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

Mike used the softbox for this one. It is amazing how much of a change one modifier can make. This photo was taken in the exact same location as the one above.
Wagner House

I took these next two outside. We had some pretty dappled sunlight that I used for the background. I put Cynthia in the shade in the foreground, and the sunlit garden behind.
Wagner House

Wagner House

Right after Cynthia, we worked with Lisa.
Wagner House

Lisa thought to bring props, which we loved! Here she is holding a piece of 18th century embroidery from her collection.
Wagner House

I took these next two photos, in a similar setup to what I used for Cynthia.
Wagner House

Wagner House

Our next shoot was with Aimee on Saturday morning. These first two were shot by Mike, again in our makeshift studio.
Wagner House

Wagner House

When we went outside it was lightly misting, but thankfully the weather began to clear up shortly thereafter. The resulting photos have a different look from the bright sunlight dapples we got the day before. I took this next picture. It is one of my favorites that I did all weekend.
Wagner House

Mike took this shot, lit by a flash in our softbox. The extra light from the flash worked well on this path, which was otherwise shady. We did a bunch of photos in this location.
Wagner House

Our hostess Vanessa was our next photo shoot. She wore a colorful printed gown which worked particularly well in the garden. I took this first picture.
Wagner House

Mike took these next three.
Wagner House

Wagner House

Here you can see that the sun was just starting to come out.
Wagner House

Next up was Agnes and Mara, who booked two shoots back-to-back so that we could photograph them together.
Wagner House

Wagner House

Wagner House

I took these next two.
Wagner House

Wagner House

Mike took these final two.
Wagner House

Wagner House

Then we worked with Christal.
Wagner House

Wagner House

I took this one.
Wagner House

And Mike took this one.
Wagner House

Our next shoot was with Vivien, who we had also had the pleasure of working with at SVCC.
Wagner House

Wagner House

I took this next shot. I am quite happy with the depth of light and texture that I got in the background, along with the framing and posing of Vivien.
Wagner House

This one was shot by Mike.
Wagner House

Our final shoot was with Vanessa again, this time in her evening look and with her husband Caleb. The venue folks had needed to start setting up for dinner in the area that we had been using as a studio, so instead we took photos in the front hall of Wagner House, which has some interesting Asian-influenced wallpaper.

This is one of Mike’s favorite photos he has ever taken. I really love it too.
Wagner House

Wagner House

Mike took these next three outside (I did not take as many during this shoot, because the sun was starting to set, and I was not using any artificial lighting.)
Wagner House

Wagner House

Wagner House

We also squeezed in a group photo between shoots. It was challenging to do, because we did not have a proper wide-angle lens for our full frame camera. The final shot had more distortion than I would have liked on the edges, and we had trouble fitting everyone in. But it worked.
Wagner House

Overall, even though the experience was stressful at times, I am quite happy with our two days of photography. I have definitely learned a lot that I will be able to apply to future events, and I love several of the photos we took.
Wagner House

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