LARP Awards 2016 – The Photos I’m Not Entering

I don’t enter my pictures into the LARP Awards. This isn’t the post to go into detail about why I don’t, but I thought I’d kind of ‘play along’ and select some of my favourite images from the last year that I’ve shot.

But I’m also going to explain some of my reasoning – because I know photographers are interested in that shit. Sometimes. Well, mostly I know Tom is interested in that shit. So Tom, this one is for you. 😉

In no particular order and with no favouritism:


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

A technically difficult photograph to pull off. Shot late in the evening within the ritual circle created by Mandala Studios.

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

I’m not really big into EXIF data, but I’m going to post it a few times in this post. It helps me remember what I did in order to get the shot.

So this one was using the 25-105mm f4 lens, which is a pretty unforgiving lens in low light. It’s ability to focus in low light is… almost non-existant. So this would have been a manually focussed shot from a tripod, which means I planned the shot, prepared myself, and waited for the right moment to catch it. Which makes me very pleased. Much more pleased than a random snap of something just happening.

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

It’s also pretty in focus too – which is always nice. And unusual for me photographing at night. (I can’t photograph at night. It’s not me. Don’t make me do it.)

But mostly I like the composition here, and the colours. The composition really makes the shot I think.


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

This one is from the same Empire event as the one above.

It’s proof that you don’t need great gear to photograph with. The lens I’m using above is the Canon 100-400mm MkI, which I picked up second hand for about £600 some years ago. It’s been my workhorse over the past three years, and I’m only now really considering changing it.

I like the composition here. The framing of the Orc between other people is really nice. Mind you, this is mostly how I see people at LARP – I am only short. The rain adds something in the background too. My only irritant is that the mask sags round his mouth so I’m unable to photoshop it in order to make it into a competition entry shot. But that’s my problem – obviously – not the players problem.

Just to see the kind of results I’m getting with that lens – here’s the close up.

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

There are flaws with this lens. The details are rarely sharp and I don’t like the bokeh that you get in images with backlighting. But it’s a good budget option.


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

Shadow Wars this time. At the Gaol.

I just love the composition here. It really works for me with the dark figure agains the light background and the dark background on the other side of the image. The crispness of the vape on a cold (but sunny) day finishes the image off for me and makes it one of my favourites from this year.


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

I don’t particularly ‘like’ this photo, but it did feel like a bit of a technical achievement. The gas coming out of the gun was a capture I couldn’t have predicted – now I  just need to get this effect on an image I love compositionally…


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

Forsaken LRP now. If I had my way I wouldn’t release any photo of mine that wasn’t this sharp. I think I’d quickly become even less popular than I already am though because not many of my pictures would make it out to the internet.

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

So this was one of those events where I borrowed Simon’s Canon 70-20mm f2.8 MkII, and it was THE shot that convinced me that I need to buy one for myself – which I really need to sort out this afternoon.

This lens is just beautiful. I mean, it’s really hard to make people understand why some lenses are lovely and some are not. And it’s not a price thing either – it’s not about ‘whoever spends the most money wins’.

It’s about the positively creamy background here. And the fact that his back shoulder is thrown out of focus which pulls your attention back to his face. The superb rendering of detail – as you can see in the close up above. And of course it’s the fact that this lens has a fantastic auto-focus mechanism. I do not shoot LARP with manual focus. I am not good enough to do that. I need a lens that will help me with the bits of photography I’m not very good at.

And of course – the guy in the photo is pretty good too. It was great timing to capture that moment of intense emotion playing out through his character. A++ would photograph him again.

Possibly my favourite LARP photo from 2015.


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

So, I’m picking this one. The World Went Dark is probably the first time that I’ve really thought about what imaging technology might actually look like in the setting of a game. Here I went back to inspiration taken from Daguerreotypes. Now they’re not a faithful reproduction of that style, but they are ‘inspired by’ in the coolthentic way that LARP loves.

I shot alot of good images at The World Went Dark. Far more than I normally would at an event. But still not enough ‘great’ images.


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

I’m going to count this as a LARP image. Cazz and I met at LARP, he’s wearing his LARP costume, the portraits were created for a future LARP, the only thing not LARP is the weapon. Would the UK LARP Awards count this as a LARP picture? Fuck knows.

I’ve been out of practice at shooting portraits and retouching them recently. Well, for a few years now. I’ve just not really made many opportunities to do it. But Cazz kept asking (a bit like an overenthusiastic puppy) and so eventually he made it to my studio and we shot stuff.

It’s good, I like the composition here. The hands are nice and tidy – in shot but out of the way (hands are really hard to deal with in portraits) and the light is good. There’s about six hours of retouching in there – believe it or not. Not because Cazz is ugly and has awful skin or anything, but because I really wanted to produce a show piece image that I could be really proud of. And here it is – understated and subtle.

And check that focus out… shot with the Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro MkI. I had to blur the image very slightly because I felt it was actually slightly *too* sharp.

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

Here’s a second picture of Cazz, this time having a cuddle with Russ. At the start of the year I decided that I wanted to produce a documentary project focussing on the people who make LARP events happen, rather than the players who play the events. I try to photograph people either midway through an event or just afterwards, taking them away from the hustle of the event for just a couple of minutes in order to make their portrait. I try to shoot each Gamesmaker portrait within five or so shots.

It’s also important to me to let people pose how they want to be seen. Most event organisers I know, and those who are heavily involved in running events, have a very strong sense of ‘self’. They know who they are, they know how they want to be perceived, and I like to let them show that. I suspect that I need to learn a bit more about posing this year so that I can pose people without losing their sense of self, but I’m not quite sure how to approach that, I’m sure I will.

This is one of the images that I let some photographic judges tear to pieces at the weekend. Cazz’s dark eyes need lightning in photoshop (that’s a symptom of the light and my photography rather than his tiredness…), both pairs of dark trousers need lightning slightly and possibly need a bit more saturation, and most crucially the focus is out. Russ’ arm is more in focus than their faces – which is a serious problem (although possibly correctable in Photoshop to an extent).

But, I’m still really pleased with it as a shot. The fog rolling in that morning was fantastic. And the sense of relief on their faces is really what the entire project is about.

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering


 

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

I think this might be my overall favourite LARP shot that I took last year. Unfortunately it’s terminally out of focus and I don’t think I can save it.

LARP Awards 2016 - The Photos I'm Not Entering

But anyway. The aim was to document those in the UK who make LARP what it is. Matt might be a friend, but he also does an awful lot behind the scenes. Obviously.

The colours, the composition, they both work well here. I’m pleased with how it came out – and it really started to set the standard for how I would style my Gamesmaker portraits. I’ve tried a few different things since, but they’ve not worked quite as well. I just keep coming back to this off-centre composition and environmental setting. Objectively – I need to bring a bit more light into his eyes in Photoshop. But that’s pretty minor.

The biggest compliment though was when an event or two later Matt told me that although he hated having his picture taken, he didn’t mind sitting for me at all. And actually, he really liked the way he looked in this photo.

And that’s probably one of the biggest compliments you can pay me if I make your portrait.