Surrey Steampunk Convival

The Surrey Steampunk Convival

In early November, I joined Lisa and Geoff from the Molesey Photographic Club for an outing to meet the Surrey Steampunk Convival.

Lisa had heard that the Convival were meeting for a two day event in New Malden. The plan was to meet up on the Sunday and hopefully get some good costume and people photographs.

Helen, Stuart and Lady Jane from the Gosport Steampunk Society
Helen, Stuart and Lady Jane from the Gosport Steampunk Society


What is Steampunk you may ask? Well it’s an alternative reality where Victorian technology never goes away. The costumes combine Victorian fashion with mechanical accessories. Based on my experience at this event, it seems that goggles and gloves are prominent!

If you are interested, you can find plenty more information on the wikipedia entry.

Vijay Johnson welcomes us to the Steampunk Convival New Malden
Vijay Johnson welcomes us to the Steampunk Convival New Malden

Tony Mobbs and Kirsty Matthews feat Boris Steamrat
Tony Mobbs and Kirsty Matthews feat Boris Steamrat

Vijay Johnson wearing a bright red hat and corset, welcomed us to the event and we got to work quickly. It was immediately clear that I would enjoy myself with this plethora of colour and accessory!

My experience

To say the lighting was challenging is an understatement. Luckily I had my monopod to help me keep the camera steady so even with a slower shutter speed, I would get a higher rate of sharp images.

Steve Jones Steampunk DJ
Steve Jones Steampunk DJ

R D Handcrank Vertonium
R D Handcrank Vertonium

It was relatively dim in the room despite bright light coming in through the windows and plenty of spotlights.

To keep the highlights in check, I wanted the less exposure than the camera’s metering system wanted. When focusing on subjects in dim light, this is a good way to avoid any pure white patches in bright areas like windows!

Steampunk Diver Battle
Steampunk Diver Battle with Hilary Insall

Slithery Companion
Miss Catherine Paver with her slithery companion Ratchet, the rescued Royal Python

Knowing that I needed to consistently under expose, I found it easier to use the manual mode for the majority of the time. I set my camera to F4 with the auto ISO limited to 3200 to maximise the amount of light to the sensor.

Restricting the ISO was the best way of ensuring the best image quality in the conditions. The resultant shutter speed was whatever I needed to get acceptable exposure but on the whole, I tried to keep it close to the focal length.

How my lens choice helped

It was rather fortuitous that I had packed my macro lens. Jane Darnbrough from Reptile Events had brought various reptiles including two snakes.

The macro’s big aperture of F2.8 and close focus ability meant that I could get some really nice photos of the two snakes.

Reptile Events Star of the Show
Ratchet, the rescued Royal Python from Reptile Events

Reptile Events Snake Closeup
Another of Jane Darnbrough’s snakes from Reptile Events

Another lens I took was my ultra wide. The event was indoors and I wouldn’t be able to get much distance between myself and my subjects. With my normal zoom lens it was unlikely that I would get everyone in group shots.

The ultra wide angle lens was helpful here and as an added bonus, the wider shots meant that shutter speeds could be lower, thereby improving image quality. Of course, that’s only helpful if people don’t move!

Surrey Steampunk Convival Group Shot
Surrey Steampunk Convival Group Shot

The results

Of the many hundreds of photographs I took, to get thirty odd images I was happy with is a good result in my book. Unfortunately, the necessity to crank up the ISO meant I needed a lot of noise reduction in post production resulting in some loss of detail.

The images look great when they viewed on the screen but they don’t look too good at full size. I did find however that in a few cases conversion to black and white really can help as the noise looks more natural!

The low light handling on my seven year old camera is nowhere near as good as today’s class leading cameras. This event was a prime example of the challenges we often face. At least the creative options you get with a DSLR can really help you get good results.

Perhaps a newer camera with better high ISO handling and maybe even a larger sensor could produce even better image quality? Let’s see what 2017 has in store!

 Kit Bag

  • Camera: Canon 7D
  • General Purpose: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
  • Macro Lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro
  • Ultra Wide: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5