Sunday, April 30, 2017

Portraits with the Cherry Blossoms

This year I did a two portrait shoots using the cherry blossoms as a backdrop.  I did one shoot in the morning at the tidal basin and the other in the afternoon at a local park.  There were not as many cherry blossoms overall this year due to frost and cold temperatures near the peak bloom period.  

I went down to the tidal basin early in the morning to meet LaReine Rousse Cosplay who was cosplaying Mikumo.  I did her shoot using my Canon 70D an 18 -200mm lens, a 430 EX-RT III flash mounted on my camera, and a bounce attachment for the flash.   It was a densely clouded early in the morning however; the clouds did break up later in the morning resulting in a sunny day.   We started near the Jefferson Memorial, worked our way around the tidal basin, and ended across the street in the offshoot of the main tidal basin area.  The challenge of shooting portraits at the tidal basin is being able to get clean pictures (limited to no distractions) with all the people looking at the blossoms.  Most people were nice and waited until I took the photo before moving between my model and me.  Even though the blossoms were not as full as usual, I got a nice overall nice set of images. While there was a bunch of people walking along the basin that day, I was able to capture this image without showing the crowds.  This is my favorite image from the shoot because it shows the peace and serenity the blossoms can bring, as well as gives the impression she is the only one there.  This image was shot at ISO 100 with a focal length of 18mm, at an aperture of 4.5, a shutter speed of 1/800s, and fill flash to compensate for the backlighting the sun was providing.  I did edit the photo in Lightroom to adjust the highlights and shadows to bring out the details in the tree and blossoms.  I also increased the clarity and added a slight pink cast to the image.   You can see all the images from the shoot here.

The second cherry blossom shoot, was in a local park with Michelle as Cersei from Game of Thrones.  She chose the Cersei’s blue dress, which complemented the pink in the blossoms and the character itself worked for the setting.  Usually, the blossoms from this tree hang over the rocks more like a veil, but due to the cold snap there were not as many blooms to weigh down the branch.   This resulted in many of the photos not having a lot blossoms in the shot.  For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D an 18 -200mm lens, a 430 EX-RT III flash mounted on a light stand with an umbrella.  I have two favorite photos from the shoot. The first one shows the inner strength of the character, and was tinted blue to make it feel as though it was shot during the twilight hours. The original image was shot at ISO 100 with a focal length of 50mm, at an aperture of 4.5, a shutter speed of 1/160, and fill flash.  I also did a more modern take on the character by placing my model on the edge of the modern sculpture located in the park.  I told to give me her best intimidating Cersei’s look, and the second image pictured was the result.  The image was shot at ISO 100 with a focal length of 20mm, at an aperture of 4.5, a shutter speed of 1/400, and fill flash.  I did clean the image up slightly in Lightroom by intensifying the color and clarity slightly and adding a bit of vignetting to the image to bring attention to her face. You can see all the images from the shoot here.

The Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms

As usual I went down to the tidal basin to take photos of the cherry blossoms; however, this year there were not as many as normal.  Several of the cherry blossoms died due to frost and cold temperature due to the odd weather patter we had this spring.  In February we had a few days in the upper 60’s and low 70’s, which caused the cherry blossoms to start to wake up, and start the blooming process. Though, in March, we went back to winter weather temperatures in the 30’s with some snow and ice, which damaged many of the blooms.  This resulted in a slightly less fluffy pink tidal basin, and a shorter bloom period. 

I went down to the tidal basin early in the morning of the first day of peak bloom with my Canon 70D a 18 -200mm lens, a 60mm macro (which I did not use), a Manfroto tripod, a 430 EX-RT III flash, and a bounce attachment for the flash.  It was a densely clouded morning and only a scant amount of light from the sunrise was breaking through the clouds, thus I used the flash with the bounce attachment to light up the blossoms while metering for the monument.   I was able to capture a few shots as the light streamed through a break in the clouds, which lasted for about 5 minutes, but could not capture the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows when the sun just crests the horizon due to the clouds.   The clouds did break up later in the morning but that was after the sun was sufficiently over the horizon and to the point where it could start burning off the cloud layer.   Even though the conditions in the morning were less than ideal, I did manage to capture a few acceptable shots, and use some Lightroom magic to improve the final image.

As you can see in the image below, there are some dead blossoms, as indicated by the brown. This image was at ISO 100, a focal length of 18mm, using an aperture of f9, a 1/6s shutter speed, a flash to light the blossoms.  As you can see it was fairly cloudy, and this was one a few moments when the sun was peeking through the clouds. I did edit the image in light room to bring out the pinks a bit more and then gave it more of a faded look.  

