Get Your Geekon: Pinball, Beer and Charity

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If I recall correctly I believe I was alive at the tail end of the arcade generation. A time where you would exchange all of your allowance into quarters and play games while your parent were out doing whatever at the mall. I remember dumping a lot of those quarters into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game and Time  Crisis when I was a kid. While today arcades have become very obsolete with modern gaming platforms being the way they are there’s still something satisfying about setting up at a cabinet dumping all your quarters into it. That’s what made Get Your Geekon such a great event and you didn’t have to get a role of quarters.

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Geekon, the company hosting the event at Sister Bar in Down Town Albuquerque, specializes in restoring, repairing and selling these old arcade cabinets and pinball machines. The endevor started as a simple pet project of restoring an old Ms. Pacman machine and it turned into a business that they are able to operate from their own home. It could almost be described as inspiring.

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The event it’s self was put on to benefit Project Pinball which is a Charity group that raises money to put pinball machines in children’s hospitals. Proceeds from the event’s pinball and street fighter tournament went to Project Pinball as well as vendors that were selling prints and raffling off prizes.

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The best thing about Get you Geekon without a doubt was the people. Not just the patrons who came out for a drink and a round of pinball but everyone who came out to contribute; Jon Sakura of Gamers Anonymous came out with his usual classic and fun loving flair and the Girls of Geek also came to sell prints and mingle with the crowd. It was easy to feel in place when you have people who you’ve gotten to know over the years be present at these sorts of events and want to just help out with a good cause and friends.

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Daniel Reinhard. COO of Geekon LLC.

Gotham Girls in Downtown Albuquerque.

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Concepts are not my strong suite, I primarily focus on shooting. My mind is always focused on what my setting are, is my compositions clean where are my highlights and what do I need to change in a given moment. That’s what I like about photography, that feeling of being in the moment and being able to adapt in any situation to get exactly what you want out of a given situation. Lucky enough for me  I get to work with different people who can come up with concepts for me.AJA_0068

While scrolling through my various social interwebs areas I came across a post by Jenna Lay (scene here as Catwoman) asking if anyone would be interested in shooting a Catwoman and Poison Ivy themed shoot with fellow model Taylor Hayes (Poison Ivy). This being particularly up my alley in terms of things I like to shoot I volunteered. Summer was drawing to a close and I’m never one to turn down and opportunity to shoot.

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I offered up a location in Downtown Albuquerque that I had previously shot with Tara (See those Photos here) that gave the perfect mix of urban concrete and green plant life which was perfect for the characters we would be representing. It allowed us to be relatively in the same space while at the same time we could get a variety of different looks without going too far which for costume based photo shoots in public areas is a good thing. The over all shoot took less than an hour and didn’t require much gear. Really it was just my standard body and lens set up and me just keeping and eye on my exposure the whole time.

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The more and more I shoot the more I can see some of my personal style points becoming drastically prevalent. Especially when I shoot models I want my subject to fill the frame. Props and backdrops should be exactly that back drops. Having the subjects as a the main focus makes it easier for the audience know what they’re supposed to be seeing and not getting distracted by something that draws the eye away. Visually I’m trying to get the sharp areas sharp and the areas that don’t matter soft and bokeh-ee. It’s primarily the reason why I’ve gotten away from using the skin softening brush, I’ve fallen in love with getting a rich level of detail in people’s faces and all that the skin softening tool really does is dull out yours images and make them look like those terrifying dolls your sister had as a kid.

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In editing (where the photos come together) I have also come up with a certain style. If anything it amounts to fine tuning of images in lightroom. Adding contrast, pulling shadows, dropping highlights getting exposure balanced out and doing very little to almost no changes to the physical image. I come from a photojournalist background and I refuse to mess with the physical elements of an image. For portraiture I will make some compromises like healing out obvious blemishes and making some changes on request to color especially when wardrobe doesn’t match. But other than that I try to keep the physical space untouched but that’s just me. Some people may not share my same sentiment when it comes to editing and think that’s okay but that’s not what I want to do to my images and I think they are better off that way.

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Desert Darlings Belly Dancing Performs at Burts Tiki Lounge.

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Almost any craft should be approached with some level of confidence. For many people confidence comes from years of training and repetition , other lucky individuals just spew confidence naturally. But the confidence that is necessary to perform in front of a crowd is possibly the rarest and most admirable forms to witness.

