Sunday, November 18, 2018

DCC Meet Ups

Recently the Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati Cosplay Photoshoot Group had two meets relatively close together.  The first was a Halloween theme shoot at PiattsCastle in New Liberty, OH on October 21st and the second was an open themed shoot at the Oaks Quarry Park in Fairborn, OH on November 11th.  I’m going to talk about both shoots. For both shoots, I was using a Cannon 70D with two 430EX III-RT speedlight and one lightstand. For all the meet-ups I keep my equipment simple and portable. It makes moving around the location a lot easier.

The castle shoot was an early morning shoot, using the outside of Mac-o-Chee Castle. The day started out overcast and cold, but by the end of the shoot the sun came out and we had brilliant blue skies.  I had two images from the shoot, that I liked how the final edits turned out.   The first is of Bocchan as Bowsette. Bowsette is the female version of Bowser from Mario Brothers.  The second is the image is of Armand from “Interview with a Vampire” as done by Coriander.     To light these shots, the flash was positioned behind the model on a lower step and zoom to only light their upper body.  During the editing process I enhanced the lighting on the models face and slightly darkened the surroundings.  I then added a fade layer to the image with a slight vignette to finish off the image.   I think the fade to the image makes the model stand out more.

The second shoot held at the Quarry was held during the late morning early afternoon.  I usually don’t get to shoot a lot of pairs during the meet ups, however this meet up had thee cosplay pairs.  Note, pairs are not couples, they are just characters that normally interact with one another and are in the same universe.  I have two pictures from the shoot that I like.  The first is of Bocchan as Loki and Gleume Cosplay as Thor, both from the Marvel Universe.  They had a suggestion of doing family type picture that you would get at portrait place to give to your mom. I went a long with it, and think I captured the standard mall family photo.  I did not have to do a lot of editing to the image.  It was shot with a simple speedlight in front of the models to combat the backlight from the sun.  The second group images is of Cosplaykatx and Animoo_trash as characters from Attack on Titan. For their image I went for strong stance and had them embody the solider they represent in the series. The flash was positioned in front of me, and set to be wide.  I did post process the image slightly to brighten up face of the model standing on top of the rock, and add a slight vignette.  I like the overall look of the image and the emotion it portrays.

You can see all the final images from both meet-ups here: Halloween and Quarry.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Rubber Ducks and Lolita

Back at the end of September I did a double session with Lady Chappell.  The fist session was using the rubber duck headpiece in a more editorial style compared to the pin-up style I shot earlier in September.  The second session was a Lolita session.  Both sessions were shot in studio.

The lighting set up for both sessions was the same.  A 6x5 scrim was mounted on 4 light stands and hoisted up towards the ceiling on a 35-degree angle.  The scrim edge closest to the set was about two feet away from the edge of my floor drop. A strobe was placed at each of the far corners of the scrim and pointed down through it at a slight angle, thus when fired I got very soft light.  Another light stand with a speed light was placed to the models left to add a bit of fill light.  All stands were properly sandbagged.  The basic set used a white cloth background draped down across the floor.   A two 5x7 white wood floor drops were used, and a piece of white crown molding was placed along the back edge.  This set up was used because it could be used for both sessions. (See picture to the left.)

We started with the rubber duck headpiece because that had additional set pieces, to include a 8-inch rubber duck, a tub full of clear ball pit balls, a towel, and a blue phone.  For the first session I shot 123 frames, which were edited down to 64 edited images of which 56 were delivered as finals.  My return was about 46-percent.  All the images were shot at ISO 100, at F6.3 with a shutter speed of 1/200s.  My focal length ranged from 20mm all the way to 155mm,  with the most common focal lengths being 50mm and 60mm. Because the lighting was consistent throughout the shoot all the images where edited in Lightroom the same way.  I brightened the white in the background, enhanced the light on the models face, and did a little bit of dodging and burning on the headpiece to ensure clear bubbles were showing up properly.   I also tried to use a consistent 8.5x11 or 17x11 crop ratio.  However, a few were cropped using a 1x1 ratio.

These photos are different then the first set, I did using the headpiece since these are more fashion leaning then pin-up leaning. This set also focuses more on the beauty shot showing of the headpiece.  You can see a few of my favorites below and the whole set here.

The second shoot of the Lolita shoot.  The Lolita shoot was a basic fashion shoot, and the only prop used was a chair.  For this session I shot 86 frames, which were edited down to 57 edited images of which 56 were delivered as finals.  My return was about 65-percent.  All the images were shot at ISO 100, at F6.3 with a shutter speed of 1/200s.  My focal length ranged from 32mm all the way to 70mm, with the most common focal lengths being 40mm and 50mm. The lighting was consistent throughout the shoot all the images were edited in Lightroom the same way except for one photo.  I brightened the white in the background and enhanced the light on the models face on all the photos.    In one image, due to the models expression and pose I darkened it a bit and added a vignette to give the image a more somber tone.   I also tried to use a consistent 8.5x11 or 17x11 crop ratio on all the images.

