Saturday, July 16, 2016

Lolita Photoshoot

I have always liked Lolita fashion because it is cute and whimsical. For those that do not know, Lolita fashion is a subculture originating in Japan based on Victorian and Edwardian clothing. The Lolita look is one of modesty with a silhouette featuring knee length skirt or dress with either a "cupcake" or "A-line" shape assisted by petticoats, it can also include items such as blouses, knee high socks, or stockings, and headdresses, which are usually elaborate bows.  Within the Lolita culture there are several types of subcultures ranging from classic, sweet, and gothic; however, the photoshoots do not appear to have the same range of looks.  A typical Lolita shoot usually has a garden, tea party, or fairytale theme.  I wanted to do something different, so I did Lolita in a playground, to capture the fun and sweet side of the Lolita culture.

I was happy to work on this shoot with the lovely cosplayer Nerdenheim Jen, who is a lovely and fun person to work with.  This was her first Lolita shoot, and I have to say she definitely captured the look and personality.  I was supremely pleased with how this shoot turned out; I had so many good photos, that it was hard to cull the set down to a manageable number of photos. Overall, I took 280 shots, edited 214 shots, and released 160 photos of which I favorited or starred 30 photos.   

I did this shoot on location in the morning at a local park that had a small playground in a shaded area and a rose garden in the bright sun. I took advantage of both areas, but I did wish the playground had swings.  However, the playground did have a slide, which thankfully Jen had no problem going up and down several times for me.  For equipment I used a Cannon 70D, a 18 - 200mm lens, Young Nu radio triggers, Westcott light stand and portable umbrella, and one 430 EXII Speedlight.  I then edited the photos in Lightroom; many of the photos looked good straight out of camera and just needed basic adjustments such as increase in saturation and removal of hotspots to make the photos pop.

I had so many favorites from this shoot, which makes it very hard to pick one or two discuss. Therefore, I am going to discuss the shoot in general. I used ISO 100 for all the shots. I used an aperture of F5.0 for 60% of the shots followed by F8 for 33% of the shots and F9 for 6% of the shots.  My focal length varied between 18mm and 49mm with 65% of the shots being at 18mm followed by 14% of the shots taken at 20mm and only 1% of the shots were taken at 49mm.  The thing that varied the most was my shutter speed, which went from 1/50s to 1/1600s; did I mention I was shooting in both shade and bright sunlight.  About 23% of the shots were taken at 1/200s followed by 16% of the shots taken at 1/250s and 15% of the shots taken at 1/80s. I had 9 shots at my lowest shutter speed of 1/50s and 1 shot taken at my fastest shutter speed 1/1600s.   I cannot pull specific data on the flash power but I was pushing the flash hard staying anywhere between 1/8 power to full power. 

I edited all the raw photos in Lightroom. I adjusted the photos for colorcast, and warmed them up slightly. I also had to adjust the red tone in the photo, because my camera tends to oversaturate reds.  I used a strong contrast for all the photos, and up the clarity to no more than 15 and the saturation to no more than 5.  I did adjust sharpness and luminosity and that varied per photo. Finally, I did not add very many presets since I liked the look out of camera, however I did add vignetting around some of the photos to draw attention the cosplayers face.

Below are three side-by-side comparison of the before and afters of the photos. As you can see in the first photo the before is a little dark and the colors slightly muted; it is also a little wide. As you can see from the edits, I cropped the photo to get rid of the excess playground equipment to put more focus on Jen. I also up the color saturation while warming the image slightly.  The second photo is one of my personal favorites. It actually looked fairly good straight out of camera, however I decided to tighten the crop, warm the photo up slightly and lighten it up slightly.  The final image, I absolutely adore and it happened to be one of the last images from the shoot. As you can see in the original image the sky is a bit washed out, parts of her dress are blown out, and there is a bag in the grass, but other from that it is a nice image.  Thus to improve the image I tightened the cropped, brought down the exposure just a touch and made sure to recover the highlights. I then increased the saturation of the color a touch, warmed the image up, and finally added a slight vignette around the photo.  Overall, I am happy with how the shoot turned out.  You can see all the final images here.

