Showing posts with label Photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Photography. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Location at Bacon's Castle - Journey to the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries

The Lady of Portland House shines in "Antoinette" Mules in blue
While I was in Virginia this past March, I had the opportunity to work with some truly wonderful ladies at a very special place, to create imagery I hope conveys the love of history we all have.

The ladies were Lauren Marks, Maggie Roberts, and Samantha McCarty, or as you may know them better, The Lady of Portland House, Undressing the Historical Lady, and The Couture Courtesan.

The location was Bacon's Castle, one of the oldest Jacobean structures still standing in the Western Hemisphere, and the oldest datable brick building in Virginia. Bacon's Castle was built in 1665, with a second addition added in the 19th century (with very little attempt to really integrate the two styles). The older part of the manor house is a stunning example of 17th century architecture, with multiple chimneys, wood-paneled rooms, and the most amazing light I've ever seen (there's the photographer in me speaking).

The day was wet, with mists creeping across the open fields, creating an eerie feel straight out of zombie flick. Bacon's Castle stands like a folly in the middle of a vast open space. It's a strange contrast to find such a noble monument, with all the importance and rarity earned by 350 years of existence, standing completely unaccompanied, with no fanfare of entry, no surrounding, well, anything. This strange positioning gave the place a surreal presence, and we all willingly entered the dreamworld and regretted having to leave again several hours later.

Maggie paired her gorgeous mustard traveling outfit with Hartfield Regency Boots in ivory.
The ladies dressed in their various centuries - Lauren M. in 1790s, Maggie in Regency, and Sammy in early 17th century. It was a poignant reflection to know that this place had stood through all of these periods, with the daily lives of real people of these centuries floating by with normalcy and expectation. It boggles my American mind to stand in a structure so old, and attempt to imagine the many, many souls who walked through this place as their home, their place of work, and today as a tourist attraction.

Sammy is wearing Stratford Elizabethan Shoes in oxblood

And Bacon's Castle is truly impeccable, truly stunning, be it on a bright Summer's day, or in the haunting fog of early Spring. The site holds all manner of event - fox hunts on horseback, historic cricket matches, garden weeks, high teas, archaeological digs and presentations on their findings, Bacon's Rebellion itself, and a Guy Fawkes Night bonfire, to name just a few. If I lived nearby, I would be a permanent fixture, such was the effect Bacon's Castle had on me.

To find out more about Bacon's Castle, plan a visit, learn about upcoming events, or plan an event (yep, they are very open to this!) check out Preservation Virginia's website, and Bacon's Castle on Facebook. You can also email them at or give them a call at 757-357-5976.

Each of the ladies designed and made their own gowns and hats.
The Lady of Portland House paired her outfit with "Antoinette" 18th c. Mules in blue.
Mrs. Roberts wore "Hartfield" Regency Boots in ivory, for her traveling attire.
The Couture Courtesan completed her ensemble with "Stratford" Elizabethan Shoes in oxblood.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Behind the Scenes at the Antoinette/Highbury Photoshoot

Last week Chris and I worked on a new shoot for Antoinettes and Highbury. We wanted to create a ladies' boudoir space, similar to the interiors in these paintings:
Francois Boucher, La Toilette, 1742  
Young Woman at Her Toilette, attributed to Niklas Lafransen, c. 1780s
"Portrait en pied de la marquise de Pompadour," 1748-55, Maurice Quentin de La Tour
Leonard Defrance, "The Breakfast"
Elegant Lady at Her Toilette, by Michel Garnier

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh

Out here in Nevada, we're a little - uh - lacking for Georgian and Regency interiors, so we decided to build one in our living room.  A quick analysis of the paintings pointed out a few commonalities - a chair, a table, a door/screen/mirror, a curtain, and brick-a-brack, paired with a healthy amount of chiaroscuro, and with the model being the main focus, of course.

While I had a few of the items that could be used (fabrics, letters, etc.), most of the set we rented from The Entertainer, the same company that dressed our wedding in shabby-antique-vintage-goodness. The chair, screen, table, firescreen, books, pitcher, and Neoclassical column all came from them..

