Knights Of Sidonia Photo Shoot


Knights Of Sidonia is a Japanese mecha anime series which tells a story about man-kind fleeing from Earth, after a prolonged war with a shape shifting alien species: the Gauna. Enormous colony ships were built to contain human survivors of Earth fleeing from the Gauna. One such colony ship is the Sidonia, and amongst those living in this colony are our main cast and crew, the Knights of Sidonia, and Tsumugi Shiraui, the subject of this photo shoot.

Knights of Sidonia consists of many sci-fi themes including human cloning, asexual reproduction, and human genetic engineering. Some humans in the colony are genetically engineered to photosynthesise like plants. It is also later revealed that the top echelons of the society have secretly been granted immortality.

I've been negotiating with Will about his Tsumugi Shiraui costume for the past year.

Tsumugi Shiraui a.k.a "Tsumugi" is a Gauna/human hybrid created by Kunato Developments for fighting against the Gauna. Tsumugi is similar in size to a Garde, but has a Gauna-like appearance in the shape of a young woman wearing a dress. Tsumugi eventually becomes friends with Nagate and Izana, usually interacting with them using a tentacle she sneaks in through the ship's ventilation system while the rest of her body stays in her chambers. Tsumugi displays a gentle, curious, child-like demeanor under most circumstances, but her prowess in combat is rivaled only by Nagate's.

It is an unusual costume and as far as I can determine, there have only been two other attempts at a Tsumugi cosplay. I wanted to photograph it because both Will and I loved the anime. It was also a challenge in terms of lighting and photography due to the unique appearance, shape, texture and design of the costume. There is nothing like it in the current pop culture realm.

Concept Planning

Project planning commenced about a month ago. Conceptually I envisioned Tsumugi floating in space similar to the anime and illustrations from the web, but surrounded by a huge expanding wall of fire and secondary explosions (like a scene from a space battle).

Adding Fire

Although I originally wanted to have fire in the project. After considerable planning and research of the risks involved, I deemed it unsuitable on the day of the photo shoot as I would need to run a number of small scale tests and practice.

  • What equipment do i need to start the fire?
  • What fuel and material do you burn?
  • What fire fighting equipment should I have handy?
  • How do you put out a chemical fire?
  • How do I conduct a controlled burn without the local fire department and the police showing up?

So much to consider before anything even takes place! And if no preparation or planning is in place then it doesn't proceed!

Fire Ball Effect

This was one of Von Wong's master pieces. I think that fire ball in front and behind the model is created by fire breathers. I want that expanding wall of fire and it seems the way to do this is involve a lot of oxygen and fuel. A volatile mix.

Another example of a fire expanding into a ball.

Fire Torch Effect

This is basically a fire torch in motion whilst the subject is adding fuel + air to the mix.

This is one from Easton Chang. I assume its the same as above, but more motion and longer exposure.

Fire Wall Effect

This is a literally a fire wall. Done by danging a rope coated in fuel and lit, then dangled off a pole and you walk it across the scene. It is probably easiest to do but not the outcome i'm after.

Goals & Deliverables

Tsumugi is best described as a colossus mecha with the flesh-like appearance of a young woman. Her exterior shell is whitish pink and much of her shell resembles the shape shifting Gauna with tendrils and meat flaps that cover her whole body. Will has spent a considerable amount of time making this costume and I wanted to try and capture as much detail as possible. Too much light and you end up with a bland looking costume. Too much shadow and you wouldn't see the work that went into the costume.

Pretty busy these days and I realistically don't want to spend all my weekends producing a bunch of mediocre images. Instead I aim to work on only four image composites as the main deliverable, and up to ten additional "detailing" photographs of the costume to capture different elements of the work for editorial purposes.


I have prepared for this photo shoot, and the costume (latex smells horrible) but looks amazing. I think we will achieve something fantastic today!

cosplay, planning, photography, knights of sidonia, tsumugi, preparation