Final Fantasy XIII photoshoot

Title: Final Fantasy XIII photoshoot
Location: Yorkshire Dales National Park
Link out: Click here
Description: Photo shoot dedicated to the characters from Final Fantasy XIII. Each of the charters is represented by and hand picked cosplay by Erin Bower with 11 of the best cosplay photographers in the UK invited oh and me!
Start Date: 2011-06-17
End Date: 2011-06-19

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Star Trails

I’ve have loved start trail photos ever since a friend of mine introduced me to them just over a year ago and we tried to do some with out any idea on how to go about it. That was a funny trip trying to shoot start trails with a D40 and duck tape to hold the BULB mode on.

Well ever since then I’ve been meaning to try again and after seeing my same friend who is the most busy person I know managed to go do some I felt inspired and went out at the first opportunity to try again click hear for his site Colin Barker

Right on to the mini adventure that was that night. I decided to go to Great Malvern and take some shots from on top of the hill it seemed like the easiest place to get to with reduced light pollution.  Had planned to go with friends to help keep me awake thought the night but due to atmospheric conditions changing I had to set things forward 24hours leaving me on my own. I get to Malvern quite late with a heavy pack I had tried to take minimal gear but found I needed a quarter of what  took as is always my way. I try to climb the hill in the bitch black this was a fun nightmare my main torch died and my head torch began to fail making thins extra interesting. in the day with out any gear would take me 40 minuets from train station to the peek in this conditions it took me just under 2 hours but it was well worth it the hill that time of night looks breathtaking.

Took this photo with a tripod half way up the hill was pitch black where I was so I got a great view of the town with my supper zoom. I wouldn’t of seen this if I wasn’t so laden with gear and had to rest at the start of the main hills.

I finally make it to the summit its about 11pm no one is around and its windy as hell so I go in search of a spot with good shelter giving up on my original plan of where I was going to shoot on the hill I’d have frozen to half to death assuming the wind didn’t send the tripod flying. I eventually find a set of bushes in a dip as a perfect wind brake. I start to set up I put on my thermal clothing about 7 layers and get my sleeping bag out tripod ext only to find I’d forgotten one important item a compose to find north. With out it I was kind of at a loss astronomy was never my stung point so unable to find Polarise I had to improvise and shoot several star trails and looking at each one till I worked out where it was based on the swirls so tip remember campuses.

Now I get onto how I set my self up put my camera on a tripod with a battery grip as I needed the extra power due to the cold sapping the batteries life. connected a lockable cable release putting my camera in BULB mode and then set the camera with a timer alarm on my phone with me experimenting with different times I found 30 minuets worked best only problem I found was with Long exposure Noise reduction turned on how ever long the exposures lasted was how long the processing took. This limited how many shots I could get even fever. I forgot to change my white balance to Tungsten so I ended up having to change that in post but I always shoot RAW so this was not a problem. Another thing I found ISO 200 wasn’t enough for high definition of the stars but higher still I’d have had to much light pollution so this teaches me 2 things next time try a higher ISO and also find a place with even less light pollution.

All night I only got one good star trail the one above for my second atemt ever I’d say wasn’t to bad but I’ve a long way to go. During this perticuor exspousre I have a funny little story. I’d taken this exposures and was lay there in my sleeping back at 2am waiting for my alarm to tell me it was ready trying not to sleep. You guessed it I fell asleep in a dazed state I awake to a Now I get onto how I set my self up put my camera on a tripod with a battery grip as I needed the extra power due to the cold sapping the batteries life. connected a lockable cable release putting my camera in BULB mode and then set the camera with a timer alarm on my phone with me experimenting with different times I found 30 minuets worked best only problem I found was with Long exposure Noise reduction turned on how ever long the exposures lasted was how long the processing took. This limited how many shots I could get even fever. I forgot to change my white balance to Tungsten so I ended up having to change that in post but I always shoot RAW so this was not a problem. Another thing I found ISO 200 wasn’t enough for high definition of the stars but higher still I’d have had to much light pollution so this teaches me 2 things next time try a higher ISO and also find a place with even less light pollution

of a DOG above me it looked like a wolf I didn’t exactly panic I thought wild anime on no checked over my tripod is still there all is well but worried this anime might steal my food or nock over my gear so I shout witch comes out as a scream my half asleep stat. The dog looks at me like I’m mad and a moment latter a light over from the path goes on its a dog walker a 2am so I had a embarrassing conversation with the nice guy who I’m sure I freaked out but not something you expect that time of day I’m just lucky my gear was safe. After that I put my walk man on and stayed sat upright so I wouldn’t sleep again but just after he left my photo had finished processing and it was the best image by far of the night. I didn’t get any more usable images of stars that night but I did get a nice drawn photo. I’ll leave you with 3 tips

1 remember a compose

2 hove ever much gear you think you need you can always pack a little lighter

3 rap up warm I was freezing round 4 am and I had a silly number of layers

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And what has Foxy been up to?

