Sunday, November 5, 2017

Halloween Themed Shoot

On October 22 I went to Lake Accotink Park for the Halloween themed DCCosplay meet up.  Lake Accotink Park is a nice area, which has a lake, a wooded area and a few concrete areas.  The location was good for a Halloween shoot, set for the middle of the day since the forest area provided shade and the concrete areas worked well for a more urban setting. 

For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D, my trusty 18 -200mm lens, radio trigger, and two 430 EX –IIIRT speed light.  My husband, who is my trusty assistant, held a painter’s pole which we mounted one of the speed light to the top of without an umbrella.  I did not use an umbrella so I could have a possibility to combat the sun.  I mounted the second flash on a standard light stand without an umbrella and used it for occasional fill or back lighting. I took 300 photos, edited 232 photos, and posted 139 fully edited shots.  For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 200 using an aperture of between F7.1and F11 with 48 percent of the photos taken at focal length of 18mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/25s to 1/1600s with the about 64 percent of the photos taken between 1/125s to 1/320s depending on the lighting conditions.  I did my basic edits to the photos and the flash ensured I could separate the model from the background.  Overall, the photos are ok.  You can see all the edited photos from the shoot by following this link: Halloween Meet-up.  Below, I will discuss two of my favorite photos from the shoot.

Focal Length: 24mm, Aperture: F11, Shutter: 1/125s
This first picture is actually my favorite from the shoot. It is of JMS Cosplay as Negan from the Walking Dead.  To get this photo we actually got down into the lake run off stream, and I had him get into the tunnel.  I placed the flash to my right angled down onto the model. To edit the photo I darkened the image, increased the clarity, and then added very heavy vignette.  I think this captures the nature of the character and feel of the series.

Focal Length: 28mm, Aperture: F9, Shutter: 1/160s

This next image is of Lena Vokova as Santa Muerte. For this image I placed her up on a large stump, and placed the sun and a flash behind her.  The sun was a bit high to provide the back lighting I wanted, so I added a flash behind her to add a bit of edge lighting.  I placed the main flash down low, pointed up to my right.  To edit the photo I balanced the lighting, darkened the sky, and then added a strong vignette.  I added to vignette to ensure it looked like the model was encircled by light.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Trip to Acadia National Park

Stop along the Park Loop Road
ISO 400, Focal Length 20mm, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/400s
Last weekend my husband and I went up to Acadia NationalPark, in Maine, for a long weekend to celebrate our anniversary. We chose Acadia because we thought there would be some fall colors and really why not go to Maine in the fall.  

The park is nice and has several pull-offs along the park loop road, however to really see the park you need to rent a bike (which the park does not do) so you can access more of the park via the carriage roads. If you don’t utilize the carriage roads, you can do the park loop road in about a day.  We did not rent a bike so only accessed trails via the parking lot trail heads.  We did a few hikes, one long hike around Jordan Pond, as short one down to Boulder Beach, and medium length one up to see Bubble Rock.  The hike around Jordan Pond was relatively easy except for the part where you had to crawl across some large rocks.  After the hike around the pond we ate at the Jordan Pond House, which is known for its popovers, I was not impressed.  I was expecting more from the popovers, by how they are raved about in the reviews, but they were just kind of bland.   Actually, most of the food we had in Maine was unimpressive, including the lobster.  The only good place we ate was at the Mexican restaurant near the Bangor Airport.  But I digress, the hike to Boulder Beach was easy once we figured out where it was located on the map.  I wanted to go there, because of the large rounded rocks about the size of bowling balls or larger that make up the beach.  It was interesting, but since the sky was overcast and cloudy, the light was not good so the pictures are not as nice as I would like.  The last hike we did was up to Bubble Rock which is a boulder precariously perched on the edge of a cliff.  The hike was moderate and definitely went up, but the view from the top of the trail was nice.  Overall, the hikes were nice, but if I went again I would definitely rent a bike, so I could see more of the park.  

From along the path around Jordan Pond
ISO 400, Focal Length 18mm, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/500s

I was not overly impressed with the photos I took because the sky was just grey, overcast, and extremely cloudy in the morning and evening due to the hurricane off the coast. We did not have any good sunrises, nor could we see the any of the night sky due to the cloud cover.  It was clear briefly in the afternoon, when there was a break in the bands of clouds from the arms of the hurricane.   I shot the whole trip using a Cannon D70 with an 18-200mm lens set to ISO 400.  My most common focal length was 18mm, my common shutter speeds were 1/200s and 1/500s, and my most common aperture was F8.   I just tend to shoot wide so that is why I tend to have a high number of photos shot at 18mm.  The reason from my shutter speeds being so high was to freeze the waves breaking along the beach and rock cliffs.  It takes several photos to get the best wave shot, so I did have a lot of shots I just discarded because they were basically duplicates.  I used a high aperture so I could get the best depth of field without having to focus stack on my landscape photos.  I did have a tripod with me, which my husband ended up using for a few of his shots. I also had filters with me, which did me absolutely no good; because, I did not have the filter holder with me.  I forgot to pack the filter holder. I used to have the filter holder always on my camera but it doesn’t work with my lens hood, so now the filter holder isn’t always on my camera.   That was a little frustrating.  

