This has been something that’s been on my bucket list for a while, and it seemed like as good an idea as any to attempt to get me travelling again (in as safe and controlled a manner as I can), so Paul and I packed up and drove down to Pittsburgh recently to shoot at the Carrie Blast Furnaces — which is incredibly pretty, and a perfect setting for NeiR Automata, and Final Fantasy VII shoots!
Now, before you drop everything to go descend on Pittsburgh with your cosplays — while the site is happy to have people come in and shoot in the space, you do have to pay for usage of the space. It’s still a public site, so you’ll have their security checking on you (very, very nicely! we loved them so much!) frequently, and there are strict rules about where you can and cannot be. So don’t be a dick if you’re going to go, okay? Be nice and then tell them Bre and Paul sent you.
All that said — the space was so welcoming, and excited about our photos! They gave us a little tour of the place and explained the history before we started as well, which I loved. The people working the space now are incredibly community oriented, and honestly, I’m so excited about what they’re going to do, and super pumped to go back! (So friends, keep your eyes open, Paul and I will probably be posting about going back in the fall …)
Paul and I are pretty used to doing shoots on location with minimal things that we can bring — we’ve both done urban exploring in the past, and we have a pretty storied history of shooting cosplays in those sorts of locations over the years (including things like waterfalls in the middle of nowhere, lakes in the winter, abandoned mansions, etc). So this was actually a pretty easy set-up for us. We did a walk through of the property, and decided on where we wanted to shoot, then pulled our car up near there, so that we could use the car as a base for housing our cosplays, props, for when we needed air conditioning, providing cover for changing, etc.
I heartily recommend having a few things on hand for cosplay models in outdoor settings like this, where you’re at the mercy of nature:
You’ll notice I’m talking about the heat and cooling models down a lot — that’s because in this particular instance, I needed that a bunch. Sorry for the squeamish, but I was incredibly sick for this shoot. I won’t talk about it too much, but I’ve never had to go barf in the grass as I finished a look before. 😅 So I spent a lot of time with water bottles against the back of my neck, or shoved in the front of my dress, or on my butt, haha. Usually I’m the model that needs to be warmed up, so this was pretty weird!
For the record, I’m doing okay now! I was a little bummed out that I wound up being so sick on this trip, I haven’t been this sick in probably a decade or so, so I wound up not getting a lot of what I wanted shot! I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve actually canceled shoots because I was sick, so this was a lot, just in general.
This is my friend Hun, and I owe her and Paul my life, I feel like, after these shoots. 😂 They kept me hydrated, and cool, and took my behind the scenes, and put up with me barfing like constantly and then apologizing for barfing constantly.
It was just the three of us, which is a small crew, but more than doable for the sort of thing we were doing! The space itself was doing most of the work, to be honest — the quality of the natural light in the factory where we were shooting was always gorgeous. No real need for lights, just a single reflector, and some extra hands to hold them!
You can see the reflector on the ground next to Paul; it has a reflective silver surface, which can be used to, well, reflect light! This is especially helpful for when you have big ol’ wigs that might be shadowing your model’s face. Also helpful when you have very large set pieces around you that might cast shadow, or that might make it so that you can’t put your model at an ideal angle for your lighting. You’ll be able to see when it’s working, because you’ll see the light reflected! It’s incredibly handy for shooting photos on the go, especially outside when you might not have access to electricity or battery power for lights!
Ideally, you’ll also have another person to help you angle said reflector, which is why I’m so pleased there were the three of us! That’s kind of my ideal minimum, haha.
Although, in the cases where Paul could hold the reflector and camera, it was still invaluable to have Hun around! (Also, I just love having her around in general!)
We were worried that it might be dark inside, so we actually had some batteries and lights along with us juuuust in case it was needed — but there’s so much beautiful natural light inside, as you can tell from the photos! There’s lots of open areas which allow light to filter in, even inside, so we found that the only thing we needed was the reflector, and even then — sometimes, we didn’t use it at all!
There were entire other buildings and huge other spaces that we didn’t shoot in at all — we really only shot in this space, pictured above, and outside of it, as well as one other small area. There were huge amounts of space that were stunning that we didn’t use at all.
Climbing up from the outside area where we were shooting, to the main steel refinery.
Another thing that we use a lot in photos on location is a little thing called Canned Fog! It’s — well, it’s what it says on the can. It’s an aerosol can, like a spray paint can, but it sprays fog! It works best when there’s little to no wind in your location, because the wind will blow it away and disperse it.
This is another thing that it really is necessary to have more than just the model and photographer available to do. One of the great uses of fog is to help separate the model from the background when both the model and the background are similar colours. In this case, it helps 2B’s dark and very matte dress, from the dark shadows behind me! Otherwise it’s very easy for the black dress and the black shadows to kind of get lost in each other.
(In a pinch, we’ve also just vaped smoke at each other, tbh. 😂 We’ve also had smoke machines, and tbh, canned smoke has almost always worked better for us, smoke machines are temperamental AF.)
Honestly, the main thing with shooting in such a huge location is to have a vision of what you want, and not get overwhelmed. It’s easy to just keep shooting every time you round a corner and find something new. Absolutely take a detailed walk through the location before anyone puts anything uncomfortable or difficult to move in on, and talk about what shots you want — even take the shots, decide where you’re standing, before anyone has a costume on.
I’m so pumped with the photos, and I can’t wait to share them, so stay tuned! Paul and I are working hard on them — we want them done before we turn around and come to Yeticon in a couple of weeks. 😂 Wish us luck!