Sunday, April 1, 2018

Nouveau Lady

This year at Katsucon I got to shoot a cosplay concept I have wanted to shoot for several years, a Hannah Alexander  design.  What makes these designs special in my opinion is that  HannahAlexander  takes a character, like a Disney Princess’s cloths and interprets its as art nouveau fashion. So, the character is re-imaged in a dress along the lines of a late 1910 and early 1920s evening gown. The designs are extremely intricate, beautifully colored, and just simply stunning.  Thus, I have been wishing to be able to shoot one of these cosplays.

At this recent Katsucon, I had the pleasure of working with Sara Cosplay who made the Hannah Alexandra version of Merida from Brave.  I have worked with Sara Cosplay several times in the past, and she does impeccable work.  She made this gown herself, including the intricate burn in designs on the velvet.  So, because of the cosplay and the cosplayer, I wanted to be able to do an elegant shoot that aligned more with the style of the dress then the Disney princess, which is hard to do at a very crowded convention with only handheld equipment. To pull the shoot off, required an assistant holding a light, finding non-crowded areas, and a little post processing magic.

I edited 84 photos and provided 66 final images. I shot with a focal length between 18mm – 35mm with the most common focal length being 18mm.  I used a shutter speed between 1/125s to 1/640s with the most comment speed being 1/640s to get rid of ambient light.  My aperture varied between f5.0 and f7.1, with most images being taken at f5.0.  I’m now going to discuss a few of my favorite images.

ISO 400, Focal Length 32mm, Aperture f5, Shutter Speed 1/320s
This first image (right) is my favorite because I think it captures the era and overall concept.  This image was shot in a hallway with several mirrors, the challenge with doing mirror shots is making sure you and your flash are not reflected in the mirror.  For this photo I as sitting on the ground with my camera, with a bounce mounted on the flash, my assistant was standing to my right with second flash held up above the model at an angle.  The flash to the right was considered the main, and the flash on camera was just fill.  When I pulled the shot in for editing, I cropped it to give it a long narrow appearance, balanced out the light and increased the clarity and contrast.  I then applied a baseline pre-set that faded out the photo slightly and gave it a more antique feel by toning the image.  From there I added some vignetting to finish the image off.

ISO 400, Focal Length 20mm, Aperture f5, Shutter Speed 1/320s

This seconded image (left) is very similar to the first except more of a close-up. I used the same exact lighting set up as the previous image. During editing I balanced out the light slightly faded the image.  I found using bold colors and strong clarity settings made the image lose its softness.  During the whole shoot I wanted to keep a softness and relaxed very 1920’s rich person lounging around the mansion feel to the image. I also feel her expression really worked for this image.  I added some brightness to her face, and then finished off the image with some vignetting.

ISO 400, Focal Length 20mm, Aperture f5, Shutter Speed 1/320s
This last photo (right) I just love. The light hit her perfectly and her expression is perfect. The photos in my opinion highlights a relax elegance.  The lighting set up as similar to that of the other two photos. When I brought it into light room to edit I balanced out the light then went in and increase the light hitting her face and upper body. I did this to make it appear more like a solid narrow stream of light was hitting her.  I then increase the clarity slightly and balanced the color out, due to the yellowness of this hallway.  From there I added some vignetting to finish off the image.

While I’m happy with the results of the shoot; I still feel I could have done this whole shoot better. (You can see all the images here.) I wanted to shoot a bit outside under this lovely little pergola but it was raining, icing, and snowing simultaneously during this shoot so outside was not an option. Also due to the weather everyone who was outside was now trying to come inside and due to it being peak hours for the convention it made it traversing the hallways and elevators extremely difficult and took up most of the shoot time.  I felt like I need a full 90 minutes for this shoot to work, because there were a few additional locations I would have loved to shoot at, but not the gazebo. Never, never the gazebo.  But, if I’m being truly honest with my self I would love to reshoot this session in studio with some antique props or a very nice park around sunset.  I love Hannah Alexander designs and hope to be able to shoot more of them in the future. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Review of my First Ohio Convention

ISO 400, Focal Length 18mm, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/20

On January 26 and 27, I attended my first convention in Ohio, Ohayocon, and have to say it is very different vibe from the Washington, DC conventions I attend.  First, I have to say getting my badge/wristband went relatively smoothly, parking didn’t seam to be an issue at the convention center it was held at, and the vendor room (after I found it) was spacious and didn’t feel congested.  However, I didn’t feel like there was the same level of energy, at this convention compared to the previous conventions I have gone to.   I was expecting the convention to be similar to something like AnimeUSA, small but lots of energy, collaboration, and, meeting new people and a fair bit of cosplay. I felt it was a little more like AwesomeCon (DC’s comic con) where people go panel to panel and there isn’t much cosplay but without the excitement and big-name guest of a comic con.  

