Behind the scenes at the Age of Scorpio photoshoot

Those of you who have been following the blog for the last couple of weeks might have guessed that we’ve been teasing you with photos from Gavin G. Smith’s brilliant new novel, The Age of Scorpio, out today. A few of you guessed the right answer from our photo clues, and here we have a special guest post from Chloe Isherwood, the photographer behind the shoot. Enjoy!

Hey! It’s my birthday!

And do you know what Gavin G Smith is doing on my birthday!? Releasing his next book with Gollancz! Wooh! \o/

Gavin contacted me nearly a year ago now, I think, to talk about creating images of some of his main characters from his new novel and I was immediately really enthused by the idea. He was after a collaborative set between myself and, who I like to call, ‘The Photoshop Wizard’, Karmic Design.

The plan was to get some shots of two of his characters (Britha and Tangwen) and he enquired as to whether I had any suitable models for their general description. Even though, he humoured me with the idea that I could scout for both, I know he had already made his mind up on his Britha being Gabriella Howson, this leggy and strong-featured number…


An incredibly good choice though on his part.

I suggested Stephanie Lindley for his tom-boyish heroine, Tangwen…


And then, a little nearer the time, Gavin sent me a brief with all the props I would need to acquire and he also, foolishly, mentioned this other character Cliodna…

Oh my goodness, Cliodna. To think we might not have done those shots.
He said to me, effectively, ‘fine’ if I could find a Cliodna and fit the shoot in on top of the other two… we could shoot this character as well.

So I asked Kiera Gould

Who is plenty enchanting and yet also vicious and therefore perfect for this role…
So we got it all together, got that Rachel Nicholson character on board for the make-up and contacted all the models to get their availability and book the shoots.
The ‘Tangwen’ Shoot – September 8th
Come September 8th, me, Gavin, Yvonne Cunningham (location/shoot co-ordinator), Rachel Nicholson and the lovely Stephanie Lindley were meeting at a tea-room in Brecon to prep for our first hike to Cwm Llan Llwch…
We drove out as far as we possibly could towards the beautiful nature-spot and parked up ready for our 30 minute walk up-hill…
To find this:


It was really, very beautiful.

As we were a little tired from the journey up, we had a very quick brunch in the sun whilst soaking our feet in the freezing-cold water looking like what Gavin described as an all-female hobbit cast from Lord of the Rings (thank you, Gavin for your ever sought-after comments and opinions ):


Annoyingly, it was also implied that I would be ‘Samwise’ to Rachel’s ‘Frodo’. I was less amused by this than she. Mainly because she’s cruel and I’m not really Gamgee’s number 1 fan… still, he’s better looking than Smeagol, I suppose and I do like ‘taters so it could have been worse.


After our little pre-shoot snack, we got Rachel set up and doing the make-up on Steph…




… and then Gavin and Yvonne went for a walk about the Loch whilst I went scouting for shots and angles… well, that’s what I said I was doing. I just wanted to take this shot:


(for scaling purposes, I have ringed Rach and Steph…)


I was pretty taken with the view and actually, my day had already been made by this point. I sat for a few minutes and then made my way back to Steph and Rachel, though, not before spotting Gavin trying to chuck Yvonne in the water, the menace:


When I got back, Rach was just finishing up and we were looking ready to shoot… we just needed to get the armour on her… The most amazing armour ever, might I add. I want it so much AND it’s my birthday *coughhintcough*:


This is just one of many amazing pieces made by Evenlode Studio in Oxford… but it’s still my favourite at the moment. You can see most of their latest stuff here if you’re interested!:


Evenlode Studio – Facebook


Now then, back to the shoot: Tangwen has two sides to portray (as do all three of our characters in a way) and so the first is to demonstrate her youth and her more gentle-natured side, I suppose so to start us off I wanted to catch the sun on her and on the water which worked rather nicely actually as in both of these next ones she’s surrounded in a gentle light:




This second image is the one that was used from this set and this is how it looks after it’s been with The Photoshop Wizard (Karmic Design) for further enhancement and to make it look a bit more fantasy-ey…:

I’m pleased with both of those images. Especially with them being the first shots of the day. The lighting couldn’t have been more spot on, I don’t think.


Right, so next we got Rach back on the case for Tangwen’s second ‘look’. This time we were getting a bit more of a savage look. Which meant bringing out the scary, huntress side in Steph (who hasn’t an angry or hurtful bone in her body… XD)…


So Rach slicked back her hair with white ‘lime’ (or paint) and started on Tangwen’s war-paint…
… and meanwhile, “Location Hobbit”, as Gavin has started to affectionately refer to her at this point… has decided she’d like to be a giant (normal-sized) now…


… but the climb made her a bit tired so it didn’t last…



This second one, again used for the final image, enhanced (rather expertly) by Karmic Design:



… And to think, I didn’t even notice the burning hill fort while I was there.