Boulder Beach
ISO 400, Focal Length 18mm, Aperture F9, Shutter 1/200s

Thunder Hole
ISO 400, Focal Length 50mm, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/320s
While going through my photos, I did find that several of the photos looked good in black and white, so I did do several conversions. (You can see all the photos here.)  The other thing I noticed was due how the sunlight was diffused through the clouds it was hard to pull definition out of the wave crests.  This was mostly noticeable with the shots taken at Thunder Hole, where the waves were mostly thick sea foam.  I found at Thunder Hole, it wasn’t the big waves that were interesting but the way the water cascaded over the rocks after the wave crashed and was going back out to sea.  

Now besides the rocky shore line, which I personally love to photograph, there were supposed to be fall colors.  Well due to climate change and the weather staying warmer longer into September there were no fall colors.  According to the past reports the time we picket to go would have been right at peak or just starting peak fall colors, this time the trees were just barely starting to turn.  I did find a tree that did change, it was a pop of red in a sea of green.   I think that was one of the reasons I was slightly disappointed with my photos, I was prepared for bright pops of color but all I had was shades of green. Don’t get me wrong the park is still beautiful in green, I was just expecting oranges, reds, yellows, and Maine’s purple leaves.

My lone red tree
ISO 400, Focal Length 185mm, Aperture F11, Shutter 1/100s

We would go again, but for longer than two days. I would also plan a little better so we could do some other activities like take a carriage ride through the park, do some biking on the carriage trails, and do a sea kayak tour. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Gothic Lolita

A while back, I posted on my Facebook page a link to a video covering 40 years of Gothic Style, which inspired on of my favorite cosplayers, Nerdenheim Jen, to make a Gothic Lolita outfit.  So last weekend, we went and shot it down at Scott’s Run.  You might not think being out in the middle of the woods is a place to do a Gothic Lolita shoot; abandoned mansion comes to mind. However, the use of an abandoned fireplace and props brought the shoot to life.  

For this shoot I used a Canon 70D, an 18-200mm lens, one 430 EX-IIIRT speed light, one 600 EX-RT speed light, radio trigger, lightstand,  painter’s pole with baby pin adapter, umbrella, foam skull, candelabra, and a tea-towel for the model to sit on.  My husband came with me on this shoot to act as my assistant.  His job was to hold the painter’s pole with a speedlight attached, so I could get the light angles correct for the three locations we shot and not worry about having to balance two light stands.

I took around 171 shots, edited 139, and posted 97 fully edited photos.  For all the photos, I was at an ISO of 200 using an aperture of F4.5. My focal length varied between 18mm and 35mm with 75 percent of the photos taken at 18mm.  My shutter speeds varied between 1/100s to 1/250s with the about 56 percent of the photos taken at 1/200s and 22 percent taken at 1/100s.  As you can see, I learned from the last shoot that I needed to up my shutter speed to be hand holding the camera.  I had my flashes set between 1/16 and 1/8 power depending on the lighting.  I do wish my camera could record the flash power settings in the .exf data for the images it would make reviewing them a lot easier and help with future shoots.  Though in reviewing the raw images, I had very few if any I threw out due to lighting issues, most shots I eliminated were due to blinking, odd posing, or the idea just not translating well into the image.

We shot in three locations at Scott’s Run:  the abandoned fireplace, the river stepping-stones, and on jagged rocks in the river bed itself.  We started with the abandoned fireplace location because it was at a top of a hill.  I always believe on working my way down when it comes to on-location shoots, because it is always easier to go down then up.  The fireplace is an interesting location, because you can lean a little towards the creepy side but still keep it cute. However, it was the use of the props that brought out the gothic feel of the location, while the poses and expression of the model told a story.  The second location was along the stepping-stones that are used to cross the river.  These photos stayed more on the cute side of Lolita. The third location was the jagged rocks in the riverbed that were accessible due to a low water level.  The props helped here, to give the photo some context, while the models expression brought the story behind the image to life.  I’m now going to discuss one of my favorite images from each of the three locations.

This first image was taken out on the jagged rocks in the riverbed. I like to call this image “I’m sad because it is sunny.”  Her pout and how she is holding the skull next to her face, as you might hold a kitty or stuffed animal next to you, makes the shot.   The main light was above her and to her left, the fill light was about 45 degrees off her right side.  All I did for editing for this shot was adjust the white balance to sunlight,  adjust the exposure a slightly, crop the image using the rule of thirds, and then added a little bit of vignetting.  

ISO 200, Aperture 4.5, Shutter 1/200s, Focal Length 18mm

This second image shows you the fireplace, which was a reasonable size. I like this image because it is as if she is inviting you in, and the hand placement on the skull, makes it seem like the skull is a pet.   For this image the main light was up and to the models right, about 60 degrees off center and the fill light was to her left about 45 degrees off center.  I adjusted the white balance for this image first by adjusting it to sunlight, then warming it up a bit more to give it more a brown/orange cast. I found even thought this was a gothic shoot, which usually run to cooler tones; those cooler tones were not working due to the time of day we were shooting.  I did crop the image to ensure balance on both sides of the fireplace, and then added a bit of vignetting.  

