Cosplay Photographers went down south again to interview Minerablu Photography for the May feature! He talked to us about the growing cosplay scene in Texas and the rest of the South, using natural light and donating his photography for a good cause.
Cosplay Photographers: Hi! Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from!
Mineralblu: I was born and raised in Kentucky. I moved to Texas about 15 years ago for grad school and eventually, work. I currently reside in Houston where I immersed myself into all kinds of photography.
Cosplay Photographers: How did you begin your journey into photography?
Mineralblu: I’ve always had a strong love for the visual arts ever since I was a kid, visiting the local art museum, scribbling pictures in a notepad. Unfortunately, I never quite fully developed my artistic skills as a painter or drawer growing up, so when I got my hands on a camera, it became the quickest path for me to creative catharsis.
Cosplay Photographers: Where does the name “Mineralblu” come from?
Mineralblu: “Mineralblu” is actually derived from the limited edition ‘mineral blue’ color of my old beloved 2001 Nissan Xterra. I loved that color (only 1500 were produced) and it became synonymous with me among my friends over time. When it came time to pick a name for my photography, it only seemed natural to use the beloved color to express my own personal visual work. However, since mineralblue.com was already taken, I simply dropped the ‘e’ and the rest is history.
Cosplay Photographers: How long have you been shooting?
Mineralblu: I had dabbled with creative photography since college using an old film camera, but I never really got serious into it until I got my first DSLR in 2009. It was an old Canon 40D, but it soon became an addiction.
Cosplay Photographers: And how did you find out about cosplay?
Mineralblu: My knowledge of cosplay actually predates my serious interest in photography. In 2007, I worked at ADV Films at its headquarters in Houston. At one point, ADV Films was the largest anime distributor in North America and the United Kingdom, and I basically lived and breathed anime during my time with the company. Their most popular titles included such anime as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gantz, and Princess Tutu. As part of the ADV Films staff, I was fortunate to attend my first anime convention simply as a fan at what was actually the very first Anime Matsuri in 2007. In one of my rare cosplay moments, I actually went as Clark Kent with a Superman shirt under my suit.
Cosplay Photographers: What’s it like being a cosplay photographer in Houston?
Mineralblu: In general, the cosplay photography community in Texas is a relatively new, yet exponentially growing community. With the help of social networking, such as Facebook groups, cosplay photographers in Texas (and surrounding areas like Oklahoma and Louisiana) are collectively helping to increase the exposure of area cosplayers and conventions, beyond what has traditionally been an East-West Coast scene, on a national level. We’re exchanging ideas and learning from each other by sharing links, videos, and other tips and tricks. It’s an exciting time to be a cosplay photographer in the area.
Cosplay Photographers: That does sound really exciting! Can you tell us a bit more about the cosplay community in Texas?
Mineralblu: Cosplay in Texas alone has a tremendous community of talented and passionate cosplayers visiting several area conventions throughout the year. Anime Matsuri 2014 in Houston recently welcomed nearly 20,000 attendees and featured special cosplay guests such as Reika from Japan in her first mainland U.S. appearance. A-Kon in Dallas is the oldest, continually running, anime-based convention in North America and is celebrating its 25th year in June 2014 with over 20,000 attendees expected to arrive. PAX South was just announced to debut in San Antonio in January 2015, and it should be huge as it will be the first new PAX site beyond Seattle, Boston, and Australia. Beyond anime and gaming, there is, of course, the much more established and mainstream comic convention circuit in Texas which includes Dallas Comic-Con, Comicpalooza Houston, and other events such as the Wizard World circuit stops in Austin and San Antonio. With these and many more conventions in Texas and surrounding states, area cosplayers definitely are able to let their flags fly.
Cosplay Photographers: What’s in your gear bag?
