Saturday, May 23, 2020

Ink & Rose

A few days ago, I did a few addition ink drop photos with a twist. For this set of ink drops I placed a rose in the water and drop the ink on top of the rose. I ensured the rose stayed under the water in two ways. The first way I wired it to the side of the fish tank using some clamps, and the second way I wired it to a large round weight that sat at the bottom of the fish tank.

For this shoot I used the following:
  • Step ladder;
  • Canon 80D;
  • Fish tank;
  • Radio transmitter for flashes
  • 1 light stand
  • Camera trigger
  • Boom arm
  • Tripod
  • 2 speed lights
  • 18-200mm lens
  • 2 Soft boxes
  • Water
  • 2 colors of ink
  • White matte board
  • 4 small clamps
  • Wire
  • Rose
  • round weight
  • 1 super clamp

For the setup I placed the fish tank on top of the step ladder to raise it to an appropriate shooting level. Behind the fish tank attached to the shower wall I hung a piece of white matte board to act as the background (my shower is an off-white color). Then I attached a supper clamp onto the shower rod, and attached a boom arm onto perpendicular to the floor. This allowed me to lower the speed light with a soft box on it to the height of the fish tank. I then placed a second light stand and flash with soft box to the left of the camera at a 45-degree angle to the front of the fish tank. The camera was placed on a tripod perpendicular to the front of the fish tank, with the lens zoomed to only have the front face of the tank in the shot. Once everything was in position, I filled the tank with cold water and submerged the rose. To hold the rose in place, I wrapped the stem with wire and extending the wire to edges of the fish tank and attached the wire using small clamps. To take the photos I had a trigger attached to the camera to activate the shutter, while I shot ink from an eyedropper into the water.

I shot all the 334 frames at ISO 100, with an aperture of F11, and a shutter speed of 1/200s. My focal length ranged from 32mm to 120mm with 130 frames shot at 40mm. Of the 334 frames I edited 123 frames, and released 16 final images. 

My favorite image from the shoot was taken after the main blob of ink settled and just wispy swirls of ink remained in the water. To get this image I removed the speed light with the soft box from the light stand and held against the fish tank at a 90-degree angle from the camera. This resulted in strong side light. I then edited the image in light room, by applying white balance using the rose as my source of white. Then adjusting the saturation, luminosity, and hue of the blue and pink ink. I also used the dehaze slider to remove a bit of haze coming from the ink. I then increased the clarity slightly while adjusting highlights and shadows. Finally, I added some vignetting to the image.

Overall, I like how the images turned out. However, I think I need to have the soft boxes directly against the fish tank for optimal lighting throughout the process. This will also eliminate reflections from the lights on the fish tank.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Ink Drop Photos

ISO 100, Aperture F9, Exposure 1/60s, Focal Length 50mm

Yesterday I worked on taking some ink drop photos. I have been wanting to try this type of photo out for a while it is similar water drop photography but a little slower paced. 
As a precaution, since things can get messy when working with water and ink the whole set was placed in my bathroom, specifically the shower. For this shoot I used the following:

Step ladder                  • Canon 80-D       
Fish tank                       • Radio transmitter for flashes
2 light stands               • Camera trigger
Boom arm                    • Tripod
2 speed lights              • 18-200mm lens
Soft box                        • Water
2 colors of ink             • White matte board

For the setup I placed the fish tank on top of the step ladder to raise it to an appropriate shooting level.  Behind the fish tank attached to the shower wall I hung a piece of white matte board to act as the background (my shower is an off-white color). Then I put one light stand to camera left and attached a boom arm to it so that I could place a flash with a soft box over the top of the fish tank.  I then placed a second light stand and flash to the left of the camera at a 45-degree angle to the front of the fish tank.  The camera was placed on a tripod perpendicular to the front of the fish tank, with the lens zoomed to only have the front face of the tank in the shot.   (See image on left.) Once everything was in position, I filled the tank with cold water, and used a nail file point to focus the lens.  To take the photos I had a trigger attached to the camera to activate the shutter, while I shot ink from an eyedropper into the water. 

I shot all the frames at ISO 100.  I shot 136 frames at an aperture of F9 and 25 frames at F5.6.  I shot most of the frames at F9 to ensure depth of field and sharp focus across the image.  I shot 136 frames at 1/60s which was a mistake since this was a moving object, so even though I was using flash there is still some motion blur. I shot 25 frames at 1/200s.  My focal length ranged from 35mm to 190mm with 127 frames shot at 50mm.  I shot a total of 161 frames and kept 50 frames to edit.