Original: ISO 100, F5, 1/50s, at 18mm


Original: ISO 100, F5, 1/250s, at 24mm

Original: ISO 100, F8, 1/200s, at 28mm

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sometimes an Idea Works, Other Times it Fails

I had a brilliant idea to use dinoflagellates (bioluminescent plankton) for water droplet photography. The dinoflagellates glow when stimulated (i.e. shaken, dropped, impact each other), so I figured they could be used for a unique water drop photo.   However, there was a problem, while I could see the glow of the dinoflagellates; the camera senor even when cranked up to ISO 6400 could not detect the glow at a useful shutter speed to freeze the water drop.   Usually when I do water drop photography, I am somewhere between ISO 100 – 400 with an aperture of F4 - F8 and shutter speed of 1/250 or faster. When using the dinoflagellates I was at ISO 1000 – 3200, with an aperture of F2.8 and a shutter speed of 5 seconds or slower just capture the light the dinoflagellates produced.  Thus, I could not freeze any drops, and the resulting pictures look more like blurry atomic partial traces or abstract art.  Below are a few of the better images after they were edited to get rid of grain and artifacts. 

ISO 6400,  Aperture F2.8, Shutter 2 seconds

ISO 6400,  Aperture F2.8, Shutter 2 seconds

ISO 1000,  Aperture F2.8, Shutter 5 seconds

ISO 1000,  Aperture F5, Shutter 30 seconds

ISO 1600,  Aperture F2.8, Shutter 5 seconds

Friday, July 1, 2016

Horror at Noon

Two weeks ago, I participated in the DC Cosplay Photo Shoots Group meet up at Pierce Mill Park in DC.  The theme for this cosplay meet up was horror; however, the meet up was in the middle of the day on a bright sunshiny day.  Even though the sky was not conducive to getting those dark, creepy shots; however, the cosplayers were great and I made the location work for me to get the shots.

For this shoot, I was using a Cannon 70D with an 18-200 mm lens, and a 430EX II speedlight mounted on a painters poll triggered with a Young Nu radio trigger.  (Thank you to my husband who acted as my voice activated light stand) I did not use an umbrella, because I wanted hard, harsh light to get that creepy horror look.  Because it was such a bright day,  was using ISO 100,  and stopped down my aperture to F10, used varied my shutter speed based on the amount of light, and had my flash in high-speed sync mode.  I did vary my flash power, but was mostly ran it at ½ to ¼ power.

I had several favorite shots, but I’ll only discuss three. The first is the Jeckel/Hyde photo.  This photo was shot in the shade, at ISO 100, aperture F10, shutter 1/60s, focal length 20.00mm.  The flash was pointed up from the ground to the left of the model and was at ½ power.  On the original picture, I did basic edits to include adjusting colorcast, contrast, sharpness, correct camera distortion, and cropping.  I then used a few presets to darken the photo and added a square vignette.

Final Jeckel/Hyde
Cosplayer: Lady O Cosplay

This photo I absolutely love, because it looks like a high fashion shot.  While the photo does not convey creepy horror, I feel it conveys classic gothic horror and high society.  While the cosplayer was doing a spider with fangs, I feel she is embodying a modern vampire and not one of those silly sparkly ones.  This photo was shot in the shade, at ISO 400, aperture F16, shutter 1/100s, focal length 20.00mm.  The flash was pointed down to the left of the model and was at ½ power.  On the original picture, I did basic edits to include adjusting colorcast, contrast, sharpness, correct camera distortion, and cropping.  I then used a few presets to darken the photo and added a square vignette. I also did a black and white version of the photo, but find I like the color one better.

Final Image of Sophisticated Spider
Black & White Version

Finally, it would not be a cosplay horror shoot if there wasn’t someone cosplaying from Silent Hill. This photo was shot in the shade, at ISO 400, aperture F10, shutter 1/250s, focal length 20.00mm.  The flash was pointed up and to the left of the model and was at ½ power.  On the original picture, I did basic edits to include adjusting colorcast, contrast, sharpness, correct camera distortion, and cropping.  I then used a few presets to darken the photo and added a square vignette.  I also tried to give this photo a bit more of red/brown cast similar to what is seen in the video game.  For those who think there should be more blood to be Silent Hill, you can’t splatter fake blood around a park.

Final Image of Nurse from Silent Hill
Cosplayer: DVS Cosplay

Overall, I’m happy with how these photos came out.  I’m happy I was able to capture the horror theme even though the setting was the complete opposite with a clear blue sky and bright sunshine.  You can see all the photos from the shoot here.  You can also follow my work on Facebook  here

Headshots and Tulips

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