You can see my favorites below and the whole set here.    

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Fall Photo Hike

Last Saturday, I went on a morning photo hike at Glen Helen Nature Preserve with my husband and dog to take in the fall colors.  The fall colors reached their peak here just last week.  During the hike I learned my dog, doesn’t understand the purpose of a photo hike.   My dog, is a great dog but just doesn’t get the concept of stopping unless he is sniffing stuff.  My dog like to just keep going, he follows the path and want to just keep trudging on till we get back to the car.    Even though I had a dog in rush to get somewhere, I still got some nice photos.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Rubber Duck Head Piece

I have started making headpieces for some of my photoshoots.  My first one was a simple flower headpiece, my second one was more daring and made of rubber ducks.  I’m going to discuss how I made the rubber duck head piece and subsequent photoshoot.

I cannot lie, I like rubber ducks; they are just happy little things, that I use in a lot of my splash photos.  However, I wanted to go down a more creative route, then it dawned on me, a headpiece made of rubber ducks.  A headpiece made of rubber ducks would be creative, and lend itself to a more of a editorial type shoot.

To make the headpiece, I started with a plastic headband and wire.  I wrapped the wire around a foam head to make a cage and wrapped that with electrical tape.  I then attached that to the headband.  I then used white foam and a plastic grid (used for cross-stitch) to wrap over the wire to make a base, to glue things to.   I then glued halves of a Styrofoam balls to the base.  I used two different sizes, to ensure some varying height in the piece.  After the Styrofoam was glued down I placed the ducks using tape, to be able to adjust placement before I glued everything down.  (See progress photos below.) I used a total of 10 rubber ducks in three different sizes.  I worked largest to smallest with the ducks, trying to keep them at angles to it would eventually look like they were riding a wave of bubbles.  Once I was happy with the duck placement, I glued them in place.  Then came the more difficult part, placing the bubbles. The bubbles are made up of 4 different sizes of clear plastic snap together Christmas ornaments.  These worked well because the tabs, were you would place the hook, worked as anchors in the Styrofoam.  I started with the medium size ornaments, to fill in spaces between the ducks, then used the large ornaments to fill in large spaces in the front. I used the extra-large ornaments in the back to fill in the really large empty spaces.  I then used the smaller ornaments to fill in gaps.  To make it appear more like real bubbles, I added iridescent basket filler.  This was tricky to hot glue into place.  The best method I found was to pull several strands of the filler out of the package then tie them together using a knot, then place a little hot-glue on the knot and shove the bundle in between the ornaments and ducks using pencil or dental pick.  The trick was to make sure you pencil or pick didn’t get stuck too.  Once all the iridescent filler was placed, I trimmed it.   That is how I made the headpiece.  The next step was the photoshoot.

As I mentioned earlier the headpiece could be used for a more editorial type shoot, but I went a different direction.  I did a pin-up shoot, inspired by some 1940’s and 1950’s bathtub pin-up drawings.   The set pieces/props were relatively simple, which included a large plastic feed trough bought from the local famer supply, that was spray painted silver, a 3-inch piece of foam to line the bottom of the trough, 400 clear plastic 7.5cm diameter ball pit balls, one blue 1950’s telephone, white fluffy towels with washcloth, and one 8-inch rubber duck.  Yes, I used ball pit balls to simulate a bubble bath, so I didn’t have to deal with the mess of the real thing.   So now onto the actual photo shoot.

For the photoshoot I shot using a high-key method.  I used a white fuzzy backdrop, a two floor-drops that simulated a wood floor, one strobe with a beauty dish, and four speedlights.  For camera equipment I used a Cannon 70D with an 18-200mm lens, and a RF trigger for the lights.   The beauty dish was mounted on boom arm connected to a C-stand which was appropriately sandbagged. The beauty dish was aimed directly at the front of the model. I shot under or from behind this light.  The four speed lights were pointed directly at the background, two were mounted on light stands at about the height of the model and two where in their little holders on the ground.  The speed lights were pointed at the background to produce reflective light that would wrap around the model to give her more of a glow in the photos.

The shoot breakdown, I shot 270 frames, of which filtered down to 173 for initial base edits. From the 173, I selected 66 for full edits which included skin retouching and refinement.   All the selected images were shot at ISO 100, with an aperture range of f/4 to f/6.3, a shutter speed of 1/200s or 1/250, and a focal length range between 18mm to 28mm.   The images were evenly distributed between these settings.

