Wagner House Weekend (Part 1)

This past September, our friend Vanessa organized an 18th century costumed weekend at Wagner House, which is located at Lakewold Gardens, near Tacoma, Washington. She invited Mike and I to do photo shoots at the event, and we happily obliged, since it sounded like a beautiful venue and we love photographing historical costumers.

I have to admit that there were times when I thought I may have committed us to too large a challenge. Traveling across the country to do shoots in a venue we had never been to was very nerve wracking. Mike and I hold ourselves to a high standard (sometimes too high a standard, as evidenced by my at times OCD editing style), and we did not want to disappoint anyone who wanted to work with us. We also did not want to turn folks away, which meant we booked eleven shoots over the two days, three on Friday and eight on Saturday. That was definitely too much, even after two people canceled last minute. We probably should have limited ourselves to three on the first day and five on the second day.

When we arrived on Friday, I was super nervous, so much so that I was shaking a little. My first round of test shots had so much camera shake, that I was worried I would not be able to do the shoots. However, once we started our first shoot, I calmed down a lot and was able to get through it. Photography is funny, in that there are tons of different ways to take a good photo, but that also means there are tons of different ways to mess up a photo. The fear of making a mistake often gets me, particularly early in a shoot. I am still working on my confidence.

In the end, after I calmed down, I was pretty pleased with the work we did. We did indeed make a few mistakes, but nothing so large as to impact our ability to deliver strong photos to everyone who worked with us. (For Mike’s part, he had too low a shutter speed on some of the flash photos we did outdoors, which created an unintentional drag-the-shutter effect. He also needed to switch out the flash batteries more often. For my part, I had too tight a depth of field on a few shots, particularly two-person shots, and there were some times that I needed to position the subjects differently.) A few of the resulting photos are some of the best Mike or I have taken to date.

We used two setups for each shoot. The first was an indoor makeshift studio, using a neutral grey wall that we found inside Wagner House. We either used an umbrella (if we wanted the background to show) or a softbox (if we did not want it to show). Mike took all of these photos that we did here.
Wagner House BTS

Nearly all of the rest of the photos we took outside. I worked with natural light only, while Mike mostly used a flash in a softbox (which I held for him using a handle grip).

On to the photos!

Our first shoot was with Cynthia on Friday. Mike took this one in our “studio” using an umbrella.
Wagner House

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2019 Year in Review

2019 Projects

Happy 2020! It is time to take stock of the previous year. I focused more on cosplay than historical costuming in 2019, starting with a longtime wishlist project: Red Hood. I tackled most of that costume in January when I was out of work for a few weeks. It involved a bunch of new skills, including foam armor and sewing with leather, which was a fun challenge. I also finished some costumes of my favorite characters: Animated Series Catwoman, Cassandra Cain, and Spoiler. I feel way more comfortable sewing with knits than I did a few years ago.

2019 was also a big year for photography. I have gotten way more efficient at editing, meaning I can produce photos quicker after shoots. I still need to learn to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies there, but that has improved. I did not shoot at a ton of events this past year, usually assisting Mike instead. That put me out of practice and made me more nervous at times when I was shooting. I am not particularly happy with the photos I took at Costume Con 37, but they are fine for hall shots. I did better at the events I photographed in the second half of the year. My confidence posing in front of the camera has improved a lot, which feels great.

2019 goals
-Jason Todd Red Hood costume-Yup! This has been on my list since 2017.
-Cassandra Cain costume-Yup!
-Batman: The Animated Series Catwoman-Yup!
-Grey silk 1790s waistcoat for Mike-Yup! This has been on my list since 2015.
-Something 1880s-Nope, on hold because 2020 is going to be a regency year.
-Something regency or 18th century-Yup, I made a regency half robe.
-Be confident, on both sides of the camera-I have improved, particularly when posing as a model, but it is always a work in progress.

I only totally missed on one project (something 1880s). It feels great to cross some things off that have been on my list for a long time. That grey silk waistcoat for Mike had been hanging around for years.

In 2020 Mike and I are planning on attending the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, UK, which means we need a few more regency pieces. I can theoretically go with what I already have in the closet, but I would like to make one or two new things if possible. Mike definitely needs at least one more coat, since he only has two and one is getting pretty shabby at ten years old.

After doing better with my confidence on shooting photos in the second half of the year, I want to keep building on that. We got a new full frame camera (Nikon D850), and I want to really learn how to use it well.

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Portrait Gallery Shoot 2019

In September Mike and I attended a D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meetup at the National Portrait Gallery in downtown Washington, DC. We both went as photographers, because we drove there directly from my parent’s house after attending a cousin’s wedding. Since I do not shoot as much as Mike, I thought this would be a good opportunity to brush up on my skills before an upcoming event we had soon. This was also my first time shooting with an off-camera flash on-location, which was a good learning experience.

