly reduced that they do not feed. They focus on reproduction and live only a week or more.

My next two moths are still in the Lepidoptera order, but come from the Sphingidae family which includes hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms.

This is the Pandorous Sphinx Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

These moths fly at dusk and have an incredible camouflage pattern.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

These adults drink nectar and are sometimes seen in meadows or along forest lines in the evening.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

When adults emerge from the cocoon, they pump their wings to disperse fluid and extend them.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Although the caterpillars stage is destructive due to its ravenous nature. This guy has been known to devour even poison ivy which is a big plus to most folks.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Also in this family is the Big Poplar Sphinx Moth.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

Another guy with one sad looking antenna. I had a hard time researching this one.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

 This was an unusual find. I had a hard time identifying this one.

Wilhelm Photography: Moth Madness

To identify this one, I have contacted an expert in this field, and he has already responded. My guess was close. When I identified this moth, I thought it was Genus: Pachysphinx and Species: Occidentals. This is more likely the Species: Modesta which would be found on the east coast. I am glad to have him correctly identified and excited to have my sighting logged and soon added to http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com!

For those of you who want the full classification to find out more…

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)

Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)

Class Insecta (Insects)

Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)

No Taxon (Moths)

Superfamily Bombycoidea

Family Sphingidae (Sphinx Moths)

Subfamily Smerinthinae

Tribe Smerinthini

Genus Pachysphinx

Species modesta (Modest Sphinx)

 

If you enjoy my Macro work or moths- let me know! 

L is for Ladybug. These are by far my most popular macro subjects. I hope today you enjoy them and learn a bit about them! This is a great one to share with curious kids.

This year, my kids and I found a ton of ladybug larvae while collecting aphids (it is amazing what you find when you search for a garden pests such as plant lice!) Many people do not know that ladybugs go through a complete metamorphosis from egg (which hatches in five days) to adult.  Let me show you what to look for next time you are in your garden.

Lady bug eggs. Tiny. This cluster is on one pine needle so you have to really be looking for them!

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This is a lady bug larva. Although larvae only grow to about one centimeter long, when they hatch they eat like crazy for three weeks. They don’t eat plants so don’t kick them out of your garden; ladybugs chow down on pests like aphids.

Lady Bug Larvae

After getting their fill, they enter into the pupa stage and attach themselves to a leaf or stem for about 5-7 before emerging as ladybug adults.

Becoming Lady

Becoming Lady

They will have their spots within twenty-four hours of emerging, and as they reach maturity their wings often darken from an orange to deep red.

Lady Bug and Bud

Lady and Umbrella

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I was just discussing with a friend how this beetle is usually liked and considered cute unlike any other beetles or insects for that matter (with the exception of butterflies.) Funny how some polka dots and the name “lady” have changed our perspective.

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Lady on a Flame

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Lady on the Edge

Ladybugs are definitely a favorite for me to photograph!

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My daughter found this ladybug, “that is really different looking.” She is referring to the unique spots of an Eye-spotted Ladybug which are black with white rings around the spots.  The spots are designed to look like eyes which warn and scare the bugs that might be predators.  She was too pretty not to photograph so I thought I’d share my two favorite shots from the mini session with her.

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By a Thread

I also have a ladybug image in my Enchanted Forest Collection

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Share, Like, Pin!

I was looking through my portfolio trying to find a “K” and came up wanting. This will be short and sweet because I have exactly two images of a Katydid. Quite frankly, the first Katydid shot I capture was entered and won a commendation in the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition, and I figured I wasn’t going to top that anytime soon.

Katydids are in the cricket family of Tettigoniidae. They are also known as bush crickets or long-horned grasshoppers. They are easily identified by their body which mimics a leaf. You have probably heard their loud chirping noise in the trees during the summer months. The males are competing- loudest wins the female.

My two photographs of the Katydid are as different as night and day. That is possibly because one was taken during the day and the other at night.

This one was the one that placed well with IGPOTY.

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This one was taken on tripod, lit by moon light just after sunset. I pumped up the already rich colors and it has a totally different almost cartoon feel.

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Which do you prefer? Let me know!

Next week, is L is for Ladybugs and you will get to see each stage of their lifecycle and some of my most popular art! Don’t miss it!