ISO 200, Aperture 4.5, Shutter 1/200s, Focal Length 18mm

This third image was done on the stepping-stones; actually, they are concrete pillars you step on to cross the river.  This image captures the essence of Lolita cuteness whether it is classic Lolita or gothic Lolita. It also shows off the dress nicely.  The main light was above the model about 30 degrees off center to her right. The fill light was placed basically on the same line as the main light just lower.  I did not do a lot with this image; I adjusted the white balance, then cropped, and then finally added some vignetting to emphasize the model and the light cutting through the center of the image.  

ISO 200, Aperture 4.5, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 18mm

While I only discussed three images, I had a lot more than three favorites.  I basically could make a nice little story with the images from this shoot, showing a little gothic Lolita out for a walk with her pet skull and stopping by her favorite places.  While Jen is always great to work with, she was really super amazing during this shoot, providing just the right facial expressions and really interacting with props.  She made the setting and story come to life for these photos.  You can see the complete set of photos here

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Waterfalls and Parachutes

Bonus image: Focal length 18mm, Apeture F7.1, Shutter 1/200s
I went up to Ohio a few weekends ago for my class reunion, and figured while I was up there I would do a photoshoot at a local little waterfall called Blue Hen Falls.  The original concept for this shoot I had in my head was based on forest/water nymph; however, I ended up tweaking my vision slightly based on some photos of Charlize Therontaken by Annie Leibovitz in 2011 for Vogue as well as some photos on Pinterest.   For this shoot, I knew I needed a flowy super long dress, and what fit the bill was a white parachute dress, which I found at Enception Dress Rentals.  The dress is made out of a parachute that is about 25 feet in diameter, which is a lot of fabric, and had a shipping weight was 8 lbs.  Now for the shoot I did bustle the front part of the dress.  I bustled it because the path leading down to the waterfall is rocky and steep, so I wanted my model to be able to walk safely down to waterfall and maneuver easily on the rocks.  My model for this shoot was Anna who is one of my longtime friends that I don’t get to see that often.  I was nice working with a friend who has modeled before and did not need a lot of direction.  She worked the dress beautifully, and looked at the mood board I sent her thus understood what I was trying to achieve.

As for equipment,  I used a Canon 70D, an 18-200mm lens, one 430 EX-IIIRT speed light, one 600 EX-RT speed light, radio trigger, lightstand,  painter’s pole with baby pin adaptor,  a portable changing room, and a towel.  (I also had a permit for the location.) My husband came with me on this shoot to act as my assistant.  His job was to hold the painter’s pole with a speedlight attached, because we were not going to lug a C-stand with sandbags up and down the hill to the waterfall.  In addition, a voice-activated light stand is quicker to move and adjust, especially when you are in a time crunch, like we were.  We only had two hours to do the shoot and clear the location, before a group of ultra-marathoners was to come through the area.  When the marathoners came through they were going to close the path to the waterfall and the roads around the area, so we needed to be out of the area before then.  Even though we had a limited amount of time, I still got the shots I was looking for.

I took around 264 shots, edited 184, and posted 126 fully edited photos.  For all the photos, I was at an ISO of 100 using an aperture of between F4 and F8 with the photos evenly distributed between F4 to F7.1. I only took one photo at F8.  I used a focal length between 18mm and 110mm with 52 percent of the photos taken at 18mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/25s to 1/800s with the about 26 percent of the photos taken at 1/125s.  I also took about 45 percent of my photo at slow shutter speeds between 1/40s to 1/60s without a tripod.  Now I can say from reviewing the raw images, I should have bumped the ISO up to 200 or 400. This would have allowed me to reduce the flash power in some cases, and I would not have had to shoot at such low shutter speeds.  From reviewing the raw images, I can tell my hands are not as steady as they once were at the lower speeds.

For this shoot, we shot in three locations at the waterfall. The first location was at the top of the waterfall were we did our best to keep the dress dry.  I wanted to keep the dress dry at the beginning of the shoot because it would move and fluff nicely.  I knew as soon as the dress got wet it would gain a ton of weight limiting the model’s movement, and the dress could possibly turn see-through.  The second location was at the base of the falls, which included having the falls behind the model, the model standing in the water, and the model standing close to but not exactly under the waterfalls.  I took the final shots, after the dress was good and wet, downstream from the waterfall. There was a nice low flat rock creek bed that had a nice feel to it that was perfect for ending the session.  I’m going to discuss a few photos from each of the three areas. (You can see all the photos here.)

The first photo was taken at the top of the falls.  I was positioned on a main path that is slightly higher than the creek bed that makes the falls.  My husband was actually below me on another ledge that came out and slightly in front of the falls (the area is curved) and had the light positioned to the front and right of the model.  For this shot, I actually tried to blend flash into the natural light coming in between the trees.  I like the photo because it looks like the dress is pooling and getting ready to cascade down the edge to the pool below just like the water is doing.  This shot was good out of camera, but I did edit by cropping slightly, adjusting the color and pulling it into Photoshop to make the whites pop.  I applied a technique called fairytale glow, which if done incorrectly is obvious and make things look blown out, but if down correctly just adds the slightest bit of highlight to make the photo pop.  I also tried to keep the background subdued so the model and the dress would stand out. While I took several at the top of the falls, most of my favorites were taken at the base of the falls, so we’ll discuss those next.

