It started out as a joke. When Caroline and I found out we were going to be having a baby, I agreed to give her full autonomy over his/her wardrobe so long as I was in charge of the Halloween costume each year. As a huge fan of Halloween and horror movies, I began to joke that our child would wear a new costume for all thirty-one days of October. We’re not sure when, but this joke soon morphed into reality. For the second year in a row, we have taken on the challenge of crafting thirty-one Halloween photoshoots with our son, Charlie. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been equally challenging and rewarding. We’ll post a new spooky photo each day, and maybe we’ll throw in a cute costume from time to time. Follow his progress on our Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #thirtyonemonsters. We’ll also blog daily about the conditions and challenges of each photoshoot. We wish you a spook-tacular, scare-tastic, and most importantly photogenic Halloween!
– The Brittains
October 31st – Happy Halloween! This year has been even crazier than last year, as we pushed ourselves to find cooler locations and incorporate more props and cool costumes. Thank you to everyone who has supported this ridiculous idea, to those of you who helped with the pictures (or appeared in the background), bought or made us costumes, or supported us in any way. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to finish out the year with a picture of “Jigsaw.” There’s truly no better catchphrase for the 31st picture than “Game Over!” We purchased these velvety fabrics to emulate Jigsaw’s iconic robe, and Caroline knitted them together over several hours to custom-fit Charlie. We shot this one in the basement in front of a black back-drop, and I pumped some fog behind him to give it the feel of Jigsaw’s lair. The final piece we wanted to incorporate was a gift given to me nearly a decade ago from my friend Kacie. Jigsaw’s Billy puppet is an heirloom I intend to keep in our family for generations. I knew I had to incorporate it into the shot, so we handed it to Charlie who happily obliged.
October 30th – For the first time in Thirty-One Monsters history, we had to do a photo-shoot on the morning of the day we intended to post it. We were in Lock Haven for the weekend, so we got up early and took Charlie to historic Highland Cemetery which has burials dating back to the 1860’s. This shoot is to honor the “Day of the Dead” which is actually November 1st. We applied a few temporary tattoos to Charlie’s face and put him in this fancy red shirt. Caroline had the brilliant idea at the last minute to have him holding a red rose, so I pulled all other colors from the picture to make the red really pop out. My dad even joined us to help get Charlie to smile, and that he did. He was in a fabulous mood for a surprisingly warm morning in late-October. After all of the garbage weather this month, we were lucky to have a few warm days to finish the last three photos.
October 29th – On July 16, 1986, a Piper PA-28 Cherokee (flight registry: N32777) crashed into Bald Eagle Mountain just a few miles from the William T. Piper Memorial Airport. During the climb, the pilot struck trees and crashed sustaining serious injuries to his aircraft as well as to himself (though he did survive). Having visited the crash site several years ago, it seemed to me like a no-brainer that we should use it as a backdrop for our photo-shoot of the “Ghost Pilot.” We met our friends James and Jen at the bottom of the mountain and suited up for our ascent. Though it was late-afternoon in late-October, the weather was perfectly brisk for a steep climb. After about an hour, we reached the plane. We sat Charlie in front of it and asked him to make animal noises, which is one of his favorite pastimes. Tired from the climb, we were lucky he made it easy enough and was smiling the whole way from the top to the bottom. As we descended, the sun began to set behind the mountain, and we got to our cars just as dusk set in. This was probably the most difficult shoot to reach, but also one of the most rewarding. Charlie loves staring up at the trees as we hike, and we’ll be certain to take him into the wilderness more often.
October 28th – We had to pull an audible yesterday to get this photo. Did I say yesterday? Why yes, despite having started in February this year, we are to the point we’ve wanted to avoid all along, which is being forced to take a photo per day in order to keep up. The rainy New Jersey weather has been a huge detriment lately, but luckily we’re almost to the end of the month. We intended to take a few shots outside, but it started to rain just as we picked Charlie up from his Omi’s house. We took a quick inventory of what costumes and outfits we had on hand and realized we could dress him as an “Evil Ventriloquist Dummy” in our basement. This outfit was actually one that I wore when I was his age, way back in 1989. I put on a suit as the ventriloquist and sat Charlie on my lap. I showed him his reflection in a mirror to make him laugh, and as soon as I removed it Caroline would shoot. We’re lucky we were able to get one done yesterday, and even luckier that the weather should be nice today, as we have quite the adventure to go one for tomorrow’s shot.
October 27th – The first stop on our trip to Philadelphia was supposed to be at the Harrisville Ruins in Wharton State Forest. When we arrived, what seemed online like some pretty amazing ruins of an early 1900’s ghost town were really just a few stacks of bricks behind a cyclone fence. On the drive in, however, we noticed a rock monument that would definitely serve as an adequate backup. We headed back to it and got Charlie suited up as the “Goblin.” His Aunt Laura was nice enough to knit him this fantastic goblin hat. My Goodwill spelunking netted me a Chewbacca outfit that I knew would serve as a good foundation for his suit. Caroline had a brown shirt that fit the color palette, so we wrapped it around the torso to obscure the fact that it was supposed to be a Star Wars character. This might have been the most fun we’ve had on a shoot. We set Charlie down and played hide and seek in circles around the monument, and he had an incredible time. He instantly forgot he was wearing a hat, and he gave us way more outtakes than we could have possibly hoped for.