I have a lot of favorite photos from this shoot.  The model, Cora Mandragora, was absolutely amazing and embodied the theme of the shoot. Plus, she was able to work the headpiece and props with ease, and basically no direction, which was good for me since I was not feeling well that day.   I don’t shoot nudes but will do some implied work; Cora was wearing the towel the whole shoot.  My favorite image from the shoot is this one of her outside the tub talking on the phone (left).  I did edit this to smooth out a little bit of the skin tone.  But the hard part was getting the bubbles on the headpiece to pop against the white background.  To bring those out I brought the image into photo shot and did a little bit of dodging around the top of the head piece to darken the edges of the bubbles to make them stand out.  I applied the same method to all the photos. 

My second favorite photos is below. It is close to classic pin up. I like how the clear ball pit balls spilled around the tub, to make it look like the bubbles from the tub overflowed. 

Finally, my personal favorite is to the right.  I like this one because of her expression and the “oh” look as she looks behind her at the rubber duck. 

If you notice in the photos, I limited myself to basic primary colors of yellow, blue, and red (the model’s lipstick).  I think this gives it more of the classic pin-up feel by keeping in a primary color scheme.  It also keeps the photos very clean.  

Finally I had three photos from the set published in the November issue of Delicious Dolls Magazine, which is an international pin-up magazine.  This is the first time I have been published in a magazine. 

I would like to thank the Cora for being a wonderful model. I would also like to thank my husband for helping me with lighting and supporting my shoot ideas. 

You can see the complete set here

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cincinnati Cosplay Meet Up

Coffeelocks Cosplay, Angelicomics, Gleume Cosplay, Bocchan  (left to right)

On October 7th, I held the third meet up of the Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati (DCC) Cosplay Photo Shoot Group at Rapid Run Park in Cincinnati.  I think the event numbers were effected, since this was the rain date of the original meet up that was to occur in September. We had nine people, 4 cosplayers, 3 photographers, and 2 assistants.  What was interesting was that all the people were from Dayton, no Cincinnati members came out for this event.

Rapid Run Park is nice, especially the pavilion which was rented for the event.  The nice stone pavilion provides ample opportunities to get a rustic, castle, or dark look. The only downside is the picnic tables are bolted to the ground, thus cannot be moved.  The park also has a little man-made pond/pool, which is only a couple of feet deep, but you probably don’t want to swim in it.  There are also trees and playground equipment, which I should have used for a few photos but didn’t. 

ISO 100, Focal Length, 18mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/60s
Since the group was small, I got to work with all the cosplayers and will briefly talk about two images.  I’ll start with my favorite which is Gleume Cosplay, as Lady Thor (left).  I like this picture because it is strong and the dark editing shows the serious side of the character while portraying her ready for battle.  The picture was taken inside the pavilion, with one speed light mounted on a light stand to my left.  I stood on top of a picnic table and shot down while having her look at the light.  When editing I used a dark filter to give the image a dark castle feel and  while keeping the seriousness of the image.

The second image is of Bocchan, as Sokka from the Last Air Bender (bottom).  I like this image because it is reflective and soft, even though she is portraying a warrior.  I did have trouble editing the image because it is close to fall and the leaves were taking on a more yellow hue with the light.  To compensate I reduce the amount of yellow in the image and made sure the color temperature was closer to cool side. What I really like about the image is the framing imposed by the triad of trees.  It is also one of few faraway images I have taken of a cosplayer, usually images are close-up to show costume details.

ISO 100, Focal Length, 24mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/80s

Overall it was a good event, however I do wish some of the Cincinnati people would have come out.  You can see all the images from the meet-up here.  The group is still small and does need more photographers.  I’m looking forward to the next event which will be up in West Liberty, Ohio at Piatt’s Castle.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Black Bath with Glitter

Back in July, I did a shoot that was variation of the milk bath shoots that are very popular. For my shoot I used black water and glitter, for a galaxy goddess shoot.  The shoot took planning and testing on my part, while the photos turned out good, I want to re-do the shoot at some point because it can be better.  

This shoot had a complicated setup, and took place inside a garage with a 9-foot ceiling. The equipment used is as follows:

    •  Canon 70D with 18-200mm lens
    • 1 Strobe
    •  3 Speedlights
    • 4 light stands, one with a boom arm
    • Sandbags
    • 24-inch octo-softbox
    • 24-inch reflective umbrella
    • Blow-up kiddy pool
    • 20-foot black backdrop
    • 7-foot galaxy backdrop
    • 5 black bath bombs
    • Water
    •  Silver and Blue glitter
    • 3-foot ladder
    • Backdrop stand
    • Clamps
    • Foam exercise mats

