Victorian Picnic

Posted on June 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm
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Sometimes the strangest opportunities manifest themselves when you least expect them. I was taking pictures of the World Naked Bike Ride 2010 last week, patiently waiting for a few brave souls to finish their ride through Washington Park, when I spotted a small group of people across the lawn. I wasn’t quite sure at first… were they all in Victorian attires, or did my Flux Capacitor accidentally reach 88 miles per hour? I started taking a few photos from a distance, and decided to approach them. They were all very friendly, very polite and, dare I say, very classy.

Photos below. Check the full-screen Flickr  slideshow, or click on any of the thumbnails to open a larger view.

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I’ve seen a Power Ranger in the park and a few other misfits, but rarely a whole group of friends sharing this peculiar interest for good, old-fashion, costumed fun. I wasn’t 100% happy with the photos of the Naked Bike Ride so far, so I asked them if could document this elegant gathering. They didn’t mind at all. I joined them under the tree they had elected to picnic, move them around a bit, and ended up with about 20 usable photos. They were all very accommodating and this modest impromptu photoshoot turned out to be quite refreshing. Here is a small selection.

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I left them a few minutes later, I’m sure they enjoyed a fine afternoon eating strawberries, playing croquet and chess :) I’ve sent them the photos of course, and asked if they could tell me a bit more about what was going on that day. Come back in a few days to hear what they have to say.

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My photo tips. I could hardly have been less prepared for this quick session, but luckily I had my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 that day. With plenty of room to back up it wasn’t too hard to take a few group shots and a few close ups. This time of the day, however, was terrible: the light is brutal around 1PM, casting very harsh shadows under the trees and making it a tad difficult to achieve good exposition. Ideally I would have left my subjects in the shade and create additional lighting myself. This is a tricky situation where a reflector and a good friend to hold it can help redirect some light *back* at a subject’s face. With that many people though, a flash is likely to become your new best friend. Unfortunately, I had left both accessories at home.

If you haven’t switched to a DSLR yet, you may wonder why on Earth I would use a flash on a bright day, but this is actually a common technique. If anything, I may actually never use a flash in low light or at night. I’ll talk about the wonders of high-speed flash sync another day, this is a lot of fun. I’m still a flash newbie, there is a lot to learn.

It took a bit of post-processing later on to recover blown highlights and re-light some areas. What’s going on with the colors though? I stopped adding effects to my photos when I left my point&shoot behind. No more painterly looks, no more Orton effects, no more selective colors…. or at least cut it down dramatically :) With that being said, I indulged on this one and tried to give an “older” look to this series. To pull off a *good* black&white photo is very difficult in my opinion. Sepia was a bit too obvious. I ended up desaturating the background colors while leaving some colors in the subjects. It’s a bit different, hopefully not too overdone.

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Tags: Albany, picnic, Victorian, Washington Park


  1. TwinkieBear says:

    There is apparently no end to the… “unusual” goings-on in Washington Park. If it’s not Victorian Picnics and Power Rangers, it’s groups of adults laying around in the grass with large quantities of orange balloons.
    Anyway, this is great, definitely the saving grace of an otherwise failed Naked Bike Ride shoot. Tell me, were you still in your “outfit” when you took these?

  2. Sebastien says:

    Thanks. No I had my Speedo only the first time :)