Fantasy clashes with reality in wonky wonderlands

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Zombies sit at the bar of Johnny Rockets after the Atlanta Horror Fest presented it's fourth annual Zombie Walk which started off at Lenny's Bar, headed through historic Oakland Cemetery, crossed over into downtown Atlanta and ended at the Underground Atlanta mall. 

One of the mermaid actresses sits near the exit to greet the audience after performing Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid' in the underwater theatre in Weeki Wachee State Park in Spring Hill, Florida.

Kendrick Brinson stands in front of the 'Walk Through Time in Georgia' exhibit at Fernbank Natural History Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

Guests at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas ride on a waterslide through the middle of a shark-filled aquarium on the resort's property.  Themed for it's namesake, Atlantis offers a complex with a water-park, aquarium, casino, spa, six hotels, a fitness center, golf, shopping, a speedway, a night club, and a plethora of dining options, all linked with an array of fake lagoons, Atlantis encourages guests to stay on property.  In fact, they make it kind of difficult to leave.  At Atlantis, you are literally offered complete immersion into this surreal play-land for your entire vacation.

Costumed employees take a turn in the photo booth during a 30th birthday celebration at a roller rink in Atlanta, Georgia. 

One of the mermaid actresses holds a finger to her mouth to hush the crowd while performing Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid' in the underwater theatre in Weeki Wachee State Park in Spring Hill, Florida.

A lion handler sits with his pride inside the lion enclosure at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

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A couple takes in a miniature model of the city of Jerusalem in Biblical times at the Christian theme park, Holy Land Experience, in Orlando, Florida.  The religious tourist attraction serves as a mix between a place for worship, historic study, and a large scale three-dimensional stage for the daily live performances.

An actor playing Jesus stands with his arms outstretched greeting visitors at the Christian theme park, Holy Land Experience, in Orlando, Florida.  The religious tourist attraction serves as a mix between a place for worship, historic study, and a large scale three-dimensional stage for the daily live performances.

A faux Airstream trailer houses a miniature bowling alley inside the Silverton Casino Lodge in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Themed with the outdoors in mind, the casino caters to the bass-fishing types and even houses a grand scale Bass Pro Shops prominently next to the front entrance.

Tourists explore The National Wax Museum in Dublin, Ireland where visitors are invited on a tour through Irish History followed by an odd mix of popular culture ranging from fairy tales and music to horror films, all depicted by magnificently crafted wax sculptures.

Tourists pose with a fake Greek statue outside Ceasar's Palace Casino on the strip in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The stretch of road offers one casino after another, each with themes of their own, ranging from New York City to ancient Greece.  With a nickname of 'Sin City', and a common belief that, 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,' the city has become an adult sexual fantasy land as well as playing host to countless fake realities. 

An employee at the World of Coca-Cola hugs a life-size version of one of the company's marketing campaign icons at the company's permanent historical exhibition in downtown Atlanta, GA.

Venezuelans celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Caracas and in the Petare barrio in Caracas, Venezuela.  Semana Santa is the last week of Lent, and the week before Easter.  It includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.  Petare, which is considered the largest barrio in Latin America, hosts an elaborate staging of the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross), which draws a massive crowd as local actors depict Jesus carrying his cross to his own crucifixion and his final hours, or 'Passion', before his death and subsequent resurrection. 

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The huge white pillars of the Southern-style plantation home welcome you as you approach the very birthplace and origin of all things Cabbage Patch at Babyland General Hospital.  A nurse with baby in arms greets visitors with a smile and a bit of a wild eye as you sign in and head towards the nursery.  At the end of the hallway of pastel pink and blue nursery rooms filled with infant dolls, double doors open into the main event.  Some might call it a glorified gift shop, but the live birth demonstrations around the enchanted tree make it something much more.  Colored glowing lights change hues casting strange ambiance onto fairies flying around the tree, and the small faces reaching out of the cabbages which lay at its base.  While the place serves as an elaborate ploy to sell merchandise, it still takes the time to sell an entire lore surrounding the creation of the small Cabbage Patch Kids to the large imaginations of the tiny visitors soaking it all in.  

