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.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


I attended Matsuricon for the first time.  Matsuricon is an anime convention held at the Columbus convention center near the end of August.  I don’t know what my expectations were for the convention, but I don’t know if I’ll be attending again. The whole convention vibe could have been off due to the U.S. President attending a Republican fundraiser dinner being held the same time as Matsuricon in the same convention center.   

The check-in was relatively fast on Thursday night. However, I felt there was some confusion over photography badges.  If you are going to schedule individual shoots or charge for your photos, you must apply to get a photography badge. This is a little bit of a pain, because they only go on sale a few months before the convention, and you don’t know if you are approved except for about two months before the convention.  As a photographer, I want to know if I’m approved way before then so I have time to book clients, and make the proper hotel arrangements.   Also, during check in there should be a separate check in list for photographers if they are going to have a limited number of photography badges. When I checked in they didn’t even look at my receipt saying I paid for a photographer badge or check me off a list, all I said was I paid for a photography badge and they handed me a photographer badge.   Other from that check in was relatively smooth. 

I felt the convention was small.  The dealers room filled one regular sized ball room and the artist ally was just in a large meeting room, both seemed very small without a lot of variety.  I did not attend any of the panels, since I had shoots scheduled, but that didn’t matter because I did not find any of the panel descriptions that interesting.  They had several group shoots scheduled in both the convention hotel and the A POD area of the convention center.  This was nice in a way because it made sure large groups were not blocking areas with their fandom’s group shoot.  I may have missed it because, I spent most of my time in the A POD area doing shoots, but there did not appear to be a generalize meeting area where cosplayers just hung out for photos.  Because of that I didn’t do any hall shots.

Since this was the first time for me being at this convention I did not book as many shoots as I normally would for something like Katsucon.  I had 15 sessions booked when I normally would have about 20 booked. Also, what played into the booking was the conventions times, it is not a straight 72-hour convention, this one actually has a start and end time each day.   I’m going to talk about a few of the shoots, and the one group shoot I got drafted into shooting.  

Let’s start with the Star Wars group shoot I was drafted into shooting. I had time after lunch and before my next one-on-one session so I decided to pop into the Star Wars group shoot, to possibly get a couple of quick photos. That plan did not happen.  When I walked in there was no official photographer for the group, and people were just taking cell photos.  Then the Matsuricon Group Shoot Staff organizer walked in, came up to me and said “oh good a real photographer” while looking at my camera.  He asked if I was a photographer, I showed him my photographer badge, which led to him asking if I could shoot the group.  Basically, I was drafted because all the staff photographers and other photographers were shooting the Fate group, which is a huge group.  Thus, I ended up running and shooting the Star Wars group, which was a lot smaller then I would have expected.  Thankfully, I was dressed appropriately for the shoot, I had on my Turtle Tee shirt with a picture of General Leia, that said “Call me general.”   You can see the photos from the shoot here.  The whole session was shot with one speed light mounted on a light stand directly behind me (I was in the middle) and zoomed all the way out.  Now on to some one-on-one sessions.

ISO 100, aperture f4, shutter 1/160s, flash to the photographer's left at 1/2 power

I’m going to talk about my favorite shoot first, which was with Kat Everett as Princess Elizabeth Liones from Seven Deadly Sins. This was an interesting shoot, because the character is supposed to be all sweet and innocent, but she is drawn like a sex bomb.  So, shooting sweet and innocent when looking like a sex bomb becomes tricky.  Kat was wonderful to work with, and great at posing.  I ended up loving the whole set I shot with her, though my favorite is below.  The convention center is nice because it has a nice bright white wall perfectly suited to get lovely high key images. 