ISO 400, Focal Length 18mm,
Aperture F8, Shutter 1/125s
I must admit I was expecting to see a lot of cosplay and photographers roaming around, since there were all these photo meet ups posted on the schedule but it didn’t seem like that at all. I went to a few locations were the photo meet ups were supposed to take place and didn’t see large groups of people, and it wasn’t obvious if a meet up was happening. Case in point, I went to the Lolita meet-up at the convention, since I like shooting Lolita, however when I arrived at the location there were Lolitas roaming around but no organizer or lead photographer.  I even asked who the organizer was, and no one spoke up.  I found it rather odd.  I did end up taking some group shots for the Lolitas and some individuals for those that asked.  Also, I’m used to conventions having an “it” spot or a hang-out spot where you could find most of the cosplayers.  If there is one at Ohayocon, I wasn’t able to locate it.

The other thing I found a bit odd, in comparison to previous conventions, was the lack of business card exchange.  Usually, I come home from a convention with a stack of business cards, so I can tag cosplayers in hall shots.  I came home with only one person’s cosplay card.  Now, I will admit I messed up slightly by not have my big stack of cards with me, but really my stack of about 30 cards was basically sufficient.  Usually, I go through at least 150 cards if not more at convention.  Also, most people I took hall shots of didn’t ask for cards or turned them down when I offered them.  In addition, I didn’t seem to see a lot of photographer. 

ISO 400, Focal Length 18mm,
Aperture F8, Shutter 1/30s

For the convention I brought my Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, one 430 EX–IIIRT flash, and a bounce attachment.  I figured this was my first time at this convention, I would check out the cosplay scene, go to a few of the meet ups, and focus on hall shots. I was expecting to take significantly more photos then I did. Overall, I ended up taking 112 photos and editing and posting 55 photos, which is significantly lower then other conventions where I’ll post around 180 or more photos just in edited hall shots and that is when I’m doing one-on-one shoots as well.    I was able to capture a few nice cosplays such as this Jedi photo above.  I have to say the middle Jedi is just nailing it. It all comes down to her eyes and the intensity behind them.  While all the cosplay’s in this group are exception and I would like to work with each of them individually sometime, the middle one is just nailing it for me.  I will also say this little Lolita (above left) was perfectly capturing the cute and innocent vibe.  I also like the girl doing Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6 (right). You can see all my edited photos from the convention here: Ohayocon 2018.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with Ohayocon. I’m hoping the other conventions in Ohio and the surrounding area are better and more along the lines of conventions I’m used to. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Queen of the Corn

On January 20, I did a lovely sunset shoot with Vida Muerta in a field of Concrete Corn in Dublin Ohio.  The field contains 109 ears of corn that are about 6 to 8 feet tall and are tribute to Sam Frantz the inventor of hybrid corn.  It is a very interesting field and in my opinion a great place for an artistic/editorial photo shoot.  The theme for this shoot started out as a noble unseelie fay crossed with Game of Thrones due to the shoot being in winter and the cold industrialized feel of the concreate corn.   To obtain the look, I rented a parachute dress and Vida Muerta enhanced the dress based on my mood board with horns; a flower crown; elf ears from AradaniStudios - Elf Ears, Costumes, and More; a staff from Nebuleux, LTD - FatedFires Collection (Dr. Dee); a corset from The Violet Vixen, boots from Son of Sandlar, and a lovely Russian fox pelt from the Lost Viking Hoard. All these items together with the make up and hair artistry provided by Katie McNabb created the look, I like to call “Queen of the Corn.”

