Photography and an Eye on Electronic Dance Music

Mizeyesis performing her birthday set at elements, a weekly drum and bass night held at The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, MA.

I was approached by Ryan Eisele a week or so ago about licensing a photo of Mizeyesis that I took while she performed her birthday set at elements, a weekly drum-and-bass event held at The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, MA., for a pandemic interview series. The website is a newly launched community resource, and is centered on an electronic dance music community calendar.

I thought it was important to make sure that the licensed photo had the best possible edit I could create, compared to the earlier edit, so I made sure that the final version remained true to the original photo while bringing out greater detail in the lighting and LED screen in the background, highlighting (har har!) Mizeyesis’ hair, and balancing a touch more warmth with subtle vibrancy to her skin tones. The final version I sent out is high-resolution and un-compromised by Facebook’s brutal compression.

(I still didn’t use Photoshop to do it. 😀)

Thank you, Ryan! I am grateful and humbled by your outreach and am glad we could work something out that helps to support all three parties involved.

My Photography and My Mental Health

Time for some mental health talk.

For starters, I can assure you that, no, I am not a danger to myself or others.

I was diagnosed with bipolar II a few years ago. It’s a combination of hypomania (mania-lite) and major depression (Depression, Xtreme Edition!). What made it very apparent was a combination of two factors. There was noticeable pattern in posts from my old Livejournal account where I would write about how great everything was, have lots of quick posts, and a flurry of activity for a month or so and then, suddenly, posts about how horrible I felt, how down I was, and how much I was withdrawing. There was never any “trigger” for it and no event that I could point to as the direct cause of the swing. It just happened. There’s about ten years of activity that got documented, and the up and down pattern is very distinct.

The second factor that came into play was my growing photo library. At the time I was using Apple’s Aperture to collect and organize photos. I think I was accidentally in a “Vew by Month” setting, where each month had the total number of images listed. Some months were really busy, with hundreds of images (sometimes thousands) and other months were drastically different with maybe a few dozen images at best, and zero images at worst.

What connected it all and made bipolar II an inescapable conclusion and diagnosis was realizing that the same exact pattern existed in my Livejournal account. For giggles, I compared the two side-by-side and the up and down pattern — the floods of activity followed by long periods of very little to no activity — lined up perfectly.

Photography has really been the one thing I could always fall back on through these ups and downs.

About 2-3 weeks ago, I noticed the hypomania was coming back. It’s the part of bipolar II where I suddenly look to any nearby observer as if I am suddenly back to feeling like “my old self” again. Sometimes, it feels like I am REALLY caffeinated. I grow more outgoing, talkative and animated as I talk, restless and wanting to do stuff. It doesn’t matter what, it’s just an intense urge to do something, anything.

It also never lasts long. The depressive swing came back a couple of days ago. There’s never a point where I can say I am at a baseline “normal,” that anything above it is “hypomanic” and anything below it is “depressive.” It’s just feeling highly caffeinated for about a month followed by a sudden and immediate drop to immensely depressed for months on end that gets interrupted a sudden spike in energy for about a month, and the cycle continues.

There is never a specific trigger.

Mix all that with cPTSD and a non-specific dissociative disorder (I am de-realized most of the day), and you get me: at best, a weirdly entertaining combination of Chidi and Jason Mendoza at best or an incredibly misanthropic shut-in who wants nothing to do with the world for months on end because People, at worst.

My brain is fun…

Shego Cosplay Photoshoot with Ashley

Cosplay Photoshoot – Shego from Kim Possible

I went to Worcester, this past Saturday, to meet with Ashley for a photoshoot idea she had contacted me about. Not gonna lie, it was a cold day.

Massachusetts is under a COVID-19 stay-at-home advisory between 10pm-5am for most people, so the timing was a little challenging. We scheduled the shoot early enough to have day light available to set up equipment and have plenty of time available for photography, and late enough that we would not be fighting with bright sunlight or waiting too long for darkness to happen, in case we had some flow toys to incorporate.

Ashley did bring an LED light-whip; however, conditions were not conducive to effective long exposure photography.

In order to simulate darker conditions, I decided to work with lower ISO, a shutter speed around 1/200″ and f-stops between 4.0 and 5.6, while using a speedlight for keylighting. Also, taking into account some fan-art of Shego using a greenish outline to her hair against black backgrounds, I used the mobility and hands-free operation of the RTMS2000 with a second speedlight with a green gel to provide hair lighting. You can see the full effect of those settings in the photo gallery below.

Once we got started, the shoot went surprisingly quickly and we were able to maintain strict distance and shooting protocols with COVID-19 in mind. There were a couple of occasions where I had to lower my mask due to my camera’s eyepiece fogging up a little, but it was a temporary measure as needed. By the time we packed up, what felt like three to four hours of photography ended up being about two hours and I was able to maintain consistency across images due to simulating darkness through in-camera settings.