In this second image, I was still above the base of the falls while my model and husband were down at the base of the falls.  As you can tell the dress, looks wet and does not have that light fluffy look anymore.  I had my model stand on the large rock located in the shallow pool of water at the base of the falls. The light was above and to the left of the model to match the incoming sunlight.  Out of camera, the whole background was very dark, so when I edited the photo I brought up the shadows so you could see some of the texture in the rock face.  I also slightly enhanced the lighting on the model to reduce shadows on her face.  I also tried to brighten up the waterfall in the background.  I think this is a very powerful shot, while remaining soft and feminine.

Image #1: Focal Length 18mm, Apeture F6.3, Shutter 1/60s
Image #2: Focal Length 40mm, Apeture F5, Shutter 1/60s
For the next two photos, I was shooting directly down from the top of the falls, as you can see by the image to the left. I used two lights for these photos, one was behind the model to provide a bit of rim lighting and the main light was above to the front and left of her.  Now both images did initially have some light graduation issues with the light on the left side of the image not balancing well with the light on the right side of the image.   To account for this, I added a graduated filter in Lightroom to brighten the left side of the image and even the image out.  I then added a few local adjustments to the models face to reduce shadows and make sure your eye was drawn to her face.   As you can see in this third image the dress is getting fairly wet and in some instances translucent where it is touching the water.   In the fourth image the dress is dress is holding that shape because the model trapped air under the dress to make it poof out. I brightened the dress in the fourth image some by using the same fairy glow technique, I discussed in the very first image.  I like both these images, the third image is shows a strong powerful woman, while the fourth image is a bit softer.

Image #3: Focal Length 40mm, Apeture F5, Shutter 1/120s
Image #4: Focal Length 35mm, Apeture F5, Shutter 1/125s

Image #5: Focal Length 18mm, Apeture F7.1, Shutter 1/40s
This fifth photo is the one inspired by the Charlize Theron photo.  Unfortunately, my waterfall was not designed for the model to easily or comfortably lie against the rocks.  I still managed to get a strong image.  A light was placed to light up the falls, while my husband held the main light above the model to the left.  I tried to align the light with what was already coming through the trees.  The image out of camera was unbalanced and dark on the in the upper area and the left side.  Also the shadows were dark, so you could not make out the texture of the shale. To compensated for that I added two gradient filters to lighten up the left side of the image and then balance out the top of the falls.  The gradient filters brightened the water and brought out some of the shadows, so that you could start to see some texture.  To finalize the image I did add some vignetting to ensure the eye was drawn to the center to the model.  I like this picture, but I’m not in love with it, because I know I could have shot it better.  I needed to be standing in the water and more the right of the model to really capture the mood I was going for.  Next time I bring waders to the shoot.

The final image was shot in the creek bed at the base of the falls.  I like this image because the dress is trailing behind her and how it looks like she is walking into the light.  I feel the image is portrays a level of serenity and peace that can be found in the forest.  This last image is all natural light.  The image out of camera was dark, especially in the tree and rock area behind the model.  Thus, I first adjusted the exposure and brought up the shadows some while bring the highlights down on the model.  I did crop the original image then added some vignetting to really make it appear she was standing in a pool of light.  Honestly, this is one of my favorite images from the entire shoot.

Image #6: Focal Length 18mm, Apeture F4.5, Shutter 1/100s

Now if you are wondering what some of the set up look like, I actually have some behind the scenes photos.   My mom, who watched the whole shoot, took these photos with her phone.   Since I am down in the Virginia area and she is up in Ohio, she does not get to see me work a photo shoot.  I also want to thank her for taking the dress and running it through a spin cycle on the washer and hanging it out to dry after this shoot. The dress was sopping wet after the shoot and we could not wring all of the water out of it by hand.

At the base of the falls
As top of falls shooting down (image 3 & 4)

Overall, I’m happy with how the shoot turned out but I would do a few things differently.  First off, I would raise my ISO so I wasn’t shooting at such a slow shutter speed.  Second, I would bring a battery pack for the flashes, because near the end of the shoot they were starting to die.  Third, I would bring waders, or just face the situation and get into the water beyond my ankles.  Finally, while I had the dress bustled in the front for safety; I think I would like to have un-bustled the dress as soon as we got to the base of the waterfall.  You can see all the photos from the shoot here

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sunflower Fields

On July 22, I had four photo sessions out at the McKee Besher sunflower fields in Maryland with the shoot starting at 08:00AM and going until 12:00 PM.  I determined four hours of shooting in a very sunny field with very little shade makes for a very long morning.
For this shoot, I had an interesting equipment list, which included the following:
  •       Canon 70D,
  •        18 -200mm lens,
  •        2x 430 EX –IIIRT speed light
  •        Light stand
  •        Reflector that doubled as a diffuser
  •        Ladder
  •        Bug spray
  •        Bottled water
  •        Hat
  •        Flexible cold pack
  •     And an assistant (my husband).