Mr. Chris starts the build with a dark grey backdrop, and fabric swagged for a curtain look.
I fiddled and rearranged things until we got a good composition - takes longer than you might expect
The first version of the set, ready for the shoot the following day.
With the set built, the attention turned to lighting. Lighting plays a super important part in all photography, and can be especially challenging for interior shots. A quick look at the reference paintings indicated natural light from a large window off to one side, so this is what Mr. Chris re-created with artificial light:

Artificial light mimicking soft natural light.
And here is the result of all our effort...

Mandy represented the Regency in the same set, just re-arranged a little.
I'm representing the 18th c, with Historical Dog.
I have lots more photos to show you soon!

Photography: Chris Stowell
Set Decor: The Entertainer
Set Dressing and Art Direction: Lauren Stowell

Regency Model: Mandy Grosvenor
Regency Gown: Lauren, Lady of Portland House
Regency Spencer: Maggie, Undressing the Historical Lady

Regency Shoes: "Highbury" Regency Slippers, dyed to match the spencer.

Georgian Model: Lauren Stowell
Georgian Gown: Lauren Stowell
Georgian Shoes: "Antoinette" Mules in French Blue
Historical Dog: Avi, the Attention Hound.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Giant Post of Wedding Photos

Chris and I tied the knot this past October, as you all know. I just recently received the photos from Matt & Jentry, the incredible photographers who shot our wedding, and I'd like to share a few of those with you...

Reno Wedding Rancho San Rafael
I wore a few special things with my gown - the locket is from the day I was born. The earrings are my mother's. The shoes are American Duchess (of course!) "Pemberlies" that i painted and decorated to match my dress.
Reno Wedding Rancho San Rafael Park
We went with an English country style, with overtones of blended cultures, to represent Chris' native England, and my American West. Our ceremony was in an English style garden, while our reception was at a very Western American historic ranch house.
The Entertainer Wedding Reno Tahoe
Chris with his best man, Greg, who came from England. Both are wearing English tailored suits, while Maggie, my matron of honor, and I both made our 18th c.- inspired gowns.
American Duchess Wedding
We were sewing up to the last minute, but the dress did get done. Based on my favorite gown from "Marie Antoinette" (2006), I made my dress in a redingote style, from pale green taffeta, with buttons embroidered with silver, by my mom.
A Floral Affair Wedding Bouquet Reno Tahoe
We complimented the already incredible fall setting of Rancho San Rafael park with gorgeous flowers provided by A Floral Affair. I was super impressed with the artistry of the bouquet, and could not have been happier with how the flowers tied in with our theme.
Country Wedding Shabby Chic Wedding

Vintage Wedding Country Shabby Chic
"The Entertainer," a wonderful local company, provided the decor - mismatched vintage chairs and tables, birdcages, old doors, and all manner of shabby chic paraphernalia.
Dee's Bakery Wedding Cakes Reno
The cakes were made by Dee's Bakery, and were each a different, but complimentary, design. We went with black forest gatteau, Chris' favorite, a lemon cake, and a cake based on Jaffa Cake cookies - orange, chocolate, and vanilla.
The attendance was small and personal - everyone was a family friend, or close friends. The top right is one of my favorite photos from the day - a friend's son got into the "Ferengi Finger Traps," which our wonderful officiant and friend, Mary, used in our "unity ceremony."
Matt & Jentry Reno Wedding Photographers
The day went by so quickly! We were thankful for the wonderful friends who made the trip, the great food, decor, and floral, the professional and friendly photographers who captured everything we didn't get to see, and the warm and lovely weather.
Photography: Matt & Jentry
Decor: The Entertainer
Floral: A Floral Affair
Cakes: Dee's Bakery
Food: Roundabout Catering
Location: Rancho San Rafael Regional Park

Friday, December 13, 2013

Photo Shoot: Downton Abbey Glamour at the Cobb Mansion, Virginia City, Nevada

Downton Abbey dresses

I've been sitting on these photos for quite some time, leaking them out little by little, but I think it's high time now for a little photo story...