I’ve not really posted anything in ages. This is because I’ve been really busy out shooting. so the question is what have been working on exactly. well in the last few weeks I’ve been to a number of events the first one was a shoot at freshfields. this shoot was a proper adventure but resulted in some great shots.

The shoot was meant to comprise of several cosplayes and several photographers in the end I was the only photographer we had 3 cosplayers and one girl dressed is mori fashion a Japanese style. on the shoot we got lost, trains cancelled and I even ended up being stranded in Liverpool over night luckily friend came to my rescue.

Full edited set

Freshfilds II

After that I had Minamicon 17 a anime convention in Southampton currently the oldest running anime convention

This set represents the start of my back log I’ve currently got thought about 50% of my photos from the 3 day event. As always there was a abundance of great cosplays though a challenging place to find good locations for photos on the right you see a HDR edit of one of the cosplays from the convention the cosplay is The Motoslave from BGC 2040

At the date this post is made the set on my flicker I’m going to link to is incomplete but the rest will be going up soon.

Minamicon 17

A week after Minamicon there was memorabilia currently unedited got some shots I’m really looking to work on watch this space for the full set.

Then last weekend it was Kitacon III a anime convention held in Birmingham this was a amazing event and took 81GB worth of images so with my backlog of the last 2 events its going to take time to get these out. I did quickly work up all the masquerade photos from Kitacon because this is what most people are eager to see. Luckily the lighting was perfect witch meant very little was needed to be edited I shot all of it in aperture priority mode at f/1.8 with a 35mm prime lens. all my editing was dun via camera raw in batches all I did to them was white balance correction and some artistic cropping.

Kitacon III Masquerade

I have every intension of doing more write ups for these events as I finish editing sets for now this is just more to tell you all what I’ve been up to and let you know I’m still hear!

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5 Random things about me!

I got this idea of a friends blog and have been putting it off for ages because I really didn’t know what to put and what not till I realised it doesn’t really mater as its a little big of fun, I take things to seriously some times so hear goes 5 random things about me you might or might not know, in no particular order;

1. I failed my photography module at uni

I bet your surprised by that maybe even more surprised that I posted it. The reason I failed was very embarrassing I forgot to hand in my work for that module I properly would of passed but I’ll never know. At the time I was more concerned with passing my other modules in my main course with was a BAH in fine art painting. I passed that by the way. Back then I was more interested in painting and drawing photography was something I did on the side as a hobby. I’ve always loved photography even as a very small child so I studied it at collage and uni and encouraged it in my work at the time but over time I lost my love of fine art university took the joy out of it for me but since then I’ve discovered a new passion for photography more so then I ever did for fine art. I do fine it funny how times change but the remaining constant is my love of art in one for or another.

2. I watch almost no TV at all

It would be unfair to say I watch absolutely no TV because on the odd occasion I will put it on but its only ever to pass a little time wile I’m doing something else like cooking a meal and when I do its always something to do with science I can turn off. I might watch at most 3 or 4 hours in a full weak. I just don’t like TV the advertising gets on my never I don’t like having to watch things when I’m told to I spend most of my time milady addicted to my computer on the internet and the majority of programming and films I watch are DVDs

3. I’m also a cosplayer

This is properly one of the least surprising things in this list of 5. I don’t plan to talk about it much on my blog as this is about my exploits behind the camera rather then in front of the lens. The reason I work so much with cosplays in my photography is simply that I love cosplay my self and have had so much experience with other cosplayers I find it a fantastic subject. Why do I cosplay well that’s simple I love the characters and I love the costumes its my way of expressing. I do have to say as well making the costumes is a lot of fun. I’ve entered several competition to, never actual won anything. I started cosplaying in 2004 and have been making costumes ever since and also started working behind the scenes at anime events in the UK in 2006 from there I’ve slowly worked my way up till where I am now witch is Head of Cosplay at Tokonatsu a leading UK anime festival. I love cosplay and I’ll keep doing it for years to come I’m sure though my big passion is photography still I’ll say one last thing about this being in front of the lens is a lot of fun to.

