I am a nerd.  There, I said it.  Or maybe I’m a geek.. really, I think I’m both.  But there are many types.  I don’t wear thick-rimmed glasses (though I’m sure Aaron would think me cute if I did); I don’t lock myself in my basement for days on end, engrossed in World of Warcraft; I don’t collect figurines (though I have a plushie or two..); and I don’t shy away from social gatherings.  However, I work best by myself, I have a quirky sense of humor, and I love anime.

© Brianna Shade 2013

Like many around me, I originally assumed anime, being animated, was merely cartoons – designed for kids.  This belief was perpetuated by the butchered American rendition of Sailor Moon on Toonami, my earliest exposure to the medium and incredibly popular amongst middle school cliques.  Not being big on TV at the time, I only caught a few disjoint episodes.  I couldn’t keep up with the magical girl with magical friends and a talking cat who traveled back in time and was a princess and in some other dimension also had a kid with a guy she hated who was actually some form of her younger self….???

I gave anime another try when a friend of mine introduced me to Ranma 1/2.  My sister noticed a fellow convert in the making and made me fall in love with Miyazaki films – Kiki’s Delivery Service, Totoro, Spirited Away, Nausicaa.. and later Howl’s Moving Castle and Whisper of the Heart.  She then sent me home with Azumanga Daioh and Love Hina and took us to our very first anime convention, Nan Desu Kan, in Denver.

We didn’t think to dress up in any sort of costumes (and we didn’t have time or a repertoire of characters from which to choose), but I was enchanted by all of the beautiful cosplay as far as the eye could see.  I vowed to enter their ranks at our next opportunity, and my siblings bubbled about cosplaying then-unknown characters from Fruits Basket.  I loved the taiko, the panels on anime art, the AMVs, and the cats that permeated everything.  I made notes of anime that I wanted to check out, including Loveless for the sweet story of a guy who falls in love with a cute catgirl…. oh how little did I know…

Everything simply snowballed from there.  We moved later that year, conveniently landing next to a store with myriad used anime with which to explore and nurture our growing addiction.  From there, we acquired Ai Yori Aoshi, His and Her Circumstances, and Saikano, among others.  We went on a nearly weekly basis, picking up volumes and series here and there.  I eventually revisited Sailor Moon (this time the original Japanese sub), and I finally understood the intricacies of the fad that started it all.

After a year, we discovered the local convention, Kumoricon.  True to my word, I attempted a cosplay (a week prior to the convention) of a secondary character from Loveless.  It was a terrible cosplay, but I did manage to have one person recognize me, so I considered it a success.  The next year, I did better, cosplaying Ayu from Kanon, with Aaron as Kurogane from Tsubasa.  He got all of the fangirls, so I was determined to show him up.  The following Kumoricon, I busted out the big guns (and paper mache), bringing Lakitu to Con, while Aaron took it easy with a casual Fruits Basket’s Kyo.  The costume was a huge hit, especially when I flashed “Final Lap” down a massive line awaiting entry to a panel.  I would never attend out of cosplay again.  Future years then saw pair cosplays of Eden of the East, Steins;Gate, Chain Chomp/Boo, and Noragami.

Studio photos provided by On the Spott Photography (www.seespottprint.com)

After several years, I took the leap into staffing, and my entire con experience changed (for the better).  Oddly enough, I didn’t consider shooting for the convention (I figured far more talented people were already in place).  So I jumped at the offer of “Hall cosplay,” awarding ribbons to particularly outstanding cosplayers and taking simple pictures.  I already roamed everywhere with my camera, so it seemed the perfect fit.  I then got myself in trouble by asking the Multimedia Manager if he needed an assistant.  Before I knew it, I was the Photography Coordinator, and then the Multimedia Manager when the present one moved on to bigger and better things.

These years have taught me a lot about photography, and I have grown addicted to covering the Con.  It is now my favorite thing to shoot, and I look forward to it with immense anticipation every year.  It was there where I truly fell in love with the photojournalism style, perfecting what I had touched on during my tenure with the high school yearbook and college newspaper.  I live for the moments, documenting every hilarious memory in beautiful candid immortality.  The first years were casual, the next more deliberate.  I learned how to cope with horrible hotel lighting and fleeting, quickdraw events.  First I blasted shots and prayed; then I learned how to frame the panel shots; I learned manual white balance; I got a new prime lens; I began employing the dramatic angle; I got a new, upgraded camera, and double-fisting cameras revolutionized my coverage; I discovered the AI servo focus mode.  Over the years, my photos have improved drastically as I learned how to cater to the demands of the convention.  With each year, I’m liking more shots, allowing me to be more selective in quality, and I find myself squeezing more hours into my weekend to soak up as much of the con experience as possible.

Con Picture Stats

Cameras: Canon PowerShot A95 (2007-2010), Canon Rebel XT (2011-2014), Canon 7D and the Rebel (as of 2015). I left the photography to Aaron at Kumoricon 2011 so I could focus on Lakitu’s adoring fans (and I call myself a photographer! >_<).

I am now responsible for bringing on new photographers for each year, and it’s funny looking back to my beginnings and thinking I wouldn’t have hired me.  It took me many years to adapt and get better, and now I think other con media managers love that I want to attend every (overlapping) panel and shoot everything under the fluorescent sun.

I love the exciting atmosphere, I love the happenings, I love the people, I love the candid moments, I love the memories.  I am forever a con girl, an otaku through and through, and I now attend (read: shoot) as many as three conventions a year (as well as their countdown events).  I’m hopelessly hooked, and I’ll continue to be there year after year to capture it all on digital film.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

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