You may be asking why I had a ladder with me, this was so I could get above the sunflowers and shoot down onto the model.  Basically, the ladder gave me height, which as a short person I don’t have.  I am also thankful to my husband who moved the ladder around for me and held the diffuser/reflector for some of the shots.  I thanked him by taking him out for Chipotle’s after the shoot.

I took a little over 400 shots and posted 291 fully edited photos.  For all the photos, I was at an ISO of 100 using an aperture of between F5and F8 with 62 percent of the photos taken at F6.3. I used a focal length between 18mm and 90mm with 55 percent of the photos taken at 18mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/60s to 1/2000s with the about 60 percent of the photos taken at 1/250s or 1/400s depending on the lighting conditions.   It should also be noted that even though it was sunny, I used flash as a fill to help separate my subject from the background and try to keep both the sky and the model properly exposed.  I did basic edits on all the photos in Lightroom paying close attention to the highlights. I used several graduated filters within Lightroom to reduce the brightness of the sky and bring back the blue in the sky.  Below I will discuss a few images from each of the four sessions in the sunflower fields.

The first session was with Jennifer Glinzak Costumery &Couture as Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty.” I loved working with her, and she was able to show a wide range of poses and expressions with very little direction.  I had so many favorites from this session it was hard to narrow it down to just one to discuss, so I will discuss a couple of the photos. (You can see all the photos here.)  This first shot was taken while I was up on the ladder, and she was facing away from the sun, so a flash was used to light her and reduce shadows.   When editing this shot I decided to keep the crop large.  I then faded the image to give it a slight sepia/golden tone, which I feel give the image more of a fairy tale look. This second shot I like because she has a bit of a mischievous look and she definitely has the smize down.  In the second shot I again had her looking away from the sun (it was really bright) but had her turn towards the camera.  I placed the flash slightly to right, to light her face, and then balanced it slightly with the rest of the scene.  During the editing process, the color was intensified along with the clarity.  I then added some slight vignetting to finish the image.

Focal length 50mm, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/250s
Focal length 24mm, Aperture F5, Shutter 1/800s

The second session was with Sara Cosplays, who I always enjoy working with.  She did Belle from the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast”.  Again, I have so many favorites it is hard to pick to just one so I am going to discuss a couple of them (You can see all the photos here.)  The first one is a ¾-length portrait that was lit using only the sun and a white/gold reflector.  As you can tell this was not taken in the middle of the fields but in the little wooded patch near the sunflower fields. The only edits I did to this image were increasing the clarity and saturation slightly, making sure the whites were white, and adding a little bit of vignetting to the image.  The second image was taken in the same area with the same edits applied.  I like these two photos because I think they really embody the character of Belle.

Focal length 60mm, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/160s
Focal length 28mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/125s

The third shoot was with Evolution Cosplay as Mavis from “Hotel Transylvania.”  She did bring out Mavis’s personality, and if you haven’t seen the movie, it is a bubbly, new to the world teenage vampire.  Thus when I went to edit the photos I actually tried to edit them like a teenager taking photos for their Instagram page.  My favorite photo from the shoot is the one that really seems to capture a teenager.  I edited this photo by fading it out and adding an orange/teal split tone. I then added a preset that makes photo have a vintage slide film look.  (You can see all the photos here.)

Focal length 32mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/250s

The final shoot was with Maggie Cosplays who did Kiki from “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”  Since the movie is a bright kind of cheery anime film, I kept the editing of the photos bright.  I also tried to pose her in scenes that would possibly fit into the movie. (You can see all the photos here.) I did experiment with the shoot a little bit, and will discuss that photo.  This photo was shot with her standing on a ladder so it would look like she was flying over the field, since her character is a witch who flies on broomstick to deliver items to people.  When I edited the photo, I removed the ladder using content aware fill in Photoshop.   I realized after I started editing the photo, if I had shown both her feet, it would have created a better illusion of her flying.  To show both of her feet would have required her to stand one-step further up on the ladder.  Overall, it is not a bad attempt, and does give a little bit of the illusion she is flying.

Focal length 18mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/1000s

Overall I am generally happy with the photos from the four sessions, but learned I physically can’t handle being out in the sun and heat for four hours.  I was mentally and physically exhausted by the time I was done with all the sessions.  I did try to keep myself hydrated by drinking cold water, and cool by placing one of those flexible cold packs on the back of my neck between sessions. However, I think it was just too much sun that really started to drain me near the end.  I think if I was to do this again, I would either limit the number of shoots or start earlier in the morning. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Game of Thrones Cosplay Shoot

On July 23rd, winter was supposed to be coming, however it was extremely hot outside; thankfully I was inside the NationalBuilding Museum for a DC Cosplay meet up.  The theme for this meet up was the Game of Thrones since the season recently started.  The National Building Museum is an excellent location for the theme due to large Corinthian columns inside the museum and its overall classical architecture.  The other item that made this shoot interesting was the fact; we had access to the Hive exhibit an hour before it opened to the public.  The Hive is part of the museums summer art display, and is a bunch of large cardboard tubes painted silver and pink stacked on top of each other. While the hive was interesting, I did not feel it added to the theme and preferred to use the museum architecture for the backgrounds of the photos.

