Cosplay at the Workhouse Arts Center & Haunt

On October 16th,  I attended a D.C Cosplay Photo Shoot meet up held along Workhouse Arts Center, in Lorton, VA with access to the Workhouse Haunt areas.  The Workhouse started life as a prison in 1910 and gradually became a work camp.  However, by the 1980 the workhouse was overcrowded and disorganized, thus in 1997 Federal legislation ordered the facility be closed by December 2001.  The property was sold to Fairfax County in 2002, which transformed it into cultural arts center. The location was nominated the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.  (Source: History of Work House Arts Center) Because of the locations history and historic buildings it made it a very interesting place to shoot. My only regret was not going out to the location sooner to walk around and see some more of the property and be better prepared for the day.

For these sessions I used:

  • Canon 80D
  • 2 Speed light
  • Trigger
  • Light stand
  • 18-200mm lens

There was supposed to be a storm coming in that day, so I and every other photographer at the event that day was hoping for a moody sky. Instead, we had a nice bright blue sky with little white puffy clouds, the storm clouds didn’t roll in till we were done for the day.  So, for this reason I ended up using a 100 ISO and did not use any type of light modifier.  My aperture varied from F7 to F18, with most shots between F9 to F11. My shutter speed ranged from 1/13s to 1/250s, with most shots being at 1/125s.  My shutter speed was all over the place at the very beginning of the shoot, because somehow, I ended up in aperture priority mode, instead of manual.  I didn’t realize this until I was done working with the first two cosplayers.  This explained why the first set of images weren’t coming out how I expected them to with the flash. This resulted in a lot of post processing.  My focal length ranged from 18mm to 70mm, with most shots being at 18mm. 

While we had access to the Workhouse Haunt area, this was not a horror or Halloween themed event. Thus, we had a range of different kinds of cosplay from some horror to Ghostbusters, to some Star Wars characters. This is why I like these events, because you always have great variety of people and genera to work with.  

I’m going to start with Impressionistic_cosplay, who is a husband-and-wife team, that came as the Ghostbusters. They are also part of the local Ghostbusters chapter here in Virginia (similar to the 501st group).  For this image I placed them in a narrow hallway side by side, and light them with one flash straight on.  I then took the image into post, balanced it, and added some vignetting.  I was going to attempt to add some proton beams, but they looked absolutely horrible so I deleted those layers. (Yay for Photoshop layers).  I like how the image looks, even if there are now proton beams.

I also had the pleasure of working with Lena Volkova (Lokelicious), who work the haunt thus came as her haunt character Missy the Butcher.  One of my favorites of her set is below. To get this image I asked her to stand behind the chain-link fence gate and look menacing. To add that extra layer of scary, I used only one flash, that I placed on the ground pointed up at her. (Lighting from below gives that scary/creepy element, that is why you hold flashlight under your chin when telling ghost stories around the campfire.) When I pulled the image Lightroom, I corrected the white balance and cropped it to square. I only did some fine adjustments on the exposure, mostly adjusting the shadows and the blacks to make the right details pop. I also cranked the clarity up rather high.  I then added an orange/teal split tone to the image.  I finished with a very heavy vignette.

This next image just begged to be black and white. Walter came as a 1920’s gangster, which worked well with the old brick buildings and the pallet walls of the haunt. So, I went for one of those classic 1940’s gangster movie images, of shooting out from behind a wall.  Walter had a prop gun (you can tell it is prop because it has an orange tip and the little cross on the tip as it is pointed at you). To get the right vibe, place the flash to my left pointed toward the models face and zoomed it so the light was really focused. Then in post I darkened the background, brought up the clarity to make it a bit gritty, and added a strong vignette. Then I converted it to black and white, and did a few minor adjustments to finish the image.

Now onto one of my favorite images from the whole session.  Sabine Wren as done by the_engineers_cosplay.  The reason I like this image is because of how the light and shadow really help add to the story and feel of the image. I asked her to kneel in a shooting stance and adjusted her position so the sun coming through the pallets to my right would hit her face just right. I did have a flash set to my left, that I used to fill the scene, so it wouldn’t be too dark.  In post I did basic adjustments, and then used dodge and burn to bring out the highlights and shadows on the face. I also brightened her eyes just slightly, because they were in shadow.  I finished the image off with a vignette.

This was a very good meet up.  I enjoyed the location and it lent itself to a variety of images and themes. Though it is a very large property so it is easy not use it to its full creative extent. You can see all the images from the meet up here: Workhouse Arts Center Shoot.


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