October 26th – The real reason we went to Philadelphia on Sunday was to visit the oldest alley in America. Elfreth’s Alley, dating back to 1702, had just the cobblestone vibe we were looking for. In a conversation I had with my friend James a few months ago, he suggested that “Jack the Ripper” would be a good idea for a shot. I agreed but lamented that it would be difficult to find a cobblestone alley with the feel of late-1800’s London. I did some research though, and I found that Philly is home to quite a few cobblestone streets. When we got there, it was apparent given the revitalization and tourists milling around that Elfreth’s would not work. We remembered on the walk in that there was another street that was closed to vehicular traffic, maintained the street lamps we were looking for, and had few pedestrians. Just before dusk we put Charlie in his overcoat, stuck the plastic knife in the ground, and let him come to us. I lay in the street and waited until he picked it up and walked up to me. All I could have wanted was for him to hold it out to his side, and he did just that. This turned out to be one of my favorite shots of the month.
October 25th – One of the photos we definitely wanted to do this year was “The Joker,” and we were looking to resemble Heath Ledger’s version from “The Dark Knight.” We debated visiting an abandoned prison where you can go into the cells, but it seemed to make more sense to create our own. We purchased an iron trellis from Lowe’s and brought it down to our basement. We have a small unfinished storage room with a cinder block wall, so we set it up in the entryway. Caroline and Charlie played with some toys in the room while I was just outside pointing my camera at the door. When he eventually noticed me and walked up to the bars, I snapped a few shots and was lucky enough to immediately get an evil smile out of him.
October 24th – We had a sailor outfit that we had purchased last year, so it seemed economical to make a few adjustments and dress Charlie as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from “Ghostbusters.” We took a day trip to Philadelphia yesterday and got a few of our last remaining photos out of the way. Since the Marshmallow Man most famously walks through New York City, we were looking to have a similar skyline in the background without having to travel into Manhattan. Caroline suggested we go to the top of a parking garage, so we went 14 floors up and put on Charlie’s costume. At the last second I realized we were missing the red handkerchief, but what we did have was a Winnie the Pooh costume I had found at Goodwill and a sharp pair of scissors. I apologized to Winnie as we eviscerated him to make the handkerchief, but it was indeed necessary to round out the costume.
October 23rd – On one of my many trips to Goodwill over the last several months, I found a pair of giant foam elf ears meant to stick out of the side windows of a car. The cogs in my head started turning, and I realized that if I spray-painted them black they would be fantastic Mothman wings. I ordered a headlamp with a red light and found some fake butterfly antennae in the Halloween section of Target. We had had our eyes on a path in Brick near the cabin where we did the Evil Dead shoot. We felt that it would be the perfect creepy background for the shot. We went there just before dusk a few nights ago, and Caroline put Charlie on her shoulders and bounced him for a minute or two while I took the photos. Despite a few strange looks from a midget football team that was practicing in a nearby field, we were in and out in five minutes. Only a few more shoots to go before we can celebrate the end of October!
October 22nd – “The Photograph” – Though the house we just recently purchased was empty upon our arrival, I found a photo album behind a radiator that looked as if it had been there for nearly a century. No matter how many times I threw it away, it kept reappearing in different places around the house. When I flipped through the album, I found this photo on the last page. That boy looks eerily similar to Charlie, doesn’t he?
October 21st – For “The Witch Doctor,” we knew that we were going to need a custom costume. We bought a few different fabrics back in August, and Caroline sewed together this costume modeled off of a picture we had seen online. We gathered up our collection of fake bones and our cauldron and headed to Cattus Island. Not far from the parking lot was this ominous-looking downed tree, so we hung a bunch of the bones from it with twine. Charlie was more than happy to pick up the bones and pose for the camera, and we had more great shots than we knew what to do with.
October 20th – The intention of this shoot was to emulate those movies with the backwoods hillbillies that teenagers often run into on their way to a cabin in the woods. We went to an old shack in the back woods of Brick, NJ and were delighted to find this tractor. Caroline crouched on the other side of it and held Charlie in place. I put the hand on the wheel and handed him the chainsaw, and he was delighted to swing it around. It wasn’t until I got into the editing stage that I realized this was a great depiction of the movie “The Evil Dead” where Bruce Campbell wields a chainsaw and gets into a fight with his own severed hand. I think this is the first shoot we’ve ever done that ended up being a totally different concept afterwards.
October 19th – We had been trying to come up with a way to do a version of the Boogeyman or a monster under the bed when we saw this costume in Target a few weeks ago. We decided that that the sensible place this monster might merge from would be a closet, so that’s where we shot it. We put a little blue make-up on Charlie’s nose and suited him up. Caroline held him behind the doorway while I popped out with the camera playing hide and seek. If you use your imagination, he’s actually growling at you.
October 18th – When Caroline’s Grandma found us a striped suit, we knew instantly that we should add “Beetlejuice” to the list. It took a while to find the right location, and at points we thought we might do it at the same place that we took the Grim Reaper photo, but it wasn’t quite right. Just before sunset, we went to a cemetery in Toms River that has the above mausoleum, which can be seen from the road. We put Charlie in his suit, added a little baby powder to his hair, and shot for a few minutes. We were lucky enough to have a great looking sky in the background on that particular day.
