Francaise Dinner 2018

In March, Mike and I attended the Francaise Dinner, which was hosted by Jess this year. It took place at our old favorite, Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia.

I made a new dress for myself, using the same pattern from my maroon round gown. I had bought this amazing striped silk taffeta from Samantha that was just begging to be made into something 1780s. For accessories, I wore a Queen Anne necklace that I made, along with matching earrings. (The same style of necklace is available in my Etsy shop, here, and I am happy to make matching earrings by request.) I finished everything off with my American Duchess Dunmore shoes.
Francaise Dinner

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Anatomy of a Photo

I’m home today from work with a cold, sigh. But because, as usual, I can’t sit still even when I’m sick, I thought I’d use this time to catch up on blogging (in between naps).

This past weekend, Maggie and I hosted an 18th century “picnic.” I put picnic in quotes because it was raining, so we had to move to an indoor location, the function room of our friend Janine’s apartment building. (Thank you, Janine, for offering such a great space!)

The room was nice and big, offering a perfect place for the party, but a somewhat challenging setup for photos. There were not that many areas that had “non-busy” backgrounds. However, Mike found a nice solution that I wanted to share.

Recently, I’ve gotten some questions from other historical costumers as to how portrait-style photographs can be captured, even in a situation where there are lots of other people around, and when the setting isn’t period-appropriate. The first point I’ll make is that you don’t actually need that much space to get a nice photo. An area that doesn’t have anything distracting in the background and is only a few feet wide can be enough for a waist-up shot. Secondly, light that is good in terms of amount, direction, and color is often more important than the background. Diffuse, neutral-colored light that can be focused on the subject rather than the surroundings will draw the eye to the person and make the background less noticeable. (This is particularly true if you can shoot with a wider aperture, and thus blur the background a bit with a shallow depth of field.) Look for natural rather than artificial light, as most lamps and light fixtures produce beams that are too concentrated or have a noticeable yellow tint.

Let me break this down with an example. Below is the final edit of a photo that Mike took last weekend. It looks like it may have been taken in a studio.
18th C Party

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Grit Photo Shoot (Part 2)

I was excited to get the opportunity to work with a number of different photographers at the March D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meet up. I debuted a new cosplay, “Knightmare” Catwoman, based on the “Rules of Engagement” arc in the Batman comics, written by Tom King, with art by Joelle Jones. The design is similar to that seen in the Batman nightmare sequence in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but interpreted for Catwoman. (Given that the movie was only so-so, I was excited that Tom King decided to bring that costume design into the comics universe, both for Batman and Catwoman. It takes an interesting costume and puts it in a better story.) It was the perfect cosplay for a shoot at the Graffiti Warehouse, and it used a lot of things I already had in the closet. (Yes, I have now gotten to the point where I have done so many Catwoman cosplays that I can throw a new one together using a lot of things I already have!)

On to the photos. I’ll start with the ones that Mike took of me (and I edited), followed by ones taken by other photographers.

Mike and I started by working in the ground floor room of the warehouse, which has lots of cool graffiti, but is also pretty dark. We had to be creative to get decent lighting. Mike had me get up on a metal countertop facing the center of the room. He said he wanted to try a “draw me like one of your French girls” pose. I was skeptical it would work. Hence this face.
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

But I have to say, it did work!
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

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Grit Photo Shoot (Part 1)

In March, Mike and I were able to attend another D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meet up. The location was the Graffiti Warehouse in Baltimore, which is a really cool artist space with lots of graffiti murals both inside and outside. The theme was “Grit,” meaning rough-and-tumble or post-apocalyptic characters. However, due to a busy local cosplay schedule (Katsucon was just a couple weeks beforehand), cosplayer signups were on the short side, so the theme ended up being expanded to anything that would fit with the location.

I invited Maggie along because I thought she would enjoy participating in a D.C. Cosplay shoot. She wore her beautiful Violet Baudelaire costume (from A Series of Unfortunate Events).

This post is about the photos that Mike took of other cosplayers (and I edited). I’ll follow up with a post on photos of me later.

This was my first time editing in Lightroom, as Mike and I finally decided to upgrade from Adobe Bridge CS5. It took a little getting used to, but a lot of the basic layout and tools are similar. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to play around with some Scott Kelby presets, which I had wanted to do for a while.

On to the photos!