The first person we worked with was Ginny of Impressionistic Cosplay, in her beautiful Dowager Countess Fairy Godmother costume. We did these shots in our favorite room of the museum, the Luce Foundation Center. Mike took these first two.
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

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Catwoman Halloween Photo Shoot

Jay’s Fine Art Photography contacted me asking if I wanted to try an interesting concept shoot. The idea was glowing clouds, which he made by covering paper lanterns in poly stuffing and placing a gelled flash inside. I wore my casual Catwoman costume, which when combined with the reddish-orange flash, gave the whole shoot a Halloween vibe.

I really like the resulting photos! Thanks for inviting me, Jason!


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SVCC 2019

My sister lives in the Bay Area, so when we went on a family visit in August, we had the opportunity to check out Silicon Valley Comic Con. Neither Mike nor I had been to a pop culture con on the west coast (I have only been to Costume College and Mike has not even been to that), so we were eager to see a different scene from what we were used to.

I opted not to do a costume, since we were only going for one day to the con and the main purpose of the trip was to spend time with my family. But several friends I knew from Costume College were attending, so we set up photo shoots with them.

We got to the convention center about an hour before the doors opened, so we could see if there were places outside we would want to shoot. Then we got into line. The line was not all that long (I think we got in within 15 minutes of the doors opening), and it was nice to be able to wait outside in a line without either melting from the heat or freezing my extremities. That was a change from my normal cons, which are either in Boston in the winter (PAX East) or DC in the summer (Awesome Con).

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Kennedy Center Shoot (Part 2)

I had the pleasure of working with a number of excellent photographers at the July D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meetup. I wore my Golden Age Catwoman costume, which fit well with the vintage vibe that the Kennedy Center has.

As I mentioned in my last post, Mike had some ISO setting issues with his photos, but it resulted in some interesting lighting effects. He captured more ambient light than he originally intended, which created a neat blending with the flash.
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

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Kennedy Center Shoot (Part 1)

In July we went to a D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meetup at the Kennedy Center. There are so many different cool spaces to take photographs in and around the building. It was pretty hot that day (above 90 degrees F), but thankfully there were plenty of places inside that we could go. The theme was Heroes and Villains.

This was the first on-location shoot that Mike did using our new camera, a Nikon D850. It’s an awesome camera, but being the first time, Mike had some technical difficulties because he was not used to the interface yet. He accidentally allowed the ISO to float up to 6400, which made it super challenging to get the exposure he wanted. However, he made it work, and I was able to do enough noise reduction in the editing to get decent images. We definitely will not forget how to check to the ISO settings again! Honestly, I found it oddly comforting that we could get good photos even when making that dramatic a mistake.

This post features photos of the people who worked with Mike, which I edited. I will share photos taken of me in the next post.

First, here is our whole group that day. Including photographers!
Kennedy Center

Evelyn of Mays Create brought out a new Hela cosplay. Her huge helmet was so cool!
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

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The New Kit-Cat Portraits, Series 4

Mike and I are extremely excited to unveil the fourth and final series in The New Kit-Cat Portraits! (As a reminder, the first series can be found here, the second series can be found here, and the third series can be found here.) It has been such an honor to photograph so many wonderful members of the Washington, DC-area historical costuming community. We were able to do 26 total portraits, which is way more than I would have thought possible when we started.
Kit-Cat Grids

In this installment, we made an extra effort to work with some folks who live farther away but often travel to DC for costuming events. Two people came down from Baltimore, two from PA, and one came up from NC. Plus I photographed Mike to round out the set. We would have loved to include even more people, but running these shoots is a time commitment we could not keep doing indefinitely, so we decided to finish things in November 2019, just about a year after we started the project.

Our studio setup was the same as in the last series. By then we had an established routine that worked smoothly, so there was no need to change anything.
Behind the Scenes

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Garden Courtesans Photo Shoot

In June I was invited to be a model for a fun shoot with SierraRoses SFX Makeup and Alicyn Drew Photography. The theme was famous historical courtesans. Sierra did our makeup based on historical looks. We shot in Ali’s backyard, which stood in nicely for a fancy garden.

Lena Volkova was Cleopatra, Crazy Jae Cosplay was Liane de Pougy, and I was Madame de Pompadour.

I wore my green francaise gown, but added a new wig and jewelry that I made for the occasion. My hair is 1770s, which is a bit too late for Madame de Pompadour, but I thought big hair would work well for dramatic photos. I love the makeup Sierra did.
Photo by Alicyn Drew

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Tudor Place Photo Shoot 2019

In June, we had the pleasure of participating in a photo shoot at Tudor Place, organized by the NOVA Costumers Guild. Tudor Place is an early 19th century house and gardens located in Washington, DC. I was excited to see a historic site that I had never been to before.

I wore my navy silk zone front 1780s gown, since it is surprisingly sturdy for walking around outside. I also thought the blue and white would work well in a garden setting with lots of greenery.

Tudor Place

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