For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D, my trusty 18 -200mm lens, a 430 EX –IIIRT speed light, with a lumapro bounce.  The museum does not allow light stands, thus I was limited to a speedlight mounted on camera, since I did not have an assistant with me.   I took a little over 300 photos and posted 127 fully edited shots.  For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 400 using an aperture of between F3.5 and F5 with 80 percent of the photos taken at focal length of 18mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/25s to 1/1600s with the about 46 percent of the photos taken at 1/250s or 1/320s depending on the lighting conditions.  I did my basic edits to the photos but did extra editing to balance how the flash was falling on the subject due to the way the bounce was oriented and also added some creative edits to give the photos a more cinematic look.  Overall, I am happy with the pictures from the shoot.  You can see all the edited photos from the shoot by following this link: Game of Thrones.  Below, I will discuss three of my favorite photos from the shoot.

ISO 400, Aperture f4,  Shutter 1/320s
This first photo (left) is of GC-Chan Cosplay as Daenerys Targaryen, I loved working with her.  She maintained a very regal look throughout the time worked with her, and was still enough that some of the tourist visiting the museum thought she was a statue at first.  I like this photo because it has a cinematic look and is bit dark to match her expression.  To achieve this look I added a filter called vintage slide film that added split toning to the image. I then adjusted that filter to darken some of the shadows in the overall image then brought out the highlights on her face by applying an exposure mask to that area. 

ISO 400, Aperture f3.5,  Shutter 1/400

This second image (right) is of Lady O Cosplay as a reverent. She is one of the older cosplayers (you can cosplay at any age) and always bring it to a shoot.  I knew I had to shoot her, because the selfie she posted earlier in the morning of herself in costume reminded me of a David Bowie album cover.  I did not do a lot of editing to this photo, because I created most of the look in camera.  While I did not have an assistant I did have a second flash with a foot with me, which I placed directly in front of her pointed up.  This gave her a darker look, accentuating shadows.  To achieve the final look, I darkened the image slightly, and added some vignetting.  It was a super quick edit to get the resulting image, because it was perfect in camera.

ISO 400, Aperture f3.5,  Shutter 1/320
This third image (left) is of JMS Cosplay as John Snow.  To get this shot, I used a flash placed on the floor to left of the subject pointed up.  While I used the flash with the bounce mounted on my camera to provide a little bit of fill.  To finish off this picture in post processing, I darkened the shadows some and added a graduated filter to the right of the image to make it seem like there was a dark corridor.  I also adjusted the highlights on his face with an exposure mask to balance the light.
ISO 400, Aperture f4,  Shutter 1/160

If you do look at all the finished images in the gallery, you will see there are very few inside the Hive exhibit itself.  The reason for that is; I did not feel it was a good background for the theme.  The last image (right) of FaeStarfire Cosplay as Khal Drogo is the only one I like using the Hive.  It works because it gives the impression she is coming out of a cave or hut.  I darkened the image to give it a bit of dramatic flair and tone down the reflection off the silver tubes. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Super Heroes and Villains at the Waterfront

On June 25th, I had a date with a bunch of super heroes and villains down by the Old Town Alexandria waterfront; it was DC Cosplay Photo Shoots meet up.  The theme was super heroes and villains and there was a nice assortment of heroes from the Marvel and DC universes as well as some Sailor Moon characters, and a Power Ranger. 

This shoot started at 7:00 AM to beat the heat of the day and have an area mostly devoid of people, since this was outside in a public location.  You could tell as it got later in the morning, especially when the meet up ended around 10:00AM, there were significantly more people, mostly heading out to go to brunch or walk the old town area.  For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D, my trusty 18 -200mm lens, a 430 EX –IIIRT speed light, radio trigger,  and a light stand.   I did have an umbrella with me, but because of the intensity of the sun, I shot without the umbrella so I would not have to push my flash as hard. Plus, with this being a super hero and villain shoot, the harder light worked.   I took a little over 300 photos and posted 180 fully edited shots.  For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 200 using an aperture of either F6.3 or F8 with 80 percent of the photos taken at focal length of 18mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/125s to 1/1600s with the about 56 percent of the photos taken at 1/250s or 1/500s depending on the lighting conditions.  I did my basic edits to the photos, but did extra editing mostly to bring out the blueness of the sky.  I forgot my circular polarizer, which would have helped significantly in several cases.  Overall, I am happy with the pictures from the shoot.  You can see all the edited photos from the shoot by following this link: Heroes and Villains.  Below, I will discuss four of my favorite photos from the shoot.

Focal length 18mm, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/400s
This first image is of Lena Volkova as Loki.  I liked her casual relaxed pose and edited the photo to give it an old street photo vibe.  To do that I started with my basic edits to adjust exposure, contrast, and luminosity to smooth out the image.  I then added a preset called faded slide film, which fades out the image and adds some split toning using yellow and purple tones; it also adds a very thick vignette and heavy grain. After applying the preset, I removed the thick vignetting, reduced the amount of added grain, and re-adjusted the sharpness and luminosity of the photo to get the desired results. 