Real life gets old real quick. Work, chores, traffic jams, monotony — all the details of the daily grind infect the human body and build into a fever that only breaks when bags get packed.

The search for diversion leads to amusement parks and roadside wonders, roller coasters and stage extravaganzas. Kids can be kids, adults can be kids again, and sometimes, David Walter Banks is on hand to capture fantasy becoming reality with behind-the-scenes images that cast new light on tourist attractions.

Such moments of cognitive dissonance comprise The Fourth Wall. The entertainment industry takes in billions annually but even the most luxurious resorts and casinos provide an imperfect illusion. Visitors fill the gaps between animatronics and costumes with their own imagination, and the disconnect beats at the heart of Banks’ photo project.

“I love the idea of these places,” he says. “As adults, so many of us have lost our wonder and given up our urge to chase dreams. In a way, these places invite the adult population to chase an outlandish dream once more, even if only for a fleeting moment. Even if it’s plastic and cracked and they know it is all fake. They are still getting up, putting on their tennis shoes, and going out in search of magic.”

Sci-fi toys spring to life in filmic photos

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Sci-fi toys come to life in Robert Larner's photos

Alien Tourist

A scene you won't see in Star Wars

AT-AT in the Snow

Black Riders

Borg scout ship

Catzilla

Close Encounter

Face to face

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Giant Robots

Haunted House

King of the Monsters

Long Snoot

Looks like The Doctor took the wrong turn to Metebelis Three...

Moonlit Interceptor

Multi-coloured Daleks

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Party Wagon

Planet of the Apes Picnic

Who said Greedo doesn't fire first?

"Oh oh!"

"What'll it be? We've got squishees, overpriced coffee, blue milk..."

"What's that noise?"

By day, Robert Larner works for an investment firm. By night he directs Stormtroopers, Transformers and Daleks.

Using toys, camera tricks and a keen sense of story, the photographer delights Flickr and Instagram fans with movie stills. But the movies don’t exist.

The Scotsman grew up a discerning cineaste with a taste for the Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters movie franchises, but his greatest inspiration — in film and toys — was Star Wars.

“I could probably track my interest in toys via Star Wars,” Larner says. “When I was a kid in the early ’80s, I was completely swept up by the original Kenner 3.75-inch range. Then, in the ’90s, the remastered movies came out along with whispers of the prequels so the Star Wars toy range was reintroduced, so that caught my interest again. However, it was when Lego had the bright idea of making Star Wars Lego sets in 1999 that I really got sucked in and I haven’t looked back since!”

How to create special photo effects with a light stencil

Find out how a light stencil can put Bambi -- or anything else you can dream up -- in your photos.
Find out how a light stencil can put Bambi -- or anything else you can dream up -- in your pictures. Photo: Janelle Pietrzak

Photography is all about light, and photographers are all about light painting. There are many tricks to try, from isolating objects with incandescence outside the frame to shining light directly at the camera as in Janelle Pietrzak’s Bambi series, created using light stencils.

Creating this interesting analog photo effect doesn’t require any special equipment, just a detachable flash, some craft materials and a lot of imagination.

Analog photo technique brings Bambi to life

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Look who decided to wake up!

My new pet...

Get down you naughty deer!

Bambi is not so good at fetch!

Bambi is not so good at fetch!

He always makes such funny faces! So cute!

Always up to no good!

Bambi dreams of Tad...

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My little prancing man!

Hide and go seek! LOL!

Bambi spies the blue mouse cat toy!

Bambi and the first hints of spring! Finally warm enough to take him outside.

Splicing a cute little animal into a photograph doesn’t take more than a few seconds for anybody with a copy of Photoshop.

