We often say that Beardsgaard is the D&D game to River Peak’s LARP tournament, and that is demonstrated nowehere as fully as these fantastical photo shoots we do sometimes. Usually it’s just Blademaiden, sometimes Beardsmith helping, and one of our clients in front of the camera. Sometimes on location. Once with a horse and horse wrangler.
This time we brought a mini crew, Shopkeep Vinc video documenting, upstairs neighbor Jimmy taking his own photo set on his giant, fancy Mamiya RZ67 ProII (his photos are the on-location images featured in this post, check out more about him at the bottom of the post), and Blademaiden trying to capture on film the written mythology of Frostwood (which you can descend into right here.)
We began the mythological photo shoots with autumn and Hearthstone, but when we set out to bring the inspiration behind Frostwood to life, (our winter beard oil from the house-made line of Beardsgaard), everything seemed to be conspiring against us. Let us tell you the rest of the story.
This is Brian Busch, a client and near-member of the family since he first walked into Beardsgaard. He took one look at the Schorem posters, the empty bottle of Laphroiag on a shelf, heard the strains of Tom Waits on the radio, and declared himself home.
He is also responsible for the illustrations you see on our product packaging, as well as the mural on the wall of our shop that maps out the realm of Beardsgaard. We seem to have an artist theme among our models, don’t we? And really luck out with the good-looking ones. Now on these shoots we generally have good luck and nature cooperates as well as could be hoped. This was not the case this winter, however.
Brian’s designs for our current (and upcoming) River Peak Apothecary products
So here’s everything that went wrong on this shoot. It all started with the fact that snow seems to have disappeared from the midwest in recent years. Frostwood should have snow, right? December got a quick dusting, then nothing in January, and by February Blademaiden was checking forecasts within a 500-mile radius on the daily, but massive schedule coordinations were going to make a road trip really difficult.
And then there were the clothes. We were thrilled to work with Una Mae’s on the Hearthstone shoot and we had a delightful visit to a Chicago menswear boutique that we hope to work with in the future and where we ferociously covet all of their clothing. But as waited too long on snow, the season was nearing spring, and remaining winter pieces were sparse, especially in the superman sizes. Brian is a beefcake of a silver fox, but a sample size he is not.
But on the way back from that jaunt to the city, we discovered the missing piece of the puzzle. Say we were to find snow, would we also be able to locate a patch of dense Nordic forest? The chances were slim. But on the way from Chicago to Batavia, we spotted something we have all known about since childhood and many of us have been to before. Right from the highway.
The Morton Arboretum. It’s a 1,700-acre living museum. Of trees. With sections for various trees of the world. Including a Nordic spruce plot. Right in Lisle. Bingo. We definitely bought a membership because we’re going to be there a lot, for all kinds of reasons. We suggest you make a trip for yourself.
Until then, we invite you to explore more of the story over at River Peak Apothecary, including where you can costume yourself as fantastically as Brian here, because as you can see, the arch mage did find his clothes.
It was extra neat to have two shutterbugs working on this project, one with a very specific mythological vision to create, one getting to be free with the magic all around us in the forest. You can see this place turned into Frostwood in the post on the River Peak blog, and see what our photographer neighbor Jimmy was working with below.
Mamiya RZ67 ProII
Sekor Z 50mm f/4.5
Sekor Z 110mm f/2.8
Sekor Z 180mm f/4.5
Kodak Portra 400 @ 320
Fuji Provia 400X @ 400
The “behind the scenes”:
Mostly shot on tripod with mirror lock, some handheld. I envisioned a bright and warm environment despite the location being in Frostwood. The pastel colors from the Portra400 work really well for this scene, but the Provia really has its own great look, making the scene feel colder somehow and giving another completely new interpretation! I love the separation that medium-format provides between subject and background in the middle distance, and for headshots the bokeh is lovely. Hope you enjoy!
-Jim Richards @