In September, Mike and I were able to participate in another awesome D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meetup. This one was at Rust Manor House in Leesburg, Virginia, and the theme was either historical or fantasy. Rust Manor is an early 20th century house located in the middle of Rust Sanctuary. It has a variety of beautiful rooms indoors, plus a pretty garden surrounding it.
Mike attended as a photographer, while I went as a cosplayer. The weather was a bit hot and very humid that day, so both Mike and I tried to cycle between being inside in the air conditioning and outside. (As a happy side effect, this led to a nice variety of pictures in different settings, both for Mike photographing other cosplayers and for me working with other photographers.) The venue was kind enough to provide chilled bottled water for us, which was much appreciated!
This post is about the photos that Mike took of others (and that I edited). I’ll follow up with another post on photos of me.
Mike started by working with Amelia of Rey Dot Ham Cosplay in her Shae costume from Game of Thrones. There was this area behind the manor house with a stone wall that had a nice woodsy ruins look.
In September, we celebrated Stephanie’s birthday with a tea at Green Spring Gardens. The park has a house dating to 1784 that is an event and exhibit space today. At Stephanie’s request, everyone wore late 18th century chemise gowns or variations of chemise gowns. We had a lot of beautiful floof!
Carolyn, Sabrina, and Kat seated at the tea
In my last post, I described the photo shoot that Mike and I hosted at the National Portrait Gallery back in August. In this post, I am sharing the photos of me that resulted. I wore my 1740s Belle costume, because I had relatively few photos of it.
I very much enjoyed working with all three photographers that participated. In addition to Mike, we had Dan of Dan Arango Photography and Justin of Rich and Strange Photography. They all produced beautiful images.
I started working with Mike to help him warm up before the others arrived for the shoot proper. Because the museum had just opened, the Luce Foundation Center was almost empty, allowing us to get some nice shots with nearly the whole room to work with.
Now that I have finally finished my Costume College posts, I can move on to recapping events from the rest of the year. In August, Mike and I hosted a historical costumer photo shoot at the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum building in downtown Washington, D.C. Our goal was to introduce some of our historical costuming friends to the concept of an on-location cosplay photo shoot, along the lines of the format used by the D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots group. Although making a costume is rewarding in and of itself, it’s also a great feeling to capture all that work in a beautiful photograph. But for that to happen, you need to partner with a great photographer and find an appropriate setting.
I wanted to have at least a couple photographers participating in addition to Mike. Mike can only really handle about 5 models in a shoot without exhausting himself. Happily, two of our photographer friends, Justin of Rich and Strange Photography and Dan of Dan Arango Photography agreed to come. I love both Justin’s and Dan’s work, and I knew they would appreciate the different looks and details that historical costumers would bring to a shoot, relative to the cosplay they normally are photographing. I also thought that together with Mike they would expose all the costumers to different styles of photos and styles of shooting.
The National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum (the two museums share the same location) is a great place for a historical shoot, since it is a beautiful building dating to the mid-19th century. In order to ensure that it would be okay for us to shoot there, Mike contacted the museum beforehand and received permission. The museum is welcoming of photography so long as folks do not disturb the other guests.
Here is our whole group. From left to right we have me in my 1740s Belle costume, Stephani in regency, Glynnis in an 1870s ballgown, Carolyn in a late 1870s day dress, Nastassia in an 1880s walking dress, Tarisa in an 1890s evening gown, Taylor in a court gown, and Maggie in her Titanic Jump Dress. We had a lovely variety of eras and types of costumes represented!
I’ve completed my review of the photo shoots I did at Costume College, but those aren’t the only pictures I took. As usual, I was also roaming around taking informal photos of costumers that I met throughout the weekend. Here are some highlights.
Carolyn as The Paper Bag Princess
Terri as one of Cinderella’s helper mice
On Sunday, the final day of Costume College, I had a packed schedule of shoots. Since I didn’t have any limited classes, I opted to spend most of my day on photography. I ended up doing two group shoots, three pre-booked shoots with Taylor, Vivien, and Gwendolyn, respectively, plus extra shoots with Stephanie and Kenna. By now I had totally adjusted to the hotel as a shooting location.
First up was the My Little Pony group shoot with Vanessa and Sara. Both this year and last year the three of us have done characters from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on Sunday. After a weekend of historical costuming, it’s a nice way to mix things up.
Since it was still on the early side, the sun angle was such that we could get a group photo in the Little Poolside Park. (As a reminder, I described my usual photo locations in this post.) Although, we did have to get close to the living wall so that we could all be in the shade.
Here I am lining up the group shot. You can see how the sun limited the area we had to work with. (This photo is courtesy of Stephanie.)
The resulting photo. I had my camera on a timer, so I could line things up and then get in the shot myself.
On Saturday I had booked one group meetup shoot, two shoots with Vanessa, and one shoot with Meg. By this point I feel like I hit my stride for the weekend, kicking my photos up a notch from what I produced Friday.
The day started early at 8:30 AM with our Maid Brigade Meetup (we decided to do it before classes started, since at least one of us had a class during every possible window for the rest of the day). Because at that time it was shady enough to do a group shoot in the Little Poolside Park, and because it was early enough not to be super warm outside, that’s where we went. (For a description of the photo locations I used throughout the weekend, see my previous post.)
From left to right we have Vivien, Christine, AJ, Ashley, Adrienne, and me. Most of us used Butterick B6229 for our pattern.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I decided to do a bunch of photo shoots at Costume College this year. I thought it was time to challenge myself to see what I could produce in a convention setting on my own. I don’t typically shoot that many photos without Mike around to give advice. Frankly, I’m usually handling more of the editing side of photography, processing shots that Mike has taken. But in order to improve my photography skills, even just my editing, I knew I needed to get more practice shooting. Mike wasn’t coming with me to Costume College, so this was my chance.