I edited the images first in lightroom to correct white balance, do some basic edits, and cropping. I then pulled the images into Photoshop to apply a curves layer and adjust some of the shadows and highlights.  Below are a few of the images from the session.

ISO 100, Aperture F9, Exposure 1/60s, Focal Length 50mm
ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Exposure 1/200s, Focal Length 130mm

ISO 100, Aperture F9, Exposure 1/60s, Focal Length 50mm
ISO 100, Aperture F9, Exposure 1/60s, Focal Length 50mm

I like how most of the images turned out, however if I do this again, I will need to make improvements to the set up.  In the raw images some of the shadows and creases were lost due to the lighting, thus I would change the lighting so there are two soft boxes, one on each side of the fish tank instead of one above and one to the side.  Second, and most importantly I would increase my shutter speed to really freeze the motion in the image and get a sharper more defined lines.  Finally, I would use a few additional colors.  But overall, for the first time taking this type of photograph, the images are respectable.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Self Portrait - Rembrandt Light

I’m still stuck at home, just like everybody else.  So that means no models thus more self-portrait work.  For this most recent self-portrait, my inspiration was Roman Empresses and to add a bit of challenge I used Rembrandt lighting.

Light Set Up
For this shoot the background was some window blinds and lighting was provided by one 430EXIII-RT speed light with a Lumiquest soft box attached.  The speed was set at a ¼ power with 24mm zoom. The speed light was placed on a light stand located 15 degrees left of center and raised above me and pointed down. The camera which was my Canon 80D with an 18-200mm lens was positions at 45 degrees right of center and pointed at my face. For this self-portrait session I used ISO 100, with an aperture of f4.0 and a shutter speed of either a 1/125s  or 1/250s and at focal lengths of 24mm and 28mm. 

There were two challenges to creating this photo. The first challenge was getting the lighting right and the second was positioning my head so the lighting would be correct.  Rembrandt lighting creates a small triangle of light opposite the light source and characterized by having the subject nose create a long shadow across the face that meets the shadow of the cheek.  So, while the lights may be in the right position (I used a protractor and ruler to get the angles right) I had to make sure I was looking in the proper direction or I would change the lighting effect. If I looked to much towards the light, I would get light my whole face, if I looked away from the light too much, I would have side lighting.  I ended up shooting 44 frames and only 5 truly met the definition of Rembrandt lighting.  The other interesting thing about the images is Rembrandt lighting is usually darker and low key,  while these shots are bright and closer to high key.

ISO 100, Aperture F4, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length 24mm 
To finalize the images, I edited them first in Lightroom to do the basic adjustments.  I did not do anything fancy in light room. I basic ensured the color setting was Adobe Portrait, reduced some of the red and orange tones to even out the skin, and balanced the exposure slightly.  Then cropped all the images before sending them over to Photoshop.  In photoshop I removed my blemishes and smoothed my skin using the frequency separation technique.  I also attempted a few edits using Luminar 4 just to compare the edits to photoshop.  I found I like using photoshop more for blemish removal and skin smoothing.  I don’t do major beauty retouching on my images, such as eye enlargement, eyebrow enhancement, and face sliming because they are higher skill level edits then I’m capable of in photoshop. Luminar allows me to do those edits with some simple sliders; however, I don’t like doing them because it can make the image seem unnatural. Also, I believe face slimming and eye enlargement starts to get into the realm of false beauty standards. I’m all for removing of blemishes like zits and evening out skin tone because that can be accomplished with skillfully applied make-up. I realize there are also tricks to make-up application that can make your face look slimmer and your eyes look bigger but digitally changing features I believe is a no-no.  It is one thing to remove a blemish or get rid of a stray hair,  it is another thing to completely change a person’s face shape.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Headshots and Tulips

Since all of Ohio is on a stay at home order currently,  I thought I would update my headshot and take some photos of the potted tulips my husband bought me. 

Lighting Set Up
I used the same set up for both my headshot and tulip photos.  For these shots I was sitting on our couch or had the tulips sitting on the couch.  I placed a speed light with a small umbrella on a light stand to the camera’s right pointed at the subject.  When I was shooting myself, the center of the umbrella was slightly above the center of my face with a slight downward angle. For the tulips I angled the light down towards them, since they sat lower than me on the couch. The flash was set to a 35mm zoom and  1/4 power. I also had a silver reflector on the camera’s left to reflect some light to reduce the hard shadows.  (See image to left.) I used a Canon 80D, with 18-200 mm lens and a cable trigger. 