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The Desert Dalings Belly Dancing group had this confidence on full display on Saturday night when they performed in front of the crowd at Burt’s Tiki Lounge in downtown Albuquerque. Their unique blend of traditional belly dancing mixed with modern sensibilities provided lasting entertainment for friends of the performers and unsuspecting patrons alike.

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Burt’s is a very familiar venue. It bares the attributes for what you’d expect from any other dive bar; Almost non existent lighting, colorful cast of Patrons scattered throughout the place, a sound check and PA systems woefully out of date and a grittiness that only creatures of the night can really appreciate. The main hook that Burt’s offers as a venue is their communal charm that the bar brings. I’ve never seen them have a cover charge for an event and everyone there seems to be having a good time when there is a performance.

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When I’m in photo mode I’m always looking for one thing out of my subjects, and that thing is personality, and there was no shortage of that on display with each performance. Each dancer had a different quality that they brought with them when on stage. Some were more more reserved and methodical with their movements and others had attitude and improvisation flowing through them giving the show a sense of verity.

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The key thing to look for in performance photography is moment, which can be difficult especially with the fast paced motion that you get from a performance art like belly dancing. Their entire body is always in play when they dance and it’s easy to miss something incredible and capture something that is unflattering. If you can just nail down timing and framing of your images you can get incredible results but you also have to account for a bit of luck when shooting.

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Now let’s not tip toe around the subject, performance lighting generally speaking is terrible. I have yet to shoot a performance where the lighting was perfect and I could do what ever I wanted. Live performance lighting is designed to give things atmosphere and provide a certain tone to patrons, but it’s less kind to the sensors in cameras. If you’re shooting stills at a live performance you’re stuck with high ISO grain, shallow depth of field apertures and motion bluing shutter speeds. None of these things are bad qualities in any ways shape or form (except maybe the grainy ISOs) but it’s unfortunate that you’re stuck with such  limiting conditions.

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If anything can be said about the Desert Darlings’ Performance it’s that there was no lack of confidence that night. Those ladies got on that stage and owned it and that is something to be admired. It takes a lot to take something you work hard on put it out there for people to see and it takes a significant amount of courage to do so.AJA_0359

Girls of Geek: A Grounded, Modern Twist on Disney

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I’m not great at coming up with creative concepts. A lot of the times I have models show up at certain time at a certain place in what ever outfit they pulled out of their closet having done their hair and make up in whatever fashion they felt suited them. Maybe it’s just my style, deciding to work with whatever I’m given and try to create something out of nothing. But lucky for me working with Girls of Geek comes with built in concepts for me to work with. This weekend we teamed up to do a Disney Princess shoot in that had a more grounded twist to it that you’ve probably never seen before.

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Like the million of other shoots I have done in the past I went into this one relatively blind. The location, the outfitting and many other things were completely out of my hands. What I was given was an excellent location that I instantly fell in love with and outfits that looked (and pretty much were) pulled straight out of closets that gave the images a very realistic look to them. A lot of times when shooting cosplay one of the common struggles I have is that the outfit looks like a costume and doesn’t make sense, but the practicality of these outfits made everything make sense in the context of the images.

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You could be forgiven for looking at the images and not realizing the Disney influence in the images right away, especially at first glance but I find that subtlety to adds a level of interest to the photos and brings out the individual personalities of the girls which is what I’m looking for when I’m taking portraits. If you did a sort of blind view test I’m curious as to when you would have the A-HA moment of realization of the theme.

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Like any shoot their was challenges and in photography the #1 challenge is always going to be lighting. My love of shooting on location and not in a studio has the added baggage of giving me set lighting conditions that I have to find a way to work with. In this case, we got a bright mid day sun with harsh shadows. On the bright side (pun intended) the high amount of light let me keep the ISO all the way down at 100 which have the best possible results in terms of image quality. The main way I solved any shooting problems was by shooting strictly in shaded areas which were few and far between but easy enough to find and exploit.

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An added gift at the location was a silo that offered one of the most interesting settings I’ve ever worked with on top of having some of the best lighting I’ve ever experienced. I got all of the controllable elements of an indoor location with the lighting comparable to an overcast afternoon, which is my ideal shooting condition.  My mind started racing with different Ideas that I could possibly do with the location. Not all of them could be accomplished in the time that I had, but it never hurts to keep a few ideas in your back pocket.

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Every shoot I try to do something a little bit different and see what kind or results I can get. In the case of this shoot I played around with the aperture. I always stop my lens down at least a stop to get the proper sharpness. F2.8 has always been my go to on my primes but with all the added light I took the opportunity stop down a bit more to f3.5 and I was blown away by the results. The in focus bits were as sharp as sharp can be and I still got the nice bokeh in the background.