 

J is for Jumping Spider #AtoZblogchallenge

I get it. Spiders are creepy. I don’t like them sneaking up on me, but the jumping spider is worth taking a closer look. He’s fuzzy, has big puppy dog eyes, and can hug you with not four, but eight legs! What’s not to like?

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

The jumping spider is easy to distinguish from other spider families. The rectangular head and eye pattern is a dead give away. This one was wet so you can really see his head shape without that crazy hair sticking up.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

I see these guys scuttling across my picnic table all the time. They are diurnal, so they are actively hunting during the day. Don’t let that worry you. You are not on the list. Most spiders have the potential to bite, but the jumping spider tries to avoid you and is not considered a medical threat. Gentle. Remember? Like an eight-legged teddybear. Not convinced?

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

DSC_0466You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Jumping spiders come in an array of colors. Some have vivid iridescent chelicera which are the green-blue mouthparts you see below.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

I am sure you were thinking “fangs” not  “mouthparts.”  And all though I know it won’t make them more endearing, there are fangs at the base of the chelicera. Jumping spiders don’t make webs. They live up to their name and pounce on their dinner. They rely on the back legs for their super jumps which propel them 10 to 40 times the length of their own body size.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Just because they don’t spin webs doesn’t mean they don’t have silk producing spinnerets. They use strands of silk to create safety lines when jumping. They also build themselves shelters to lay eggs and survive bad weather. You can see the dragline in the photo below.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday DSC_9580

Still see him as just plain scary? Let’s talk about how he sees you…

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

The jumping spider has four pairs of eyes and the sharpest vision of any creature his size.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Here they are…

Jumping spider eyes- incredible!

The large front eyes (AME) have the best visual acuity, but due to the distribution of the four sets, he virtually has a 360 degree view of the world! Incredible.

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

As far as spiders go, this is as lovable as it gets- at least for me. I see how they are misunderstood. But let’s view them more like the movie villains of old. Sure they make a good monster movie, but they aren’t really larger than life. They want to be left alone as much as you. Before you squish a jumping spider, take a look at those big round eyes looking up at you! Then just try to catch that bugger- he is fast!

You might actually like this spider… Creature Feature Friday

Even if you hate spiders…if you like me and my art – LIKE, SHARE, AND PIN

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One of my favorite stories is the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. For years, I have wanted to create images based on the beautiful descriptions penned by Irving. This year, I finally was able to capture my two favorite characters in the peek of autumn. Let me quickly introduce you to my two models for this project.  I feel that I need to post a regular portrait of each because both guys were kind enough to let me exaggerate their features or decapitate them all together, and they really are both too dashing to deserve such treatment. I am glad, however, that they were willing to help me bring Ichabod and the Headless Horseman to life. Thanks to both of them! They spent a considerable amount of time working with me on this. I love the characters in this book, and maybe someday I will come back to it and explore more of them.
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For the rest of my blog I will let Washington Irving quotes show you what inspired me with these images…

 

“The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock, perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.”

“thus going the rounds of the neighborhood, with all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“The school-house stood in a rather lonely but pleasant situation just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook running close by, and a formidable birch tree growing at one end of it.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great green eyes over the fat meadow-lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards burthened with ruddy fruit,”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“On all sides he beheld vast store of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer; and whose spirits rose with eating as some men’s do with drink. He could not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through…

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

 

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“…and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s history of New England Witchcraft, in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“His appetite for the marvelous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spellbound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow.”

“Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was, to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. ”

“But if there was a pleasure in all this, … it was dearly purchased by the terrors of his subsequent walk homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night!”

“How often did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him!”

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“Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered long-settled retreats…”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crest-fallen, pursued his travel homewards, along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was dismal as himself.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. This was one of the favorite haunts of the headless horseman; and the place where he was most frequently encountered.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the revolutionary war; and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

“Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him.”

Sleepy Hollow comes to life in photos

I am probably not finished perfecting any of these, but projects like this never feel perfect enough when I am working on them. This was definitely a tricky  project. I especially wrestled with the edit where I decided to play with a bit of an optical illusion with the trees- I wanted to see my horseman without spacial boundaries. I am not sure that I am comfortable with that, but I didn’t want to wimp out on posting it. Even as I post this, I already see things I want to retry, but its time had come. If you have never read the original work, I encourage it. I read it every fall.

If you love this story too, leave a comment! I hope this added some magic to the end of your autumn.