This second image was taken a bit later in the morning.  You can tell because the sun is poking through the branches of the cherry tree and creating a reflection on the water.   I took this image at ISO 100, a focal length of 18mm, using an aperture of f9, a 1/125s shutter speed, and direct flash to light the tree branch.  This image was post-processed in light room by bringing up the clarity and then adjusting the highlights and shadows to bring out the details in the tree branch without blowing out sun reflection in the water. Then because I wanted to give it a warm sunrise feel, I tinted the image an orange filter. Overall, I’m pleased with how this image turned out.  

While I did not walk away with as many images of the tidal basin I usually do, the images I did captured allowed me to work on editing skills to bring mood and feeling to images captured in lack luster conditions.  You can see all the images here

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lolita with Snow

Tenth Moon Cosplay won a two-hour photo shoot with me, through a contest I ran on my Facebook page, back in January, and we did the shoot in March.  The two outfits she chose for the shoot were Lolita fashion dresses.  The first dress had prints of constellations on it, which inspired me to buy the moon backdrop used in the photos.  The other outfit was perfect for snow shots with its little fur edged cape.  However, I could no longer be guaranteed natural snow, so I made snow.  I used a product called “SnoWonder InstantSnow”.   One cup of the raw power when mixed with one gallon of water makes two gallons of snow.  The fake snow feels cold and acts like heavy snow, meaning it tends to clump.  However, it works wonderfully to coat a floor and toss in the air.  The only bad part is it is hard to clean up when it is wet because it tends to stick to everything, but once it dries it is easy to clean up with a broom.

For this session, I used a Canon 70D with an 18-200mm lens.  Two 450 RT III flashes mounted on light stands trigger by a radio trigger, an umbrella and a square soft box with a grid.  The soft box was located to my right, which provided the main light, and the umbrella was placed to the left, which provided fill.  I used both a printed background and a standard white background during the shoot.  For the shoot All images were taken at ISO 100, with 62% of the images taken at a focal length of 18mm, 51% taken at an aperture of f5, and 50% taken with a shutter speed of 1/160s.   When editing the images, I kept them relatively natural except for a few where I attempted to show moonlight, lighting the model. 

My two favorites images from the shoot are the snow-tossing image an the contemplation image.  I like the snow image because it looks like the snow is staring to form a heart shape. The other one I like to call moon contemplation. During the editing process for that photo, i add a blue overlay to make it feel like it was taken during late evening blue hour, right before the world goes to black. 

Aperture: f4, Shutter: 1/160s, Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f5, Shutter:1/160s, Focal Length 20mm

Friday, April 28, 2017

Katsucon Wrap-Up (very long post)

It has been several months since Katsucon 2017 wrapped up, so I can review my work with fresh eyes.  This year I had 21 individual photo shoots book and still managed to do several hall shots. In total, I ended up editing 1,508 photos from two and half days of shooting this year.

Before I get into some more statistics and talk about a few of my favorite shoots, let talk about what Katsucon is for those unfamiliar with the event.  Katsucon is a 72-hour Anime convention that focuses on anime, Japanese culture, art, music, and is a premier event for cosplayers in the National Capital Region.  The reason it is loved by cosplayers and photographers is the convention grounds; it held at the Gaylord National, which has a lovely atrium and the beloved gazebo.  (No, I do not know why the gazebo is loved.)  There are some rules for photographer at the convention. You must have a valid badge, everything must be hand held, and you cannot use light stands or any free standing equipment inside the convention center.  Now usually the convention center is crowded with photographers and cosplayers jockeying for the perfect spot because it is freezing outside.  Although, this year it was different because it was in the upper 60’s during the day compared to the usual 30’s or less.  Thus, everybody could go outside. However, do not think this makes it less crowded in the convention center or at prime shooting locations; the number of people stayed the same it was just the crowd was a little more dispersed. Now that you know the situation let’s talk some gear, photo stats, and favorite shots.

Taken around noon on Friday. The convention was just warming up.

This was my fourth Katsucon and third one doing one-on-one shoots.  This year I was shooting with a Canon 70D with an 18-200mm lens, two 450 RT XIII speedlights, a mini-light stand (for outdoor sessions), and bounces attachments for the flashes.  I was able to do several of the shoots outdoors so I was using two speedlights, one on camera for fill and one off camera as the main light.  For indoor shots, I used one speedlight on the camera with a bounce and no light stand mounted light. (I believe in following the rules.)   Overall, I shot at either 100 ISO or 400 ISO, with 77% of my photos taken at focal length between 18-20mm, 87% with an aperture of 4.5f, and 24% with a shutter speed of 1/50-1/60s.  Now let’s talk about some of my favorite session/shots from this year’s convention.   Remember I had 21 individual sessions booked so I’m only going to talk about eight.