October 17th – We got the suggestion to do “The Exorcist” toward the end of our run last year. We waited it out, and Charlie still hasn’t learned to turn his head 180 degrees. However, we felt that we could still capture the spirit of the movie. We visited the childhood bedroom of one of my relatives who is likely to be surprised when she sees this one. I had bought Charlie a nightgown from an antique store in Point Pleasant that was similar to Linda Blair’s in the film. We applied a little make-up, a little split pea soup (which we found he is quite fond of) and bounced him on the bed a few times until he gave us his devilish smile.
October 16th – I wanted to take a photo of Charlie dressed as Bigfoot and make it seem as authentic as possible i.e. shoot at a low shudder-speed to have him seem blurry, grainy, and black-and-white like every photo of Bigfoot we’ve seen before. While I was able to take a few of those, my favorite photos of him are always the ones where he looks the cutest, so that’s what we landed on as the official picture for the album. We ordered a Gorilla suit in his size and took him to Ocean County Park where we did many of his photos last year. He was more than happy to run around and play hide-and-seek in the trees. I shot at a variety of different settings to see what I liked best once we got to the editing stage. Ultimately it was this shot of him popping out from behind a tree that was our favorite.
October 15th – We debated where to take the picture of “The Surgeon” for so long that it was actually on the original list last year. We bounced around the idea of finding an old psychiatric facility (you’d be surprised by how many there are in New Jersey) but we weren’t going to go somewhere that wasn’t 100% safe. We eventually realized that we could take the photo in our own kitchen. We’ve amassed quite a few fake severed limbs over the year, and we had the bed sheet left over from the “It” photoshoot, so on a rainy Saturday we decided to shoot it indoors. I stood on a stepladder while Caroline and Charlie ran around the table. We had plenty of shots of him smiling, but after a few minutes he looked right up at me with this frozen stare and it became our favorite shot.
October 14th – If it were not for Leap year, today would be a Friday the 13th. So in honor of Friday the 14th, today’s photo is of Jason Vorhees. It doesn’t make much sense to do a photo of Charlie in a mask if you can’t see his face, so we wondered for a long time how to pull this off. It occurred to us that we could have the mask sticking out of the ground in the foreground and Charlie in the background holding a machete. We were able to find a jumpsuit similar to the outfit that Jason wears in a few of the movies, and we took him to Cattus Island in Toms River. By sticking the machete out of the ground, Charlie naturally wanted to walk over and pull it out. We got his attention enough to get this great shot. Afterward, I ran around in the woods with him while wearing the mask, and we had a great time playing hide and seek behind the trees.
October 13th – It’s probably best that you stay inside today, as it’s the unlucky 13th day of the month. For that reason, we are posting the “Black Cat” crossing your path. For maximum unluckiness, we took Charlie’s photo under a ladder. For this shot, we looked around quite a bit for just the right alley. The right one turned out to be just down the road in downtown Toms River. We borrowed the ladder from Charlie’s Auntie L, dragged it into the alley for five minutes, and let Charlie run around, play in puddles, and even climb a few rungs (with Caroline inches away.) This turned out way cuter than we could have ever expected. Careful out there today!
October 12th – Today is the final photo from our Game of Thrones series. It’s a lot harder to find a medieval-looking castle than you’d think. Last year we went to Central Park in Manhattan for our picture of Frankenstein’s Monster. For “The Dragon,” we traveled to Kip’s Castle in Montclair, NJ, which was constructed in 1905. We scattered some fake bones around the base of the castle stairwell and suited Charlie up in his dragon costume. Nearly a decade ago on a dumpster outside of the Shippensburg University Art Department, I had discovered a giant ceramic dragon egg held by two dragon hands. It weighs easily 30 pounds and it is a perfect decoration for any home. It was important that we feature that in the photo, so I included it in the background. Charlie crawled around for a few minutes while I lay on the ground and snapped enough photos to include both him and the castle.
October 11th – Game of Thrones week continues today with “The Giant.” While perusing the children’s section of the Mt. Pleasant, PA Goodwill (yes, I’ve gotten more than a few befuddled stares) I found a vest that I knew could be used for some costume in the future. Though almost certainly meant for a female, it occurred to me that we could use it for our photo of “The Giant.” We gave Charlie a 5 o’clock shadow with some make-up and a stick on googly eye that he immediately forgot was on his forehead. We headed to a nearby park and shot it from an upward angle to make it appear as if he is taller than the trees. Choosing our favorite shot was tricky, as we love a lot of the outtakes as well.
October 10th – It’s Game of Thrones week over at the Thirty-One Monsters Headquarters! The White Walker was the second photo that we took of this year back when we aspired to continually take three per month. Progress unfortunately slowed until July when we ramped it up again, and Charlie’s chubby cheeks can’t hide how different his age is in this picture compared to the others. Caroline made this costume completely from scratch, and there are quite a few intricate details. We also made the sword out of a dowel rod, cardboard, and aluminum foil. We were able to catch the last good snowfall of the year in March to get this shot outside. We headed behind our apartment with the fog machine and took just a few before we had the expression we were looking for.
October 9th – “Jaws” was a picture we have wanted to do for a long time, and we debated shooting it a number of different ways. Ultimately, our favorite idea was to have Charlie show off his devious smile while a slightly out-of-focus, recently handicapped victim screams in the background. We shot this in Brick just off the shore of the Manasquan River. He wasn’t interested in holding the fake severed hand that we had brought along, but at least he gave us his “What? Did I just bite someone’s arm off?” expression.
