Carlo Mark Almadro, also known as the Stray Storyteller, is a photographer from the countryside in Victoria. Learn more about his adventures filming cosplay characters and street photography in Melbourne.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you’re from?
My name is Carlo Mark Almadro and I live in a small town in country Victoria. I usually like to introduce myself with the moniker “The Stray Storyteller.” I got the idea from a popular street photographer who, in describing another photographer, wrote that we should “wander the streets like a stray dog.” So that’s what I started to enjoy doing, but the name “stray dog” was already taken, so I ended up wandering the streets like a stray storyteller.
How did you develop an interest in photography using Fujifilm equipment?
I’ve always liked browsing through great photos online, especially the ones taken by everyday people. I would always stare and wonder how some of them are able to evoke emotions and memories with a single still image. I wanted to be able to do what they did, so I started saving up to buy my first “big” camera. What I ended up buying was the Fujifilm FinePix X100. With zero knowledge in photography, I went out with my X100 and started taking random photos in full auto. Once I saw the images that it produced, I was hooked and I wanted to do and learn more.
How would you describe your photography style and strategy?
I don’t have a specific style yet and I am still learning, but I do like pouring over the work of several documentary and street photographers and try to emulate what they do and incorporate that into the photos I like to take. I’ve been experimenting a lot with different styles. I think it’ll be pretty apparent once you see my Instagram feed. It’s predominantly cosplay portraits at the moment but there is a good mix of everything.
“Ethereal” – StarPandora as Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia | X-T1 + XF56mmF1.2 – F1.8 – 1/1000 second – ISO 200
What inspires your photography?
I’m inspired by the desire to learn and do more with photography. Every once in a while I will see a photo that truly stuns and inspires me. There is so much beauty, and there are so many stories I want to capture and immortalise. In order to do so properly, I have to keep learning and improving. My hope is that one day, maybe one of my own images will have that same impact on someone else.
Where are your favourite places to take photos and do you prefer a certain type of light to photograph in?
Melbourne, definitely! I love Melbourne. I love walking around the city, getting lost in the laneways, finding small nooks and crannies, meeting different people, watching the buskers, and seeing myriad scenes unfold before me.
“Street Art” – a graffiti artist working on his art as passers-by go on with their day | X-T1 + XF18mmF2
I’m still trying to get a better grip of natural light photography so my preferred type of day to shoot in would be really cloudy days where the light would be diffused beautifully. Overcast days also give that moody feel to a photo that I love. I also very much enjoy taking portraits of cosplayers at pop culture conventions. The fun atmosphere at these events is very infectious and the costumes made and worn by the cosplayers are so full of colour and detail.
What is your favourite memory from a photography session?
I’ve never done an organised photo session before, but if a street session counts, then my favourite would be the first time I went to a pop culture convention. I remember asking cosplayers if I could take their photo and they would always say yes. Every time I would review the image, I would feel happy. The character, the colours, the feeling—everything just looked right.
“Hunter” – Ataraxy Creative as Aloy of the game Horizon Zero Dawn | X-T1 + XF56mmF1.2 – F1.4 – 1/125 second – ISO 400
Can you tell us what’s your favourite Fujifilm camera to use and why?
My favourite would be my X-T1. I like the way it is so easy to handle and fits in the hand nicely. It took some getting used to but now I love having dials for all the things I like to adjust.
Which Fujinon lens or lenses do you prefer to use with your Fujifilm camera and why?
The XF56mmF1.2 hands down, because portraits just look so dreamy and everything just comes out great all the time.
“Music window” – street photo of a busker on Bourke street | X-Pro1 + XF18mmF2 – F2.8 – 1/2000 second – ISO 3200
What sort of workflow do you use in your photography? Do you shoot in RAW or JPEG?
I shoot RAW+JPEG. The Fujifilm jpegs are already beautiful from the get-go and I always use them if I want to share something real quick. The RAW files, I import to Adobe Lightroom CC using my own personal preset that I based heavily on the Fujifilm Pro-Neg Hi Film Simulation. Usually, I would stop there, but if I’m not totally happy with an image, I would then make some adjustments to achieve the look I want.
Do you have any technical tips you’d like to share? Perhaps suggestions on the best lighting, shutter speed, white balance, aperture or ISO? Other preferences?
I’m no technical expert but I do have some personal preferences. I predominantly shoot in the daytime so my ISO is almost always set to 200. I usually try to keep my shutter speed at 1/180 second. Depending on the mood I’m after I interchange between two of my go-to White Balance settings: R +2 : Y -2 or B +2 : G -2. Then before taking the shot, I’d play around with the aperture ring until I get the exposure I want. Every situation would always need something different but that’s usually what I have once I step out the door.
Do you have advice for new photographers or the next potential X-Thusiast?
Attend a pop culture convention. The atmosphere is great and it is the best place you can practice taking portraits and adjusting your settings on the fly. Cosplayers are also among the friendliest people out there. Ask to take their portrait and once they get into character and strike their signature poses, the resulting photo will almost always look great.
When shooting in the streets, be constantly aware of your surroundings. Being the enthusiasts that we are, it’s too easy to get carried away and be oblivious to everything else that’s happening around us that we potentially could get into an accident or be a nuisance to others. I know I have been guilty of this several times in the past.
Don’t stress too much and enjoy yourself, and to do this, the one piece of advice that I keep in mind at all times that always helps is: If the person who took the photo loves their photo, then it is good.