As a heroic fantasy photographer, shooting with dragons is one of my dreams. Not fake Photoshopped dragons but real dragons. But everybody knows that they are dead for a very long time. A long time, that is, until Deanerys and Games of Thrones came along.
Let’s go back to few months ago. I was working In Paris. One morning, I saw an advertisement about Dragonland, an exhibition with life size dragons. “Wow, that must be really great”. And I created the equation in my mind : Dragons + Daenerys = Cosplay shoot.
People often ask me how I get access the place where I create my photo shoot scenes. The answer is really simple. I try. After finding the marketing or PR contact, I explain my project and show my online portfolio. Sometime it works out, and sometime not.
At Dragonland, they were very excited by the project. I got authorisation to shoot the dragon for few hours. I called model Aria Aslinn, who already has experience playing Daenerys Targaryen from a previous cosplay shoot. For this shoot, she had the chance to wear a dress made by Nikita Cosplay, a talented cosplay costume designer.
On location the main difficulty is choice. Dragonland includes 30 animated dragons with scenery! All of them are amazing.
I use the autonomous NiceFoto RQ800C speedlight and a simple Yongnuo in slave mode. The RQ800C is my main light through an octabox. The Yongnuo acts as the back light.
I want to recreate a real complicity between the model and the dragons. They must look alive on the final picture. So we start with a very huge dragon surrounding Aria. For this shoot, Aria made herself some wonderful dragons eggs.
Daenerys takes care of the eggs and the dragon takes care of Daenerys.
The main RQ800C is on the left side to lighten the dragon’s head and the model. The small Yongnuo is positioned on the back right with a CTO gel. I used to bring artificial smoke for my shooting. Here, though, the exhibition is inside, which makes that impossible. So, I add the smoke effect with Photoshop. Aaron Nace explains how to do this here, and you can download the brush here.
On the same scene we create another image. Here the light setup is the exact opposite. RQ800C is on the right and the other on the left.
It time to go to another location afterwards. A smaller green dragon is perfect for a hug moment.
It takes so much time to get these pictures. The dragon are animated, so the head is always moving. We determined that the head stops for a few seconds in the movement loop. That is the exact moment to be ready, strike the pose and shoot!
And last but not the least. At the exhibition Aria, the model, discovered, not far from the exit, the perfect scene for a Daenerys scene.
Three beautiful and big dragons, that seem to protect something or someone. I ask Aria to stand just below them. My octabox is far way on the top right to get a high contrasted mood. And almost everything is done. In post production I changes the dragons colors to fit with the Game of Thrones’ Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal.