Friday, December 30, 2016

Photography End of Year Wrap-Up

This year was a busy year for me, I started a 52-week photo challenge, which I did not complete because of all the cosplay work I ended up doing at conventions (Katsucon and Anime USA) and with the DC Cosplayer and Photographer group. I loved working with the DC Cosplay group, because it is an excellent group of cosplayers and a great venue to practice new techniques. I also did do some landscape work during my annual vacation; this year it was to Yosemite and Sequoia National Park.  Overall Yosemite was nice but preferred Sequoia.  So now, it is time to look back as some statistics and my favorite photos from the year.

This year I edited 5851 photos, (that is the number of edited images sitting in Lightroom not the number of photos I took); my most used focal length is 28 mm, with a shutter speed of 1/100s at an f5 and f8 aperture, and ISO 100 and ISO 400. You can see the distribution of each of focal length, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO below.


I also looked back at the photos I took over the past year to determine my three favorite photos in Cosplay, Travel/Landscape, and Animals.  Then looked at my website data to determine which photo was the most viewed. This year it was very close between two photos, Ursula from Katsucon (1053 views) and Tinker Bell and Captain Hood from a DC Cosplayer and Photographer’s meet up at the Cloister (1052 views). 

Cosplay
Cosplayer: Lady O Cosplay

Nerdenheim (Jen) Cosplay

Cosplayer: Vira Mal Cosplay

Travel and Landscape



Most Viewed Photos
Cosplayer: deLore Cosplay

Cosplayer: Jennifer Glinzak Costumer and significant other

I am looking forward to a very productive 2017.  I am working on several personal projects, which will include at least two themed shoots, a few experiments with high-speed flash, and of course more work with cosplayers at conventions, DC Cosplay Meet Ups, and one-on-one/private shoots. 


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dog in the Sun

A few weeks ago my dog was lying in a sunbeam coming through the window.  I thought it would be an excellent photo opportunity, to catch his relaxed expression in the sun.  I took this picture with my Cannon 70D with an 18 – 200mm lens.  This photo was taken with only natural light, at ISO 100 an aperture of F5, a shutter speed of 1/160 at 18mm.  As you can see my dog’s face is slightly over exposed and while the background is dark, you can still see several distracting elements. 

Original

For the final image, I pulled the photo into Lightroom, darkened the exposure, and adjusted the highlights and shadows.  Specifically, I darkened both the highlights and shadows to reduce the distraction in the background. I also added local adjustments to darken the bright spots such as the computer screen, reflections off the chrome on the chair, and the second window.  I then bumped the color saturation and clarity up a little bit. I also adjusted the white balance to warm the image up slightly.  I finally cropped the image two ways to bring the focus onto my dog’s eyes. The firs crop is long crop that shows most of his body, while the second crop focus mostly on his face.  I’m happy with how the final images turned out. 

Long Crop

Tight Crop

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Portrait Gallery Meet Up

At the beginning of November I shot with the DC Cosplayer and Photographers meet-up group at the National Portrait Gallery in DC.  The National Portrait Gallery has a  beautiful interior, especially the third floor which has several interesting little nooks. The other nice thing is the Portrait Gallery does allow flash photography in most areas, the only limitation for this shoot was photographers could not use light stands or tripods.  This limitation was not an issue, since that is the same limitation I work with at most conventions.  Hopefully, we will get to shoot there again because I know I missed some interesting areas.

For the Portrait Gallery shoot, I was limited to handheld equipment only and I did not have an assistant to hold things. I was shooting with my Canon 70D, with an 18 -200mm lens, a 450 EX II flash, and LumiQuest 80/20 flash modifier.  The modifier is called an 80/20 which when the flash is pointed straight up will bounce either 80 to 20 percent of the light from the flash towards the subject depending on what insert is being used.  This is actually a useful modifier, and good when you can’t use off camera flash.  

You can see all the photos from the shooter here.

My favorite shot from this shoot is Jennifer Glinzak Costumery  who was Naomi from Elena of Avalor.  I like this photo, because the photo frames her face nicely. I did modify the image in Lightroom by enhancing some shadows, brightening  her face just a little and adding some vignetting to draw the eye.  
Shot at: ISO 400, f/4.5, 1/250s, at 18mm

I also liked this photo of Roaring Girl Cosplay and Sgt. Bucky Bear cosplay as Leonardo DiVinci and Ezio from Assassin's Creed, because it looks like a clandestine meeting. What is nice, is this stairway was inside the building and contained an antique lamp post with lamps.  I modified the image slightly to add spots of lights coming down on each person and darken the surroundings to give it more of the secret meeting feel.  I also left it a bit yellow, to keep the image warm and keep as though they are meeting under old gas streetlights.

Shot At: ISO 400, f/4.5, 1/80s at 18mm

And finally  what would a photo shoot in an art museum be if there wasn’t a Carmen Sandiego (admit you thought of the theme song). Life of Cosplay did a very good Carmen Sandiego and what was great about this was she had a little Statue of Liberty with her.  So we did a picture of her sizing up the Statue of Liberty and then one of her putting a little one it in her brief case (shrink ray).   I like both of these photos the first one I left a little dark and sepia toned almost like an old newspaper photo. The other one I left dark, trying to go for a film noire look while still keeping the picture in color.  The only problem I had with shooting in this particular area was the light was very yellow/orange which clashed with my flash color. I should have gelled the flash but I didn’t have the gells with me.
 
Shot at: ISO 400, f/4.5, 1/60s, at 18mm
Shot at: ISO 400, f/4.5, 1/60s at 35mm


Overall, this was a good photo session and being limited in equipment is good practice for Katsucon which does not allow light stands or tripods.  This will be my last  photo shoot till the new year, due to the holidays, because it just gets too crazy during December.

On a side note for those in the DC, VA, and MD area I will be running a contest starting December 1, on my Munchkin Photos Facebook page. I will be giving away a 2 hour photo session (in studio and/or on location), to include 20 high resolution digital images and 3 prints.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

AnimeUSA 2016 Summary

I have finally finished editing all my photos from AnimeUSA 2016. (AnimeUSA 2016 Gallery) I like shooting at AnimeUSA because it is a small convention and allows the use of light stands and other photographic equipment, which allows me to be a bit more creative.  The convention location also has a very nice garden area and a nice white room that is set up like an antique sitting room.   

I shot this convention using a Canon 70D, 18-200mm lens, Yongnuo radio triggers, speedlight, light stand, and an 80/20 bounce attachment.  For hall shots, I had the light stand mounted to my backpack so I could continually use off camera flash. Now let’s talk some statistics. This year I had 12 individual sessions lined up, of which two were groups of six plus people.   Of 991 photos taken during the course of the convention, 75% were shot at 28mm equivalent and only 2% were shot at 55mm equivalent.  Then 72% of my shots were taken at f5 with 10% were taken at f3.5 and f6.3.  Of the 991 images, 23% of the images were taken at 1/100s and 14% were taken at 1/200s and 1/250s.   I either used an ISO 100 or ISO 200 for the shots.   

Overall, I had several nice shots, below are a few of my favorite images.  The first few are from the Gokatia session with Akiryu Yoru Cosplay.  The first image reminds me of an album cover. 



The second set of images is from the Saber Nero session with MiGuo Cosplay.  I like these two shots because they are polar opposites.  


This shot is from the Sakirou Maccha Latte session with Vira Mal Cosplay. I loved shooting this cosplay because I love Sakirou’s work and have always wanted to shoot a cosplay based off Sakirou's paper doll art work. 


This last shot is from the Weiss from RWBY session with Rosettica Cosplay. I like this shot because of the dramatic lighting. 


Monday, October 10, 2016

Steampunk at the Fort Washington


At the beginning of October, I got the chance to do a steampunk photoshoot with Nerdenheim Jen at Fort Washington National Park.   The only downside is that it was raining that morning.

Fort Washington NP, is located in Maryland along the Potomac River, and is the site of fort built in 1842. It was the only defense for the US capital until the Civil War.  The fort is very well maintained and has several of the original structures from the 1840’s. It also has concrete structures and embattlements from World War I and World War II.    All this makes it an excellent location for a photo shoot and has both outdoor and indoor areas.

For this shoot, I had to obtain a permit from the National Park Service, because I was using a model and lighting equipment.  For the shoot I used the following equipment: Canon 70D, 18-200mm lens, Yong Nuo radio triggers, speed-light, painters pole, 2 large golf rain umbrellas, camera rain cover, gallon sized Ziploc bag, and an assistant.  I used the 60-inch diameter rain umbrellas to keep the model dry while moving around the site. I used the Ziploc bag to protect the flash and radio trigger, which were mounted on the painters pole that my assistant held.  I did not use a standard light stand for this shoot, because it was windy and rainy, thus making a free standing light stand unwieldly.    I used an ISO of 400, a focal length between 18 – 28mm, an aperture of f5, and a shutter speed between 1/80s to 1/320s with the most common speed being 1/100s.

I love the location of Fort Washington because it lends itself to many different photo concepts. It also has several unique photo locations from ramparts, staircases, southern style porches, cellars, and interesting doors.  My concept for this shoot was to approach it like a fashion shoot or a magazine editorial shoot that highlights the outfit and steampunk theme.  Since it was raining at the beginning of the shoot, we were originally limited to areas that provided cover from the elements. However, this led to some interesting pictures inside the fort and in the old jail cells.  As the rain cleared, we were left with a stormy looking sky and were able to go up to the ramparts at the top of the fort.  We also did a costume change during this shoot, which I haven’t been able to do before.  My favorite photos from after the costume change were when we headed down to the old concrete embattlements. In this area, we were able to put the river in the background of some of the shots and do some post-apocalyptic looking shots.


When I edited the photos from this session, I let the feeling of the photo guide me in the editing process. I also was looking to be able to tell a story with the photos to be able to build a strong series. During the editing process I leaned towards darker images, and an antique look, especially for the green dress.

 



While for the red dress I ended up doing some traditional fashion edits and then going for the apocalyptic look for the photos around the concrete embattlement.   


Overall, I’m very happy with how this shoot turned out, and Nerdenheim Jen was very happy with the photos. It is always nice to hear from your models they can’t narrow down there choices to just 10 images.  You can see all the images from the session here.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Steampunk in the Park

At the end of September, I got the chance to work with the DC Cosplayer and Photographer meet up group again. This meet up was held at Lake Accotink, which is park Fairfax County Park system.   The theme for this meet up was steampunk. For those who don’t know what steam punk is, it is a subgenre of science fiction that incorporates technology and aesthetics designs inspired by the 19-th century industrial steam powered machinery.  The clothing is reminiscent of the British Victorian era or the American “Wild West”.

For this shoot, I used a Canon 70D with an 18-200mm lens, a speed-light attached to Young Nu radio triggers mounted on a light stand with an umbrella.  For most of this shoot, I was in bright sunlight, so I used the flash as fill and to separate the subject from the background.  I stuck with an ISO of 100, but varied my aperture and shutter speed depending on the location in the park while mostly using 100% flash power.  I was happy with several of the shots from this shoot, except I would like to re-do the carousel shots. I noticed halfway through my shutter speed was too low, so several of the shots were blurry, thus I did not get as many keepers as I would have liked. I was also not happy with myself for making the rookie mistake.

The other nice thing about this shoot was the freedom in editing.  In most cosplay sessions, you want to keep full color, but with the steampunk shoot, I could do some sepia, black-and-white, and some creative photo technics that would fit the period.  For some of the photos, I tried to recreate a look called pictorialism, which gives the photo a bit of a hand painted look or the look of a painting.

The first photo I used a strong contrast, with high clarity then transitioned to sepia.  The second photo I desaturated and gave a sepia tint to make it seem a little more gothic.  The last two photos were the ones that I attempted the pictorialism technique. To get the pictorialism look I first upped the clarity, reduced the saturation slightly, then applied grain to the photo, and finally a bit of a vignetting.  I am happy with how all these photos turned out.  You can see the whole set here.

Cosplayer: Sara Cosplays
Aperture: f8, Shutter: 1/250s, Focal length: 18mm
Cosplayer: Kat
Aperture: f9, Shutter: 1/250s, Focal length: 20mm

Cosplayer: Sara Cosplays
Aperture: f8, Shutter: 1/250s, Focal length: 18mm

Cosplayer: Life of Cosplay
Aperture: f13, Shutter: 1/60s, Focal length: 18mm

Ren from Maj Session

In September, I got work with a lovely cosplayer, IchigoGami on a Ren from Maji shoot.  I have always liked the costuming of Ren from Maji because of the full skirt and elegance of the costume.  Due to the elegance of the costume, I chose to do the shoot at Green Spring Gardens, in Fairfax County.  The gardens have several nice areas to include a pond, two gazebos, and several small garden areas. 

For this shoot, I used a Cannon 70D with an 18-200mm lens, along with flash unit connected to Young Nu radio triggers, a light stand, and umbrella.  I started the shoot in the gazebo located next to the pond then moved through the gardens to the trellis area. The issue I had was trying to correctly expose the model while still trying to capture the interesting cloud pattern in the sky.   For most of the images, I shot using an ISO of 100, with an f5.6 aperture and a variable shutter speed.  In most cases, I was using the flash at full power.  Overall, I am happy with how the session turned out. 

Aperture: f10, Shutter: 1/250, focal length: 18mm
Aperture: f5.6, Shutter: 1/80, focal length: 18mm

Aperture: f8, Shutter: 1/125 focal length: 18mm

Critique

I have been busy over the past few months, so got behind on my blog posts.  Therefore, I’m catching up on them now. 

Back in June, I entered a photo contest sponsored by Magnum photography through Lens Culture.  Magnum Photos is an international photographic cooperative owned by its photographer members. It “is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually.”  Lens culture is one of the most authoritative resources for contemporary photography, and look for exciting work from every continent with a diverse point of view.  

I knew I wouldn’t win the contest, because my work is not very “avant-garde”.  I only entered so I could get a critical review of my work.  I entered two set of photos, a general set and a set of just portraits. I felt the critique of the general set was very good and helpful. The reviewer analyzed the picture and comment on the qualities of the picture.  While the critique of the portraits I did not find as helpful. The reviewer stated they wanted descriptions of each photo and stated they didn’t tell a story. The reviewer I felt critique the model more than the actual composition of the photograph.   

These photos were submitted for the general set. 
  


I received the following positive comments on the  set.
"your shot of the leopard was amazing", 
"first two images here thoughts on the basin and sunrise reflections were very well taken and there was a sense of serene calm about these works and their location""the work showed great promise and an enthusiasm for photography"


These are the photos submitted for the portrait set.





















I received the following comments on the portrait set.
"You clearly have a good sense of light and lighting as well as color.", 
 "Your models are clearly comfortable in front of the camera "
"As they stand these images would be great functioning and illustrations." (this is a great comment for cosplay)
"[the last picture] feels like a still from a play"


Overall, the critiques were helpful, and will help me improve my photography.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Water Drops

I like doing water drop photos for four reasons: 1) it looks deceptively simple, 2) the challenge in capturing the moment of impact, 3) the surprising images you can capture, and 4) the fact there is no right way to do it.  For my most recent attempt at water drop photography, I light the drop from below, so the light would come up through the water.  This is different compared to other water drop photos where they light from the side or from above.  I feel lighting the drops from below give them more of a liquid glass appearance and an inner glow.

Surprisingly, the set up for these photos was relatively simple.  I used the following items:
  •         large edged baking sheet (to catch any overflow),
  •         a bowl (to protect the flash equipment),
  •         a flash with radio trigger,
  •         an upside down aquarium (water drop platform),
  •         backdrop stand (to hang water bag from),
  •         Ziploc sandwich bag,
  •     paper towels,
  •         tape (to attach the bag to the stand),
  •         food coloring,
  •     tinfoil backdrop (reflects light),
  •         a pin (to puncture the water bag), 
  •         tripod,
  •         camera with a 60mm macro lens,
  •         remote trigger, and
  •         water.   

I placed the flash equipment inside a bowl on the baking sheet, and covered it with an upside down aquarium.  I then dropped water onto the what was the bottom of the aquarium as the flash lit the surface from below (see photo of set up).  

Set up
Set up

To make this work I used radio-triggered flashes, in high-speed sync mode, so I could go over the native flash speed sync of 1/250s.  For most of these photos, I was using a shutter speed between at 1/800s and 1/1200s with an aperture of F8 to F16 at ISO 400 with a flash power of 1/32 to 1/64. I found if I went to high in the flash power it would blow out areas of the water drop.  I used the smaller aperture to increase my depth of field, so more of the image would be in focus and allow for variation of drop placement.  I pre-focused the camera using a pinhead, and then locked the focus so it would be consist throughout the photos, since it is difficult to focus on a falling water drop.  I had my camera set to high-speed mode and used a remote trigger. I used high-speed so I could get the maximum frame rate, thus increasing my chances of capturing the drop.  However, this technique also increased my number of blank photos.  Now I did this twice, the first time I took around 512 photos and kept 44, which is an 8-percent success rate, and the second time I took 623 photos and kept 30, which is about a 5-percent success rate.  It should be noted while I kept 44 photos from the first session, I think about 10 are presentable, because I did not uses a remote trigger and you can see camera shake and the glass was not clean so there were speckles in the photos.  Thus, the success rate of the firs try is closer to 2-percent.

As you can see in the examples of the first attempt, the water drops are not perfectly crisp and there are some dust specks on the water surface.  


ISO 800, Aperture F8, Shutter Speed 1/320s
ISO 800, Aperture F8, Shutter Speed 1/320s
ISO 400, Aperture F8, Shutter Speed 1/320s

For the second attempt, I did several photos with just the flash lighting from below, but added a diffuser to the flash to reduce blown out areas in the water drop.  I also decided to add a second hand held flash with a radio trigger to light the drops from the side; however, this removed the nice dark surface I was getting and exposed the flash underneath the drop.  


ISO 400, Aperture F16, Shutter Speed 1/1250s
ISO 400, Aperture F16, Shutter Speed 1/1250s
ISO 400, Aperture F9, Shutter Speed 1/1000s, also side lit
ISO 400, Aperture F9, Shutter Speed 1/1000s, also side lit
Overall, I like how the lighting worked, but am happier with the second set of images as compared to the first.  You can see all my variation on the water drop photo here. 

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 figur...