Thursday, December 27, 2018

Year In Review 2018

The year of 2018 was very busy and eventful year for me.  This was the first full year I spent in Dayton, Ohio after moving up from Virginia.  You would think that just moving to a new area would have me slow down, but it was very busy as I tried to incorporate myself into the photography and cosplay communities in the area.  I went to three conventions this year, one group shoot, did seven individual shoots, got published, went on vacation, and started a cosplay and photographer meet-up group. So, let’s talk about some of these events.

Cosplay and Conventions
I went to three conventions this year, two in Ohio (Ohayocon and Matsuricon) and one in DC area (Katsucon).  I will say I was not impressed by two of the three major conventions in Ohio. Ohayocon was nice, but I didn’t feel like there were a ton of cosplayers or a central location for cosplayers to just show off their cosplay.  As for Matsuricon, while I had several paid shoots during that convention, it felt small and underdeveloped.  However, I did meet some lovely cosplayers and had some great on-on-one sessions. Sadly, I still compare the Ohio conventions to Katsucon, which is considered a go to for several top cosplayers, and it is hard to compete with that environment. 

Because, I was missing the camaraderie of the DC Cosplay and Photographer group, I started a similar group in Ohio called the “Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati(DCC) Cosplay Photo Shoots”.  The group is currently 140 members strong on Facebook and 60 members strong on Meet-up.  We had our first event in June with 9 people attending, by our last meet-up in November we had 17 people attend.  Overall, I think that is fairly good for the first year the group is in existence.  Managing the group is a lot of work, with the hardest part finding locations to shoot.  Overall running the group is fulfilling and I’m looking forward to next year.

Portrait Photography
This year was a busy year for me doing several one-on-one sessions and one group session. I want to talk about the group session first.  The group shoot at the farm was interesting for me, because I got to work with several models in one day in a decent setting with all my equipment.  I liked the group session, because it was very similar to how I shoot at a convention but without the gear limitations. I am going to try to attend more group shoots next year, because it is a nice way to meet models and build a strong portfolio.


I did seven one-on-one sessions this year.  I started the year with a very cold shoot out in a field of concrete corn with the lovely Vida Muerta.  Followed up by shoot using a large flower headpiece (which I made) with Lady Chappell.  From there moving on to very sparkly shoot involving a pool of glitter with Star.  Then two very creative shoots with a rubber duck headpiece (which I made) with Cora Mandragora and Lady Chappell.  I’m excited to say the rubber duck headpiece pin-up inspired shoot I did with Cora was published in the November 2018 Issue of Delicious Dolls.  Being published was the highlight of my year. 

Vacations for me are a time to relax and work on some landscape photography.  I enjoy landscape photography, but don’t do a lot of it at home. This year’s vacation was South Dakota visiting the National Parks with my mom.  This was a nice week-long trip, and I highly recommend South Dakota especially the badlands for beautiful landscapes. The only thing I regret from the trip is not waiting out the thunderstorm in Badlands National Park, because apparently the sunset after the storm went through was gorgeous according to the park ranger the next day.  But I did get some lovely pictures during the trip and will probably go back at some point.

Overall, I had a very good year and am looking forward to another busy and exciting year.  You can follow my photography journey here on my blog, on my webpage, Facebookpage, and now my Instagram account. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Still Life

Now that I have a little bit of down time, I took some time to work on other types of photography outside of portrait photography.  I recently shot a still life, because I wanted some photos to test my updated computer processing speeds in Lightroom and Photoshop.   I’m quite happy with the improved processing speeds of my updated computer, I’m also happy with how the still life photos came out.   

The inspiration for the still life photo came from two places, one while I was eating some mandarins at work and the old Dutch Masters.  Several of the Dutch Master still life paintings are simple with only a few elements and very low-key.  I will admit some of the painting may look very low-key due the paintings age and it needing to be cleaned to remove the soot build up from over the years and the darkening varnish.  However, I’m going to stick with the darker images I have seen in art museums.

Basic Shoot Set Up
For this shoot the set up was simple. I used a black backdrop laid across my kitchen table. The back drop was propped up in the back by a cardboard box.  I placed a speed light with a small soft box on a light stand to the camera’s right pointed down at the fruit. The flash was set to a 25mm zoom and 1/8 to ¼ power. I also had a white reflector on the camera’s left to reflect some light back into the image to ensure some definition and separation from the background, without loosing the low-key effect.  (See image to left.) For lens alternated between a 60mm macro and an 18-200mm lens with 51 and 66 frames shot between the two respectively.  I was shooting at ISO 100 with and F-stop between F9 to F20 with most frames being shot at F13.  My shutter speed ranged from 1/100s to 1/250s with most frames being shot at 1/250s.  The focal length ranged 24mm to 70mm with most a bulk of the frames being at 60mm (due fixed length lens) and 28mm. I shot 117 frames and kept 40 images.  

For the shots I build up gradually from five little mandarins to a full scene with apples, cheese, a cutting board, knife, a poinsettia, wine, and a glass.  I then broke the image back down to just the mandarins with one being peeled. This first image is my starting image, it is a bit boring that is why I added the apple.  The second image is better but still lacking. That when wen I started rummaging around the kitchen for additional items.   So, I started adding pieces like the cutting board, cheese, and knife. (If your wondering the cheese is Parmesan.) Then since it is the holiday season, I added the poinsettia, that I just bought.  Now it is starting to look like a full still life, but also a little bit like a corporate Christmas card, in my opinion.

ISO 100, Aperture F/14, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length  60mm
ISO 100, Aperture F/16, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length  60mm
ISO 100, Aperture F/9, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length  60mm

ISO 100, Aperture F/13, Shutter 1/200s, Focal Length  32mm

What really makes several of these images is the post processing. The original lighting was important but the post processing is where it really started looking like an old master painting.  I’m quite fond of these tow with the faded look.  In this case I applied fade filters which reduced clarity, reduce the highlights and whites, added some grain, and a strong vignette.   The other one is supposed to be reminiscent of old Hollywood. This filter reduced the whites but balanced the highlights, blacks and shadows for a very flat look but increased the color vibrance while reducing the saturation which gives it that faded look.

ISO 100, Aperture F/13, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length  28mm
ISO 100, Aperture F/14, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length  28mm

I ended shooting by going back to just the mandarins, and the original though I had of a peeled fruit. The final image didn’t meet what I had in my head but works in a simple way.

ISO 100, Aperture F/13, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length  70mm

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.

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...