4. I want to be the very best!

Like no one ever was… sorry couldn’t resist quoting that song for this one not that I even like pokemon that much but still. I’ve tried to talk about this before on my blog and people have not understood what I meant and its got me in trouble so I’m going to try again. I am very competitive I want the be the very best I can be. I really want to improve my self and to do this I seek out people I see as better then my self and compete against them as a way improve my self. I do this in all areas of my life not just photography I’m not so much trying to beat them in fact I want them to be the best they can be there is nothing better then having rivals to me that term is a complement it shows you respect some one and want to be better. I also go out my way to help my rivals as there’s no point if there not top of there game and I’ll help them in anyway possible its all friendly. I don’t know if I have managed to get how I feel across freely this time with out sounding big headed or something like that but its a major driving force in my life and as such worth telling you about as its part of what makes me… me!

5. If there’s a easy way!

As the old saying goes if there is a easy way and a hard way, I’ll always take the hard way. I’m not even sure why but I always end up doing things in a much more involved way. For ages I didn’t know what to put for my number 5 random thing about me was going to put something silly then this hit we when talking to a friend when I was telling her how I did something. She said and I quote “that’s you all over you never do things the easy way” I don’t really given it all that much thought before. Also another of my friends said the same thing about something unrelated.

I think I do this because I’m a bit of a perfectionist I refuse to cut corners. I do like to be as officiate as I can but in the end I always go for the methods that give me maximum control. I’ll give a couple of examples. When I was doing my degree in fine art painting I used to do these large scale canvases and you would expect me to se big brushes no not me I was often found using size 1 or smaller brushes to the majority of my work as it gave me a greater degree of control. Size 1 and smaller for the record are kind of tiny. The next example I’ll give is to do with Cosplay not something I normally talk about on hear but as I’ve already mentioned it in this post why not. I sew everything by hand I’ve never used a sewing machine in any of my cosplays I’ve personally made. This properly sounds crazy and well yeah it is but I love the feeling of  accomplishment by doing everything my self I get a greater feeling of achievement out of it not saying its better its just how I am.

The last example of this I’ll give is directly related to my photography. The post possessing to be precise I edited almost every photo I display to some degree, now this isn’t the hard way I’m talking about this comes down to the methods I use when editing I have noticed the techniques I’ve been using latterly are fairly advanced I don’t necessarily need to do it this way but I do because I find the more crazy methods are more controllable and precise. Looking at my self I can’t come to any other conclusion then I’m a big of a perfectionist and love precision in my work.

Well I hope this gives you a like more of a incite into the inner workings behind Fox’s Eye As always feel free to add any comments and questions you might have.

Posted in Cosplay, Foxy, Photography, Photoshop | 1 Comment

Midlands MCM Expo Telford February 2011

Its been just under a week since Midlands Expo so its about time I did a write up of the event. I haven’t posted in some time this is mostly as I’ve been taking a little brake wile I waiting for my main camera to be repaired. My Nikon D300s developed a few problems so I sent her off to be fixed. Seemed like a age waiting for her to come back so I’ve not been doing many shoots as my back up camera is a Nikon D40 a great DSLR but not adequate for my needs. Unfortunately my D300s didn’t come back till 2 days ago so I was forced to go to Expo with my old back up camera as you might guess this was difficult but despite the technical short comings I covered the event adequately.

I didn’t spend as long as I normally would hunting for cosplayers to shoot I really just concentrated on the masquerade. I’d say the lighting was bad and using a D40 I find you can’t really go above ISO 400 with out introducing a lot of noise in the end I found my self shooting in manual mode at ISO 800 /f4.5 at between 50th and 40th of a second relying on the vibration reduction on my lenses. As you can imagine my photos when I got them back were very noisy and there’s no way at that point good enough to share this is where post posses comes into it. I actually do post posses on everything I display well nearly so that’s why it takes me longer to get my shots up but I won’t compromise of quality for speed. I do still get them up as fast as I can but post posses takes a lot of time and work this set took me 3 days of solid editing but that’s because of how noisy they were took me a lot longer. I removed the noise Using Camera Raw 6.0 in Adobe Photoshop CS5 this left my images how shale I say it clean but very soft. Fixing one problem created another this one I fixed with using a more extreme sharpening technique then I’d normally like to use I used Dave Cross’s High Pass sharpening technique with you can look up on Photoshop User TV so much work for this set. I did a few other things in post but I really didn’t change anything especially for the masquerade as that’s a record of a event.