We placed foam exercise mats down on the garage floor, then placed the pool on top of those to prevent holes from forming in the bottom of the pool.  We then hung a 20-foot black backdrop, which only raised 6-feet and draped the rest across the bottom and edges of the pool.  The 7-foot galaxy backdrop was clamped to the black backdrop and allowed to dangle in the pool. The pool was filled with about a foot of water, which in hind site may have been a little too much, and then 5 “Little Black Dress” black bath bombs were added to turn the water black. Once the bath bombs completely dissolved I added the glitter across the top of the water.  The two speed lights were set to the right and left sides of the pool and pointed down towards the water to light the glitter.  The strobe in 24-inch softbox was suspended over the pool pointing down using a boom arm and secured to the ceiling with tie-down straps.  And one speedlight bounced against a sliver umbrella at the foot of the pool pointed towards the backdrop.  (See picture above.)

I worked with the lovely model Star and Aly Issabelle Makeup Artistry was the MUA for the shoot.  I supplied a white wig, that got ruined during the shoot (I totally expected the wig to get ruined), and a white tulle skirt that was long enough to use as a dress.  Allie did Star’s make-up using blues and slivers, to match the galaxy backdrop.  From there is was standard milk bath shoot, but since the pool was larger then a standard bathtub, it allowed the model more freedom of movement to get a variety of shots.  However, I needed to be more aware of reflections of the strobe, due to mirror like quality of the black water.  I did end up using the reflective properties of the water to my advantage in a few of the shots.

I took 270 photos, edited 80 photos, and posted 32 fully edited shots.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 11 percent. While my return was low, I think the photos are of higher quality, compared to when I have a 50 percent return.  I’m working on refining my selection process to deliver a tight high-quality set. For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 100 with an aperture of f5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/250s. My focal length ranged from 20mm to 100mm, with a majority of the photos being taken at 50mm.

My favorite photo of the set is this one below. The tulle wrapped around her wonderfully, and I like how other parts of the tulle were floating in the water under her to give it a bit of a milky galaxy cloud appearance in the water while maintaining the reflection. I also like how her eyes are connecting to the camera and she looks relaxed resting on the water.  I edited this to give her skin a white high impact glow, which does make her look paler then she actually is, however the white milky skin works. I also added some vignetting on the edges to draw attention to her face. I also used a frequency separation technique to balance out her skin tone slightly and get rid of any stray pieces of glitter stuck to her face.

The photo to the left I thought I was going to have to get rid of, because it had the reflection of the soft box in it.  However, because the soft box was round, I was able to transform it into the moon. So, it looks like she is cradling the moon in her arms.  I added the moon by layering a picture of the full moon over the image, I then used darken as the layer blending method to bring out the texture of the moon and merge with the reflection of the soft box.  From there I refined the overall photo.

Overall, I’m happy with the session but will change things for future pool shoots.  For one, I will not mount the light directly above the model so it reflects in the water.  I will also use less water in the pool, probably only six inches, because I think with a foot of water the model had to contend with floating thus had to work a little to hard to maintain some of the poses.  You can see all the images from the shoot here.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


I attended Matsuricon for the first time.  Matsuricon is an anime convention held at the Columbus convention center near the end of August.  I don’t know what my expectations were for the convention, but I don’t know if I’ll be attending again. The whole convention vibe could have been off due to the U.S. President attending a Republican fundraiser dinner being held the same time as Matsuricon in the same convention center.   

The check-in was relatively fast on Thursday night. However, I felt there was some confusion over photography badges.  If you are going to schedule individual shoots or charge for your photos, you must apply to get a photography badge. This is a little bit of a pain, because they only go on sale a few months before the convention, and you don’t know if you are approved except for about two months before the convention.  As a photographer, I want to know if I’m approved way before then so I have time to book clients, and make the proper hotel arrangements.   Also, during check in there should be a separate check in list for photographers if they are going to have a limited number of photography badges. When I checked in they didn’t even look at my receipt saying I paid for a photographer badge or check me off a list, all I said was I paid for a photography badge and they handed me a photographer badge.   Other from that check in was relatively smooth. 

I felt the convention was small.  The dealers room filled one regular sized ball room and the artist ally was just in a large meeting room, both seemed very small without a lot of variety.  I did not attend any of the panels, since I had shoots scheduled, but that didn’t matter because I did not find any of the panel descriptions that interesting.  They had several group shoots scheduled in both the convention hotel and the A POD area of the convention center.  This was nice in a way because it made sure large groups were not blocking areas with their fandom’s group shoot.  I may have missed it because, I spent most of my time in the A POD area doing shoots, but there did not appear to be a generalize meeting area where cosplayers just hung out for photos.  Because of that I didn’t do any hall shots.

Since this was the first time for me being at this convention I did not book as many shoots as I normally would for something like Katsucon.  I had 15 sessions booked when I normally would have about 20 booked. Also, what played into the booking was the conventions times, it is not a straight 72-hour convention, this one actually has a start and end time each day.   I’m going to talk about a few of the shoots, and the one group shoot I got drafted into shooting.  