ISO 100, aperture f4.5, shutter 1/250s, flash to the photographer's left at 1/2 power

The second session I want to discuss is the Naruto BunnySuit session with Average Space Mom and Ellie.  The models did tell me when they scheduled the shoot that it was going to be the bunny suit version, but for some odd reason I was thinking more along the lines a full up body suit you were during clean room operation, not the Playboy Bunny outfit.  They were fun to work with, and I learned what ‘tasteful ninja poses’ are.  During the shoot I focused on two types of poses, ones from the actual anime and the other more traditional bunny poses.  My favorite photo from the session is a more traditional bunny pose, that I edited with a slightly faded look to make it a bit vintage.  I felt it work really well.

ISO 200, aperture f5.6, shutter 1/80s, flash to the photographer's right at 1/4 power

This final session I’m going to talk about is the AfroSailor Moon session with Minah CosplayGround. I had two sessions with her, and thought she did Sailor Moon the best, because it just fit her bubbly personality.  Her costume was spot on, and I like how she made it hers by doing big afro buns instead of traditional anime buns.  Her face photographed cleanly, and you could just see happiness in her.  My favorite shot is a close-up beauty shot that captures here eyes and smile.

ISO 100, aperture f4, shutter 1/50s, speedlight mount on camera 1/8 power

This was the first convention where I shot some duplicate cosplays.  I had two groups do Kakeguriui and two groups do My Hero Academia.  While the cosplays were the same, the personalities of the cosplayers themselves make each shoot unique which influenced my editing style.  This was especially true for the two Kakeguriui groups.  Even though Kakeguriui is a very dark anime, the first group I edited with more black & white images and a cleaner look, while the second group I used more faded and high clarity/contrast images.  

Overall the convention was ok. I’m not sure if the President being in the area during part of the convention changed the mood or of it or not.  I’m still debating if I will attend next year, but probably will attend.  You can see all the images from the convention here.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Columbus Cosplay Meet Up

Eowinth Cosplay, Kamikaze Kendra Cosplay, Necropantz, Feisty Cosplay, Oddity Cosplay, Gabrielle

On August 5th, I hosted the second meet-up of the Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati Cosplay Photo Shoot Group at Homestead Metro Park in Columbus. Homestead Metro Park is nice park, with several features to including pavilions, a playground, and a covered bridge, which we rented for the event.   For this event we had 13 attendees of which 6 were cosplayers, 5 were photographers, and 2 were assistants.  This is a decent turnout for the second meet-up of the group.  The event was three hours, which gave everyone plenty of time to explore the park while still working with everyone in short one-on-one sessions. 

The event went really well, except for the Girl Scout Troop and parents who could not read the sign.  Our group rented the covered bridge for the event. There was a sign in front of the bridge that stated “Reserved for DCC Group.” The troop leader decided to ignore the sign and hold the Girl Scout Bridge Crossing ceremony, where you go from Daisy to Brownie or Brownie to Junior in the middle of our event without asking.  They completely ignored the sign, and it was obvious we were using it.  Now being a former Girl Scout, this greatly saddened me.  If the troop leader would have asked to use the bridge it would have been different, but they did not.  When I went up there to state it was reserved, the response I got was “it’s ok we are Girl Scouts”.  No, I’m sorry, but it is not ok, if you wanted to use the bridge you either 1) reserved it when you knew you were going to have the ceremony, or 2) asked the person who held the reservation if you could use it.  Just some common courtesy would have been nice.  Other from that it was a nice event.

Because our events are currently small I get to work with all the cosplayers.  I’m not going to talk about all the photos from the event just two I really like.  This first photo is of Eowinth Cosplay, who recently move up to Ohio from DC.  She was also part of the DC Cosplay Photo Shoot Group, that I used to work with.  Eowith Cosplay was Fang from Final Fantasy, which was perfect for the weather and the location.  The first image is a powerful pose framed by two pine trees.  This one worked out nice because a slight breeze came through to add movement to her skirt.  The speed light was on a light stand to my right.  The second image was taken in the tall grass.  I like this image because it appears as though she is stalking or hunting something.  This was shot in direct sunlight, with the speed light set on a light stand to the photographer’s right.  When editing I ensured I had a blue sky and had to watch the highlights. The third image is of Kamikaze Kendra Cosplay as a gender bent Frodo from “The Lord of the Rings”.  I like this image because it has a cinema quality about it.  I place her in the shade of two trees, and then placed the speed light up and my right.  I then told her to stab the light.  When editing I added some vignetting, had to watch the yellows in the greens.