I have worked with Miguo Cosplay before and think she is a great cosplayer thus was happy to work with her again.  For this session, I actually did several high key shots; because, I was lucky enough to get time in front of the wavy wall and her Sheryle from Macross Frontier was perfect for high key.  The wavy wall is perfect for high key because it is all white, but has a texture so you can subtle texture to background. I was able to capture this lovely shot by using the flash mounted on my camera and a flash lying on the floor pointed at the wall.  The second shot was only possible because it was still very early in the morning and very few people were up and roaming about. Even though only a few people were up, I only had a couple minutes to get the shot I wanted.  I was at the top of the balcony/stairs looking down to the floor below.  I knew the light from the flash on the my camera wouldn’t reach her, so I sent my husband down to her level to point a hand-held a radio controlled flash set to  about ¼ power at her at.   I zoomed my lens to 90mm and used an aperture of 9f with a1/30s shutter to capture this image. 

This is the first instance I worked with Krazed ChaosCosplay, and have to say she is fun to work with. She did a very nice Daenerys from Game of Thrones.  I love this image; it is actually was taken off the convention grounds along the path that runs along the river. Because this was outside and off convention grounds, I used an off camera flash mounted on a light stand to add a little pop to the image.  

I am a big Sakizo fan, and was very excited to be able to shoot Anime Layer Cosplay in her interpenetration of Sakizo’s Muscat of Alexandria.  I have two favorites from this session. The first is the mirror photo. I love using mirrors for cosplay because it lets you see more of the outfit, especially if the outfit has details in the back.   I shot the mirror image by sitting on the floor so I would be out of the shot, and lit the cosplayer with the speedlight mounted on my camera.  The second image was taken outside and was light with two lights to account for the back lighting provided by the sun.  I used a speedlight mounted on my camera and speedlight placed on the ground pointed up at the cosplayer.  I did post process the image to fade it slightly and give it more of an antique look that I felt matched the cosplay. 

This year, since it was not freezing outside, I was able to take a few of my cosplayers down to the Awakening Sculpture. The sculpture comprised of four pieces; a foot, a hand, an arm, and a face, situated to look like a giant man is coming out of the ground.  I like this image of Ginger Liz Cosplay as Cinder Fall from RWBY because she follows the curve of the arm. I also like this second image because it portrays the power of the character. Both photos were taken with two lights, one on camera and the second placed on the ground pointed up at the cosplayer. 


I had the pleasure of doing two photo shoot sessions with Angels n Demons Cosplay out of Canada. Yes, she came all the way down from the great north.  The first photo is an action shot of her in her Archer Rin cosplay from the Fate/Stay Night series.  I had her do a jump squat to make it look like she was landing from a higher jump and get movement in the skirt (photo #1).  I shot this with one speed light mounted on my camera with a bounce. I did edit the photo in Lightroom by darkening it slightly, increasing the contrast, and adding some vignetting. The second session I did with her, she cosplayed Reaper from Overwatch, and got several excellent images. I’m going to highlight one of my black and white photos.  I would say 99% of cosplay is shot in color to show off the costume, but I do like to switch over to black and white if it works for the character.  In this case, it did; because it gives the photo a grittier edge and does not make it look like it was shot on a bright sunny day. 

I do like working with cosplayers that create their own characters, especially if they fall in the realm of fairytale fantasy.  I had the pleasure of working with Cosmos FoxCosplay with her own design called Midnight Rose Couture Faun.  She designed and made the whole costume herself. She was lovely to work with because she gave very good face.  For her shoot, I found this lovely little weeping tree to use as the backdrop.  I was also able to use a speedlight mounted on a light stand, because we were outside, to light the image. 

My final session of the convention was with Krazed ChaosCosplay and Arya Fae Cosplay who were cosplaying a Jolteon and Spark from Pokemon Go.  They were fun to work with because they were up to for doing things like running around a tree so I could get some action shots of a trainer trying to catch a Pokemon.  I also put them in tall grass because everyone knows Pok√©mon hid in the tall grass. I also did some individual shots of each of them. For this session, since it was outside, I used a speedlight mounted on a lightstand with a bounce attached to brighten up the models.  I did edit the photos in Lightroom by increasing the contrast and upping the saturation of the color of the color, and increasing the clarity. 

I was also able to squeeze in a few hall shots in-between sessions, but did not do as many as I normally would.  If you are wondering, I was up at 6:00 AM on Friday and Saturday of the convention to make sure I could eat, and get ready for the day since my first shoots of the day start at 8:00AM. I made sure I had a 2-hour break for lunch and dinner and I wrapped up for the last shoot of the day by 10:00 PM.  On Sunday, get up early to make to load the car up before the first shoot of the day. I schedule the last shoot to of the convention to end by noon to beat the rush leaving the convention.  I will tell you I’m usually physically, mentally, and creatively exhausted by the end of the convention.  It is not uncommon for me the catch a cold the following week, the dreaded con-crud, because I will push myself hard during it.  In the end, it is worth it to capture amazing cosplays and interact with some great people.

You can see all my 2017 Katsucon work 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...