We did also visit Pontsticill Reservoir also in the later part of the day to get the following images in a bit more of a sunset scene but these ones weren’t used. Still, I like to share so I hope you enjoy:




… and then we had to break anyway for Steph’s emergency ‘Warrior Juice’:


… so we called it a day there and went for a lovely meal – after giving Steph a hefty scrub – where all the hobbits promptly fell asleep on a collective of full bellies (as is best for hobbitses):


The ‘Cliodna’ Shoot – September 9th
Well, excitingly, Gabby (Britha) couldn’t do the following day so that meant we were able to shoot the Cliodna shoot the following day! Yeah!


I was willing to shoot the Cliodna shoot all the way at the pre-arranged Lavernock Point in Newport, though I did not know the way – Luckily, we still had Location Hobbit.


So there we were after a heavy night’s sleep, eating our breakfast in the hotel-adjoined restaurant, when who rocks up but Aldershot’s very own Chuck Norris, Kiera Gould, Stunt (and pain) Extraordinnaire… or ‘Stunt Hobbit’?

Kiera, frankly, is a bit terrifying. Especially if you are tired.

They call her Kierannosaurus – for a reason.

So here she is again:


… but don’t let that face fool you because her real side comes out later in this shoot.

She’s the type of girl that you don’t want in your Zombie Apocalypse team, not because she wouldn’t totally handle all of the zombies… more because if you were slacking, you’d be left for dead. And no matter how hard you might be trying, beside Kiera, you’ll always be slacking.

As we’re big on LOTR references today. Here’s another demonstration:

I’ve killed 2 already! <- You

I’m on 17.                <- Kiera

We arrived at Lavernock Point fairly early on and Make-Up Hobbit (stupid name for her, as I think she was the tallest person on this shoot-team), got started on Cliodna’s make-up.


Now Cliodna’s a selkie… so they don’t really wear clothes per se… and in this setting they’re a bit grey/blue so Rach effectively was painting almost-naked Kiera blue for quite some time…


Meanwhile, Location Hobbit, Photo Hobbit (me), Arty Hobbit (Steph) and, erm, Gavin, sat down and had a little settle on the rocks.


I drew a picture.

Here it is:









…About 2 hours later, it had turned much coIder – not that Kiera was visibly suffering from any sort of human weakness – but we put our coats on and went in search of lunch.


When we returned, we munched our lunch, and our beautiful selkie was ready for her pictures…

Which went a bit like this:




This last one chosen to represent Cliodna’s more softer creature side (you’ll learn from the book that she’s never particularly human)…

And here’s Karmic Design‘s transformation of that last one:

Which I love, love, love with bells on. Ahhh!

For Cliodna’s second look, she’s going majorly feral so Kiera didn’t have to put on such a massive act anymore pretending to be all gentle.

Rachel got going on THAT make-up:

… and then before we knew it, 3 days later, Kiera was ready for the 2nd set.

Cliodna the mental Chuck Norris selkie:



… and yet it was the below image that won us all over:


That’s some creepy stuff right there.


But that’s nothing. get a load of this Karmic Design creation:

I love that final image. In fact, the two of Cliodna are my favourite final images but I love the others as well for many other reasons.


So that was day 2 of project ‘Age of Scorpio’. We were, for the most part, covered in body paint and exhaustion. Not to mention, Rachel kindly did this to me:


Making me look like some kind of dirty, male hippy-type.

We wrapped up Kiera in a dressing gown and bundled her off to a nearby shower… but not before getting a shot of the team:

The ‘Britha’ Shoot – September 15th


Right, the final shoot – Starring the ever-stunning Gabriella Howson:

Location: The top of Pen yFan; The highest peak in South Wales and Southern Britain at 886m high.


Game on.


Didn’t even look that high from down here…

… So after the first few steps I was wheezing like a wounded pig.

The back pack was digging into my shoulders, fit, athletic people were overtaking me, practically jogging, and after, probably an hour of Rachel and I, straining up this mountain, crying with laughter at our own terrible jokes and weirding out the rest of the team, we FINALLY… made it into the freezing cold clouds and started to rejoice that we had made it… only to be told that we weren’t actually at the top yet…

And another thing to add to this already bizarre scenario (of the two girls hiking up a mountain, at a snails pace, looking in pain and crying with laughter…) I forgot to mention that Gabby was already in make-up and looked like this:

… and was getting a fair few funny looks of her own. XD

Anyway, another 15-20 minutes later, there was a lot less laughter but a lot more being at the top of this deceptive mountain.

Here’s Rachel’s success story:


… it was now that we chose to tell her she technically could have waited in the car.

So now, with Nature’s fog-machine, atop Pen y Fan, we started shooting Britha.




Now both of Britha’s final images are from the same set rather than two different locations or two different make-up sets but they are as follows with Karmic Design‘s beautiful/scary edits:

Britha’s more noble, druid-esque look:

And after enhancements:

… and then here is savage, celty, heart-eating Britha:

I know, she doesn’t look savage or celty, heart-eating but check this bad-boy out:

Good job Karmic Design!!

Well that’s it from me, you guys and I have to say we had a bloody fantastic time shooting all these and I’ve never worked with such a well-glued team. We had a whale of a time, got some wicked images and you know what, for such a big meanie with a terrible sense of humour, Gavin G Smith sure can write a novel.

The Age of Scorpio is out today, folks!

Available in bookstores and on Amazon now!