I shot myself portraits and the tulips at ISO 100. For myself portraits, I used two focal lengths 18mm and 32mm, an aperture of F5 and a shutter speed of 1/125s.  I shot 35 frames and kept 15 images, and then did full editing on 5 of the images.  For the Tulips, my focal length varied between 40mm and 120m.  I used two apertures F5 and F9,  with most of the images being shot at F9. I also used two shutter speeds 1/100s and 1/125s, with most of the images being shot at 1/125s.  I shot a total of 47 frames and kept 14 and edited all 14 frames. 

Below you will see two standard headshots. Each one was shot at F5 at 1/125s and a focal length of 32MM.  The only thing adjusted during the three photos was the reflector and the way I was sitting. I also took the opportunity in post processing to work on my retouching.  I used the frequency separation to smooth out my skin and remove a few blemishes. I then went back in and used the dodge/burn tool to accentuate a few of the highlights and shadows.  

The tulip photos are more interesting, because I shot these in a low-key fashion to ensure I was getting rid of the couch cushions as a background.   Also, I feel the yellow really pops against the darkness. For this shot I used the setup described above and move the camera closer and slightly above the flowers while zooming to 80mm.  When editing the photo, I used the Adobe Vivid color setting and did my normal edits.  

For this second tulip shot I had a flash laying next to the flower pot with the head angled up towards the reflector which I moved behind the flowers instead of at the side.  This is what is causing the bit of inner glow in the flowers.  This image was shot at 40mm at F9 with a shutter speed of 1/125s.  The flashes were set at ¼ powers.  

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Katscuon 2020 Wrap Up

Time for the annual Katsucon Wrap up.  This year I only shot in the morning and afternoon,  I determined doing evening shoots was just too much for me. Yes, I’m getting old.  So, this year I booked 17 sessions,  of which four canceled the day of the convention due to flight, health, and prop issues, thus I did 13 sessions total.  I shot 1447 frames across two days. The most prevalent focal length used was 18mm, which was used on 55-percent of the shots.  The most prevalent shutter speed used was 1/250s which was used on 26-percent of the shots. The most prevalent aperture used was F5 which was used on 37-percent of the images. Finally, the most prevalent ISO used was ISO100 which was used on 45-percent of the shots.  Of the 1447 shots, I edited 1,069 images which is about 73-percent of the total shots taken.  Of the edited shots, 213 images were hall shots, which is an increase from last year due to canceled sessions and being able to shoot the “Met Gala” group shoot.

I want to talk about the “Met Gala” group shoot briefly. The whole idea of the “Met Gala” for cosplay was great, these were amazing cosplays that I could easily see walking the red carpet at the Met.  The artistry and the work that went into them was impressive.  My only complaint is how Katsucon handled it,  since they group treated it like a red-carpet walk, it would have been better if Katsucon put them in a ballroom on a stage.  This would have allowed the group to do it more like a fashion show, and photographers to do the cosplays justice in their pictures.  While in front of the fountains is a nice area, it is just too crowded and a distraction from the actual cosplays.  I hope they do it again next year, in a better location. You can see all the images in the first part of the hall shot gallery, here.

I’m only going to talk about a couple of photos.  This first one is from the shoot with the lovely Sara go Bragh as a regency version of Rey from Star Wars Episode VII.  The first image I took was to copy the piece of fan art I saw of regency Rey.  It is a simple ¾ length portrait.  The white marble walls in the Gaylord work wall for these simple portraits.   The second image from this session I like just because we got lucky and had the whole hallway to ourselves.  The image is very simple and elegant, with the little BB8 reticule.

ISO 100 Aperture F4.5, Shutter 1/60s, Focal Length 32mm

ISO 100 Aperture F4.5, Shutter 1/200s, Focal Length 28mm

This is the second year I have shot someone portraying a character from a Broadway play.  In this case it was the lovely Darling Cosplays as Roxie Hart from Chicago.  This session just called for glamourous poses and locations.  My favorite from the session of her in front of the large chandelier, it exudes confidence and sex appeal.

ISO 200 Aperture F4, Shutter 1/125s, Focal Length 18mm

This last photo from the set with ChknFri as McCree from Overwatch.  This cosplayer brought a lot of energy and I love Valentine’s Day spin they put on the character.  I love this photo because it is a nice mix of natural light and flash.  The natural light creates the shadows on the wood wall to provide ambiance to the image and I used the flash to light up the face and the bit of the body.  Overall, I feel the photo gives off that old west bar vibe.