For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, one 430 EX–IIIRT, one 600 EX-RT speed light, radio trigger, light stand, painters pole, and a basic shoot through umbrella.  I also had a 3-foot ladder for my model to stand on to give her height compared to the corn.  My husband, who is my trusty assistant, held the 600 EX-RT speed light on the painter’s pole to get height. The speed light on the painter’s pole was zoomed to about 105mm and used as the main light.   I mounted the other flash, which was zoomed to 24mm, on the light stand with the umbrella to act as the fill light. I did push both flashes hard, because I was fighting the setting sun, which was behind my model for most of the shots.  I took 129 photos, edited 94 photos, and posted 53 fully edited shots.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 41 percent, which is about average for my shoots. For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 100. I was using an aperture between f9 and f4.5, with 84 percent of the photos taken at an aperture of f5 or f7.1.  My focal length ranged from 18mm to 70mm.  I was pleasantly surprised with this shoot, because I did not favor a particular focal length and my shots were evenly spread across the focal range. The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/160s to 1/1250s with the about 42 percent of the photos taken at 1/320s or 1/400s.  The real challenge of this shoot was the fast-changing lighting conditions as the sun started to set behind the trees and balancing the light on the model with the sun setting behind her. 

There are three photos that I like from the shoot that appear to tell a story.  This first one is bold, and shows the noble and strong character.  I like this one because of how the sun is falling behind the model.  I lit this shot by placing both lights to my right, with the main light trained on her face. I also adjusted my camera settings so that most of the background would be in shadow or silhouetted by the sun. When editing I made sure to keep the golden color coming from the sun, and used ‘shadow’ as the starting white balance level when editing in Lightroom.  Also, I did some additional post editing in photoshop to give the photo a bit of a glow.

ISO 100, Aperture f/5, Shutter 1/1000s, Focal Length 70mm 

This second photo I like because it is soft, and appears like she is beckoning something or someone forward.  The lights for this photo were placed in two locations, the main light directly in front and above the model and the second to my right.  Again, I kept most of the background in the shadows and kept the soft golden color by using the ‘shadow’ setting as my white balance starting point in Lightroom.  I also edited this photo in Photoshop by using a modified orton effect, to give it a softer feel.

ISO 100, Aperture f/7.1, Shutter 1/320s, Focal Length 18mm 

I like this final photo because it exudes power and confidence.  This final photo was taken as the sun was sinking lower in the sky, close to actual sunset and heading into blue hour.  The sun was also placed behind me, with the flashes placed slightly off center of the front of the model.  I did not modify this photo much, just balanced the lighting and ensured the models face was properly lit and had a bit of glow to it.

ISO 100, Aperture f/5, Shutter 1/400s, Focal Length 60mm 

I like the concept of this shoot and got several good photos, but believe I could have done it better.  I would like to redo the shoot in the spring or summer when it is warmer.  The reason for redoing the shoot is to take more advantage of the dress, which is a parachute material and can easily blow in the wind, without having the model freeze. I also think the shoot could be improved by having a second model act as subject of the “Queen.”  Also, I just feel I could do it better, now that I’m more familiar with the location and how the sun filters through the trees.  Additionally, I am realizing when working with the large parachute dresses I need a second assistant that would handle the dress and to things like tossing and fluffing it. But overall, the shoot went well, and the photos represent the concept I had in my head. You can see the full set of photos here: Queen of the Corn.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Photography Goals for 2018

I’m starting off 2018 in a new city, Dayton, so I have to grow my network of models, cosplayers, and fellow photographers.  I had good network in Washington, DC and would like to build a similar network here in Dayton area.  Thus, my goals are a little simpler this year, and focus on building a network of people to work and collaborate with.

General Photography Goals

1. Find or start a Dayton (to include Columbus & Cincinnati) cosplay and photographer group.
I really enjoyed working with the DC Cosplayer& Photographer group, in Washington, DC. I was able to make several friends and work with some amazing cosplayers.  The group also let me work on my photography on a regular basis, and work in some interesting locations I might not otherwise get to work in.  I also enjoyed the group because of the number of cosplayers that showed up at each event, so you could work with multiple people in the setting, and everything was done on a TFP (trade for print) basis, which benefited both the cosplayer and photographer.  So, I’m hoping there is similar group in this area.  If not, I think I could manage to start a similar group that meets once a month. If you are interested in this please send me a message through my Facebook page Munchkin Photos by Heather or contact me through my photo site Munchkin Photos

2. Attend at least one Ohio based convention in 2018.
I usually attended two conventions in the DC/VA area, Katsucon and Anime USA.  This year I will be attending Katsucon at National Harbor in DC area.  I am also looking to attend Colossalcon, up in Sandusky.  But I will be looking for good cosplay conventions in Ohio and the surrounding areas.