October 8th – Last year we took a Mischievous Clown photo, but this year we were hoping to go a bit darker with our homage to the movie “It.” We ordered Charlie the closest clown costume we could find to the 1990 TV movie. I bought some sheets from Goodwill to recreate the scene of Pennywise walking through the hanging laundry in the backyard. A little lipstick, a little spray blood, and you’ve got yourself a baby Pennywise.
October 7th – It only seemed appropriate on day seven to feature my favorite movie of all time, “Se7en.” Those of you who have seen it remember the shocking ending involving a prisoner and a box in the desert. Those of you who haven’t seen it should stop what you’re doing it and rent it immediately. I had kept an eye out for power lines that might seem as if they’re in a desert setting. The closest we could find in New Jersey was actually just a mile or so from our old apartment, right between two car dealerships. The smallest prison jumpsuit available online was made for a 3-4 year old, but we rolled up his sleeves and pant legs and Charlie pulled it off rather well. Though I rolled around in the dirt for a few minutes while Caroline chased Charlie in circles around the box, and while I may have gotten some sand in my lens, we definitely got the shot we envisioned.
October 6th- One of the pitfalls of this project is that we tend to do the easiest photoshoots first and end up saving the most difficult ones for last. Six days into October, we still have quite a few to finish, and all of them will be challenging. One of the first this year, and by far the easiest, was the Psycho recreation. We are lucky enough to have tile in our shower almost exactly like the famous Hitchcock movie. Since we have never given Charlie a bath without him shedding a few tears, we just brought the camera into the bathroom and waited. I was able to catch an expression similar to Janet Leigh’s in the famous shower scene before she’s murdered by Norman Bates. I black-and-whited the shot and edited a bit to match the film, and I quickly had the shot pictured above. Though it’s simple, it reminds us of last year’s Blair Witch photo which was an unexpected fan-favorite.
October 5th – As we drove South through Newark on the NJ Parkway last week, we took a slight detour to the Woodland Cemetery. Built in 1855 but abandoned and in disrepair for nearly 30 years, it’s gothic entranceway is still as picturesque as when it was initially built. Dressed in a hood and holding a plastic sickle, Charlie bounced on my shoulders while Caroline took this great shot. We love how his smiling face is framed by the sickle which is in turn framed by the archway.
October 4th – Some might see an octopus, we see a Kraken, one of the scariest creatures in nautical mythology. We ordered the costume on eBay prior to sailing to Treasure Island in Manasquan. Charlie’s Uncle Myles waded out into the river with him and did a perfect job of submerging himself while holding Charlie above the water. I stood just offshore and snapped photos as fast as I could until we got the perfect shot of Charlie looking completely afloat by himself.
October 3rd – In preparation for this year’s group of photos, I have been stopping at the Goodwill in Paramus every few weeks to look for potential costumes or clothes that could be incorporated. When I saw this one, I remembered the Stephen King movie “Cujo” from the early eighties. Though Charlie doesn’t quite resemble the St. Bernard from the movie, I think the large bone he’s holding captures the spirit of the film. We shot this at a high school soccer field just a few blocks from our house.
October 2nd – The very first shot we took in 2016 was way back in February. We had a few ideas on the list that we knew would need to be taken in the snow, so we ordered an Abominable Snowman costume and waited for the next big snowfall. We went to Ocean County Park in Lakewood after about 8 inches of snow fell in a day. We were unpleasantly surprised to find the park closed due to inclement weather. That didn’t stop us from getting out right outside the entrance and taking a few photos near the tree-line at the edge of the park. It was at this moment that we realized Charles’s newfound ability to stand would be a game-changer for this round of photos. This is one of our favorite pictures of Charlie ever and has been the background on my laptop for nearly a year.
October 1st – Well, it looks like Charlie’s back for another round of Thirty-One Monsters! In honor of today’s Asbury Park Zombie Walk, we present the “Cowboy Zombie.” We had been keeping our eyes open for a desert-like location, which is not easy to find on the Jersey Shore. Caroline happened to notice that a dirt bike track behind the Ocean County Mall is actually quite barren and filled with succulents. We headed over just before sunset, liberally fed Charlie some mashed raspberries, and shot away. We had a few shots with smiles, but he looks so imposing in this picture that it was our instant favorite.
October 31st – Happy Halloween! Yesterday was an interesting day. Caroline and I decided to post the album to the popular website Reddit to see if we could get any traction in getting it to go viral. While I’m not sure it’s going to get that far, it did get a pretty good reception and ultimately received upwards of 150,000 views. We spent most of the evening drinking apple cider and refreshing the page as the views went up. It’s been an incredible experience, and while we’re glad it has finally come to a close, I think we’ll look back on it fondly for the rest of our lives. Thank you to everyone who has supported this ridiculous idea, to those of you who helped with the pictures, bought or made us costumes, or allowed us into your home or workplace. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have. This final picture was taken in the same warehouse in Newark as many of the others. We had been looking for a red tricycle on Craigslist and had ordered a tuxedo on ebay. Caroline actually sewed him the big red tie and put on the make-up while I fiddled with the fog machine. We shot this one about 5 weeks ago, and keeping Charlie standing was no easy task. Had we just done it this week when we were there for the Sweeney Todd photo, we might have had a much easier time. Nonetheless, of nearly 200 shots, we got this one that we’re incredibly proud of. I was able to adjust the color in Lightroom to give it the green, disgusting background that became a staple of the Saw movies. There was no question that this would be our Halloween finale. Game Over!