ISO 100 Aperture F4, Shutter 1/50s, Focal Length 18mm

These shots were my favorite. But I have to say overall I wasn’t feeling Katsucon like I normally do.  I just did not have my normal energy or enthusiasm, and that was NOT the fault of the cosplayers. I think I was just a little tired and burnt out going into Katsucon this year, due to trying to finish a Master’s degree in less then a year,  moving into a management position at work, and running the Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati Cosplay Photoshoot Group.  It was just too much.  Usually, I’m itching to shoot, but this year I just was not feeling it.   So, while I shot the convention, I don’t feel I was putting my best foot forward this year.  I’m hoping after I finish my Master at the end of May and I take a little time off, I’ll be ready to go for next year.  

If you would like to see the all the galleries from this year’s Katsucon click here. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 End of Year Wrap Up

The year of 2019 was a busy year between running the Dayton-Columbus-CincinnatiCosplay Photo Shoot Group (DCC) which celebrated its 1-year anniversary,  making headpieces, doing several one-one studio shoots, attending conventions, working on a Masters degree, and getting a new position at work.  The first half of the year did not feel busy even though I was set up group shoots for the DCC, did several one-on-one creative sessions, attended a convention, and went on vacation to the Galapagos.  It wasn’t until I started my Masters program that I felt like I got busy and had no time.  The master’s program basically ate my weekends, due to having to write papers. However,  I did finish 9 of the 12 classes in the program in 6 months so I should finish that before June 2020.  Due to working on my masters, I did not shoot as much in the second half of the year as I did in the first half of the year.  I’m hoping once I’m done with the master’s program, I can focus time back to creative shooting and one-on-one sessions.

This year I shot a total of 7040 frames, of which I edited 4567 images.  Of the edited images I used ISO 100 for 2171 images, an aperture of F8 for 987 images,  a shutter speed of 1/250s for 894 images and a focal length of 18mm for 2431 images.  I had a total of 31 images published across five publication.  I had six images published in February issue of Realm Magazine, seven images published in the Issue 47 Volume 2 of Gilded Magazine,  fifteen images published in the Issue 31 of Jazzy Magazine with one of those being a featured image, two images in Cosplay Realm magazine, and one in Cosplay Zine.   So now that we got the statistics out of the way let’s talk about some events and favorite images for the year.

Cosplay and Conventions
I attended only two conventions this year Katsucon in Washington, DC and Matsuricon in Columbus, Ohio.  I did paid shoots at both these conventions. Sadly, I got sick at Matsuricon and had to cancel a session, which I felt horrible about.  As usual there were several great cosplayers at Katsucon, but three sessions stick out in my mind Elphaba, Yasha Nydoorin, and Croft and Drake, the cosplayers attention to detail and overall personalities made these fun shoots. Plus, I am happy with the photos, my favorite however is one from Elphaba shoot in which we copied  the pose from the theater production poster.  I felt Matsuricon was better this year then last year and I got to work with some nice cosplayers. However, I’m still debating whether I will attend Matsuricon in 2020.  The shoots that stood out during Matsuricon were Lady Deadpool, Spider Man,  and Camie Utsushimi. Several of these shoots I did in the parking garage because of the type of character, and the fact the parking garage had a cool mural.  The shot that I liked the best from Matsuricon was of Spider Man, there are not a lot of male cosplayers and this one followed direction well and knew his character.

This year I hosted ten DCC meet ups. We shot in two studios a church that was turned into a brewery, several parks, a train yard, and a farm.  All the shoots went well.  I always like shooting in studio but the train yard was a bit of a different location, while the farm shoot for Halloween was a great night shoot. The group is slowly growing, but needs a more consistent photographer turn out.  It is hard for me to pick a favorite image from meet ups but I seem always come back to the following three images.

Creative Portrait Work
This year I did six one-on-one sessions and one group shoot.  I started the year with a shoot using a red dress I had imported from Poland, and then did a 1920’s themed shoot. From there I rolled into a shoot with my favorite purple haired lady, while experimenting with dry ice.  I then made a white and silver head piece for a very ethereal shoot that involved very large flowers and garage insulation as a backdrop.  From their the flowers and the dry ice made a reappearance for a pink flower shoot.  I finished out the year with a group shoot, where all the clothing was white in a very white studio.