3. Do more shooting outside of conventions.
Last year I did about eight shoots outside of conventions five were cosplay and three personal projects. I would like to balance my shoots out a little bit more and do an equal amount of cosplay and personal project shoots.  You can see the list of my projects in the next section below.

4. Find interesting shooting locations in the area.
While I can set up a nice in-home studio, I want to be able to shoot on location. I had several locations in the DC area that I liked to work, including several parks. I want to be able to find several interesting locations for shoots in the area, which will include both Columbus and Cincinnati.  

5. Find a muse
Finding a muse may take longer than a year. For me a good muse, would be fun and easy to work with, good with collaboration, and has some creative ideas of their own.

Photo Shoot Projects

Besides the above goals, I also have some personal photo projects/shoots I would like to do this year.  (Note the projects listed below are in no particular order.) Last year I was able to complete three of the projects I had planned. Since I’m in a new city, I hope to at least complete one of the projects listed below. It should be noted all the photo shoot projects below are TFP (Trade for Print) projects, meaning that the model/cosplayer would be getting a free photo session and 5 to 10 fully edited digital images from the session.

1.      Victorian/ Steam Punk themed shoot
A few years ago, I did a Steam Punk themed shoot at Fort Washington, in Maryland.  The shoot turned out great even though it rained for the first half.  I would like to do a similar shoot, but based more on traditional Victorian fashion or the book series written by Gale Carriger.

2.      Photoshoot based off old masters lighting or painting
Lately, I have seen several photos done based off the work of the old master painters. In these photos they either use the same lighting techniques or copy the painting either directly or with a modern twist.  I think this is an interesting concept and would like to try my hand at it.  I’m not sure at this time what master or painting I would like the base the project on, I need to do a bit more research.   In the end I think it will be based on available location or if I want to do it via a studio session.  I’m thinking a studio session would be the easiest to start with.

3.      Do a cosplay shoot based on the artwork of Hannah Alexandra or Sakizou
I love the art work of Hannah Alexandra and Sakizou, but I rarely get to shoot any cosplays based on their work.  So, I’ll be looking for cosplayers who have cosplays based on those two artists. These sessions would either be done on location or in studio based on the cosplay. I would also entertain doing a group shoot for any of these cosplays.

4.      Editorial/Fashion/Fine Art shoots
I love shooting cosplay, but at the same time I would also like to do a more editorial/fashion type photoshoot.  Currently, I have one of these shoots lined up for January.  I also have one other idea floating around in my head.  This idea would be to do a shoot in a white lace or billowy white gown on farm, a little reminiscent of the old romance novel covers.  There are a few dresses on the Enception dress rental site that fit the bill and spurred the idea.  I also think I might like to do a few studio sessions, the focus mostly on beauty or classic portraiture. But we will see were the year takes me on this shoot goal, since my ideas come from locations, photo articles, books I read, or just pictures that catch my eye and I end up pinning on Pinterest

If you any questions or are interested in working with me on any of my goals or projects please contact me through my Facebook page Munchkin Photos by Heather or contact me through my photo site Munchkin Photos

Here is to hopefully a very productive 2018. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in Review

The year of 2017 was an interesting year for me, I felt as though I did more photoshoots, however only ended up editing about 642 more photos then last year. In 2016 I edited 5,851 images and in 2017 I edited 6,475 images, noting this is the number of photos listed in Lightroom, not the actual number of photos I took over the course of the year. This year I was only able to do the Katsucon convention, because they moved Anime USA to December, which is a hard month due to the holidays. However, I did do more cosplay work outside of conventions due to meet-up events with the DC Cosplayer and Photographer* group and more individual shoots.  I also did three non-cosplay conceptual/fine art portrait shoots this year, of which two photos from those shoots were shown in an art gallery in Alexandria, VA.  I also worked in some landscape and travel photography, during my vacation to Scotland and Acadia National Park, in both cases I was not overly happy with my results. So now let’s look back at some of my overall statistics and favorite photos from the year.  

This year I edited 6,475 photos, (this number may be a little low due to me having to reformat my hard drive in September); my most used focal length is 18 mm, with a shutter speed of 1/100s at an f4.5 aperture, and ISO 100 and ISO 400. You can see the distribution of each of focal length, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO below.