Let’s start with the Star Wars group shoot I was drafted into shooting. I had time after lunch and before my next one-on-one session so I decided to pop into the Star Wars group shoot, to possibly get a couple of quick photos. That plan did not happen.  When I walked in there was no official photographer for the group, and people were just taking cell photos.  Then the Matsuricon Group Shoot Staff organizer walked in, came up to me and said “oh good a real photographer” while looking at my camera.  He asked if I was a photographer, I showed him my photographer badge, which led to him asking if I could shoot the group.  Basically, I was drafted because all the staff photographers and other photographers were shooting the Fate group, which is a huge group.  Thus, I ended up running and shooting the Star Wars group, which was a lot smaller then I would have expected.  Thankfully, I was dressed appropriately for the shoot, I had on my Turtle Tee shirt with a picture of General Leia, that said “Call me general.”   You can see the photos from the shoot here.  The whole session was shot with one speed light mounted on a light stand directly behind me (I was in the middle) and zoomed all the way out.  Now on to some one-on-one sessions.

ISO 100, aperture f4, shutter 1/160s, flash to the photographer's left at 1/2 power

I’m going to talk about my favorite shoot first, which was with Kat Everett as Princess Elizabeth Liones from Seven Deadly Sins. This was an interesting shoot, because the character is supposed to be all sweet and innocent, but she is drawn like a sex bomb.  So, shooting sweet and innocent when looking like a sex bomb becomes tricky.  Kat was wonderful to work with, and great at posing.  I ended up loving the whole set I shot with her, though my favorite is below.  The convention center is nice because it has a nice bright white wall perfectly suited to get lovely high key images. 

ISO 100, aperture f4.5, shutter 1/250s, flash to the photographer's left at 1/2 power

The second session I want to discuss is the Naruto BunnySuit session with Average Space Mom and Ellie.  The models did tell me when they scheduled the shoot that it was going to be the bunny suit version, but for some odd reason I was thinking more along the lines a full up body suit you were during clean room operation, not the Playboy Bunny outfit.  They were fun to work with, and I learned what ‘tasteful ninja poses’ are.  During the shoot I focused on two types of poses, ones from the actual anime and the other more traditional bunny poses.  My favorite photo from the session is a more traditional bunny pose, that I edited with a slightly faded look to make it a bit vintage.  I felt it work really well.

ISO 200, aperture f5.6, shutter 1/80s, flash to the photographer's right at 1/4 power

This final session I’m going to talk about is the AfroSailor Moon session with Minah CosplayGround. I had two sessions with her, and thought she did Sailor Moon the best, because it just fit her bubbly personality.  Her costume was spot on, and I like how she made it hers by doing big afro buns instead of traditional anime buns.  Her face photographed cleanly, and you could just see happiness in her.  My favorite shot is a close-up beauty shot that captures here eyes and smile.

ISO 100, aperture f4, shutter 1/50s, speedlight mount on camera 1/8 power

This was the first convention where I shot some duplicate cosplays.  I had two groups do Kakeguriui and two groups do My Hero Academia.  While the cosplays were the same, the personalities of the cosplayers themselves make each shoot unique which influenced my editing style.  This was especially true for the two Kakeguriui groups.  Even though Kakeguriui is a very dark anime, the first group I edited with more black & white images and a cleaner look, while the second group I used more faded and high clarity/contrast images.  

Overall the convention was ok. I’m not sure if the President being in the area during part of the convention changed the mood or of it or not.  I’m still debating if I will attend next year, but probably will attend.  You can see all the images from the convention here.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Columbus Cosplay Meet Up

Eowinth Cosplay, Kamikaze Kendra Cosplay, Necropantz, Feisty Cosplay, Oddity Cosplay, Gabrielle

On August 5th, I hosted the second meet-up of the Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati Cosplay Photo Shoot Group at Homestead Metro Park in Columbus. Homestead Metro Park is nice park, with several features to including pavilions, a playground, and a covered bridge, which we rented for the event.   For this event we had 13 attendees of which 6 were cosplayers, 5 were photographers, and 2 were assistants.  This is a decent turnout for the second meet-up of the group.  The event was three hours, which gave everyone plenty of time to explore the park while still working with everyone in short one-on-one sessions. 