The first cosplayer that Mike worked with was Lily of Cool Beans Cosplay, as fem Spider-Man. I love her costume, especially with all the colors and textures.
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

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Regality Through the Ages Photo Shoot (Part 2)

I had the pleasure of working with a number of photographers at the January D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meetup. Several of them were folks I had never met before, and it was great to get to know some new-to-me local photogs. (Mike and I hadn’t been able to make a shoot for about a year, due to a variety of scheduling issues. But we’ve been to two shoots so far in 2018, which is a pattern I hope to keep up with!)

The Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery was a lovely location for a shoot, but, because it was January, we had the challenge of harsh winter sun outside. I was interested to see what each photographer was able to do with it. The solution that Mike and I came up with was to shoot with the sun almost behind me, coming across my left shoulder. This gave a pretty halo effect, but I had to be careful about which way I turned my head and body to avoid dappling. I like the results!

I wore an older costume, which was actually only my second 18th century ensemble. I made the jacket back in 2012 for the first Francaise Dinner, and I had not worn it for several years. The jacket is hand sewn from ice blue silk taffeta purchased from Renaissance Fabrics. I only needed two yards. (My blog posts on the construction are here.) I accessorized with a cap from Fashions Revisited, a walking stick from Colonial Williamsburg, a velveteen muff, and jewelry that I made (similar pieces are available in my Etsy shop). My shoes are by American Duchess.

I’ll start with the photos that Mike took and I edited. Again, we were working with some harsh directional light, but I think we made the best of it.
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

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Regality Through the Ages Photo Shoot (Part 1)

We have this awesome group here, called D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots. They organize one to two meetups each month where photographers and cosplayers get together to shoot photos. Each time there is a theme that fits with the chosen location. The photographers maintain the commercial rights to the photos, but they must provide two images free-of-charge for each cosplayer that can be shared online. It’s a really neat format, and has given me and Mike the opportunity to meet a lot of great local cosplayers and photographers.

The January theme was “Regality Through the Ages,” meaning historical or couture/detail-driven cosplays. We met at a nearby vineyard, Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery, which had a variety of great backdrops, both inside and outside.

This post deals with the photos Mike took of other cosplayers (and I edited). I’ll follow up with photos that were taken of me.

NatArchaic Cosplay as Fleur Delacour from Harry Potter. She really knows how to work great poses!
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

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Our Costumes at MAGFest 2018

As a four-day convention, MAGFest is a bit of a cosplay marathon. I did a different costume each day, plus Mike cosplayed on Saturday. That’s a lot of things to clean, iron, and prepare. (I don’t know how some people do two outfits a day!) On Thursday I wore Queenie Goldstein, Friday I wore Mulan, Saturday I wore DC Bombshells Batwoman, and Sunday I wore Princess Luna. Mike wore Garfield the Deals Warlock on Saturday. Nothing new for either of us, as I was very busy at work and did not have time to make another costume.

The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center provides a lot of interesting places to take photographs. There are areas with bright white marble (the “Katsucon Gazebo”), other areas with trees and flowers, and lots of textured walls (stone, carpet, swirls, etc.). Mike and I took a ton of pictures. Also, due in part to the location, a number of other cosplay photographers were there, which meant I could work with several throughout the weekend. As both a cosplayer and a photographer, I appreciated the opportunity to see how others approach convention photography. It makes shoots a fun learning experience.

On to the photos!

MAGFest 2018

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MAGFest 2018

Somehow, convention season starts in January in the Washington, DC area, instead of spring or summer. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but it means that I usually have a packed spring and a slower late summer. Since it’s always very hot and humid in August, I think I’m okay with this. But the flip side is that I have been super busy and, predictably, have fallen behind on blogging. So let’s rewind to the first con of the year, MAGFest, which took place at the beginning of January.

This post reports on the con itself, while subsequent posts will deal with hall cosplay photos and our costumes.

MAGFest runs from Thursday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, 24 hours a day. Since I’m not a twenty-something any more, I don’t usually have the energy for the nighttime parties. (Although, let’s face it, I really didn’t have the energy for that stuff past sophomore year of college.) Thus, Mike and I drove in for the daytime programming instead of staying at the con hotel, and then left for home in the mid-evening. This year our friend Michelle came with us for Thursday and Friday, while our friends Beth and Darrin came on Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday.