It is always hard to narrow down my favorite cosplay photos to just three, because I end up working with so many amazing cosplayers over the course of the year. It also helps that I have built relationships with several cosplayers through the DC Cosplayer and Photographer group.  Sadly, I will not be as active in the group in the come months or years due to moving out the DC area and to the Dayton, Ohio area.  I’m hoping there is a similar group in Dayton, if not, I think I will start one because of the great relationships you can build in a group like that.  So, I will be braking down my photos by three favorite DC Cosplayer and Photographer (i.e. Meet-up) photos, general cosplay (conventions and one-on-one sessions), non-cosplay portraits, and finally travel.

The DC Cosplayer and Photographer group does its best to have a meet-up about once a month.  I made five of the meet-ups this year, I would have made more but my work and personal travel schedule conflicted for several of the dates.  As I said it is hard to pick just three photos from the year, but there are a few that stand out.   The first is from the last meet-up I attended, it is of Jennifer Glinzak Costumery as a winter version of Sleeping Beauty.  The second image is of JMS Cosplay as Negan from The Walking Dead.  And the last one is of GC-Chan Cosplay as Daenerys from Game of Thrones.

Jennifer Glinzak Costumery as a winter version of Sleeping Beauty
JMS Cosplay as Negan from The Walking Dead.

GC-Chan Cosplay as Daenerys from Game of Thrones

General Cosplay
This year was only able to attend Katsucon, but I did do 21 individual shoots at the convention, which is a lot.  For 2018 I am scaling back the number of individual shoots at Katsucon, because I basically wore myself out and ended up getting con-crud for the first time. I don’t want to do that again.  I also did 9 one-on-one cosplay sessions through the course of the year. Though I’m not sure if I want to call the Lolita shoot cosplay or not, since that is sometimes a lifestyle or fashion choice.  It is hard to pick just three photos for this group, because the individual personalities sometimes weigh into the photo. I must say in my experience the more fun you are to work with, the better the photos come out.  This first photo is from Katsucon of Angels n Demons Cosplay as Reaper from Overwatch, she was so fun to work with. This second photo is also from Katsucon of Sheryl in her wedding dress by Miguo cosplay. I was dying get a few photos in front of this wall (it is like getting the gazebo) and the white on white just worked. This last photo is from a one-on-one session out in a local sunflower field with Sara Cosplay as Belle from Beauty and the Beast (live action version).

Angels n Demons Cosplay as Reaper from Overwatch
Sheryl in her wedding dress by Miguo cosplay
Sara Cosplay as Belle from Beauty and the Beast

Fine Art Portraits
This year I did a few conceptual portrait sessions.  These sessions were based on an idea/concept I wanted to shoot.  In two of the cases I supplied the dress, the model just came with hair and make-up prepared based on a mood board I sent them.  I had three concepts in mind a film noir shoot, a cherry blossom shoot, and a parachute dress & water fall combination shoot. I’m going to pick my favorite from each of those sessions.  The first is from the noir shoot with Orisen Cosplay, which was done in studio with a very large gobo.  The second is from the cherry blossom shoot, also with Orisen Cosplay as the model.  I was so glad she was over 6 foot because the train on that dress is 20 feet long, and she worked it like a champ.  This final image is from the parachute dress session, with Anna a friend of mine as the model.  This photo was basically the last photo taken during the session and it is my favorite.

Model: Orisen Cosplay
Model: Orisen Cosplay
Model: Anna

I was not as happy with my landscapes this year as I have been in previous years.  I think in most cases it was because I just was not feeling it.  I really need to feel some emotion or say capture this moment or place.  While I was in some beautiful places, they didn’t speak to me photographically.  But I did eek out a few nice photos. This first one is from the Island of Skye in Scotland.  This second photo is not amazing, but it is almost on every postcard in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I like it because it is my version of the postcard photo.  This last photo is from Acadia National Park, and isn’t even a landscape but a picture of a piece of large drift wood on a pebble beach.  I like it because it is kind of modern and would be one of those photos you see in a spa or doctor’s office.

