The Sailor Moon Photoshoot

June 19, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

The Sailor Moon Project

Aka Changing a 40-year-old woman into a 14 year old anime character

About a month ago, Mike and I decided that we were going to do a test shoot once a week to continue in our craft of photography. The only time we took off was the Memorial day holiday weekend as it was too busy. This shoot was going to be our forth test shoot so far this year and since we were having a tough time getting a model (covid-19 social distancing), I had to be the model. me sailor moon-2me sailor moon-2

This was not going to be cool.

Me. I. Oh God! The model?

Sailor Moon was one of my favorite animes as a teenager. In fact, you could say it was how I met Mike Donatello in the first place. Back in the mid-90s, products couldn’t be bought as easily as today. If I wanted Sailor Moon paraphernalia, I had to go to Hot Topic or Sarges Comics in New London. Well, I started to go to Sarges a lot and that is where I met Mike. Long story short, the owner (Bob) pointed out that we were both photographers and we’ve been friends and business partners since.

Now, back to the ugly part. I was going to be Sailor Moon and it was going to be extremely tough because I am now 40-years-old and am the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life (188 lbs)other than right before the birth of my son (203 lbs). I also have a large tumor (non-cancerous) on my uterus so I look heavier because it protrudes. My apologies, I’m not saying this to be gross. I’m just trying to point out how impossible this shoot was going to be.

We had to be very creative with the shoot due to these factors, so a plan needed to be made. The concept was to photograph me from behind so that my stomach was not seen. We also wanted to show a scene instead of a girl standing there looking at a camera. There are way too many pretty pictures of Sailor Moon cosplay on the internet and we wanted to be different. We also decided to use a very old outfit that I had for Free Comic Book Day. It was missing pieces but that was okay because we wanted her dirty and appearing at the end of a battle.    

by Robert Miller81358618_2680790435290176_7254572587580129280_oPhoto of Melissa Damon and Katy Miller. Photographed by Robert Miller. The end decision was taken from a Sailor Moon episode itself. There is a moment after her first battle where she watches the sun rise from afar. Although we were using the Eternal Sailor Moon costume instead of her traditional one, we decided to do something similar to this scene.

We wanted to shoot on a day where there were a lot of dark clouds. These were supposed to symbolize an oncoming battle. Our decision for the shoot was made in less than 24 hours as we were hopping on the earliest day of clouds with no rain in the forecast. Unfortunately, we did not get the full clouds we wanted because the fog rolled in, but it was still close enough.

The day was Friday, May 29th of 2020 and we decided to go up to Rocky Neck State Park as our location. Aaron took the photos with my camera (and my son Connor took an epic shot while we were there) and Mike took photos with his. I was twitching as I stood as the model. I wanted to be behind the camera so bad but I took it for the team.

We had to unfortunately leave the beach earlier than expected as a group of teenagers came and started to make the worst comments I had heard in a long time. I was saddened by this but also knew that people are bored during this pandemic and acting out of character. Most of the group was just having fun but three broke off from the group and they appeared to be vlogging. They saw our shoot and went into detail on what they were going to do to me. Mike, Aaron, and I exchanged looks. Although normally we would change to a different location in the park if we had a client and something like this happened (ironically, we’ve never had something like this happen before), my son was with us and I did not want him to hear it. We chose to quietly pack up and go. Luckily, Connor was having a field day building a sand castle and wasn’t paying any attention. me sailor moon-1_pe3bme sailor moon-1_pe3b

The edits involved quite a bit of liquifying but they came out better than I thought. I was the most excited about a photo that my son took that I thought was amazing. I didn’t even edit his shot. I was a particularly proud Momma Bear. As for the other photos, I wanted to give a fine art feel to them because they were inspired by anime. I didn’t want them to just be a photographic take on the show. I needed more. I fell in love with a couple of them and am pretty proud of the shoot.

