Reflections on a Cover Shoot

Thursday was a good day for photography. The light was beautiful, and it was warm but not super hot out. My photographer friend Rebecca and I ventured to a nearby private boys’ school that’s set in a woodsy area, because the forest is a pivotal setting in the book I’m publishing, and we wanted to capture that for the cover.

So I grabbed my kimono and my wig and the kitsune mask that I decorated, and we headed down behind some housing onto a trail at the bottom of a low hill covered in bright green ferns. As we were making our way down, there was this series of three blasting tones over the loudspeaker, followed by garble that sounded vaguely like some demonic language come to life. It took us a few times hearing the repeated message to understand it:

A BEAR HAS BEEN SPOTTED ON CAMPUS.

DO NOT APPROACH THE BEAR.

I was like, oh shit, a bear, we’re going to die. And Rebecca, who is normally a scaredy cat about that kind of stuff, but who is also 8 months pregnant, said that after watching a video on childbirth and finding out how disgusting and horrible it looks, she might never be scared of anything again. So with that dubious reassurance, we finished making our way down to the trail. I pinned up my hair, donned the props, and we started shooting.

All was well for about ten minutes, except for mosquitos feasting on my feet (I have about six bites on my right foot, two on my left). This was after school hours, nearing evening, so there were boys in their summer uniforms walking around campus, and some boys who had already changed playing a pickup game of lacrosse on the green outside the main buildings. It was relatively quiet where we were, until we heard a student shout “HEY BENNY!” We were like…Benny?

And then Rebecca turned and saw the bear.

“Oh shit,” she said, “it’s a bear. Not even kidding. We gotta go!” And she started booking it up a path we’d decided to shoot by – convenient, since had we gone back the way we’d come, we would have had to pass the bear.

Now, covered up in a wig and without my glasses on in the gathering dark, I didn’t actually see this mythical bear. I don’t know what color it was or if it was looking hungry or aggressive or just kind of chilling in the woods. Or if Rebecca was just seeing things. But she was zooming up the trail and I didn’t want to be left behind, so in a mad dash I picked up my purse and my costume supplies bag and walked briskly right after her, definitely wanting to get away but not wanting to run in case the bear thought it would be fun to chase something running (not that that’s something bears typically do, but brains don’t always work in the face of bears).

We got to the top of the trail and checked ourselves. Rebecca wanted to take some more pictures, but I found that I’d dropped my mask somewhere down on the trail and, hey, it was getting dark and there was a bear down there. I wasn’t going back down, and at 8 months pregnant neither was she.

The trail we were on looks relatively well-walked, and I decided that with Halloween right around the corner, I should just leave the mask there and hope that someone finds it. Maybe they’ll wonder what it is, or maybe they’ll know. They’ll likely wonder where it came from, who made it, how it had gotten there, maybe what it was for. Hopefully, it’ll spark someone else’s story.

Or maybe the kitsune just wanted to stay behind and play with the bear. I try never to get in the way of a fox’s fun. 😉

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