Old Man of Storre, Island of Skye
Overlooking Edinburgh Scotland
Driftwood with stones, Acadia National Park

Overall, I think I had a decent year, and am looking forward to staring a productive 2018 in Dayton, Ohio.  I will miss several of the people in DC and the variety of place to shoot, but am hoping to find good people and places here as well.  

*DC refers to District of Columbia, not the comic books.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Portrait Gallery Shoot

On November 11, the D.C. Cosplayers and Photographer group met at the National Portrait Gallery for their monthly meet-up.  The National Portrait Gallery is wonderful place to shoot, especially on the third floor which has what is considered Greek revival architecture. Usually the meet ups are on Sundays, which means there are fewer people at the gallery.  However, this recent meet up was held on a Saturday, which meant there were more people at the gallery, additionally the gallery changed a few of the photography flash rules in a few of the area that used to allow flash.  With the additional people and the photography changes it was a bit more challenging to shoot in some of the areas. 

For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, one 430 EX–III RT, one 600 EX-RT speed light, a Westcott Rapid Box 20-inch Octa Mini light modifier (mounted on metal pin).  My husband, who is my trusty assistant, held the 600 EX-RT flash with the light modifier. (No tripods or light stands are allowed in the gallery.)  I mounted the 430 EX-III RT flash on my camera to act as a trigger and to use as a second light source. I took 244 photos, edited 176 photos, and posted 100 fully edited shots.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 41 percent, which is relatively high and accounts for duplicates, flash misfires, and unflattering poses (I don’t like posting unflattering poses of my models). For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 200 and using an aperture of f4.5, with 88 percent of the photos taken between a focal length of 18mm to 32mm.  I shoot wide in the portrait gallery because, in some of my preferred areas there is not a lot of space, so I can’t back up to use a narrow focal length and still get the shot I want. The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/50s to 1/320s with the about 72 percent of the photos taken at 1/125s, 1/200s, or 1/250s depending on the lighting conditions.  I was not pushing my flash as hard as I usually would, because I was inside, so most of the photos were taken with the flash at about a quarter power just enough to provide separation of the subject from the background.  I also used the flash to create a mood in a few of the photos, based on the background elements as you’ll see in one of the photos. Below, I will discuss two of my favorite photos from the shoot.  You can see all the photos here: "Winter Meet-up"

Focal Length 18mm, Aperture f4.5, Shutter 1/250s 
This first photo (left) is of JenniferGlinzak Costumery as Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty” in a winter outfit.  Usually, I shoot low-key photos because I like dark shadows; however, I am extremely pleased with how this high-key photo came out.   This was shot in white marble hallway with the window providing a lot of the light which bounces off the wall.  My husband held the light up and to my right, and I up the flash power to half.  When editing the photo, I did increase the brightness and vibrancy. All these elements together bring a light, airy, and playful feel to the photo.

Focal Length 18mm, Aperture f4.5, Shutter 1/125s

This second photo (right) is of OrisenCosplay as Mrs. Lovett from “Sweeny Todd”. This photo is in direct contrast to the first photos. This is photo is a low-key photo that makes use of the shadows and darkness to portray a mood. Even though this shot was taken indoors, I wanted to look as though it was taken outside at night under a streetlight. While I would have preferred that the flash was above her, that would have required a boom or pole, which isn’t allowed.  So, my husband stood to my right with the flash held above his head pointed down towards Orisen to try to give the illusion of light coming from the light post.  When editing the photo, I darkened the shadows, added a strong vignette, and then tinted the photo slightly to give it warm glow.

This last item (Left) is a photo story based on an idea from Ray Dot Ham Cosplay. The story uses seven photos presented in a comic book format to show the Starbuck Lady (Ray Dot HamCosplay) waking up Sleeping Beauty (Jennifer Glinzak Costumery).  The photos were easy to take and edit.  The problem I ran into was arranging them so they fit a rectangular shape without having large white gaps.  This would have been easier if I would have either taken the photos all in the same orientation or had a more even mix of the orientations.  The other issue I ran into was the crop ratios for each photo were slightly off from one another.  Finally, while arranging the photos I tried to make the most important frames larger than the supporting frames to place an emphasis on the highlights of the story.

Overall, I’m happy with how this shoot turned out. 

You can see all the photos here: "Winter Meet-up"

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

Nouveau Lady

This year at Katsucon I got to shoot a cosplay concept I have wanted to shoot for several years, a Hannah Alexander  desi gn .   What makes...