The event went really well, except for the Girl Scout Troop and parents who could not read the sign.  Our group rented the covered bridge for the event. There was a sign in front of the bridge that stated “Reserved for DCC Group.” The troop leader decided to ignore the sign and hold the Girl Scout Bridge Crossing ceremony, where you go from Daisy to Brownie or Brownie to Junior in the middle of our event without asking.  They completely ignored the sign, and it was obvious we were using it.  Now being a former Girl Scout, this greatly saddened me.  If the troop leader would have asked to use the bridge it would have been different, but they did not.  When I went up there to state it was reserved, the response I got was “it’s ok we are Girl Scouts”.  No, I’m sorry, but it is not ok, if you wanted to use the bridge you either 1) reserved it when you knew you were going to have the ceremony, or 2) asked the person who held the reservation if you could use it.  Just some common courtesy would have been nice.  Other from that it was a nice event.

Because our events are currently small I get to work with all the cosplayers.  I’m not going to talk about all the photos from the event just two I really like.  This first photo is of Eowinth Cosplay, who recently move up to Ohio from DC.  She was also part of the DC Cosplay Photo Shoot Group, that I used to work with.  Eowith Cosplay was Fang from Final Fantasy, which was perfect for the weather and the location.  The first image is a powerful pose framed by two pine trees.  This one worked out nice because a slight breeze came through to add movement to her skirt.  The speed light was on a light stand to my right.  The second image was taken in the tall grass.  I like this image because it appears as though she is stalking or hunting something.  This was shot in direct sunlight, with the speed light set on a light stand to the photographer’s right.  When editing I ensured I had a blue sky and had to watch the highlights. The third image is of Kamikaze Kendra Cosplay as a gender bent Frodo from “The Lord of the Rings”.  I like this image because it has a cinema quality about it.  I place her in the shade of two trees, and then placed the speed light up and my right.  I then told her to stab the light.  When editing I added some vignetting, had to watch the yellows in the greens.

Overall, I would say the meet-up was a success.  The next one will be the Cincinnati meet-up the first weekend in October.  It was supposed to be in September but was rained out.  I am really looking forward to the one that will be hosted at the end of October at one of Ohio’s castles.  If you want to join the group you can find us on Facebook here: Dayton, Columbus,Cincinnati (DCC) Cosplay Photo Shoots.

Mammoth Cave

Near the end of July, my husband and I took our niece to MammothCave which is about 4 hours away. The traffic getting through Cincinnati into Kentucky was horrible, for it only being 2 o’clock when we went through it.  The four-hour dive turned into something a little over five hours, but we did get an hour back since Mammoth Cave NP is just over the central time zone line. 

River Styx Spring
For our weekend stay, we stayed on park property at the Mammoth Cave Lodge, in the Sunset Terrace rooms.  The room was decent, close to the visitor center, and most importantly had air conditioning and an en suite bathroom.  We ate breakfast at the lodge, which was decent buffet with an omelet station. The whole lodge area is nice and has all the basics, plus there is a little convince store that carries some sundries and microwavable food if you need it.

The evening we arrived, we did a quick hike to see the River Styx Spring . The hike was about a mile and half, and our hope was it would tire out our niece before bed.  There was no such luck on that account, I wish I had that much energy somedays.  The hike down to the spring and back wasn’t bad, even though there were steps involved, and we had to do it at a reasonable pace to make sure we made it back to the lighted part of the path before sunset.   

The next day we had two cave tours planned. The first one was a short 75-minute tour called the Frozen Niagara. This tour takes you into the living section of the cave where you can see the stalagmites and stalactites.  The ranger leading the tour was good. If you are going to take pictures this would be the best tour to do it on.  However, you will need a very high ISO because the lighting is decent enough to see, isn’t that great for photos.  You cannot use a flash in the cave.  Overall it is a decent introductory tour.  After the tour we had lunch in town, and stopped at the Lost Hope Cemetery on the way back.  I wanted to stop because it was a very little cemetery and looked old. It had some stones dating back to the civil war, but mostly from the First World War.  However, in hindsight, this was probably not the best idea based on our next tour.

Lantern Tour Ranger
The second tour of the day, was the Violet City Lantern Tour.  This tour is 3 hours and the only light source is kerosene lanterns.  If you are over 16 years old you can carry a lantern, and there are approximately 10 lanterns in total.  The first part of the tour is simple and on flat ground. You go past old tuberculosis huts, see the “sunset/sunrise” demonstration, and the giant’s coffin.  My niece got a little scared after the giant’s coffin and being in total darkness during the sunset/sunrise demonstration. However, the thing that did not help was the talk about the dead Native American in the cave.  Yes, there is a dead person in the cave, but you do not get to see were he is buried.  After that story my niece was ready to go, and we still had about 45 minutes left of the tour.  The ranger that led that tour was very good, knew her history, and was entertaining at the same time.  However, this was not a tour for pictures, even with a very high ISO you weren’t going to get anything.  I got one picture of our ranger in the cave, only because she had the lantern close to her face.  In hindsight I should have just left the camera in the room.  I highly recommend the tour, and you either want to be upfront with the ranger or in the back to get more light from all the other lanterns.    