October 30th – It amazes me how many varied locations we’ve been able to find mostly in New Jersey, and this one is no different. Driving on the NJ Turnpike toward Newark, you’ll see an abundance of post-apocalyptic looking factories. One in particular, the Linden Cogeneration Plant, recently caught my eye. We decided to make a mutant costume as if a factory worker had been exposed to radioactivity and mutated into a monster. We bought some bright neon fabric, and Caroline sewed it into a sleeper. She then made the mask out of felt and cupcake molds. I cut out the radiation logo and glued it on, and we made our way to Newark on Wednesday. We couldn’t have picked a more rainy and miserable day to do the last two shots, but time was of the essence. We were lucky enough that when we arrived at the plant, the rain had stopped for only a few minutes. We pulled into visitor parking and held Charlie up long enough to get a couple dozen quick shots without being questioned by plant security. When we looked through the photos in the car, we saw this one and said “Yep, let’s get out of here.”
October 29th – Given Caroline’s maiden name, it only made sense that we would do a Sweeney Todd picture. We ordered the wig online and re-watched the movie to get some ideas of where to do it. We landed on our old familiar spot in Newark where we’ve shot a few of the others. One of the iconic shots in the film is Sweeney Todd looking through a broken mirror. On our way to Newark, we picked up a mirror at Ikea, taped up the back, and stepped on it to get some nice cracks without shattering it. It held together pretty well, so we propped it up in the back of the factory with the ceiling as a nice decrepit background. Shooting this one was tricky on multiple levels, as Caroline had to hold him facing the mirror without being in the shot, and I had to avoid my reflection making it in there as well. We took dozens of photos at several angles, and as it turns out we ended up picking one of the first ones we took.
October 28th – The Ring seemed like it should have been a relatively easy shoot, and while we didn’t have to travel far, it did pose its own challenges. We initially tried to shoot it in our apartment lit only by the television on the floor. For those who have seen the movie, the mysterious tape, which ends with The Ring onscreen, leads to bad luck for the characters that view it. Instead of having to dress Charlie up like this movie’s monster, we thought it might be fun to mix it up and have him be the unfortunate viewer of the tape. When our first shot at the photo failed to be clear enough, we decided to give it another go on a hardwood floor. We visited Laura for dinner and, we put her TV on the floor and gave it another go. With a higher shutter-speed and aperture, we found it better to lighten it while editing. Charlie’s engagement with the screen only adds to the spookiness of this photo.
The Ring Outtake
October 27th Bonus: The Pirate is another photo that ended up falling into the cute category, so it’s today’s bonus photo. Charlie typically wakes up around 5 in the morning for a feeding, and this morning was no different. Instead of going back to sleep, we put him in his Pirate outfit and headed to Point Pleasant Beach. The first time we did it was too cold and cloudy from the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin, so we didn’t bother getting out of the car. A few days later we tried again, and we got there just as the sun was peaking over the ocean. We plopped him in his Bumbo and got a lot of nice shots right as the sun came up, but this one was our favorite overall.
October 27th – A word of advice if you ever need to dress your seven-month old up as the most popular cannibal in the world: a pacifier will solve all of your problems. We love “The Silence of the Lambs,” but we didn’t think there was any way Charlie would be interested in wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask. We figured it was worth a shot, and we asked Caroline’s sister, Laura, to crochet one. I’m not sure what I expected, but she totally nailed it. We were thoroughly impressed with the look of it, so we decided to give it a shot. We put Charlie in a long-sleeved white turtleneck, and I put a strip of black electrical tape across the front to look like one of the straps of Lecter’s harness . We draped a black tarp behind him as a back-drop. Before we put the mask on his face, I gave him a small pacifier, and he didn’t have a care in the world when we put it on. I shot from a few different angles for about a minute, and we were immediately satisfied with the result.
October 26th – I called up my buddy, James, a few weeks ago and said “Geographically and geologically, you know Central Pennsylvania much better than I do. Where can I find a place that looks like the surface of some alien planet?” He suggested we visit Hickory Run Boulder Park, so on our way to Lock Haven last Friday, we went a bit out of our way to stop there. Pictures don’t capture how surreal this park is, with several square miles of huge boulders in every direction. Caroline had made Charlie this costume the night before, and it definitely got the attention of the other visitors of the park. We waded out a few dozen yards into the boulder field until we found a flat rock for Charlie to sit on. Our initial plan to have me holding him while hiding behind a boulder had to be scrapped because none of them sat high enough above the others to cover my body. Instead, we opted to capture him in a different pose. He enjoyed crawling around on this rock and feeling the texture of the boulders. I wish we had had more time to spend there, because the park is enormous. We definitely intend to bring Charlie back as soon as he’s old enough to remember it.
October 25th – Is it really almost Halloween? On our trip back to Lock Haven, Caroline and I took a stroll to the theatre building to see if it was open. As it turns out, they forgot to lock the door to the theatre, so we climbed on stage for a minute and got this picture undetected.
October 24th Bonus – We’re in Lock Haven today for an Oktoberfest themed Pub Crawl! Charlie will be in attendance for a few minutes, and he made sure to dress appropriately! About a month ago we BRAT him to the Bier Halle in Asbury Park. Caroline sewed him a lederhosen outfit and feathered cap. We sat him on a beer barrel with an upward flash, and FRANKly, we love this photo. An Oktoberfest without Lederhosen would be the WURST!