Vacation this year was eventful. I have always wanted to go the Galapagos Islands, and I went this year.  My husband and I opted for a land tour as opposed to the standard cruise. We highly recommend doing the cruise over the land tour, since you waste a lot of your day going to port and traveling out to islands on the land tour as opposed to the cruise where you don’t have the wasted travel time.  The Galapagos was nice, we went through ton of sun screen and my husband go some good photos during the whole trip.  I on the other hand only got one day’s worth of photos because salt water and DSLR’s don’t mix.  Sadly, on the first full day, my underwater housing ended up leaking, killing my camera.  (I did get a new one once we got home.)  Thankfully,  I saw most of the animals before the snorkeling trip, were my camera met its demise.  For the rest of the trip I used my husbands’ little point underwater point and shoot, while he used his Canon 5D Mark III. 


Overall it was a good year. I’m looking forward to 2020.

White Out Group Shoot

On December 8th,  I participated in one of the Cincinnati Female Image Makers group shoots.  The theme for this shoot was White Out and it was held at Locust & Vince Studios in Cincinnati.  This was a small group shoot that lasted only an hour,  with four models and four photographers, we shot round robin style so that everyone worked with everyone.   It was a nice little group shoot,  the models were nice and it let me step away from hosting a shoot, and my school work.   (I’m in the middle of taking master’s classes, that is why the blog hasn’t been being updated as frequently.)

For this session I shot 242 frames, edited 147 frames, and delivered 70 final images.  For this set up I used a Canon 80D, with an 18-200mm lens,  a light stand, a two 430EXII-RT speedlights (one was acting as a trigger/transmitter only) and small 9x9 inch LumiQuest softbox.  I was glad I brought the flash and softbox, because while the studio would normally be full of bright natural light, it was a cloudy overcast day not providing a lot of light to the inside of the studio.  For this shoot I shot at ISO 100, with an aperture of F5, with a shutter speed varying between 1/100s to 1/200s with most shots at 1/200s, and finally my focal length varied between 18mm and 70mm, with most shots being at 18mm.

ISO 100, Aperture F5, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 24mm
During a cosplay  group shoot,  you get characters with specific personalities, stories, and settings so it narrows and focus the shoot with that cosplayer.  However, when shooting during a general model group shoot you only have a theme, while the photographer must come up with the mood and story.  In some cases, this can be easy in others it can be more challenging.
This first shot (left) with Erin was just a plain simple dreamy shot. It used a combination of window light and flash.  I used the flash a fill to bright the whites and reduce some of the shadows. During post processing I bumped the whites and reduced the clarity to give it a softer look.

ISO 100, Aperture F5, Shutter 1/200s, Focal Length 18mm

This second model, Alexis,  was fun to work with, and her clothing option was creative.  To me she gave off a puck vibe but in all white. One of my favorite shots (right) taken of her is of her siting on a stool.  The light stand was about 45-degree off her face with the flash raised and pointed slightly downward.  I was a little less than 15-degrees off from the light stand. I am usually not a big fan of eyes being closed in photos but in this case it just works. When editing this photo, I kept the brightness on her face,  bumped the whites slightly but then added some deeper shadows to the left of the image, were the light was naturally falling off.  I also added a slight vignette to the image.  Overall it portrays a very interesting mood.

ISO 100, Aperture F5, Shutter 1/200s, Focal Length 24mm

When working with the third model, Elizabeth, I felt like I was shooting a make-up campaign.  I liked her suit jacket with the white feathers, which gave me the impression of a music star at first, however when editing the images, I felt it was more like a make-up campaign.  One of my favorite images (left) is of her laying on the floor and giving a simple beauty shot pose.  For this shot the flash was lowered to her face level and slightly less than a 45-degree angle off her face. When editing the image, I added a soft glow by reducing the clarity, bumped the whites slightly, and used a little bit of frequency separation on the face to give it a more polished look.  I also kept the crop close and added a medium square vignette to the image.

ISO 100, Aperture F5, Shutter 1/200s, Focal Length 18mm

The final model, Sarah,  I worked with gave off the that 1990’s early 2000’s pop star vibe, but at the same time when I was editing her shots, I was getting a 1970’s movie actress.  Especially in this image, for some reason it screams 1970 to me.   I will say at first it was not one of my favorite images, but it grew on me.  I did not do a lot of post processing on this image,  I balanced for the whites, reduced texture, and clarity slightly, removed a bit of an orange cast, and added a slight vignette.

Overall it was a good group shoot, though I felt just an hour was a little rushed. I think 90-minutes would have been good because that would have given people 15-minutes to get ready and 15-minutes to pack up to get ready to leave.  Hopefully, I will get to attend a few more of these group shoots after my weekends clear up a bit.  You can see all the finals from this shoot here:  White Out.

Ink & Rose

A few days ago, I did a few addition ink drop photos with a twist. For this set of ink drops I placed a rose in the water and drop the in...