Overall, I would say the meet-up was a success.  The next one will be the Cincinnati meet-up the first weekend in October.  It was supposed to be in September but was rained out.  I am really looking forward to the one that will be hosted at the end of October at one of Ohio’s castles.  If you want to join the group you can find us on Facebook here: Dayton, Columbus,Cincinnati (DCC) Cosplay Photo Shoots.

Mammoth Cave

Near the end of July, my husband and I took our niece to MammothCave which is about 4 hours away. The traffic getting through Cincinnati into Kentucky was horrible, for it only being 2 o’clock when we went through it.  The four-hour dive turned into something a little over five hours, but we did get an hour back since Mammoth Cave NP is just over the central time zone line. 

River Styx Spring
For our weekend stay, we stayed on park property at the Mammoth Cave Lodge, in the Sunset Terrace rooms.  The room was decent, close to the visitor center, and most importantly had air conditioning and an en suite bathroom.  We ate breakfast at the lodge, which was decent buffet with an omelet station. The whole lodge area is nice and has all the basics, plus there is a little convince store that carries some sundries and microwavable food if you need it.

The evening we arrived, we did a quick hike to see the River Styx Spring . The hike was about a mile and half, and our hope was it would tire out our niece before bed.  There was no such luck on that account, I wish I had that much energy somedays.  The hike down to the spring and back wasn’t bad, even though there were steps involved, and we had to do it at a reasonable pace to make sure we made it back to the lighted part of the path before sunset.   

The next day we had two cave tours planned. The first one was a short 75-minute tour called the Frozen Niagara. This tour takes you into the living section of the cave where you can see the stalagmites and stalactites.  The ranger leading the tour was good. If you are going to take pictures this would be the best tour to do it on.  However, you will need a very high ISO because the lighting is decent enough to see, isn’t that great for photos.  You cannot use a flash in the cave.  Overall it is a decent introductory tour.  After the tour we had lunch in town, and stopped at the Lost Hope Cemetery on the way back.  I wanted to stop because it was a very little cemetery and looked old. It had some stones dating back to the civil war, but mostly from the First World War.  However, in hindsight, this was probably not the best idea based on our next tour.

Lantern Tour Ranger
The second tour of the day, was the Violet City Lantern Tour.  This tour is 3 hours and the only light source is kerosene lanterns.  If you are over 16 years old you can carry a lantern, and there are approximately 10 lanterns in total.  The first part of the tour is simple and on flat ground. You go past old tuberculosis huts, see the “sunset/sunrise” demonstration, and the giant’s coffin.  My niece got a little scared after the giant’s coffin and being in total darkness during the sunset/sunrise demonstration. However, the thing that did not help was the talk about the dead Native American in the cave.  Yes, there is a dead person in the cave, but you do not get to see were he is buried.  After that story my niece was ready to go, and we still had about 45 minutes left of the tour.  The ranger that led that tour was very good, knew her history, and was entertaining at the same time.  However, this was not a tour for pictures, even with a very high ISO you weren’t going to get anything.  I got one picture of our ranger in the cave, only because she had the lantern close to her face.  In hindsight I should have just left the camera in the room.  I highly recommend the tour, and you either want to be upfront with the ranger or in the back to get more light from all the other lanterns.    

That basically was our weekend at Mammoth Cave. I recommend going to Mammoth Cave for at least a weekend. We did Friday evening to early Sunday morning which gave us one full day.  I would say you don’t need more then two days if you are going to hit some of the other little attractions outside the park.  Also staying on park property was nice and cost about the same as staying in a standard hotel.

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...