October 24th – Last night we arrived in Lock Haven and we hurried over to our favorite place on campus, the Honors House. As soon as we added Ghost to the list, we knew it had to be in front of this house as it perfectly resembles the Amityville Horror House. We gave him the classic white face-paint, draped some fabric over him, and held him up in the air before the sun went down behind the mountains.
October 23rd – Oh, we’re getting down to the wire. We initially wanted to save this photo for one of the last few days of the month, but we’ve fallen a bit behind. Today we travel to Lock Haven where we hope to take three or four shots, but we are otherwise running low on photos. For the Butcher, I had cut up an old t-shirt and Caroline sewed it into an apron that we promptly covered in red corn syrup. We traveled to a truck factory in Newark in early October and tried it out, but we forgot his cleaver on the living room floor. We knew it would haunt us forever if we didn’t do a reshoot, so we returned with even better ideas to improve on our first try. This time we added a little more red corn syrup, we found a truck with freezer flaps, and most importantly we remembered the cleaver. Caroline laid on the floor of the truck and I tried to get a few photos of Charlie not chewing on the plastic cleaver. Luckily he took a swing at me with it, and thus the above photo was born.
October 22nd – The Witch was not a terribly difficult picture to shoot, but it took us a long time to decide how to shoot it. When I was a youngster, my parents felt it appropriate to take me trick-or-treating as a witch with a wig. So many neighbors remarked about how cute a girl I was that we wanted to see for ourselves if Charlie could pull it off. I think we can all agree that he could just as easily win a cute-little-girl-in-a-witch-costume contest. We always knew we’d be incorporating the cauldron, as it was a wedding gift from our good friends Kacie and Brett. We had borrowed their cauldron every Halloween for five years, so they decided it was time we had our own. At first I wanted to get dry ice and put it inside with a green light to make it look like a stew. Once we bought the fog machine, it seemed like a no-brainer to just use that. We tried a variety of different poses. In some he’s stirring the cauldron, in other he’s holding a broom. Ultimately a photo like this is kind of determined by the shape and intensity of the fog, and this shot had the best one by far.
October 21st – We’ve gotten a few inquiries into whether or not we’ve been photoshopping Charlie into these photos, and the answer is no. As photographers, we pride ourselves in finding locations and framing beautiful photos without having to resort to photo manipulation. Up until now, we’ve only done minor color correcting. Today’s photos, however, would have been impossible without either having twins or creating a composite of two shots in PhotoShop. We traveled to Liberty State Park in Jersey City so that we could get a close-up of the skyline. I put the camera on a tripod and Caroline snapped away while I held Charlie in the air first as King Kong, and then as Godzilla. When we got home, I loaded both photos into PhotoShop, aligned the colors so that they would match despite slight changes in the brightness of the sky, and combined the two. The result could be the poster for a monster movie. I hope you enjoy today’s two-for-one special!
October 20th – “Heeeeeeere’s Charlie!” The Shining was a picture we have wanted to take from the very beginning, but it was much trickier than it looks. I searched around for a free wooden door on Craigslist for a while until Caroline’s Uncle Bob was able to get me one made of particle board. We cut it in two with the intention of putting Charlie between the two sides to make it seem as if he had just put a hole in the door. However, putting his face that close to the sides seemed too dangerous, so I ended up ripping off about a square foot of particleboard and throwing out the rest of the door. We had Charlie hold the famous axe from the “Here’s Johnny!” scene to make up for the lack of door on his left side. After applying a bit of make-up to give him the Jack Nicholson stubble, we handed him the axe and held the particleboard in front of his face. After 40 or so shots of a way-too-innocent smile, Charlie snarled at us. I don’t always look at the screen and declare that we had the perfect shot, but in this one I couldn’t have imagined a better expression.
October 19th – The Creature from the Black Lagoon was one of the most challenging concepts that we dealt with. Our initial plan was a bit uninspired. There was a marsh we had in mind that turned out to not be half as swampy as was necessary to really make this photo shine. Our plan for the costume was to put Charlie in a green onesie and attach some fake greenery and leaves. When it came time to edit these photos, we both agreed that they looked awful and inauthentic. Caroline then went to work on a costume that truly evoked the original Creature from the Black Lagoon, and I began thinking of better locations. Caroline went above and beyond creating this outfit from scratch. Then someone posted a photo on Facebook of the Manasquan Reservoir’s swampy areas, and we knew that we had found our location. We took Charlie on a nice autumn stroll around the reservoir until we found the spot. We painted his face green and had a great time avoiding mud while testing shots hiding him behind a couple different trees and stumps. We liked this shot the best because his positioning in the frame really stands out from the rest of his Halloween photos. This one was a tough choice, so here are the outtakes:
Creature from the Black Lagoon Outtake 1
Creature from the Black Lagoon Outtake 2
Creature from the Black Lagoon Outtake 5
Creature from the Black Lagoon Outtake 6
October 18th – Charlie’s grandparents were nice enough to recognize the enormity of this venture long before October started, so they supplied us with several of the costumes. They gave Charlie the Tiger costume which was featured a few weeks ago as well as the Skeleton costume in today’s picture. We frequently drive past a small graveyard in Toms River with headstones no younger than 110 years old. It has been seemingly abandoned for quite some time, as half of the headstones are knocked over, the ground is covered in small cacti, and a pest control company currently owns the chapel adjacent to it. We tried a few different locations with Caroline hiding and holding Charlie just out of frame, but we loved the pose he struck in this one as well as the light coming through the trees.