On Friday I had a scheduled shoot with Rebecca. I also ended up taking photos of two groups because I happened to be free during their meetups, plus I did photos of me and Stephanie. Looking back at these, I’m happy with the results. However, comparing them to what I did later, I think I got better as the weekend went on.
Throughout the weekend, I used several locations at the hotel repeatedly, because they provided good backgrounds and light. (Though the quality of the light definitely depends on the time of day. I looked up what the sun angle would be using this website, which told me that the sun would rise on the lobby side of the hotel, and then set over the pool.) Here I’ll briefly describe my preferred spots and give each a nickname, because I’ll be referring to them over and over again:
- The Little Poolside Park: a small grassy area behind the pool with a living wall on one side and a hedge on another. This is probably the best all-around location in terms of background, so I used it the most. It looks like a garden, without that much modern stuff to distract the eye, although there is an electrical box in the corner, some streetlamps visible above the hedge, and some metal fencing visible below the hedge. I can often frame most of that out, and I have come up with some tricks for removing what remains in the shot. The biggest challenge here is the lighting. Up until about noon you get enough shade along the living wall to work there, then in the afternoon you have to move away from that wall and deal with more dappled light coming through the trees. The sunlight is pretty harsh from about 2 to 4 PM. In the early evening the shade starts returning, but you still have to be careful about dappled light. Also, the amount of greenery in the location can reflect green onto light colored fabrics and lighter complexions. In terms of logistics, it’s out of the way, so you’re less likely to be disturbed during a shoot. But you have to walk alongside the pool to get there, which can be slippery.
- The Traffic Circle: the front traffic circle where cars pull up to the hotel has some nice landscaping to one side. It’s in the shade for a lot of the afternoon and early evening, so when the Little Poolside Park is too harshly lit, I usually switch to here. The sidewalk is a bit modern looking, though, which can affect full lengths.
- The Katsucon Wall: a white wall with a wavey texture that is along the outside of the lobby snack shop. Kenna and I dubbed it the Katsucon wall because it is reminiscent of the decor of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, where Katsucon takes place. This wall faces the windows at the front door of the hotel, so it has good light during the daytime. At night, it unfortunately has little light at all. I found that this was good for afternoon shoots. It is where folks line up to go to the Sunday tea, however, so you cannot use the space then.
- The Grey Hallway: a hallway off of the lobby, where the Bargain Basement is located. One side has windows with sheer curtains that get direct sunlight in the morning. The other side is a wall with grey, slightly textured wallpaper. This is good for morning shoots, but you have to watch how close the model stands to the wall, as shadows can be visible behind them. Logistically, crossing traffic can be an issue.
- The Restaurant Booth: there is a big round booth in the hotel restaurant, whose back faces some windows by the pool deck. The back of the booth can be used for a background if the model is seated in front of it. There is a television screen and some lights above that would appear in wide shots, so tighter shots are the way to go here. Often this corner is occupied by people sitting in the armchairs along the window, so it’s not always free. I did an in-depth breakdown of one photo I took here in this post.
As a warm-up, I started Friday morning with photos of me and Stephanie. I wanted to try working indoors first, as practice for my later shoots that would be taking place when the outdoor temperature would be warmer. Since it was morning and I knew light would be coming through the windows on that side of the hotel, we started in the Grey Hallway.
Below is the best shot that resulted. I set the camera on my typical portrait settings and had Stephanie take the photo. (Thank you Stephanie!) Unfortunately, I did not position myself quite right relative to the wall, which resulted in a hard shadow behind me. I was able to edit it out, but that was a lot of extra labor. When I get a chance, I’ll try to put up another post explaining how I did this editing. (Also, the same style of necklace as what I’m wearing here is available in my Etsy shop.)
Yesterday I finally uploaded the random photos on my phone from Costume College…which means it’s time for recap posts! I’ll start here with a post about the convention itself, and then follow up later with more on the photo shoots I did and on hall photos.
Costume College takes place every year in the Los Angeles suburbs during the last week of July. My trip started with an early morning at BWI airport on Wednesday. For the flight to LAX, I wore a Star Wars skirt and came prepared with tea.
It had been raining all week in the DC area, so I was looking forward to a bit of California sun to replace these grey skies.
I went to Costume College again back in July of this year. But this time, I decided to try something new and book photo shoots throughout the weekend. I had never done much formal convention shooting before without Mike there. I usually stick to hall shots. However, I was feeling more confident with our newer camera (we got a Nikon D7500 last fall), so I decided to give it a go. I ended up scheduling seven 20-30 minute sessions throughout the weekend, in addition to shooting meetups and doing a bunch of extra impromptu shoots. It was a learning process throughout, but I’m quite happy with the photos I produced.
One of the biggest challenges of the weekend was finding good locations. Costume College takes place at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, California. The hotel is a pretty nice place for a convention, but it’s not really laid out inside for photos. This isn’t a problem if you shoot outside, but, as luck would have it, it was extremely hot the weekend of Costume College. It was about 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit each day. So although I did do some photos outside, I also wanted to have indoor locations so we could stay out of the heat for at least part of each session. The Marriott lobby was not exactly easy to work with in this regard. However, I found a few solutions.
Perhaps my favorite indoor shot is this one. I was working with Vivien of Fresh Frippery, who made an amazing Star Wars First Order/vintage mashup costume. This is the final shot.