Adventures in Steampunking: The Fairhaven Steampunk Festival


It’s always a cool sight: people dressed in Victorian clothing with a twist of mechanics involved. Welding goggles, clock mechanisms, and other older mechanical devices thrown in.

Although the term Steampunk was coined in the 1980s,  it began as a genre of science fiction in the 60s and 70s. However, recently it has grown beyond books into a lifestyle. It the mixing of old and new.

Classic Steampunk:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Inocencio Valderrama of Bellingham works his booth during the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at Fairhaven Village Green in Fairhaven, Wash.,  on Saturday afternoon July 19, 2014. Hundreds enjoyed the sights of individuals dressed in Steampunk Victorian costumes, live entertainment, food and vendors .

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Inocencio Valderrama of Bellingham works his booth during the festival.

The old Victorian style mixed with the mechanical. But whatever it is, it’s pretty damned cool looking. Now to be honest, I’m and old school punk rocker. Yes, I had a black mohawk at one time, slam danced, lived on the edge, and just generally had a great time. So be honest, styles like this are cool to me and just plain fun.

On Saturday July 19, 2014, the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival was held at the Fairhaven Village Green downtown. Hundreds came to see what Steampunk was all about and some came dressed to the nines. It was my Saturday assignment for The Bellingham Herald.

Waiting For Rain:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Valerie Snelling of Bellingham takes in the surroundings during the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at Fairhaven Village Green in Fairhaven, Wash.,  on Saturday afternoon July 19, 2014. Snelling says this was her first time dressing in Steampunk fashion and began working on her costume at midnight.  Hundreds enjoyed the sights of individuals dressed in Steampunk Victorian costumes, live entertainment, food and vendors .

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Valerie Snelling of Bellingham takes in the surroundings during the festival Snelling says this was her first time dressing in Steampunk fashion and began working on her costume at midnight.

The full title for the festival is the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival Mr. Flip’s Carnival of Wonders & Curiosities.

The festival began with gray skies and a slight drizzle. As festival goers tested wares for sale, nibbled on food offerings, and checked out the costumed, the skies began to open. For half an hour it rained pretty well. But once the rain stopped, the festivities continued.

As walked around and checked out the wares, I looked for unique angles to photograph them. But some of the booths were so busy it was hard to get in them.

Wing Walker:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Shell Philhower crosses the stage during costume constest the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at Fairhaven Village Green in Fairhaven, Wash.,  on Saturday afternoon July 19, 2014. Philhower says her costume took over 2 months to create and calls it her

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Shell Philhower crosses the stage during costume contest of the festival. Philhower said her costume took over 2 months to create and calls it her

Watching scenes unfold such as the epic sword battle between Skull Shaw and Trevor Jones, the immaculate costume with working wings of Shell Philhower, a pair of Steampunk’d bikes, a unique umbrella by Valerie Snelling and the meeting of old friends.

The most fun event was the costume contest. Some were very elaborate undertakings such as Philhower’s winged costume, others simply elegant.

Two Contestants:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Scenes from the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at Fairhaven Village Green in Fairhaven, Wash.,  on Saturday afternoon July 19, 2014. Hundreds enjoyed the sights of individuals dressed in Steampunk Victorian costumes, live entertainment, food and vendors .

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – A pair of contestants await the results and the judges tally points.

But many of them spectacular in their own way. One gentleman, who called himself “Mr. Fixit,” had every conceivable tool on him.

During the contest, Shell Philhower walked onto stage. She created a set of beautiful wings which worked when she pulled on a string. I was looking for something  that showed the contestants and crowd, so I go to the back of the stage and shot forward. As she walked across, I was hoping she turned to the crowd and lifted her wings high.

The Photographer:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - James Kilpatrick of Bellingham, takes photos during the costume contest of the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at Fairhaven Village Green in Fairhaven, Wash.,  on Saturday afternoon July 19, 2014. Kilpatricks says he enjoys the Steampunk festivals and this is his third year attending. Hundreds enjoyed the sights of individuals dressed in Steampunk Victorian costumes, live entertainment, food and vendors .

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – James Kilpatrick of Bellingham, takes photos during the costume contest.

During the contest, I saw a man trying to take photos while holding two different cameras. From the side it looked good, but as I moved around in front of him I could see a better composition. Dropping to one knee, I liked how his arms and cameras framed his face. Once I found the composition I liked, I just waited for a good expression.

Golden Boots:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Golden boots stand against others during the costume contest of the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at Fairhaven Village Green in Fairhaven, Wash.,  on Saturday afternoon July 19, 2014. Hundreds enjoyed the sights of individuals dressed in Steampunk Victorian costumes, live entertainment, food and vendors .

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – The golden boots worn by announcer Laura Brisbane stand-out against others during the costume contest of the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at Fairhaven Village Green in Fairhaven, Wash., on Saturday afternoon July 19, 2014. Hundreds enjoyed the sights of individuals dressed in Steampunk Victorian costumes, live entertainment, food and vendors .

During the contest, the announcer was wearing a stunning pair of golden boots. For the sun to come out and the perfect time, it was when I saw these boots in contrast to the brown and black everyone on stage was wearing. So I focused on those and shot a few while using a shallow depth of field to make them pop even more from the background.

While photographing, I had a few images in mind. One was a good “dominant foreground, contributing background” composed image. Really didn’t see this one coming together as I walked around. But I kept my eye peeled and camera ready.

Olde Tymer:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Jim "Dirty Dan" Rich, left, and Valerie Snelling during the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at Fairhaven Village Green in Fairhaven, Wash.,  on Saturday afternoon July 19, 2014. Hundreds enjoyed the sights of individuals dressed in Steampunk Victorian costumes, live entertainment, food and vendors .

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Jim “Dirty Dan” Rich, left, and Valerie Snelling see an old friend during the festival.

That moment kinda arrived while I was shooting the Umbrella Lady Valerie Snelling. As I was photographing her, Jim “Dirty Dan” Rich saw one of his old friends. With a big smile on his face he greeted Ginger James, who went by her Steampunk name “Queenie.”

To view more images, please visit the gallery Fairhaven Steampunk Festival. on my website.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

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Paul “pablo” Conrad

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