October 17th – The Mummy was actually one of the first photos we took. I was looking for a wall that looked like the inside of a Pyramid, and the closest thing I could find was a tan stucco wall on the outside of a nearby deli. Not realizing the bar that we were going to set for these photos, Charlie’s Aunt Laura and I wrapped him in toilet paper and snapped enough photos to get a half-decent shot. About 4 weeks and 20 photoshoots later, we looked back at our first effort and knew we had to re-shoot. Around the same time, I noticed a law office a few miles from our apartment with a roof that looked conspicuously like a row of pyramids. Caroline cut up some white fabric and sewed him a mummy costume that he can truly be proud of. I can imagine a group of 25 lawyers and paralegals standing around a window watching us while we held Charlie in the air and took photos of their building in the background. We got the job done quick enough to avoid being served a legal notice to vacate the property.
October 16th – Let me tell you a little bit about the squid hat. On a trip to Six Flags on our honeymoon, I fell in love with an orange squid hat that was behind the Strong Man game. In this game, you hit this device with a mallet and see if you can get the puck to rise to the top of the tower and ring the bell. To make a long story short, despite my irrational fear of giant squids, I hit that bell and won a new hat. Flash forward a few years, and it seemed an obvious choice to put my new son in the hat as a scuba diver who is being eaten by a Giant Squid. We created an outfit by spray-painting a black 1-liter bottle and connecting it with black rope to a black pacifier. We went to a small beach off the Manasquan River and plopped Charlie down for a minute. Despite his attempts to eat seaweed and notify us that he was ready to begin eating sushi, we kept the pacifier in his mouth long enough to get a nice photo. I sincerely believe that every parent wants a picture of their child being eaten by a giant squid whether they know it or not. I highly recommend it.
October 15th Bonus – On our trip to Atlantic Farms last week, we took a walk through the Pumpkin Patch and took the picture that we had been looking forward to the most through this whole venture. I had picked up a pumpkin earlier in the day, gutted it, cut out leg holes, and then cut it in half. We brought it with us and plopped it down in the middle of the patch and then slid Charlie into his new costume. He didn’t seem to mind, and in fact he quite enjoyed chewing on the side of the pumpkin since his top teeth are beginning to emerge. We were able to get him to focus on us for long enough to get a picture of his soon to be tooth-filled smile.
October 15th – We did this one in Ocean County Park right off hole 17 of their disc golf course. Full disclosure: this one is our absolute favorite. We saw a stack of logs with a nearby stump and determined that this is where an ax-wielding lumberjack would conduct his business. We squirted some blood on the log, axe, and fake hand, and rolled a log next to the stump. Most costumes require between 60-100 shots before we know we got the one we need. This one I got on the 9th shot which was a good thing, because a group of disc golfers were approaching and we wanted to get out of their way. I took a look at the preview screen on my camera and instantly knew we could pack it up and go home. Like in most photos where Charlie looks to be all by himself, Caroline is hiding just behind the stump with her hand on his back. Charlie was overjoyed to be sitting on the log, and he leaned in with his biggest smile yet. Before you could say the words “Why is there blood all over that tree stump?” we scooped him up and were on to the next shoot.
October 14th – From the moment I set eyes on the red and brown striped sweater in Target, I knew we had to create a Freddy Krueger photoshoot. We opted to forgo the make-up for this one, as it would have taken an hour to apply enough to resemble Freddy and even longer to get it off. We traveled to a truck warehouse in Newark and found a corner that looked a bit like the boiler room where Freddy Krueger frequently spends his time. Caroline held Charlie up while I held a fake Freddy glove in front of my camera and snapped away until it looked as if Charlie was actually wearing the glove and pointing it. The moments where he’s not trying to remove his hat were few and far between, but I think we got a shot that’s a bit different from the rest.
October 13th – The Bridge Troll was an idea we kicked around for a while because there are so many different iterations of the classic troll. The few common attributes seemed to be that they are green, ugly, and dirty. It’s tough to make Charlie look ugly, but we could certainly make him seem green and dirty like a baby that’s been living under a bridge for a while. We chose a cool little bridge near Lake Fishigan in Ocean County Park, and Charlie was cooperative enough to hold out his hand to demand the troll toll to cross the bridge.
October 12th – We took the Devil picture in Caroline’s mom’s backyard. I lit five of their tiki torches and placed them strategically around the yard. I not only wanted them in the background, I wanted him to only be lit by the flames. Getting the lighting right was tricky, but I’m pleased with the way it illuminates Charlie’s devilish grin.
October 11th – We had been planning to get a few of these photos in September in order to get a head start and then take the majority in October. Hurricane Joaquin, although luckily not as disastrous as it could have been, caused enough rain to set us back for the first four days of the month. This last week we went into overdrive and took 11 photos, 6 in the past 2 days. We brought Charlie’s scarecrow costume along on a trip to Atlantic Farms. Caroline had hot-glued straw into the sleeves and neck, and we applied some light make-up to his look. The corn turned out to be higher than we anticipated, so rather than a shot above the field, we opted for a lower angle showcasing Charlie surrounded by cornstalks. He flashed his signature smile while bouncing on my head as I stood on a hay bale. By the end of the shoot, we were all sweaty and dirty, and Atlantic Farms apple cider was the perfect way to cap off the day.
