Sunday, September 29, 2019

Fall Still Life

I like doing still life photos now and then, because it can be relaxing yet challenging to get an interesting photo.  My inspiration for this still life was autumn season, even though the weather begs to differ right now.  Really it is the end of September and we been having strings of 90-degree days.  

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 gourds, basket, and straw. The flash was set to a 25mm zoom and 1/16 to 1/8 power. I also had a gold reflector on the camera’s left to reflect some light back into the image to ensure some definition and separation from the background and to give the image some warmth. (See image to left.) I used a 18-55 mm lens.  I was shooting at ISO 100 at a focal length of 18mm with an aperture of  F8.  I used two distinct shutter speeds 1/160s and 1/200s with most frames being shot at 1/160s.  I shot 76 frames and kept 33 images. 

When setting this image up I had a basic fall harvest concept in my mind and built up from the basic image of the gourds, hay, and basket to the all-inclusive image of the with the flowers and candle.  I started simply thinking of the cornucopia and having the gourds spill out. The issue with this was the one small orange pumpkin like gourd would get lost and covered by the other two gourds. To fix this I put two small blocks in the back and covered them with hay to raise the orange gourd up. This was especially important when I added the flowers.  From there I add a red candle, then relied on framing and cropping to help ensure movement and interest in the image.   I then partially broke the set up down, to set the basket up right and place flowers in it.  It was very important to use the reflector at this point to ensure decent light coverage across the scene.  When editing these images, I kept them fairly dark and moody.  However, I did pop the colors by using the “vivid” color treatment in lightroom. I also used some selective highlighting to bring out the edges of the flowers and show the separation of the petals. 


Overall, I’m happy with how the still life turned out, it was also a nice diversion for me.  In total I spent about 90 minutes on the shoot from set up through tear-down.  I then spent about 90 minutes editing the images which included uploading, culling, and exporting the final images.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Whetstone Pond Shoot

On September 8th  I hosted a meet up of the Dayton-Columbus-Cincinnati Cosplay Photoshoot group at Whetstone Pond in Columbus.  Whetstone Pond is located next to the Park of Roses in Columbus.   We had 14 cosplayers and 3 photographers attend, so it was a very busy shoot.

I worked with 11 cosplayers of which 6 were in groups of two.  I shot a total of  227 frames in three hours. Of the 292 frames I edited 146 images and delivered 83 final images. I shot the whole meet using a light from a single bare off camera speed light on a light stand. I shot with a bare speed light to compensate for the sun. I shot using ISO 200.  My aperture and shutter speed varied throughout the shoot, due to the changing lighting conditions due to the drifting clouds.  My aperture ranged between F5 and F14 with the most common being F8.  My shutter speed varied from 1/40s to 1/250s with the most common speed being 1/250s.  Finally, my focal length varied from 18mm to 100mm, with the most common focal length being 18mm.   

This was a very busy shoot because we only had three photographers for 14 cosplayers. I wanted to ensure as many cosplayers as possible got to work with a photographer and get photos for showing up.  While I shoot relatively fast, I was going faster then normal and it showed in some of the images when I was conducting my image cull.  However, there were still some very nice images.  My favorite from the shoot is of ButDragonsTho Cosplay.  While she was easy to photograph, the tricky part was the post edit, due to the tattoo sleeve she was wearing for her cosplay.  There were two issue I had to contend with 1) the seam of the tattoo sleeve and 2) the color of the tattoo sleeve, which was a shade darker than her natural skin tone.  I’m going to discuss how I changed the original image on the top into the final image on the bottom.  

To get the final image on the bottom,  I first did basic adjustments in Lightroom. These adjustments consisted of color balancing, increasing the contract, adjusting the exposure, and removing any noise from the image.  From there I exported the image into Photoshop to do the heavy lifting.  The first thing I did was use the content aware tool to remove the seam of the tattoo sleeve and touched up a few fly-away hairs.  I then applied frequency separation to the image and applied localized gaussian blur, to smooth the skin.  This was very important in the area of the tattoo sleeve to ensure a decent blend between it and the model’s natural skin.  From there I added some highlighting using dodge tool.  I then flattened the image and sent it back to Lightroom.  I did a few more minor adjustments and added a slight vignette to the image to finish it off.  While this process seems simple, it took me about 20-minutes to complete.