But Colorado artist Janelle Pietrzak spends hours cutting light stencils with a razor blade, then uses a shoebox and long-exposure photography to bring Bambi and other cuddly creatures to life inside her home.

“If you look at my photographs there is fantasy world full of mythical creatures, floating orbs, ghosts and goddesses, all created by manipulating light,” Pietrzak tells Cult of Mac. “The catch is that I hardly use any Adobe Photoshop. What you see in the images is basically what I saw on the back of my camera.”

Stumptown shooter stalks the sexy and the strange

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An eye for the outlandish

The Portland Zombie Walk and similar events give photographer Luke Olsen a chance to stretch beyond his normal studio work.

Cardiac

Olsen's notes for Cardiac: "Strobist: 550ex and Vivitar 285 with a red gel placed in the boxes. WL1600 with a strip bank to the left and above camera. Triggered via pocket wizards."

Portland Zombie Walk

Organizers boast that the 2010 Portland Zombie Walk drew 3,000 undead.

Zombie Lessons

Olsen's notes for Zombie Lessons: "A shot of Ariel consulting a tome of the undead inside the Zombie Apocalypse at the Scream at the Beach.

"Strobist: 550ex in strip bank at camera right and in front of model. 580exII on floor behind model and aimed at wall. Triggered via pocket wizards."

Makeup artist: Matt Huntley

Portland Zombie Walk

The annual event only began filing or permits in 2011 after a record turnout the year before.

Lucy Stone

Olsen's notes for Lucy Stone: "Strobist: WL1600 in strip bank at left of camera. Triggered via pocket wizards."

Portland Zombie Walk

"I try not to be too involved with posing as I like to see what they bring to the table," says Olsen. "That said, I will shift their pose if they are doing something I don’t want."

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Waiting

Olsen's notes for Waiting: "More color infrared."

Portland Zombie Walk

"I was never one for jumping off bridges and things but I did pelt a girl in a hazmat suit with eggs for a photo shoot," Olsen says. "I still don’t find that crazy."

Toxic

The hazmat suit comes in handy for Toxic.

Portland Zombie Walk

"Like an addiction, I always want to do more photography," says Olsen. "I'm definitely in that camp that enjoys the journey with my only end-goal to see better."

Mermaid

Olsen's notes on Mermaid: "Shortly after she went onto the tire she asked me to make her into a mermaid.

"Strobist (on model and tire only): WL1600 in beauty dish above and right, WL1600 in strip bank to left. Both triggered by pocket wizards."

Portland Zombie Walk

"Photography kind of crept up on me as the years progressed," says Olsen. "There was no magical darkroom moment when I saw an image being developed and thought, 'I want to do this forever.'"

Fez

Olsen's notes on Fez: "Strobist: WL1600 in strip bank for fill behind and slightly to the left. WL1600 in soft box in room right of model. Both triggered via pocket wizards."

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Portland Zombie Walk

"I’m always with a camera, and usually with more than one camera, ready to shoot at all the Portland events I attend," says Olsen.

Grab a camera when the zombies come. They won’t eat your brains — they’ll strike a pose.

It’s a trick photographer Luke Olsen learned when he was surrounded on the streets of his hometown. His shots from the Portland Zombie Walk showcase the lean and mean side of his stylish but macabre portraiture.

The organized chaos of events like the zombie walk offers comic relief from formal photography sessions filled with intricate lighting, staging and models. Any opportunity to capture inspired lunacy is technically practice, but Olsen gravitates toward flash mobs to cut loose with his camera-wielding compatriots. He’s thrown himself into the thick of SantaCon, the infamous alcohol-fueled rampage that grew from absurdist San Francisco street theater into a national headache. The moribund Portland Urban Iditarod, where teams of costumed runners dragged tricked-out shopping carts from bar to bar, has also been shutter fodder.

“It’s a great deal of fun to wander into a large event with a group of friends, shoot the event and reconvene later to see what everyone got,” says Olsen. “It’s like The Bang Bang Club, just 100 percent less deadly.”