That basically was our weekend at Mammoth Cave. I recommend going to Mammoth Cave for at least a weekend. We did Friday evening to early Sunday morning which gave us one full day.  I would say you don’t need more then two days if you are going to hit some of the other little attractions outside the park.  Also staying on park property was nice and cost about the same as staying in a standard hotel.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


On June 17th I did a photo shoot with But DragonsTho Cosplay, who was the winner of my photoshoot give-a-way.  We did the photo shoot at East Wood Metro Park, which has a lovely lagoon with four stone bridges and access to the Mad River.  I picked this location for the shoot because the character she was portraying Sidon from Breath of the Wild is a water-based character, and I was hoping we could get in the water.  Sadly, we couldn’t get in the river, because of the amount of rain we had a few days before the shoot brought the river up higher than normal which made for unsafe conditions in the river.   However, we were still able to get lovely photos near the riverbank and lagoon.

For this shoot I used a combination of flash and natural light.  The equipment used included the following: Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, two 430 EX–IIIRT speed lights, a light stand, and one 36-inch reflector. One of the speed lights acted as a trigger. I used the speed lights near the lagoon area which was shaded and the reflector by the river because it was in the sun.
I took 169 photos, edited 119 photos, and posted 81 fully edited shots from a 90-minute session.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 47 percent, which is about average for me. For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 100 with an aperture of f5.6. My shutter speed and focal length crossed a wide range.  The focal length went from 18mm to 150mm with most photos falling at 18mm.  The shutter speed varied from 1/40s to 1/1000s with most being taken at 1/320s.  Overall the images were consistent, I eliminated images due to duplication, and odd posing or composition (i.e. it was a good idea at the time but did look right during review).

But Dragons Tho Cosplay was great to work with, and I am glad she was able to handle the hot temperature, even though the shoot was in the morning it was still in the 80s and humid.  There were several good shots from this shoot below are three of my favorites.

This first image is simple and relaxed and shows the playful side of the character. I also like the reflection of her in the lagoon as she lazily plays with the water.  To get this shot I was on the opposite side of her about 50 feet away.  The flash was on the same size as me, and it was near full power and zoomed.  I did edit the image in post to remove a yellow cast in the grass and green leaves and balance out the highlights with the shadows.  And finally, I added a vignette draw more attention to the model.

ISO 100, Focal Length 18mm, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/125s 

I like this second image (below left) because of strength and confidence being portrayed. This image was taken using the reflector as a scrim to shade the model and a flash to fill in the shadows.  I was across from the model, my husband/assistant was holding the scrim above the model, and the flash was on its small stand on the step to her side.  I did edit the image in post to even out the light and reduce some of the highlights. I also did some local light adjustments on her face to reduce some shadows and even out the light across her shoulders.  I finally add a slight vignette to finish off the image.

This final and third image (below right) I like because I think it is fun.  My original idea was to have her sitting near the bottom of the tree, but she took the initiative to climb up the trunk and find a good place to sit. I love when the cosplayer I work with come up with ideas or go beyond my original idea.  I framed the image to get as much of the tree as possible, have the water in the background, and not loose my model in the tree.  To light this the flash was to my right, slightly zoomed, and angled up at the model.  When I pulled it into light room I balanced out the highlights, removed the yellow tint from the leaves, and did some local light adjustments on the models face to reduce some of the shadows across her face.  To finish the image off I added a vignette to balance out the edges.

ISO 100, Focal Length 90mm, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/500s 
ISO 100, Focal Length 18mm, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/60s 
Overall, I think this was a great shoot, and But Dragons Tho Cosplay is excellent to work with.  I can’t wait to work one-on-one with some more Ohio Cosplayers.

Inaugural DCC Cosplay Photoshoot Meet Up

On June 24th I hosted the first Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati(DCC) Cosplay Photo shoot Meet Up at Hills and Dales Metro Park in Dayton.  The DCC Cosplay Photo shoot Meet Up is modeled after the DC Cosplay Photo shoot group that I belong to while living in Washington, DC.  When I moved up to Dayton, Ohio I did not find a similar group, even though Ohio has a lot of cosplayers, so created the DCC after the DC model. I did change one thing from the DC group to the Ohio group. We take a picture of all the cosplayers while holding a small white board with their cosplay name as they check in, which is then posted to the event’s Facebook page. This allows photographers to tag photos easier, and not guess or try to remember who they photographed.