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My favorite part of working with Girls of Geek is the personalities that are mixed into the group. Each of them has a certain quality about themselves that makes them unique but they all mixed together so well to where it almost doesn’t feel like it’s a shoot. It felt like a group of friends hanging out on a Saturday.

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Another thing I enjoy about this group is the ease that comes with photographing them. The value of excellent models often goes under appreciated. Shoots require a high level of collaboration and the better rapport the better the results you’ll get out of the images.

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Editing wise there was very little that I had to do. The main thing I was looking at was the focus. For portraits you need to make sure the eyes are in perfect focus and then work from there. Normally it’s just a few color adjustments and added contrast. I’ll adjust exposure settings until it’s right but nothing ever too fancy.

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All in all this was probably on of the better shoots I’ve had the opportunity to participate in for a while. The results speak for themselves when looking at the images. I couldn’t be happier with this shoot or getting more opportunities to work with the Girls of Geek.

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You can find Girls of Geek all over social media and I’ll leave link bellow. They have also started a new subscription service when where every month they’ll send you a box of goodies. For more info just go to girlsofgeek.com

Social Media Accounts

Twitter: @GirlsOfGeek

Instagram: @Girls Of Geek

Facebook: Girls of Geek

Delina (Cinderella):

Instagram:@DelinaEllise
Facebook: D3lina

Batmanda (Snow White):

Instagram: @Batmanda13

Facebook: Batmanda

Jacqui Daniels (Ariel):

Instagram: @jacquidaniels
Facebook: Jacqui Daniel

Amy Downing (Belle):

Instagram: @teamamy147

Jennifer Heart (Jasmine):

Instagram: @jennifer_heart_

Travel Photography: Virginia/ D.C 2015

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It’s been a little more than a year since I traveled Virginia to visit my girlfriend’s family and friends. The last time I was out there, the weather was relatively cold and I had the opportunity to experience what it was like to get two feet of snow overnight. This time around, I got to experience what a humid summer is like on the East Coast.

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To be honest I didn’t play with my camera much this trip. I came out specifically to spend time with my girlfriend and her loved ones and I didn’t particularly feel compelled to spend my time hiding behind a camera. However there were situations while we were out and about with Emilie’s friends that I brought my camera along.

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One of the first places we walked through was Old Town Alexandria, where we spent most of our time going in and out of the different shops. Normally, this would have been the ideal place to shoot some street photography, however the crowed in the area didn’t particularly catch my interest. Instead a lot of my focus here was on Emilie and her friends as we entered and exited the different shops.

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Later in the trip we took the Metro up to D.C. for the standard Museum and sight-seeing day. The great thing about being in a touristy area is that you don’t have to work too hard to blend in.

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Summers in D.C. and summers in Albuquerque look incredibly different. For starters, D.C. Is a proper metropolitan area whereas Albuquerque can sometimes have more of a wide-spread, small town feel. On top of that, it’s a lot greener in D.C. on account of the humidity.But, in contrast, D.C. doesn’t have the same sky that New Mexico does.

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While in the Museums I didn’t want to get too trigger happy; instead of focusing on the exhibits I focused on my group of people (and some strangers) while still maintaining respect for the atmosphere.

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The lighting in the museum of art was very different from what i am used to. There were areas with really soft flattering lighting, and others with dark areas that had intense falloff. Nothing I couldn’t handle especially with editing the RAW file in post.

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In the backwoods of Virginia I tried stepping out of my normal comfort zone and shooting some nature shots, a realm of photography I am certainly not native to.AJA_0153

While shooting so close to nature I discovered that I craved the convenience of a macro lens (something that I don’t own) which could have let me get in closer for finder detail shots. I found that many of the wide shots that I had taken felt a bit chaotic.

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Of course I couldn’t just get a new setting in front of me and pass up the opportunity for a portrait session. So me and Emilie went out on one of the few days that we had down time and took some photos. The seemingly constant overcast sky provided soft lighting and the foliage gave the perfect backdrop. The drawback of this was the humidity that caused my lens to fog up at the top of the shoot, which called for some editing to make it look like it was on purpose.

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Overall, it was a fun and successful trip and I look forward to going out there again.