Focal length 18mm, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/250s

This second image is of Sean Price as Crossbones from the Marvel Universe. I took this picture using two flashes. The first was in front and to the right of the model, while the second flash was on the ground pointing about 80 degrees up hidden behind the model’s right foot.  This is how I created the light behind the model. After I did basic edits to the photo, I applied a preset called Dirty Action Sunny, which seems appropriate for a villain.  This preset pulls out the blue in the sky and increases clarity.  I then tweaked the setting so it would not appear over processed by adjusting the exposure as well as the blacks and whites slightly.  I then applied a strong vignette to the image to draw the eye more to model and give the image an overall darker feel.

focal length 18mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/500
This image is of Patrick Benson as Gambit from the X-Men. He is actually one of the best Gambits with which I have had the pleasure of working. I took this picture in the gazebo to use it arches to frame the model. To get movement in the coat I had him pivot, as if he was swinging his staff in a fight.  I used only one flash that was placed to his left to remove shadows from the sun coming from his right. After I did basic edits to the photo, I adjusted the luminance of the blues to bring out the sky. I also increased the clarity to make him more defined. I then added a slight vignette to the photo to achieve the desired results.  

Focal length 20mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/200s

This last photo is of Life of Cosplay as Rogue from X-Men.  I love working with Life of Cosplay, because she is fun and I can get some great action shots with her. However, I took a slightly different route for this photo, since I could actually get height by using the stairs.  I like this photo because it is a relax but semi-sexy pose I could easily see in a magazine.  I did basic edit to the photo, removed a bunch of distracting cigarette butts, and then applied a preset called dark pop to give the photo a darker feel to align with the back ally location it was shot in.   I then adjusted the contrast slightly from the preset as well as the clipping for the blacks and whites.  Finally, I added some vignetting to darken the corners. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hamilton in the Park

I recently had the pleasure of working with J-Doll Cosplay and Nightengale Cosplay on a Hamilton inspired photo shoot.  They had period specific outfits so we needed a period specific location; however, there are very few if any revolutionary war forts still standing in northern Virginia.  My next best option was Fort Ward, which is a Civil War era fort, located in Alexandria, VA.  The fort still has the earthen work structures and replica cannons thus worked well for this shoot.
For this shoot I used my standard set up of Canon 70D, 18-200mm lens, two 430EX-IIIRT speed lights (one acted as a trigger), and one light stand. I did not use an umbrella since I had to compete with the sun, even though it was a cloudy overcast day.  I also had my trusty assistant, i.e. my husband, who helped with getting the light into position and spraying the instant atmosphere for the smoke effect in some of the photos.  

To get this shot, I had the cosplayers stand in front of the cannon emplacements, with my assistant holding the light slightly to side and above them, while I was on walkway below shooting up at them.  The photo was shot at ISO 200, a focal length of 187mm, a shutter speed of 1/200s, and an aperture of F5.6.  I edited the photo by cropping to get rid of some excess sky ad grass, and then adjusted the basics elements such as contrast, exposure, sharpness, and luminosity.  After I had those elements adjusted, I converted the photo to black and white with a sepia duo tone, and then added a bit of grain to the photo to give it an aged look.

 This next photo I was up at the cannon emplacements, shooting down at the cosplayers as they charged the bridge.  To add more light to the scene my assistant took the light down to the bridge and placed it in front of them slightly off camera, to give them a bit of pop and separate them from the background. I really appreciate radio triggers.  The photo was shot at ISO 200, a focal length of 70mm, a shutter speed of 1/100s, and an aperture of F5.  I edited the photo by cropping utilizing the rule of thirds, and then adjusted the basics elements such as contrast, exposure, sharpness, and luminosity.  I also added a bit of vignetting to bring the focus towards the cosplayers.

 This final photo is one of my favorites and used the instant atmosphere to create the smoke so I did not have to add it in post-production. To get this shot, I had the cosplayers stand in front of the cannon emplacements, with the light slightly to side and in front of them, while I was on walkway below shooting up at them. My assistant was actually below the cannon hidden by the grass wall spraying the instant atmosphere up around the cannon opening. This is what give it the cannon the just fired look.  The photo was shot at ISO 200, a focal length of 200mm, a shutter speed of 1/160s, and an aperture of F5.6.  I edited the photo by cropping to get rid of some excess sky ad grass, and then adjusted the basics elements such as contrast, exposure, sharpness, and luminosity. I also added a bit of vignetting to bring the focus towards the cosplayers.