Cosplay photography is something I don’t do all that often, but I am glad for the opportunity to exercise some creative muscles after a fairly sizable drought, due to the every worsening COVID-19 pandemic, here in the United States. As always, I am happy to be around people who take precautions seriously, and are willing to take the extra little steps necessary to watch out for each other.

Thank you to Ashley and the RTMS2000, without whom this photoshoot could not have happened!

Shego Cosplay Photo Gallery With Ashley

Halloween Photoshoot at Burrage Pond

Halloween Photoshoot With a Demon and a Witch at Burrage Pond

This past Saturday, I met with some friends at Burrage Pond in Hanson, MA for some much needed photoshoot therapy together. It was the first time I picked up my camera since this past February, so I was a little nervous. Because COVID-19 rates are climbing again in the United States, I was considerably nervous. I have asthma and it places me into a higher risk group for serious complications because of SARS-CoV-2.

While organizing the shoot, it was important to be sure everyone present was on the same page in terms of what to expect, and that included outlining some procedures for everyone’s health and safety. I required a COVID-19 test to be taken two days prior to the shoot and if it was not possible due to timing, then strict social-distancing measures would be necessary. Thankfully, everyone involved understood and took precautions very seriously.

The day of the shoot itself went smoothly. The group of us walked into Burrage Pond in the late afternoon so we had plenty of light to work with, and so we had options on how to light and caught up with mutual banter and friendly roasting while I set up my lighting kit. It’d been so long that I was having momentary brain-farts, like “so how many batteries do I need for this flash again?..” Ugh.

We set up along a wooded pathway, isolated from everyone else, and very private. Perfect place for a photographer and his assistant to lure set up a shoot with two gorgeous models. The area included a large boulder off the walking path that was another perfect spot to use for the shoot.

The set up was a simple three point lighting kit. 1 speedlight and umbrella for the keylight, two gelled speedlights for the background and accent lighting, one red, one bluish-purple, all on basic manual radio-triggers. At the boulder, lighting was even simpler. The red and blue lights were set up for the background and accent lighting again while the key light was a handheld LED video light mounted on a voice-activated, remote-controlled, semi-autonomous, all-terrain capable mobile light-stand (my assistant).

The sun was setting, and shooting at night isn’t an issue more than trying to put away gear in pitch black darkness would be, so rather than shoot from the afternoon until around 9pm, it was better to call it a day around 7pm instead.

It was good to get back into a creative head-space again, after 8 months of self-isolating due to COVID-19. It was even better, more importantly, to be among people who were willing to be responsible for each other’s health and safety and who, clearly, value each other’s friendship. This pandemic has revealed a lot about people, who can be trusted, who is responsible, and who is worth making an effort for. I’m looking forward to another creative session with good friends soon!

Full Photo Gallery

Models:

  • Shayna Rose – Demon
  • Danielle MacNevin – Witch

Assistant:

RTMS-2000 – Artemis

Fire Performer Photography at Fractalfest

Fire Performer Photography at Fractalfest: Reflections

STEPHENTOWN, NY – For anyone who knows me, my favorite subject to photograph is fire, and the way people interact with fire. Fractaltribe provided me a unique environment to grow with my fire photography from the first Fractalfest I attended, back in 2015. This year, Fractalfest, provided another unique opportunity for me to indulge a little in more fire photography. This year included portraits of everyday people beneath an art display demonstrating fire as a fluid, or performance artists dancing with fire as part of a story. Standard disclaimer’s apply: fire can hurt or kill you, please treat all fire with respect, do not try this at home, leave fire to the professionals, danger, danger, danger, danger, danger, don’t be stupid, never play with fire, only you can prevent forest fires, seriously, do not attempt, etc, etc!..

Also, I’m starting to collect the best fire photography tips I can think of together, based on my own experience. Please let me know what you think!


Photo Gallery of Fire Portraits and Fire Performers at Fractaltribe Presents Fractalfest: Reflections

Reflections After Day Two of Fractalfest

The Hidden Faces of Fractalfest

STEPHENTOWN, NY – Fractaltribe chose “Reflections” as Fractalfest’s theme this year. How that manifested was up to each individual person’s interpretation. For some, it meant quiet pensive moments away, for others it was the rippling reflection of themselves in a pond, and for others it was the energy of the performers and audience in a feedback loop as if they were in a hall of mirrors reflecting energy back and forth to each other.