Mineralblu: I typically like to travel fast and light so my current gear bag consists of a Canon 6D with a Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime and a Canon 24mm f/2.8 prime. I like to shoot with as much natural light as possible, so the fast primes and the ISO capability of the 6D are right up my alley. If I know I’m shooting a fashion or cosplay show, I’ll throw in my bag a locally rented Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 or Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 for the reach. If I know I’ll be shooting at night without much light at all, then I’ve been known to bring perhaps my Canon 580EX II or Canon 430EX II speedlights with Pocket Wizard triggers. Of course, it all depends on how motivated I am to carry everything on my back! I recently got my hands on my father’s old Canon AE-1, so I am starting to tinker around with film photography as well.
Cosplay Photographers: I’ve noticed that you mainly like to use natural light. Any reason for preferring to use natural light over strobes?
Mineralblu: It’s more a matter of convenience than anything. I like to travel light and I like to keep my photoshoots quick and dirty to make the most of everybody’s time. If I have to shoot in less than ideal lighting conditions, I have been known to pack some speedlights and lug around maybe even a beauty dish or ring flash. In the end, it doesn’t matter to me where the light is coming from (the sun, street lamps, speedlights, etc.) as long as the final image is what I wanted to capture.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you prefer to do convention photoshoots, or to set up off-site shoots?
Mineralblu: They both have their pros and cons. I like conventions because it’s often when cosplayers like to bring their latest and greatest creations. However, you’re often limited in the locations to shoot at conventions, especially if it’s with a cosplayer you’ve met for the very first time in the hallway. I love off-site shoots because of the level of control over location, time and setting with the cosplayer; however, scheduling off-site shoots can be difficult with everyone’s schedules often being all over the place due to work and/or school.
Cosplay Photographers: Scheduling can be tricky. Tell us what goes into the planning of each shoot.
Mineralblu: Every shoot for me begins with location scouting, whether it’s at a convention or off-site. If I have the luxury of knowing in advance what cosplay I’m shooting and where we’re shooting, I will try to cater the location to the theme of the shoot (such as an industrial or mechanical environment for a sci-fi cosplay). If I don’t have such luxuries (such as an impromptu convention shoot), I’ll try to station myself at least in an area with agreeable lighting (natural or artificial). With the location and lighting staged, I’ll work with the cosplayer to use reference art as inspiration for posing.
Cosplay Photographers: After the shoot, what software do you use for post processing?
Mineralblu: At the moment, I pretty much use Adobe Lightroom 5 exclusively for photo editing. I have Adobe Photoshop via Adobe Creative Cloud, but my edits pretty much consist of minor adjustments such as cropping, exposure, shadows, vibrance, highlights, whites, and blacks.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you have any tips for people who are just starting out with digital post-processing?
Mineralblu: Don’t get caught up in the technicalities of gear and software. They’re merely tools for you to use to achieve your vision. Everyone has a different method to their madness. I strongly recommend brushing up with books and online resources about the fundamentals behind the art of photography to understand why certain images simply work better than others.
Cosplay Photographers: In addition to cosplay, you also do other photography, such as maternity. Do these styles have any crossover?
Mineralblu: I love photography in general, so my portfolio consists of both cosplay as well as other non-cosplay genres in a wide variety of subjects including fashion, concerts, sports, maternity, newborn, engagements, and other conventional portraits. I apply everything I’ve learned to each new shoot, regardless of subject matter. Many of my cosplay shoots utilize what I’ve learned in particular from shooting in various lighting conditions as well as with various poses and vice versa. Ultimately, the goal is to create simply great images, regardless of the subject matter.
Mineralblu: Shooting portraits of dogs for my local rescue group is a passion project of mine since 2009 when we rescued a wounded pit bull roaming in traffic. We learned that providing dogs with quality portraits full of life and personality exponentially increased their chances of getting adopted. The rescue group would share these portraits on their websites as well as place the portraits by their kennels so that potential adopters could see what these canines look like in a more natural environment instead of looking scared and depressed fresh from the local kill shelters. The weekly challenge of learning to work with ever-changing and ever-moving subjects that don’t really understand a word of what you’re saying to them makes working with cosplayers, babies, and models much easier.