With Downton Abbey fresh in our minds, we set out to capture the glimmer of the fashionable past, with 19teens evening gowns in an opulent setting, the gorgeous Cobb Mansion in our local historic town of Virginia City.

Titanic Dress
The black and white photo is my favorite photo I've ever taken. I think Tori looks like a super-elegant 1950s Dior model!
Our beautiful models were Liza and Tori. You'll recognize Liza from our Summer "Gibson" photo shoot, but this was Tori's first experience in front of the camera. She did great!

Downton Abbey Photo Shoot

The gowns were creations of both Liza and myself, paired with Astoria Edwardian Shoes in black, and Gibson Edwardian Shoes in ivory. Photos are a mix of both mine and Chris'. We had a good time putting this one together, and were lucky to be well-received at the Cobb Mansion, which we'll certainly be returning to. :-)

I hope you enjoy!

Edwardian Titanic Dress

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Announcing the American Duchess "Winter Wonderland" Photo Contest

Hey everyone! Tomorrow begins our first official Photo Contest on Facebook! The theme is loosely "winter wonderland" - starting tomorrow, click on the "Photo Contest" tab under our cover photo, and upload your favorite picture of you (or your friend) in historical costume of any period (including Steampunk).

All photo submissions are due by November 29th - voting then starts and will run through December 6th. The winners are chosen by popular vote (so tell your friends!). Prizes are:

1st place: $100 gift certificate to
2nd place: $75 gift certificate to
3rd place: $50 gift certificate to

So start looking through your photos (or go out and take some), and be ready to upload them next week!  Anything vaguely holiday or season-related is great: think "Dickens Fair," "plaid" "Christmas," Hanukkah," "Kwanzaa" - anything festive, fur-trimmed, wool, cozy-looking, etc. It doesn't have to be a photo in a snowy landscape - it should just evoke the feeling of the season. There's no restriction on the age of the photo - a day old, a year old, a decade old, all are welcome.

Here are some examples:

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Marriage of Albert Roberts and Margaret Emily Waterman, October 1813

This past October, Chris and I had the honor of capturing the wedding of our dear friends Maggie and Robert, who were joined together forever in the chapel at The Hermitage in Tennessee.  The wedding was historical one, set in 1813, no better choice for the couple who represents it best so often at reenactments and living history events throughout the South.

Albert is also known as The Doctor - here is his blog.
Maggie teaches historical dress as Undressing The Historical Lady, and also has a costuming blog here.
For the reception, Maggie wore "Hartfield" Regency boots in ivory
Her ballgown was made by The Lady of Portland House
Maggie's bonnet was a creation of Lydia Fast
More photos from the wedding can be see on the HMS Acasta blog here.

...and it was the most beautiful wedding ever!... 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kodachrome Beauties

August 1942. Via
I have a bit of an obsession with old photography, and I particularly love pretty much anything cross-processed.  I've never chemically developed a photo myself, which is maybe sacrilege, but I enjoy trying to re-create the look of old pictures, and the processes that created them, in Photoshop.

October 1942 Via
Our "Claremont" shoot was one such project.  I wanted the photos to look like they came from the late 30s/early 40s, without being too Instagram.  Naturally, the best thing to do is refer back to the real thing, original vintage Kodachromes.

Chicago, April 1943. Via
Kodachrome was one of the first successful color films available, produced by Eastman Kodak starting in 1935.  It was a favorite of professional photographers for periodicals like Life and Time, but due to the skill required to develop it, Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009, much to the chagrin of the traditional photography community.

October 1942. Via
October 1942. Via
October 1942. Via
There's a particular quality to these old photos that I find incredibly appealing.  The color, both bold and desaturate at the same time; the grain, the lighting; of course, the subject matter.  Looking at my photos from the other day, versus these, now I think I didn't do a very good job!

Classic Las Vegas, 1958. via
August 1942. Via
October 1942. Via
If you are interested in old photos, I highly recommend
If you want to learn more about Kodachrome, click here.