Someday, I would love to lose a little bit of this weight and retake the shoot. I would also love to add in Chibi Usa and make it more of a hand-off of power. It would be neat to have an older version of Sailor Moon passing the torch onto the younger hero.

 


The Blue Guard

June 08, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Blue Knight / Blue Guard

The blue guard was our second photo for our test runs and we did it on Mother’s day. It was a decent sunny day and I was so glad that Mike asked us to do the shoot because, if it was only me, I wouldn’t have done it. I was definitely feeling lazy that day. The inspiration for the shoot was the seige of Gondor from Lord of the Rings. Aaron (our model) was supposed to be an officer. 

blue guard-2blue guard-2 That is part of the beauty of being part of a team. If I was doing half of this stuff just by myself, I don’t know if I would be able to get it all done. Being part of a team means that I have to be accountable and get my butt outside, even when I don’t want to.

My son didn’t join us this time so Aaron and I drove together to Fort Trumbell in New London, CT. Originally, this was going to be part of the wraith shoot from the previous weekend but we thought that it would be too much to travel between the towns, locations, and costume changes with the same model. It was split up into two weekends to make it easier.

There was not much for people at the location and we were able to suit Aaron up in all of the armor for the shoot. It was bittersweet to see some families meeting in the parking lot to spend the holidays together while maintaining social distancing. They sat in small groups at the backs of multiple cars, wrapped in blankets and smiling at one another.

We suited up and made our way over to the Fort itself. I was immediately disappointed to discover that the inner courtyard of Fort Trumbell was closed. My original game plan for the shoot involved the stairwells inside the outer walls. It didn’t cross my mind that the Fort would be locked up as I consider the inner courtyard to still be outside. blue guard-1blue guard-1

This put a large damper on our plans but we shot at the front gate and the side of the building to make it work. They sun was harsh and I tried to use it to my advantage in some shots and avoid it altogether in others. It made the shoot shorter for time, but left us a little wanting for some of the shoots. Although we were able to improvise and get good shots, this was a valuable lesson that I always need to check the location before the shoot. I try to make this process part of every shoot, but sometimes things just happen.

Part of the armor was actually created by Mike. I know that he created the shield for this shoot although he has created the armor in some of our previous works. It is always neat to get the opportunity to photograph his work and we hope to shoot more in the future.

We definitely want to do this shoot again once the Fort is open. It also inspired me to do some sword shots in the future as well, especially Excaliber ones. I find it intriguing how, even though we got a lot of decent shots, my favorite photo was a perception shot with a sun flare. 

blue guard files-8_peblue guard files-8_pe

 

 


Running Across the World

June 01, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Running Across the World

When I think of running, this fantasy image of a huntress running through the woods comes to mind. She would be wearing a short toga and would have a bow and arrow strapped to her back. She wouldn’t be running from anyway. She is the hunter, not the prey. The name Artemis (Goddess of the Hunt) comes to mind and she would be running either during the day or with patches of moonlight filtering through the thick woodland treetop. She would not wear shoes and her run would be parkour as she bounds across rocks, forest floor, and nearby trees. She is like a gazelle and the terrain of the forest does not faze her in the slightest. IMG_20200601_095326IMG_20200601_095326

When I think of myself running, I think of sweat, pain, and not getting enough breathe in my lungs. If you had asked me two weeks ago if I wanted to go on a run, I would’ve probably rolled my eyes and grunted in response. Running was not my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be part of track…but I hated running even back then. It was the feeling of not getting even breathe that used to scare me. I even used to run in small marathons with my family but as they got hernias and surgeries one-by-one, I lost interested and quickly gave it all up.

Now, I am on day three of running and loving it. I haven’t done it outside yet with all of the reports on the Corona virus and my fear of being run over by a car (the roads by my house are very curvy and busy), but I did find my own fun thing to do. I run around the world each day. Today I ran at Angor Wat in Cambodia. Yesterday I ran the London Bridge, and I didn’t leave the comfort of my home for either one of them. There are tons of other locations to choose from as well. 