Midlands MCM Expo Telford February 2011 Gallery

Hope you liked my little sneak peck into some of the work I put in after a shoot to get my images ready for you all. As always please feel free to leave any comments and questions about anything I’ve bloged about it helps me get a better idea of what you guys want to read about

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Kuroshitsuji Snow Shoot

Just before Christmas I took advantage of the snow we had to do a impromptu cosplay photo shoot. I arranged this literally the night before with some friends who have model for me before. I agreed to shot there Kuroshitsuji cosplays this is actually the second shoot I’ve dun for this group, the first shoot was mouths ago in Wolverhampton and we had 3 members in attendance unfortunately this time round we was only able to get 2 of the models but was still a good shoot. if you are interested in the first shoot hear is a link to the set!

This particular shoot has taken me possibly the longest to fully process due to a series of unfortunate events immediately following the shoot I came down with swine flu and as soon as I cleared that my pc broke and hand to re build her. Was starting to wonder if this shoot was cursed.

Well first off shooting in snow provided a number of unique problems. the biggest one is the abundance of white and light tricks your camera into under exposing leaving your show looking grey so you have to over expose just a little bit with compensation.  Next is protecting your gear to the elements you have to slowly let your gear adjust to the temperature if you don’t and take it from hot to cold same is true in revise it will fog up and you’ll have a long wait to use it. you also have to take care not to let you gear get to wet even with a sealed camera like the Nikon D300s its not a good idea to leave it out in a snow storm to long water will eventually make its way in. I have been having problems with my camera since that shoot not sure I protected it adequately the function buttons keep sticking so going to need to send that in to be looked at. I can’t remember who said it but I remember some photographer said if all your gear is working then your not working hard enough.

Enough about the camera for now the cold and the snow also play havoc with your models you don’t want your talent out in the snow to long or they will get to cold and possibly get ill so you have to work fast. I have also noticed they is a tendency in this situation for the skin to go a unappealing red that shows even thought foundation so as petty as snow is its unadvisable to work in it for long periods. My advise is to any one planning to work with snow if your talent is going to be warring anything there are going to be to cold in then plan out your shots before hand so you can avoid unnecessary delays.

As always post your comments and questions and let me know what you’d like to see on this blog.

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Merry Christmas

I had intended to post ore often starting from my last post. To petty much every ones surprise the instant I make a decision like that something comes up I’m sure there’s a law dedicated this principle “sods law” What happened I hear you asking well I had the flu don’t think I can rambler being that ill since I was a small child.

Now its Christmas so I’d like to take this moment to wish all my many many readers all 7 of you a festive time. I’m possibly being to hard on my self maybe there are more of you out there who read my blog maybe there isn’t but to all of you a very merry Christmas

This photo was one I randomly saw on the way hope from a drunken night out a few days before I became ill took this under street lights hand held I did not draw the hart I do not know who’s car this is but the imagery looked sweet and fitting as something to use as a Christmas wish I might of found something better if I hadn’t been so it but all the more reason to try harder in 2011. The new year is now fast approaching I’ll take this opportunity to tell you my first resolution . . .  to try and turn this blog into a weekly blog rather then when I find time all depending on shoots of course

One last thing I’d like to mansion and ask about for my more eagle eyed viewer /s  you may have noticed a new header and a new logo the designed has not changed but I’d had a friend re draw it in a more please style for me and I’d love to hear your opinions on the new look?

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Life at f/1.4

Over the last couple weeks I’ve been trying out the latest lens to my collection. The “AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G

Currently I am between events so its been difficult to really put the new glass thought its paces so I’ve been carrying it round with me every where I go. Honestly I should be doing this anyway its good practice for a photographer. When you have your camera with you, you might not see the shot but the moment you don’t is the very time you see something amazing. Yes there is always camera photos and point and shoot cameras but its not the same as a DSLR, I know Chase Jarvis has become famous by saying the best camera is the on with you but isn’t it much better to have your best quality gear you can have with you. I know we can’t carry studio strobes and multiple lenses but I currently try to keep a DSLR and a single lenses with me every where I go not always possible but when I can. The reason I’m talking about this is kinda relevant to when I was testing this lens out I have had my camera with the 50mm on with me every day for 2 weeks and just one day I had to leave it and guess what I saw some amazing opportunities we had a major frost witch stayed frozen on the trees till late afternoon and I’m kicking my self for not having my gear.