Mother Nature Doesn’t Do Favors: Shooting With Alissa Narvaez

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As a photographer you’re always looking for something new. A new location to shoot at, a new concept to try to bring to life and even a new ways to shoot. But the one thing you’re constantly looking for is a new model to work with. Alissa Narvaez has been someone who’s been on my radar for possibly a year now and after a long wait I finally got the opportunity to work with her in a very casual shoot in Old Town Albuquerque.

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The motivation for shooting with Alissa primarily comes from her creative mind. Looking through her instagram, she keeps a trove of brilliant creative design work as well as some high concept makeup works that she does in her spare time. This was probably the most casual thing we could have shot together considering the immense amount of creative possibilities, but despite being a clearly talented individual this was the first time she had worked with a photographer taking the photos of her. This however was not much of an issue because I’ve become accustomed to shooting with newer models. While my directing skills are not quite up to par, my main goal with any kind of shoot like this is to get the subject comfortable with a camera pointed at them. The rest just takes time and practice.

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Now the big kicker of this whole shoot was the fact that mother nature didn’t want to cooperate. Now that we’re in the long days of summer, I scheduled this shoot fairly late hoping to catch everything right at that golden hour where the sun is low and the light is warm, but nature had other plans. Just as I was out the door to heading into Old Town Albuquerque storm clouds started rolling in. The clouds weren’t so much of an issue, they create nice even and soft lighting. It was the wind that was being a pain. Alissa has a lot of hair and it got caught in the wind a lot. On top of that, the clouds had rolled in so late that I had to bump my ISO higher than I really wanted to. However, my motto for photography is role with the punches; despite the challenges, we were able to tie things together and make some beautiful images.

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Over all it was an extremely pleasant shoot with Alissa and I look forward to continuing working with her as she wants to do more professional shoots. Chances are she’ll be the next Tara and will be working with all the photographers and doing all the photo shoots in no time at all.

Gothic Shoot with a Piercing Twist

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Tara (aka Ravensnow as she’s known on her new modeling page) has long been one of my favorite people to work with since we both started almost 2 years ago. Recently she’s been blowing up working with photographers from all over the state, making friends with a stellar makeup artist known as Stormie Steen and getting spoiled in the process by photographers and re-touchers.

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Even though Tara has been making her way up the modeling ladder she still keeps in mind why does it in the first place, for the fun of it. Whenever anyone at our shoots (Me, Tara, my girlfriend Emilie ect.) comes up with an idea whether it be a pose, a prop or even a location or theme, the general consensus is always “fucking go for it.” That’s the kind of attitude that I love when it comes to shooting with Tara.

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Everything in the shoot just happened to tie together almost perfectly. Tara’s hair and makeup (Done by Stormie Steen), her wardrobe choices, the location (just a stairwell behind the Albuquerque Convention Center), the prop machete and the corset piercing (Done by Scott Self) all blended together in a very horror-esque Gothic way that also somehow accidentally  had a bit of Harley Quinn influences in there (don’t know how it happened but it did.)

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On thing that I wasn’t expecting out of the shoot was how well the location worked out. Location scouting is always difficult and there is always a level of exploration that goes into finding the perfect area. When I was having the conversation with Tara about where we would do the shoot she said she wanted something that looked very dark and abandoned. I remembered the stairwell at the back of the convention center and how it fit that mold perfectly for what she wanted. The climate was very controlled, nobody was ever really around and there was a nearby outlet that I could hook extension cables to in to order to get my lighting kit set up.

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What was also perfect was the location outside the stairwell. This was the part that took a little exploration. Right outside the stairwell was a well shaded are with lots of space, Some concrete and even some nature which allowed us to get some other aesthetics in with the set.

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The best thing that came out of the exploration was this sort of tunnel are that ran along the street with it’s own walkway. The lighting that it gave off was unique and perfect for portrait shooting. Of course a lot of it ended up getting blown out in the highlights but in the case of these images it worked extremely well and it’s ads more of an ethereal feel to the images that the stairwell didn’t have. I intend on using this location again in the future, I just need to figure out what that will be.

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Editing wise everything was very simple. Stormie’s makeup was so well done that there wasn’t much for me to correct and everything else was my standard contrast and color correcting. Tara of course had some input on the edits this time around. She probably has a more critical eye than I do. I tend to be very conservative with my edits and I’m trying to take in the models input more and more. I need to remember that I don’t necessarily have to follow the same rules for Photojournalism as I do for portraiture.

 

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It was great to be able to work with Tara again and hopefully we both continue to do awesome things, together and separately+, well into the future.