On April 2nd I did a cosplay session with the lovely Washu Cosplay at Meadowlark Gardens.  The garden was a perfect location to shoot her Kokomi fromGenshin Impact because it has cherry blossom trees, a lovely Korean bell garden, and a few koi ponds.  Sadly, the day before our session a big windstorm came through and blew several petals off the cherry trees, so they looked a little bare up close. Also, because it was still early spring the garden wasn’t in full bloom yet but we made it work.

For this shoot I kept my equipment to a minimum and brought my husband to assist with lighting, since it was unclear if light stands were allowed.  I had my Cannon 80D, 18-200mm lens, trigger, speedlight, a painter’s pole, hand warmers, and a trash bag. I also had a roll of gels and a small soft box with me that I did not use.

For this session I used ISO 100, because it was a bright sunny day. My aperture ranged from F4 to F9, with the most prevalent F-stop being F8.  My shutter speed varied a lot from 1/60s to 1/1000s with the most prevalent shutter speed being 1/200s. My shutter speed varied due to my direction in relation to the sun and moving in and out of shaded spots. My focal length varied from 18mm to 150mm with the most prevalent focal length was 28mm.  I’m getting a little better at not staying at 18mm and zooming to get the shot.  Now onto some of my favorite images from the session.

I want to start with the image we did in front of the large bell pagoda. I liked this location because the pagoda and stairs worked perfectly with the cosplay. The stairs provide nice leading lines while the pagoda frames the cosplayer perfectly.  In this location we were shooting in basically direct sunlight but I still had a flash up high and to my right pointed at the model’s face, to reduce any shadows.  In post, I did the basic white and exposure balancing.  I then had to do some photoshop work to remove the distracting white chain that was hanging between the pagoda columns to stop people from touching the bell. I also straightened the image and got rid of any lens distortion.  I then finished with a light vignette.

ISO 100, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/250, Focal Length 24mm

This second image captures the cosplayer under a canopy of cherry blossoms, I just wish they were a little lower and fluffier.  To get this image the flash was placed inline with the cosplayer and aimed at her face. This position of the flash goes contrary to the direction of the sun, but works because I placed the cosplayer in a bright spot, based on the shadow pattern on the ground.  In post I balanced the image and then added a radial filter to the cosplayer’s face just to brighten it up a touch.  Now because we where in a public park, there were people on the path in the background which I removed in post so it would look like she was alone under the trees.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/200, Focal Length 50mm

This final image is one of my favorites from the session. What I like is the softness of the image and how she is reaching down to the water.  Normally there would be some koi in that pond, but it was still a little too cold for the koi to be in that shallow pond.  Thus, I added some koi in post, since the character can create water drops in the shape of koi and give her something to be reaching towards in the photo.  In this image the sun is behind the model with the flash directly opposite to ensure her face in properly lit. I was on the other side of the pond perpendicular to the model.  In post I balanced the image and ensure there was enough light on the model’s face. Then I pulled the image into Photoshop to add the koi. To add the koi, I found an open-source image of a koi at an angle and position that would work with the base photo. I then pasted the koi into the image and blended it in by varying the opacity and changing the blend modes.  I then flattened all the layers to finalize the image.  Usually, I do not add things to photos because I’m not very good at it; however, in this case I gave it a try and it turned out reasonable.

ISO 100, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/100, Focal Length 90mm

Overall, this session went well, and shooting at Meadowlark was easy.  I was originally worried things would spread out too much and we would spend a lot of time walking between locations, but everything was a lot closer than expected.  Shooting at the garden does require a permit, but the process to get a permit is easy and gives you two hours to shoot in the garden.  You can see all the images from this session here: Kokomi.


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