While these are only a few of my favorite shots from this shoot, several of the photos came out very well and captured the theme.  You can see the complete set here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Scotland Wrap-Up

Photo Stop Map
I have been back from Scotland for two weeks now and have finally finished editing all my photos from the trip.  (You can see all the photos here.) Overall, I took 1,748 photos spread across our two week trip, which included 35 photo stops spread amongst the seven towns we stayed in. (see map). Of those 1,748 photos, I edited 736 photos, which is approximately 42 percent.  Now that number could be slightly higher if I did not take/delete duplicates and if I did not take photos to stich into a panorama photo.  Of the 736 photos, I edited my ISO ranged between 100 – 800 ISO with 40 percent taken at 200 ISO.  My aperture varied between F3.5 and F20 with 36 percent of the photos taken at F9.  My shutter speed varied between 1/6 seconds and 1/2000 at the extremes with 12 percent of the photos taken at 1/320 seconds.  However, my shutter speed stayed mostly between 1/100 seconds to 1/800 seconds. Finally, my focal length varied between 18mm and 200mm with 51 percent of the photos taken at 18mm.

Overall, the trip was good, but there were a few things I would change, if I were to do it again.  I would not do Edinburgh again, I feel as though I have covered it.  I think I would just fly into Glasgow and focus on the west coast and the islands of Scotland.  Personally, I wanted to get rocky coast photos with crashing waves.  I would also spend possibly another day in Orkney so I could go over to some of the other islands.  While Skye is nice, it is definitely reach peak tourist capacity, so I would rather head out to the Hebrides, which are a bit wilder and have significantly fewer tourists.  Finally, the major thing I would change is the time of year; I either need to go in early April or late September or October.  The change in date is because in May sunrise is at 4:30 AM and sunset is at 10:30 PM, which do not fit my normal sleep patterns.  While the long days are great to get things done, midday sun does not usually lend itself to interesting skies for landscape photos. 

Below are a few of my favorite photos:
Old Man of Storre on Skye

Standing Stones of Stennis on Orkney

Castle in a loch on way to Skye

I edited a few shots in black in white to get that moody feel. 

Castle ruins in a lock on way to Skye

Old Man of Storre on Skye

Friday, June 2, 2017

Last Day Full Day

We left the B&B around 9:00 AM to make the hour and half drive to Edinburgh to check into our last hotel before our flight home tomorrow.  Since the drive was only an hour and half, we were able to stop at Stirling Castle and the Kelpie sculpture.  

The Kelpies (cell phone)
Stirling Castle was nice. It was fairly large castle and definitely less crowded than Edinburgh castle. I liked the wood carvings they had and the grounds were nice.  We did not stay for the noon gun firing (large artillery), which was kicking off a D-Day memorial.  From there we headed to one of the things I really wanted to see, the Kelpie sculpture.  The sculpture is of two horse heads coming out of the water.   The horse heads are several stories tall and made of formed silvered metal around an interior scaffolding.  It was easily visible from the M9.  I thought it was an impressive sculpture.  

From there it was on the hotel to drop off our bags, then over to the rental car place to drop off the car. This is the first time I’m glad I paid for the extra insurance on the car, since we did slightly nick the paint backing into a fence on the second day of driving it.  Once, we got back from the rental place we walked over to the TKMaxx (equivalent to TJMaxx) to pick up an extra piece of luggage.  I packed one extra bag with me but we ended up by a few bulky items like a wool blanket from the wool mill co-op and needed an extra carry on size bag to check.  Thankfully British Airways lets you check two bags per person for free.

While the trip was nice, I’m ready to go home tomorrow. I’m ready to sleep in my own bed and see my doggy.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Another Rainy Drive with Edited Photos

Sheep at Standing Stones of Stennis
Today started out rainy and continued to be rainy the rest of the day.  We got a late start out of the last B&B because breakfast wasn’t served till 8:30 AM.  It was the same basic breakfast we have had at all but two B&Bs, I’m getting really tired of the options of eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, tomatoes, toast, and porridge.  I would like some variety, like waffles or pancakes, even though I’m not a big fan of pancakes.  But the trip is almost over, so when I get home I’m having toaster strudel for breakfast.  

Originally the tour company wanted us to drive directly from Skye to Edinburgh which is about a six hour drive, we decided against this because the next day we would be spending eight hours on a plane.  So the drive was split up by adding a stop in Trossachs at a B&B along Loch Earn, which was only a 4 hour drive from where we were staying on Skye.  Since it was raining the whole drive there were no major photo stops along the route or in Glencoe because all you  would get is misty fog photos where you end up playing the game is that a hill, rock, or sheep.  However, we did make a few minor photo stops along the route at the Castle Maol overlook, the Loch Garry overlook, and the Well of Seven Heads. We also stopped at a restaurant and had pizza for lunch.  We made it to the hotel around 3:45 PM.

After checking into the hotel Jim, Bill, and Cristina went for a hike behind the hotel. I opted out of the hike because it was still raining. Instead, I used the time to review my photos from the trip and edited a few that caught my eye.   

Cliff Face on Orkney
Fairy Pools on Skye

Standing Stones of Stennis

Ardvreck Castle

Old Man of Storr

View from Old Man of Storr Trail

Tomorrow we will continue our drive to Edinburgh where we will pick up an extra piece of luggage, and drop off the car.

Halloween Themed Shoot

On October 22 I went to Lake Accotink Park for the Halloween themed DCCosplay  meet up.  Lake Accotink Park is a nice area, which has a lak...