The DCC Cosplay Photo Shoots is a fun, positive, and encouraging group that exists to cultivate the art of cosplay and cosplay photography among our members in the Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati areas and surrounding areas in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Additionally, the meet-ups are to foster collaboration, friendships, partnerships, and growth for both the cosplayers and photographers. The meet ups will provide cosplayers an opportunity to work with several new photographers and get photos of their cosplays outside of the convention atmosphere in unique locations and settings with guaranteed photos. The meet ups will allow photographers to work with several different cosplayers outside of the convention atmosphere in unique locations and settings to build their portfolios.

Group Photo: Cosplayers and Photographers
The first meet up in my mind was a success we had five cosplayers and four photographers plus an assistant attend. We also had a nice range of cosplays come out for the first event. Everyone was friendly and showed up on time. Plus, after the event ended some of us when and got burgers at EO Burgers.  

I would like to thank Friese FramePhotography, Kevin Florkiewi, and Leaf Photography for coming out and photographing our lovely cosplayers. I would also like to thank our cosplayer, GleumeCosplay, But Dragons Tho Cosplay, Kamikaze Kendra, Nonsense Noah, and Bocchan Owo for coming out and modeling for us.  I would also like to thank my husband for coming out and helping me, and taking all the intro photos, and giving little 3x3 inch polaroids to all the cosplayers.  

I’m hoping the attendance of both cosplayers and photographers grows as we make our way around all three major cities. Currently, it is a little rough going, due to the group spanning three cities, with the two furthest cities being about two hours apart from one another. Also, I think it may be a bit harder to come by locations in Ohio as compared to DC.  While there are a lot of parks in Ohio, permitting and photography policies for each park very widely county to county.  Just for the Dayton area, I deal with three different county park systems. Then entrance fee free indoor locations are close to non-existent.  But these are things that can be overcome, I just need to learn the permit system and do more location scouting.

I hope to see more cosplayers and photographers at the second meet up which will be held in the Columbus area in August.  The third meet up will be held in September in the Cincinnati area. 

Note: You can see all my photos from the event here.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Last Day in Rapid City

Last night we tried to get some sunset pictures at Badlands NP, however the clouds cover was just too thick.  The sun could not break through the clouds, thus there were no colors in the sky. So I do not have any good sunset photos.

Today was our last day in South Dakota, we fly home tomorrow. Since today was our last day, we took it easy and did not do much.

We attempted to walk the petrified forest trail in one of Rapid City’s park, but there was no map, so we couldn’t tell where the trail was.  So we went to the Reptile Garden, established in 1937. The Reptile Garden is a garden and wildlife park that specializes in reptiles. We got there right before the crocodile and alligator show, where they tell you a bit about crocodiles and alligators and how to wrestle one.  It was interesting. We also saw their prairie dog exhibit and pet some giant tortoises. The jungle dome was interesting. In the middle of the lower level you walk along a path in an enclosed a jungle like setting as lizards, birds, frogs, and a snake roam about free. I saw several small lizards. Then on the upper level you can see all the venomous snakes, behind glass. Then around the outside of the jungle path on the lower level you can see all the types of alligators and crocodiles including an 18 foot long saltwater crocodile.  That basically covers the whole garden, we didn’t watch the bird or snake show. The Reptile Garden is nice, and I would recommend it for people with kids. On a side note the Reptile Garden does allow you to bring your dog.

From the Reptile Garden we went next door to the Founding Fathers Exhibit.  It is a recreation of the signing of the Declaration of Independence based on the famous John Trumbull painting.  What they did was take the painting, and make sculptures of all the people and placed them in the proper setting. Basically they made the painting three dimensional, which provided an interesting perspective, since you could walk all the way around the life size model.   The exhibit is nice, and would be great if you are really into American History, but overall not something I would need to do again.

We ate lunch at ¿Que Pasa?, which had decent Mexican food. From there we stopped at Rocky Mountain Chocolates and then Landstrom’s which makes jewelry out of gold from the black hills. This basically concluded our day. The rest of the day was spent packing up all our stuff so it is ready to go tomorrow for the flight home.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Short - Driving

Today we headed over to Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower.  Yes that is the tower that was in the movie “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”. It was a two hour drive to get there, on mostly empty freeway.  When we go there the main parking lot by the visitor center was full, so we parked in one of the auxiliary lots. We checked out the visitor center, then did the 1.25 mile loop around the base of the rock formation.  It was a decent walk, with only one major uphill section at the beginning. After, we completed our hike we drove to Deadwood.

We went to Deadwood, which has a historic main street.  Deadwood is also the place where Wild Bill, and Calamity Jane  got their claim to fame. Overall, the town isn’t that interesting. It has casinos, mostly slot machines, in every store and restaurant. Also, the town smells faintly of stale cigarette smoke.  I would not recommend stopping in Deadwood, just not worth the diversion. We also drove through Sturgis, also not very exciting.

DCC Meet Ups

Recently the Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati Cosplay Photoshoot Group had two meets relatively close together.  The first was a Halloween theme...