Cosplay Photographers: What do you think makes all of your photos – not just cosplay – stand out from others?
Mineralblu: I hope that my images speak for themselves, but if I had to describe my particular style in a few words, I would probably say clean, composed and natural. You should always strive to find your own signature style and not merely emulate what everyone else is doing.
Cosplay Photographers: No matter what you’re shooting, what do you think are the key ingredients of your personal photography style?
Mineralblu: Keeping a keen sense of where the light sources are coming from (whether artificial or natural) is a key ingredient of my style no matter where or what I’m shooting. Posing and positioning are also key elements of my photography since many cosplayers are not models and also have no sense of the where the light is in relation to where they are posing. Many of the poses in my shoots are inspired directly from reference art and screenshots from the source material itself.
Cosplay Photographers: How do you personally keep your knowledge of photography up to date? Do you watch videos online, or take any classes?
Mineralblu: While I do pull a lot of learning from traditional photography resources such as books, videos, and online resources such as KelbyOne, I actually pull a lot of my personal inspiration from watching movies. I am fascinated by watching scenes come to life in all kinds of movies, and films often employ some of the best artists in the industry. Some of my most recent inspirations (plots notwithstanding) include cinematography work by Jeff Cronenweth (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo & The Social Network), Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity), and Wally Pfister (cinematographer for most of Christopher Nolan’s films including Inception and the upcoming Interstellar).
Cosplay Photographers: Who are some of your favorite photographers, cosplay or otherwise?
Mineralblu: I’m inspired by many different photographers such as Robert Capa (war photography), Henri Cartier-Bresson (photojournalism), Annie Liebovitz (portraiture), Dan Winters (portraiture), and Robert Doisneau (photojournalism). One of the photographers who I’m fascinated by at the moment is Elena Shumilova, a Russian mother who only got into photography in early 2012. Her photos quickly went viral for the magical nature of her images of her children and their animal friends on the family farm.
Cosplay Photographers: Describe your dream shoot.
Mineralblu: I am fascinated by epic and exotic location shoots. I’ve visited Tokyo and New York and I think it would be awesome to do cosplay shoots in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of the city. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I recently saw an episode of Fargo, the television series, and there was an incredible scene of a car amidst a vast flat white landscape of snow. Shooting characters on location in such epically awesome backgrounds would be incredible.
Cosplay Photographers: Any favorite cosplayers you’ve worked with?
Mineralblu: I love them all of course. As a fan and photographer, I’m in a unique position to meet and network with such great people who work so hard on their craft of cosplay. It’s so hard to list just a few, but here’s just a partial list of who I’ve been lucky to shoot the last few months: Twinzik Cosplay, Ayriath Cosplay, Stella Chuu, Vampy Bit Me, Katie Cosplays, God Save the Queen Fashions, Jessica Nigri, It’s Raining Neon, Ani-Mia, MarieDoll, Viverra Cosplay, Amouranth, FOA Cosplay, Lana Marie, Amaya De’Morte, Shinrajunkie, Johnny N Junkers, Pro Voltage Cosplay, Krystle Starr, Electric Lady, MangaFreak150, Kirakira Cosplay, xxFruitcakexx, Access Cosplay, Jennifer Van Damsel, Aurum Cosplay, Amie Lynn, Monika Lee, Destiny Nickelsen, and most recently Ger Tysk!
Cosplay Photographers: What’s one thing you’d love to do to level up your cosplay photography in the future?
Mineralblu: I’ve been tempted to tinker around with Photoshop more to create more digital effects with cosplayers, including composite work. I’ve also been tempted to do some cosplay videography as well; however, my time to process photographs is limited with work, travel and my other interests. I pick up what I can here and there while working on what seems like a never ending backlog of photos from recent photoshoots.
Cosplay Photographers: We’ve all experienced the backlog! Thanks for talking with us, and good luck!
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