The above photo was taken at 2am in almost complete black there were some very dim lights coming from some street lines obscured by a little fog. Was a very frosty night and normally you couldn’t get a shot like this with out using a tripod but this is tack sharp despite being hand held. I will admit I pushed the Iso to keep the shutter speed up but I think this really shows off the power of f/1.4 previously I’ve only ever shot as low as f/1.8 and I can tell you that extra stop of light makes a huge difference. This proves to me the primary reason for this perches to be a low light get out of jail free card of a lens I am convinced I can go into any situation and not need to use a flash.

These 2 photos were taken on a work Christmas meal wasn’t there as a photographer I just happened to have my camera with me witch I was talking about early trying to keep it with me more so I took a few shots wile I was there and got 2 nice photos from that night I found at  f/1.4 you get a wonderful banquette and the depth of field has a wonderful soft quality I can see so many ways I can use this in the future. There was one problem I found its almost impossible to get critical focus with a portrait using the recompose technique. I had to manually move the autofocus point wile holding the camera to my eye and position the closest eye on said point if I hadn’t I would of totally missed my focus. I’ve shot like this numerous times and on a D300s its very easy to operate it this way but it did take me a bit of getting used to as I always used to use the recompose method

So in conclusion of my testing you properly wonder what I thought of the lenses well I loved it. I found it to be very sharp and focuses very quickly. The motors are almost silent. at f/1.4 I will say the images are a tiny bit soft but at f/2 or higher its tack sharp. The lens is quite compact so transports easily and comes with a lens hood witch is always welcome especially considering the price. The price is the only thing that lets this lens down its a expensive lens compared to its rivals products I’m not entirely convinced it is worth the extra price tag in comparison to other brands but I’m not changing the cannon or Sony  so I paid it.

I love this glass I would recommend it to you but might be best to wait if you already have a  older style fast 50mm prime till this one drops in price.

Please leave me comments telling me what you thought of this lens if you have used it your self or your thoughts about other 50mm lanes

Posted in Nikon, Photography | 3 Comments

Kigurumi Shoot

As photographers we will always get asked to shoot a wide Varity of things and every now and then you get the opportunity to do something a little different. I was very fortunate recently to shoot for a group called EUROKIG

The group are one of the largest groups of Kigurumi in Europe. I’m not expert on exactly what it is to be a kigurumi but I really admire the style they have. My understanding of what  they are is a masked costume in witch you can totally become the character your portraying. To me it seems very much like cosplay but I’m hesitant to use that word in case I offend the Kigurumi I was working for.

I feel very lucky to have gotten this rare opportunity. I have to say the anime style present in this examples of kigurumi really excited me. I loved the bright colours the simple lines and that they felt like anime characters in real life.

There were a couple issues shooting this rather then say a normal portrait. I found the exposure valises where a little different then I would of expected the makes reflect a lot of light to found my self under exposing by round half a stop. My biggest challenge came from trying to direct the talent also they all came prepared with a multitude of fantastic poses non of the kigurumi would speak in there mask all part of the illusion. I found communication difficult and took me a little time to get used to as I like to have a working dialog with my subject during a shoot but they seemed happy and since the shoot I’ve been assured they all had a great time witch I thing shows in the photos they seem to have a lot of energy in them (well I think they do let you make your own mind up) There ere also so pleasant advantages of shooting kigurumi they never have a bad expression or blink. Granted you have to watch reflections ore closely on there faces but its something to work with. The other big advantage came in post possess there faces being in fact masks with perfectly smooth even skin no post processing needed to be dun essentially they came pre possessed witch was nice not that I do much to a face I like to do as little as possible.

Kigurumi Reflections

It was a absolute pleasure to shoot this I hope I’ll get a opportunity like this again to work with more kigurumi I really enjoyed this shoot.

Posted in Cosplay, Photography, Photoshop | 5 Comments

Auchinawa Masquerade 2010

Some events are more difficult to shoot then others and I can safely say that Auchinawa this year was defiantly a challenge. When you enter any photographic situation there are always a number of strategy’s you can use I think I may have made a mistake with the one I chose for the masquerade this time. I’m not saying I got bad results but I think I could of gotten better. I was presented with a badly lit stage and not enough light. I made the decision to shoot available like with worked for me great at euro cosplay but at that point i had faster glass with me. I think what I should of dune was use flash as this was allowed where’s normally not at least not from the press area. The reason I chose available light was I like to capture the ambient lighting affects and get more shots with out waiting on the flash to cycle but as there wasn’t any stage lighting kind of a poor choose but you learn and move on.

Auchi2010 overall winner

My personal favourite performance

Full line up of all the winning entries

Posted in Cosplay, Masquerade, Photography | 1 Comment