Original Image shot at  ISO 200, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 40mm

Final Image

Overall, it was a great shoot.  You can see all the images from that day’s event here: Whetstone Pond

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Matsuricon 2019

I attended my second Matsuricon, and I’m still not sure how to rate the overall convention. The check in process was smooth except for the confusion over the photography badges again.  I’m starting to think they need to better train their volunteers who check people in so there is less confusion about photography badges. (A photography badge is needed if you are charging for one-on-one sessions.)   This year I had 11 sessions booked, but had to cancel one, because I ended up getting sick.  The convention center felt like it was the same temperature inside as it was outside; and I do not due well in heat.  I had to cancel my last session of the convention because I was just feeling ill and it is not fair to the cosplayer if I cannot provide my best during a session.   I also attended the cosplay fashion show and shot during that.  I have two comments on the fashion show, first it needed to be longer with more cosplayers, second the cosplayers needed to be reminded to walk down the catwalk and walk all the way to the end of the catwalk.  Overall the cosplay fashion show was ok, I would attend it again.

For Matsuricon I took 988 shots, with most of the shots coming from one-on-one sessions.  Of the 988 shots, I edited 715 images.  During Matsuricon I used ISO 100 or ISO 400 depending on the conditions. My dominant focal length was 18mm,  and this is due to working in tight quarters and wanting to capture the complete cosplay.  My dominant shutter speed was 1/250, which also happens to be the highest sync speed of my flashes without changing to high-speed sync mode.  Finally, my dominate aperture was F9 with F10 being a very close second, this was most likely due to me trying to reduce ambient light and rely on the flash for lighting.   

This year I spent a lot of time walking from one end of the convention center to the other.  I did a lot of my shots at the large lattice windows in the front of the convention center and a fair number of sessions in the parking garage. Yes, parking garages make great locations, especially if they have murals and your working with comic book characters.  This year I worked with some great people and got some nice shots. I’m going to discuss a few of those shots below.

ISO 100, Aperture F7.1, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length 35mm
My two of favorite shot shots from this year are of Raven Moonlight as Lucoa from “Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid” (left) and of Cyren as Camie Utsushimi from “My Hero Academia” (lower right).  These two ladies are great to work with and easy to direct. The image of Raven Moonlight as Lucoa, I like because it is sexy yet has the bit a sweetness to it.  When editing the image, I went for a high fashion and high-key look, which really brings out the personality of the character she is trying to portray.  The image of Cyren as Cami, I like because it sexy yet under stated. It is a traditional sexy pose but by editing the portrait to be low key and fading it slightly it gives it an understated quality in my opinion. 

ISO 400, Aperture F11, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length 28mm

The next two images are of shots done in a parking garage.  The first one is Marvelfanboy82 as Spiderman (left) and the second one is of Pandacosplay as Lady Deadpool (Lady Deadpool is an actual comic character not a gender bent Deadpool) (right). The reason I like this image of Marvelfanboy82 as Spiderman is because it captures the Spiderman vibe and looks like he is about to spring into action.  For this image I kept the image intentionally cool.  I also bumped the blacks, shadows, clarity and the vibrance of the image. It also has a bit of vignetting to the image.  The image of Pandacosplay as Lady Deadpool, I like because it shows action but the image is rough and gritty, just like Deadpool.   For this image I used an orange/blue split tone and cranked the clarity adjuster to the max, which make the image look gritty. I also dropped the highlights and the whites and kicked the vibrancy up a notch while adding a slight vignette.   

ISO 400, Aperture F10, Shutter 1/250s, Focal Length 18mm
ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length 24mm

Overall this year I got to work with some great people, try my hand at shooting a fashion show, and see several interesting cosplays.  If you would like to see all the final photos from Matsuricon you can check them out here: Matsuricon 2019

As a side note, I was not worried about getting a ton of bookings this year for Matsuricon because I’m currently working on a Masters Degree, which is eating up a lot of my time.  This is also why I haven’t been posting as much.   Hopefully by June of 2020 I will be done with my degree and be back to shooting and posting more regularly.

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...