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


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.

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...