Laura Hollick is the MacGyver of art.

While we were in California, we wanted to do a photo shoot on the beach. She found a couple of sticks on the ground, and with a few scraps of fabric from a local textile store, she fashioned a brilliant flying rainbow bird costume. We scouted an amazing location: the Torrey Pines State Reserve, in La Jolla. The reserve is home to a stunning beach, backed with high cliffs. Boulders, layered with gold and purple hues had tumbled down the cliffs, and lay in ruggedly beautiful disarray on the sand. They seemed the perfect backdrop for our initial photos of the rainbow bird.

Next, I wanted to see the rainbow bird fly, so Laura headed into the surf for some leaps. A lot of leaps, actually. It took a lot of trial and error to find the right angle, pose, and to time the shots and leaps with the waves. I think Laura leaped about 120 times before we figured we had the right combination of sky, sea, sand and rainbow bird. The sky was overcast, the sun being obscured by the thick marine layer that invades the So-Cal shores at this time of year. There was still ample light, though, allowing very fast shutter speeds for freezing those leaps in mid-air. After we’d exhausted our quota of leaps, it was time to cool off by splashing into the Pacific Ocean. As a side note, jumping into the ocean in your clothes is only fun until about five minutes after you get out. Then it’s just damp and clammy. It was still worth it though!

Later on, I reviewed the images on my laptop. I couldn’t help but wonder if the photos of the colorful rainbow bird would have been better with a bright blue sky. The next day, after we’d moved up the coast to San Clemente, and checked into a motel that can only be described as “kitschy,” the sun came out. It had turned into the perfect blue-sky California day that I’d envisioned when we’d started talking about this shoot. I persuaded Laura to don the rainbow bird costume once again and we walked down to the beach.

Many more leaps ensued. Finally, a hundred and fifty more leaps into the shoot, Laura announced that it was enough.

Here’s the final image that we chose from the many that we shot over those two glorious days at the beach. I feel that it captures the mystical character of the rainbow bird with a slightly unusual perspective. I shot it from a low angle, close to Laura with my 24-70mm f2.8L lens at 24mm. I asked her to leap as close to me as she could, so the wings would brush over my head as she passed me. This is what it took to exaggerate the perspective and get that shot that stood out from the others. To obscure her footprints in the wet sand, we timed it so she would leap just as the white foam surf washed under her while she was in the air. This helped to further the illusion of flight. I’m very happy with this image. I think all the elements finally came together in the moment to create a photo better than either of us could have imagined ahead of time. That’s my favorite way to work.

This rainbow bird photo is the final photo that we shot for our book Live Your Spirit, which is now available at Blurb.