We got to the convention center a bit earlier than necessary on Thursday, in the late morning. I forgot that if you arrive before 2 PM, very little is open. We were able to play some board games in the table top area, though. Once everything else opened in the middle of the afternoon, we wandered around the expo hall and arcade. And took cosplay photos, of course.

After walking for quite a while, we decided to chill in the computer museum area. This has a bunch of older machines playing games from the 1970s to early 2000s.

Jody was trouble, but Michelle beat her!

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Not a Bad Friday

Yup, I’m a terrible blogger. But I’m also in the middle of a busy con turnaround: Awesome Con this weekend, PAX East next weekend. So here’s a drive-by post. I’ll try and catch up on event recaps once I’m back from PAX.

Yesterday started out pretty boring: finishing my taxes. Then I had to sew the last six inches or so of the second glove for my Bombshells Catwoman costume, which I was going to wear to Awesome Con that afternoon. I always try to finish my costumes with at least a day to spare before an event, in case something goes wrong. (It’s why I have no shame about re-wearing things; I just can’t handle that last minute stress in my life.) But this week I had to stay late at work every day, so there was only so much I could get done. Thankfully, I have sewn a lot of gloves before, meaning I knew how much time it should take. Therefore, even though I was sewing until half an hour before I had to get dressed, it wasn’t frenzied. I was pretty sure I had just the right amount of time, and that turned out to be true.

Then I got dressed and we drove to Awesome Con. I got to the convention center at 1 PM, while Mike went to park the car. I knew Tom King, the current writer on the Batman comic, was signing until 2 PM, so I immediately went to the expo hall to see if I could get in line. When I first got to the signing area, I saw a huuuuuuuge line that snaked around two aisles. When I asked a person standing there whether it was the line for Tom King, they said they weren’t sure, but that they thought it was. (I think they were in line for Scott Snyder, and didn’t care whether it was also the line for someone else.) That line was capped, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal for me to investigate more to see if there was another line. I’m glad I did, because I then found a line that was only about a quarter as long that turned out to be the line for Tom King. I only had to wait maybe 20 minutes to get to the front of that line. As is somewhat common at comics signings (though becoming less and less so), I was one of the few women in the line, and the only woman that was there alone.

Once I got near the front of the line, I could hear Tom King talking to the convention goers. He was asking each person what they did for a living. The person right in front of me was an Orioles beat writer for the Baltimore Sun, and he shared a behind-the-scenes war story about that. I figured I’d seem pretty lame compared to him, but King was very nice and talked to me about my job for a couple minutes. Then, as an unexpected bonus, not only did he sign my books, but the artist, Clay Mann, was also there and signed them too. Overall, it was a very pleasant interaction. It stinks when you meet a creator whose work you like, but they turn out to be a jerk. This was not the case here!

After that, Mike and I went to take a few photos of my costume. I will have full edits later, but here’s a back-of-camera teaser. I am so happy with how this cosplay came out!
Awesome Con

Then we went to a panel given by Paul Levitz, who is not only an accomplished comics writer (he created Huntress in the Batman universe, for example), but also was the head publisher (like the COO) of DC Comics until around 2009. He had a lot of thoughtful things to say about the comic book industry and how it has evolved over his 40-plus year career. (And he started in the industry when he was only in his teens! He’s just in his early 60s now.) It was particularly interesting to hear him talk about the transition from newsstand sales to the comic book shop and bookstore trade paperback markets. And he was very good at answering questions. One person had a paragraph-long question with many parts, and Levitz tried to carefully answer every part. When he got to saying “as for the fourth part of your question,” I was impressed. I would not have even remembered there was a fourth part! Again, it was great to see a creator whose work I like who also seemed to be a nice person.

Then I did several photo shoots. First with Justin of Rich and Strange Photography, who was trying out his new Fuji mirrorless camera. I can already tell that he got some beautiful, dramatic shots. Then we met up with Jamey, who was debuting her Bombshells Black Canary. We shot with Mike for a bit upstairs, and then went downstairs to meet Dan for more photos near the expo hall. Dan was also nice enough to let Mike experiment with his external flash and softbox. I’m excited to see the photos that we got!

We ended the day by watching the costume contest (where Amelia and Lena had an awesome choreographed fight sequence that took second place) and doing a little browsing of the vendors.

Then I came home and collapsed. Tired, but happy with a good day!