AR Photographer Interview: tuulathecat

Tuulathecat is an AR photographer whose work really tells stories. Exploring the relationship between trainer and Pokémon, her work isn’t just beautiful photos, but moments in time, captured on camera.

Hi tuulathecat! First of all, tell us about yourself and where you are from.

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Hey I’m known as Tuula (and no that’s not my real name but my cats‘) and what else can I say – I’m from Germany, 30 years old and love inline skating and videogames.

How did you first get into Pokémon?

I love Pokémon for as long as I can remember. I don’t remember the exact moment it started but I got Pokémon yellow and red when I was in elementary school and started watching, collecting and catching them all.

When did you start playing Pokémon GO, and who was your starter?

I did start on the very first day back in July 2016 and played every day for the last almost 5 years. I remember I picked charmander but it was just a random pick at that time. I would have loved to pick eevee though.

What level are you currently, and which team did you pick?

I’m currently Level 46 and only need 19 more XL candy to reach Level 47. My team choice was team mystic because blue has always been my favorite color and I love the team name in both German and English.

Who are your favourite Pokémon and why? Are they also the Pokémon you like to use in AR?

I have a bunch of favorites. If I want to describe them I’d say I love all Pokémon resmebling cats, dogs or foxes. For example all eeveelutions, Absol, Suicune, Vulpix and many more. If they were real I would cuddle them! In my photos when I’m doing a planned shot with a certain Pokémon it’s always one of my buddies or favorites. Like Angel my shiny Absol or Kryptonite my shiny Vulpix making an occurence in my shots. Some of them I use often in my photos but some of them lack a good animation for some of my ideas.

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What phone do you use, and what apps do you recommend for the budding AR photographer?

I’m currently using a Samsung S20+. Until end of last year I was working with a Huawei P20pro and in all honesty the performance of the AR feature is a lot better on Huawei in direct comparison! So I’m actually using both phones depending on the planned shot. As for the apps I’m doing all edits on my phone using mainly Snapseed and Picsart. Sometimes Photoshop Fix as well. My aim is to make the look as realistic as possible adding shadows and adjusting saturation.

You are known for your images that show a beautiful relationship between Pokémon and trainer, how did this come about?

I’ve always been an emotional person and Pokémon was always about emotions for me. Pokémon are special to me and if they were real I would pretty much cuddle and play with them the way I do with my cats. Then there are the animations that open a lot of opportunities to tell a real story with movement, story and a unique look. Because even when taking hundreds of pictures getting the animation at the exact moment wanted is the trick. Also at this point I should give my fiancé a shoutout who supports me and has taken most of the shots were I’m in. Although I’m planning the scene, placing the Pokémon, props and preparing everything he’s the one to push the button.

Action shots are a real ‘tuulathecat’ forte, how much time do you spend setting up a shot like your Buizel on a sled (above), or the Azurill in the pond splash shot (below)?

Estimated time I’d say for shots like these it takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Depending on the props I’m using and the amount of people involved. For my buizel shot I was looking for the right angle for a while. And for the Azurill shot I actually had a friend throwing a stone in the pond to make the splash at the exact moment of the jump animation.

What are your favourite techniques to use in AR photos?

I’m not big in using a specific technique in my photos like #bokehmon or similar ones. My photos are basically all about the animation of the Pokémon and the real world objects or persons involved.

Do you have your first ever AR photo, and if you do, can we share it and hear about it?

It’s not my first shot but the first one I shared on Instagram. I took this photo back in 2017 for the first AR Photo contest from Nianticlabs. It really isn’t a good shot but looking back I already tried to make the Pokémon interact with our world without AR+ being a thing and my humble photo skills.

What are your favourite type of locations to work in?

I’m basically taking all my pictures at local parks or forests. Because that’s basically all I need. Most of pictures are not about the specific spot but the shown Pokémon and People. If I have a specific idea in mind I plan which spot in my nearby area might work best but that’s pretty much it. Just classic city parks

What is your favourite AR photo you’ve ever taken?

That is an incredible tough question. There are so many shots I love and have good memories of. But I will choose the one that still makes me proud and happy every time I think about it. Bulbasaurs playing in the river at a nearby gorge. It’s one the best shared AR shots I took during a hike with my two best friends.

Where do you hope to see Pokémon GO and AR go in the future?

I want Augmented Reality to be more the focus of the gameplay. If not for AR and the game “happening“ in the real world it would just be another Pokémon Game. We do have Reality Blending on selected devices now but still the overall Performance is super glitchy. At the moment there is also a bug or maybe it was on purpose. Most of the unique animations I love to use are gone in buddymode. I really hope it’s only temporary and we get our jumpy, happy buddies back soon.

Which other AR photographers do you recommend following?

In no specific order and no idea where to draw the line (please don’t be sad if you’re not listed) –
All my schoolofAR friends hex_manifesto, shinyshinx.science, pkmn.snaps, ashketzchup, pokemonldn_ar

And other passionate and talented ARtographers –

Spsx22, cleffabel, pkmn.trainer_joe, pokemoninlife

And many more great people who make the AR community what it is!

And finally, where can we find you on social media?

I’m mostly active on Instagram and Twitch

https://www.instagram.com/tuulathecat/

https://www.twitch.tv/tuulathecat

https://twitter.com/tuulathecat

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