Magic Knight Rayearth is: one of my favorite series ever. When Alice asked if I'd be interested in being part of a Rayearth cosplay photoshoot, I broke into a big grin and said: "Sure!"
(Inside, my mind was thinking: "OMG AWESOME SO COOL RAYEARTH I LOVE RAYEARTH!!!@!@1!@11111!!!!")
Thing is, as the photoshoot date inched closer, I started to feel more and more nervous. Performance anxiety, a relic from my serious pianist past which had started to crop up again in my video game career as well as my teaching career, was now rearing its ugly head with this relatively trivial pursuit of cosplay photography. I suppose it was only natural; I would be the proverbial newbie in a group of experienced photographers shooting a trio of experienced cosplayers. It didn't help that fashion photography and modeling was never what I concentrated on (always considered myself a documentarian since I started shooting back in the early 90s), and giving direction was far from my strong suit. I must have imagined a Hollywood movie worth of embarrassment in the weeks prior to the photoshoot.
Thankfully, none of the horrible predicaments I was imagining for myself actually took place.
After picking up Alice and arriving at Shiya's place in Fontana at around 10 AM, I spent most of the morning watching the two finish up their costumes and thinking: Man, I really want to cosplay again...! (That's probably a post for another time!) Then the others slowly trickled in. The other photographers were faces I was somewhat familiar with from years in the California con scene, but I didn't really know them very well. That changed a bit as we hung out and talked about random stuff (Michael Jackson! Crazy camera equipment! Cosplay drama!) for the next 4 (four!) hours. Yeah, best laid plans, etc.
Eventually we got on the road (cosplayers in a well air conditioned minivan, me with three others in a five door without freon) and made our way to Lytle Creek, where we would spend the next four hours shooting, posing, lighting, arranging, fixing, swimming (kind of!), and all those other verbs that one would imagine occur when doing a photoshoot by a creek in a National Forest.
Something that I wasn't expecting to happen was the slow start. Sure, I was expecting that from myself; being paralyzed by options is one of those things that I do best(?) when performance anxiety strikes. However, it was a bit comforting when we got to the site and there was this random milling around happening on the part of everybody there. Eventually we pushed ourselves into a few shots and everyone had something to do.
I probably should have had a plan of attack laid out for the day, some sort of stylistic point or technique I wanted to use. I doubt I was conscious of it happening, but it eventually emerged that I was using flash for everything. Not much on-camera TTL stuff, but I seemed to use the Oly system I had every other way I could. Most of the time I was using manual flash power plus manual metering, sometimes with flash mounted on my camera, sometimes held in my left hand courtesy of a hot shoe cable, and sometimes lying on the ground triggered by the RC system (similar to Nikon's CLS, a line of sight infrared remote triggering system). Worked out great for the most part. There were a few times where I really wish I could throttle the flash even lower than 1/128 power because of my propensity for shooting subjects close with wide-angle. Best way to throttle in this case was to switch to high speed mode and up the shutter speed to get the effective flash power output down or pop my otherwise useless softbox on there.
I brought two strobes and they worked out pretty well. Another photographer, however, brought stands with umbrella diffusers for his Canon strobes remote triggered with Elinchroms. I haven't seen his stuff yet, but I'm guessing he did some great stuff with them, providing lots of soft light for group shots. He was nice enough to allow me use of his system for a bit while he was taking a break. What I learned from this experimentation? Lots of off-camera soft light is indeed: quite awesome. To Mike: Thanks for letting me play around with it, and apologies for scaring you by threatening some of those flashes and receivers with a potential underwater disaster!
After the photoshoot, the cosplayers decided that some dinner combined with some casual cosplay gallivanting would make a nice cap to the day. This time around, I was the only guy willing to bring out the camera while searching for food in the nearby Victoria Gardens outdoor mall. Ended up with a decent group of casual cosplay pictures, and I again decided that my BlackRapid RS-4 camera strap is my favorite camera strap ever. Great for a guy like me who wants his camera availible at a moment's notice in a wide variety of situations and values the candid above all else.
With a bit of food in our stomachs and twelve hours removed from when I started my cosplay photographer day, all of us gave our thanks and called it a night. Except I didn't call it a night and spent until 5 AM uploading photos to flickr. Smart move me. Here's hoping my sleep schedule will get back to normal before I teach summer school in a week. It will certainly be a struggle, thank you AX.
Final tally: 460 photos taken, 57 pictures uploaded to Flickr (including documentary and casual, with 8 photos added/changed since Sunday), and 7 (seven!) colons.