There have been spin classes for years, but when the Peloton came out, it changed things a little. Ironically, I don’t own one. I have a bike, treadmill, and elliptical. When the ads for the Peloton came on tv, I started to notice more items for running on places like the internet and Youtube. There are a ton if you look up things like virtual run for treadmill, virtual hike, etc. There are a lot of them that are 4k and high definition.

I hope to run outside someday. I would like to become that warrior goddess woman in the woods with her long hair blown back by the wind of her own pace, but until then I’m pretty happy in my workout clothes, slugging it along as I watch the shores of Tulum at sunrise on my television.

Happy trails!


The Wraith

May 25, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

The Wraith Photoshoot

Several weeks ago, Mike Donatello contacted me and asked me if I wanted to start shooting again. This worked out well as I was already doing a photography training class that was helping my alter my craft and I needed to get my practice time in. It also didn’t hurt that we were both stuck at home due to social distancing with the dreadful Corona virus.

wraithgg-1wraithgg-1 We chose Aaron Hayes as our model and met at Fort Shantok (Uncasville, CT) park. It was May 3rd, 2020 around 1:30pm. The sun was out in full glory so we chose to use a patch of pine trees that were littered throughout the area like a pinball machine.

This made it really tough for getting the right exposure for the shot because the highlights were blown out. You would figure that it would be the sun spots on the ground that lit up my highlight alert like the Fourth of July but no, it was the horizon that did me in. I had to get creative to make sure that I could get the picture.

Aaron was suited up in scarves, robes, a baseball cap (to give the illusion of a longer face under the hood), armor, and so much more. The goal was to appear like one of the Wraiths from Lord of the Rings. I also was reminded of grounded dementors as well.

The photoshoot went well and we had it done in about an hour. I tried out some techniques of holding tree branches in front of my lens to get a bokeh look to the photos, but it did not add to the photos in this shoot.

After the shoot, I went home and began editing. For some reason, I felt as though the photos were too bright and green. It made perfect sense as this was taken during the beginning of spring when the leaves are more of a bright green/yellowish look. I choose to do something that I have never successfully done. I wanted to turn my super bright sunny shot (one of the toughest shots to take due to bleaching out scenes) and change it to a night shot.

I was worried that it would turn into the Slipper and the Rose scene where Cinderella is singing and dancing after the ball and you can tell that it was daytime and not night by the patches of sunlight in the background. You are supposed to be so enthralled with Gemma Craven that you don’t notice, but I did after my billionth time of watching it.

Ironically, it came out pretty decent. The photo does appear like a composition due to the gray line around my wraith. I’m guessing it is the sun highlighting the back of my character and it has turned grey with my edits. If I erase it, it will make the photo appear unfinished so I have left it in. I also wanted it to have a painted effect so I used some Lightroom presets as well as Photoshop color lookup filters. I also added fairy lights. I was debating whether to keep it the blue or add more color to it so that viewers can see it better. wraith-8wraith-8

Overall, I am happy with the photo but I may revisit it in order to see if I can fix the line that I mentioned before. My goal is to make my images the best that I possibly can.

It is intriguing how a wraith is supposed to be a ghost or specter according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. They are known to be made of gas or see through form. I believe that wraith means misty and it is of Scottish origin. This makes me think that I should re-do the photo to make it less visible. I could return to the location and try to retake that exact spot, or I can just clone it.

Wraiths in mythology are often made by dark spells. They are known for feeding or attacking other people’s souls.