October 10th – In honor of the Asbury Park Zombie Walk today, we’re posting The Zombie picture. Taken a few weeks ago, Charlie was just gaining the ability to stand on his own. My sister-in-law, Laura, and I went to an abandoned parking lot I had had my eye on for a while. She stood him up and waited just out of frame, and he held on tight and made the best zombie pose I could have ever hoped for. I had covered his shirt and mouth with red corn syrup to complete the look and hung a zombie sign on the fence as an extra accessory to the photo.
October 9th Bonus – The initial intention of Thirty-One Monsters was to take 31 scary, spooky, or otherwise Halloween-related photos. A few of the pictures we’ve taken have not quite fallen into that category and have instead been a little too cute to make the cut. This photo was taken on a hike at Cattus Island County Park. Caroline laid down in some tall grass and held Charlie in the air to resemble a tiger about to pounce.
October 9th – From the very beginning, we knew we had to dress Charlie up as Chucky from the classic 80’s movie “Child’s Play.” Over the course of a few weeks, we were able to find overalls and an 80’s-looking striped shirt to match. I ordered him an orange wig, and we traveled to the park the first sunny day after it arrived. I received a few funny looks from some power-walkers as I sat Charlie in a seat and shot away. He investigated the plastic hatchet in his hands for a few minutes, and his evil grin tells me he’s quite pleased with his new toy in this shot.
October 8th – A lot of the costumes we’re featuring this month are hand-made. Though Caroline is becoming quite skilled with a sewing machine, I decided to make this one based on a photo I had seen online using a box, spray paint, and some bottle caps. Although some of these photos may seem photoshopped, all of them were shot on location and adjusted only for color. Driving on the parkway, I noticed some power lines that would make for a great background for the robot photoshoot. We found some in a safe location behind a motel, and slipped Charlie into the box. When we weren’t crazy about how the color palette turned out, Caroline suggested selectively coloring this shot, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I also really love Charlie’s expression. He looks like a robot that become self-aware and went on the run from his human masters.
October 7th – The Bat was another tricky shot for us, because we were attempting to include the full moon. After a few tries on the beach as the moon came up, we ended up finding a park with a clearing that was lit only by the moon. Dressed head to toe in black, Caroline held Charlie over her head while I adjusted the settings. Getting a clear shot of the moon with a moving baby in the foreground is no easy task, but we got a shot we were happy with, and Charlie seemed to enjoy the ride as well.
October 6th – “I… am… so… scared…” Today’s picture is a recreation of the famous video camera monologue from The Blair Witch Project. This was actually the first photo we shot for this project, and while it may look simple, getting the lighting correct was the trickiest part. It involved the three of us in a pitch black room. Caroline held Charlie above me while I held a flashlight in my mouth and tried to point it in the right direction while simultaneously snapping as many photos as possible hoping that one matched the scene from the film. Charlie’s reaction in this shot hopefully evokes the horror of being hopelessly lost in the woods. In reality, his facial expression says “Why am I floating in the air?”
October 5th – After a few failed attempts trying to pose Charlie in complete darkness with a flash, we decided to do this shoot just before sunset. Caroline sewed the fur into his outfit, and I picked up a fog machine to enhance the atmosphere. We ran an extension cord right into our backyard for this one, so it was refreshing to not to have to pack up the car with props, costumes, and camera equipment. It was tricky running the fog machine and shooting at the same time, but luckily Charlie made up for it by being in a great mood.
October 4th – When we conceived of the Mischievous Clown photoshoot, we had a very different vision than the outcome. We traveled to the Seaside Heights boardwalk just before sunset with the intention of getting the lit up carnival rides in the background. Much to our dismay, by September the rides are all shut down by 6pm. This thwarted our initial plan, so we tested out shooting in front of a few of the arcades and carnival games. Despite being coerced into paying $5 to throw darts at balloons, we walked away with a great shot and an undersized stuffed python.
October 3rd – During a hike at Cattus Island County Park, we brought along the spider costume in the hope that we would find a creepy woodsy location. Just as we were about to leave, we came across an alcove in the woods which we promptly covered in fake spider webs. Caroline spread out a blanket on the ground, laid on her back, and held Charlie up while I laid on my stomach in the brush to get a low angle. Apparently the spider webs were at least somewhat realistic, because as we were all on the ground trying to get the shot, I could hear a group of nearby teenagers shout “Whoooa is that a real spider web? It’s HUGE!” I popped my head out of the bushes and yelled back “Nope, they’re fake, sorry.” They were audibly disappointed.
October 2nd – Just before we took the Frankenstein picture, we explored the inside of Belvedere Castle for backgrounds that would resemble Dracula’s castle. Despite being overrun with the NYC tourist crowd, we found a quiet corner in the gift shop with the perfect Medieval window. The lighting was not ideal, but we got the best smile out of Charlie (even though he licked the corn syrup blood off of his own face) before we continued on our journey through the city. Only by chance had he grown a Bela Lugosi-esque widow’s peak which we formed into a triangle for the authentic Transylvanian hairstyle.
October 1st – Today marks the beginning of the Thirty-One Monsters project! We couldn’t think of a better way to start than with the film and literary classic: Frankenstein’s Monster. We took a trip to New York City in early September where we walked through Central Park until we found Belvedere Castle. Across the pond in front of the castle is this incredible vantage point. This is one of the few castles in the tri-state area, and it seemed like an obvious background choice for the shoot. Having made the plans months in advance, we were lucky to have a blue sky and perfect weather for this shoot.