Creative Portrait Photography

Shoot Report: Dave Helfrey, the Ringmaster of Fear!

Now this was a fun portrait to shoot! Dave Helfrey is the owner and madman behind Portland’s best haunted house attraction, Fright Town. Also known by his creepy yet sophisticated alter ego Baron Von Goolo, Dave is a staple in the Portland haunt scene.

I met Dave at the Fright Town warehouse where he stores the props and other materials used at Fright Town. The warehouse could easily be used as a haunted house itself–made of corrugated metal sheeting, with dusty floors and sharp-toothed scarecrows propped against the wall, boxes filled with decomposing women, coffins, eyeless ventriloquist dummies, twisted taxidermied waterfowl, and painted images of monsters and freaks. The smell of paint and silicone made me think fondly of last October when I served my time as a volunteer at Fright Town’s Elshoff Manor, covered in prosthetic scarring and blood and scaring the bejeebus out of grown men twice my size. Good times . . .

This image was taken as an entry for the Strobist’s Bootcamp 3 Assignment 1, so there were some very specific requirements for the photo. Specifically, I was limited on the type of lighting I could use to get the shot. I decided to go with something a little old school scary, like holding a flashlight underneath your chin and making ghost noises to frighten your little sister. I set up my Metz Mecablitz 50 flash to camera left and angled it upwards at Dave. We recruited some assistance from a lovely decomposing mannequin, a grotesque foam freak, and a monster mask. My assistant held a white reflector to camera right, and we killed the warehouse lights.

Ringmaster of Fear!

Dave is a natural in front of the camera, so I was spoiled for choice among the many dramatic poses he gave me. I settled on this one at the end–we get a little of the warehouse and the props, no reflection in Dave’s glasses, some dark and spooky shadows, and a pose that sums up Dave perfectly: a showman with a great sense of humor.


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