In Lord of the Rings, the wraiths were the human kings that were trapped due to the rings of power that Sauron gave them. They were known as the Ringwraiths, Dark Riders, the nine, and/or the Nazguls. They had several different forms but one of them is definitely a hooded figure with a dark cloak that has a sword and gauntlets. (5/17/20)

wraith-21wraith-21 wraith-edit-1_pe1wraith-edit-1_pe1

 

 


Eating the Weeds

May 18, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

As I saunter outdoors, I quickly cast an arm across my eyes to protect them from the bright rays of the morning sun. The dew drops sparkle on the blades of spring grass like millions of opulent crystals. As I grow accustomed to the light of the outside world, I lower my temporary shield and gaze out towards the landscape in awe. It is a beautiful day and I am so happy to be alive to enjoy it. I smile in satisfaction as I dipped down to pluck several dandelion flowers from the bouquets of grass and bring them back into my abode…to eat. dandelion-1dandelion-1

Is this your typical way to grab your breakfast? Before this week, it wasn’t mine either. I just happened to discover the edible qualities of dandelions recently, and my curiosity was piqued. Perhaps yours will be as well. Let me tell you a little bit about this flowering weed and let you decide for yourself.

Long ago, dandelions were first spotted in recorded history through the Arabians in the tenth century and the Welsh in the thirteenth century. They were brought over to the United States by the colonists in the 17th century as a farming crop. The name dandelion (from the word dent de lion) is actually French and means lion’s tooth. This is possibly a description of the jagged leaves on the stem as well as the golden mane of the flower.

Every single part of the weed, from the flowering head all the way down to the unforked roots (if the roots are forked then they are young), is edible. This is not necessarily true for all wild foraged foods. Of course, it is important that if you do decide to try out this new delicacy, please do it in an meadow (or backyard) that is free of all pesticides. The flower may be edible, but it is not as good for you if it is injected with poisons. If is also important not to eat it if you have any allergies (especially if you have ragweed allergies). If you have eczema, the chances of having an allergic reaction are also higher.

Now that I have dispensed with all the formalities, I can get to the good part. This weed has so many rewarding qualities. It is truly shocking that it hasn’t been held in a higher regard. The FDA still calls it a weed and states that there is not enough supporting evidence to consider it medicine. Ironically, there are currently several manufacturers that sell it as a vitamin in stores.

It has been used by many different cultures for many generations to help with liver problems, kidney disease, heartburn, UTIs, appendicitis, and much more.  The leaves contain the vitamins A, B, C, and D. It also has iron, calcium, zinc, protein, dietary fiber, folate, magnesium, phosphorus,  and potassium. There is ongoing research that it may be able to help with cancer.

It has been seen in old school recipes for salad where just a few young leaves are thrown into a basic salad mix for some extra kick. The flowers are great as a wine. The stem is not the best tasting thing in the world, but it is edible. 

If eating it is not your cup of tea, there are other uses as well. It is great for garden soil if you chop it up and use it as fertilization. People used to smear it on their cheeks for makeup as well as creating a potent color dye. The milky white liquid in the stem is also used to get rid of warts. Oils made from the flower are good for the skin and sore muscles.   

dandelion-2dandelion-2 There is so much more to the world of dandelions. The things that I have written on this blog are just a mere drop in the bucket compared to all the uses that have been discovered out there, and they are everywhere! We’ve spent so much time buying all of our products from the grocery store, it is intriguing to know that there are some wild items out there that can be used for good causes. Sounds a lot more adventurous than saying: “I went to the supermarket today and bought some strawberries, doesn’t it?”

I am always searching for new information and ideas. Please feel free to add comments on any other uses or resources that you believe would help further our knowledge on dandelions and their uses.  

Resources:

https://www.naturallivingideas.com/things-to-do-with-dandelions/

https://www.trybackyardfarming.com/eat-dandelions-the-whole-plant-is-edible/

https://www.herballegacy.com/Chhabra_History.html

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-706/dandelion

http://untrainedhousewife.com/dandelion-uses-and-health-benefits

http://www.actforlibraries.org/plant-history-how-dandelions-came-to-north-america/

http://www.ourherbgarden.com/herb-history/dandelion-history.html

https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/12-things-to-make-with-dandelion-flowers/

 

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