My zine is OUT!!!!!! Link here

Phlogger aka Andrew Walmsley

A website dedicated to photography showcasing articles, interviews, reviews and Photography Insights podcast.

Steampunk sessions


Fast approaching the end of August 2017, the bank holiday was upon us again.  For a change, I was prepared for the steampunk sessions and festivity, known as the “The Asylum”.  This event ran from Friday to Monday so I ensured ample notice was given to my wife.

Camera film was loaded, batteries and memory cards ready too (for digital shooting).

A couple of steampunk costumes with accesories
A couple of steampunk costumes with accessories

Some of you maybe thinking what is “the asylum”, well this is the Lincoln annual festival held around the city.  It is the largest in Europe and a chance for everyone to see steampunk at its best.

Still unsure and not familiar with steampunk?  You are not the only one, so I asked model Jo Jo a few questions about it.


jo jo model
Picture of Jo Jo – credits to Steven Blackburn Photography
What is steampunk?
“An official answer is “Steampunk is a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction” – However to me, its a gathering of fantastic people in fantastic costumes celebrating & combining history with the futuristic.”
Why dress up?
“Because that allows one to become part of the steampunk family.”

What was your first experience like?

“Absolutely fabulous – steampunk people are so welcoming to all.”
Would you do it again?
“Most definitely – I am already creating my next costume.”
What Is your advice to newcomers?
“To enjoy themselves – there is no wrong or right way to steampunk. Research using things like Pinterest to get inspiration and then just let your imagination run from there. Check out charity shops & car boots for clothing & props, also Ebay has its uses. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune & you don’t need to be a master seamstress to create the look – just get some key pieces and work from there
Be warned if you dress up then people will want to take your photo – just smile and go with it.”
How many photos do you think people took of you?
“Now to that I have no idea – I had some pro photos taken by talented photographer friends like Steve Blackburn & Dean Wilkinson. Beyond that, it was a photo frenzy – so many cameras from mobile phone to DSLR’s. I tried to give everyone a shot – as they were kind enough to lift their cameras to take my photo & I was proud to show off my costume.”




An event like this offers you a couple of different shooting opportunities:

  • candid photographs of the public
  • portraiture (posed) of the people taking part

Due to the number of people on the streets (100,000 expected), it would be a perfect chance to watch everyday people.  Often watching the public engage with those dressed up is just as rewarding as the costumes. As a street photographer this event would allow you to get close to a large number of people.

Man working a roll-up with one arm

In the above shot you will how close you can get with street photography, the image speaks for itself.  Is this a juxtaposition of a one-armed man working a roll-up?  Being this close nearly allows you to see in the sole of the person.

Just because the theme is “steampunk” if you focus clearly you will see everyday life around you.  All ages take part in their embraces differently, with this couple it is a simple hold of the man’s arm.  This is commitment, safety, love and speaks volumes about the person.

steampunk sessions couple locking arms
Older couple embracing on the street

Obviously, the highlight of the weekend is the costume and there are many to admire.  For some, the day was a chance to dress smartly like the Victorian period and have a stroll.

Shooting the steampunks people is simple enough, be polite and patient. Remember there are many people with smartphones and DSLR’s too.

The downside to any busy area like the festival is how busy the background looks.  You have to choose between shooting part of the outfit (many people go for glasses and helmets).  There are always alcoves and alleyways, to help you get that shot away from the crowd.

One easier way to present a different viewpoint was to get very low like the below picture.  By using this method along with the slope of Lincoln’s steep hill you are able to make the person look even larger.

steampunk session - vintage army costume
Vintage army steampunk costume

Of course, there are the outright “crazy” costumes that you had to admire and cringe too.  Check out the gallery and you have to wonder how they managed the heat in their steampunk clothing!

[metaslider id=10077].

Another highlight of the weekend, are the ladies. They get to wear lovely old-fashioned dresses with accessories (check out the umbrellas).  Here are a few samples.

[metaslider id=10099]



Visiting the festival 3 days in a row, allowed time to shoot both film (colour) and digital.  However, caution is required when planning equipment, remember it would be very crowded.

Using a 50mm prime lens in a situation like this allows:

  • sharp images
  • a large range of apertures to work with
  • small size
  • lightweight


You will see so many photographers carrying about high-end cameras and huge lenses.   Why would you need tele-zoom lens to photograph people in a busy environment like this? This seems counter-productive because:

  • large lens would be heavy (it was a hot weekend too)
  • get in people’s way (due to the size)
  • slower to focus
  • distance you need to be away from the subject
steampunk sessions - Photographer with large lens
Photographer with large lens at steampunk

The whole weekend was simply wonderful, it was a great chance for photographers.  Thanks to the all the costumed people who were nothing but gracious and polite.  Events like this bring out the best in people, let down their walls and let their characters loose on the world.

Shooting on different days allows you to focus on one camera and lens at a time. Day one was useful for scouting around and snapping the odd shot.  Using film on the second day for capturing some of the costumes, but the mainly the people.  The last day was about trying to photography some detail on the costume and chatting with people.

[metaslider id=10103]

By engaging with people, you learn the festival is not about attending the paid events.  For most, it was getting out on a bank holiday with some nice attire and being happy.  Thanks to everyone for taking part and speaking to me and also Jo Jo for the questions (check out her work here.  You can see more of her work here.

Happiness is everything. Hopefully, these photos encourage you to attend maybe partake next year?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.