As a photographer, for me, “Reflections,” manifested in my every day interactions with people and the side(s) of themselves they revealed to me, candid or aware, that I am allowed to record and then share back with the greater community. This was my third Fractalfest with Fractaltribe, and my second as a full member of Fractaltribe’s Media Team. I have been able to see, document, and share in moments of joy and ecstasy; sometimes I’ve seen people in their darkest moments; shared a community’s pain and grieving; the hope that things, somehow, for the briefest moment, are okay; and have I seen the hard work and dedication of a crew united in their love of what music and art is capable of bringing to the world.

It remains my privilege and honor to be allowed a glimpse into the hidden souls of everyone that I have encountered and to be able to share these images of people who passionately want to be their true selves in a world that desperately tries to resist them.

Thank you, so very much!


Photo Gallery From Day Two of Fractaltribe Presents Fractalfest 2017: Reflections

A Lesson On Respect from Fractalfest

A Lesson On Respect From Fractaltribe Presents Fractalfest: Reflections and Additional Photos from Friday Evening

Something I’ve noticed about Fractaltribe, as a psytrance crew, that has always stood out to me has been the high level of respect for the land that provides us with our space for Fractalfest. This is not just based on some hippy-dippy notion of “protect the earth” that is embodied in our strict Leave No Trace policy where not only are attendees reminded to take out what came in with them, they are provided with industrial trash bags as they check in so they have one less thing to worry about remembering, and, it is not just based in our no glass policy so the farm remains a safe place for the property owner’s little children to play barefoot. Our respect for the land also extends to the level of noise a festival is capable of producing.

Our stages and general camping areas are set up in the Fractal Forest, hidden away from passers by on RT 22 in Stephentown. Parking is on a different side of the property where vehicles do not add an additional eyesore for the property’s active business.

The most surprising aspect of Fractalfest; however, is something that you cannot see. I was walking on RT 22 to and from Cumberland Farms a quarter of a mile up the road and I was stunned by how quiet the festival really is, especially at night!

Our sound system, brilliantly designed by Sonic Beating, is fine tuned to project most powerfully onto the dance spaces while keeping sound bleed to a minimum for campers, the Fine Art Gallery, and Staff Camping. The sound system is additionally designed to prevent bass from traveling great distances. It can be heard as softly indistinct thumping as from as close as the Ice Cream Stand on property, from where I am currently blogging. Conversation is easy inside the Ice Cream Stand, and on the Mini Golf Course.

I am proud of the way our crew puts such effort into providing a psytrance festival experience for everyone possibly involved with Fractalfest. Without the good will the people of Stephentown, NY, Fractalfest could not exist, and it is something we take great pains to keep a priority.


Photo Gallery of Additional Images at Fractaltribe Presents Fractalfest: Reflections, Day One

Reflections After Day One of Fractalfest

STEPHENTOWN, NY – Friday marked Fractalfest 2017: Reflections’ first full day of psychedelic electronic music, art, dancing, psytrance and weirdness. Strange creatures lurked the shadows of Fractal Forest, while children danced with bubbles at the Woods Stage. Anticipation builds for tonight’s revelry under Megan’s ever watchful gaze from the Grassy Knoll Stage!


Photo Gallery of Fractaltribe Presents Fractalfest: Reflections, Day One

Update From Fractalfest: Reflections

Fractaltribe and The Reliquarium Give Operation: Megan a Final Field Test at Fractalfest

1446HRS, STEPHENTOWN, NY – “Operation: Megan,” a build project combining the creativity and effort of Fractaltribe and The Reliquarium, passed her final field-test last night, and she is all-systems GO! Catch Megan lit up and ready for Fractalfest in a short video below, presented by Fractaltribe.

Fractaltribe’s Video Footage of Operation Megan’s Full Test at Fractalfest: Reflections

Megan watches over the Hall of Mirrors in the Fractal Forest, as our silent guardian, come out and play with us on the dance floor.

Opening Ceremony at Fractalfest: Reflections

EVENTS

Opening Ceremony at Fractaltribe Presents Fractalfest: Reflections

STEPHENTOWN, NY – Fractaltribe began Fractalfest: Reflections with a Mayan ritual hosted by April Remee and Pedro de la Rosa. Attendees gave thanks to the Elements symbolized by the four Cardinal Points, to the Sun, and to the Earth with a special blessing for healing and for peace to the Waters. As the Ceremony ended, the clouds cleared, and we were greeted by the Waxing Crescent Moon, also welcomed as a guardian over the Festival.

One of our own Fractilians, Tovia (aka Terraphorm) celebrated a surprise birthday spontaneously organized by Fractaltribe, with cake, sparklers, and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday!”

In all, a perfect opening ceremony to our 5th annual outdoor psytrance festival, and our 3rd in the Fractal Forest. 

Welcome to Fractalfest!


Photo Gallery From Day One of Fractaltribe Presents Fractalfest: Reflections’ Opening Ceremony