Happy 2024!

2024 Calendars are still available at lotsasmilesphoto.etsy.com!

This year’s Kumoricon was one of the most exciting yet.  It was our last at the Hilton Convention Center, so I especially wanted to soak it all in.  We had one of the best photographer groups.. lots of great talent and solid work ethics.  It was a relief over some of my past experiences.  And we even had some amazing videos come out of our blossoming subdepartment.

This year marked the first for Aaron staffing.  I’ve been begging him for years, and he finally caved!  I must say, it was awesome having him on staff with me.  I no longer had to sneak him into the Publicity office, and he was finally able to skip lines with me.  It also provided him a completely different con experience.  He wandered with a video camera in-hand, and he really relished simple joys like discovering Darth Vader in our midst.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Not bound by keeping my staff on track, I was free to let my own photography flourish, and I felt my technique really improved this year.  One trick a friend recently taught me (and I’ve since added to my arsenal): custom modes.  With these, I can save an ISO setting, shutter speed, white balance, etc.  With a single dial rotation, I can swiftly switch from hallway to panel to stage.  No more racing to set up for a new environment!  Now I just wish I had a few more… one for the relatively well-lit Publicity office, one for the park outside… but perhaps that’s asking too much.

Last week, I covered Days 1 and 2.  So much happens during a convention weekend, I just couldn’t squeeze it all into one post!  The adventure continues…

Day 3

Cosplay: Mayuri Shiina & Rintarou Okabe, Anime: Steins;Gate (photo courtesy of On the Spott PhoTography: seespottprint.com; I didn't actually get any pictures of myself on Day 3!)
Cosplay: Mayuri Shiina & Rintarou Okabe, Anime: Steins;Gate (I didn’t actually get any pictures of myself on Day 3.. photo courtesy of On the Spott PhoTography: seespottprint.com)
  • Hours of sleep going in: 4.5
  • Panels/events attended: 8
  • Pictures produced: 645

Day 3 was all about the Cosplay Contest, hosted by the Anime Hunters.  This was the origin of most of my photos from the day.  Some years I’ve skipped the contest, but I’m glad I attended this year.  In the past, the contest was structured such that all walk-ons preceded skits, and it was a long ordeal.  I believe this is what first pushed me away from it.  However, in recent years, this has improved.  The two are intermingled, and it is presented much more like a show.  It never ceases to amaze me the talent in the intricately skilled costumes.. certainly far more ability than I have!  While I enjoy the amateur cosplays I pull together for Aaron and myself, I think I’ll focus my efforts on photographing the true geniuses instead.

This also happens to be the event for which we have the most coverage.  After all, this is what people most love to photograph!  Unspoken, we all settled into our places – two backstage, one on each side; one covering the green room, and myself out front.  We didn’t bother to move, as photographers typically do, because we knew someone already had the position covered.  Front and slightly off-center, I truly did have the best seat in the house.  I lamented a skit or two conducted in low stage lighting (lots of movement – light = difficult shooting), but most were lit well, and I got some fun pictures.

Low light can be good, too
Sara Cain (cryptic-enigma on DeviantArt)

One highlight was Rebecca Pike (of Sunnybrook1 Creations) as No Face (Spirited Away).  She had a brilliant skit centered on a YouTube button that played various music clips.  No Face ultimately ate the button, leading to uncontrollable singing and dancing.  It was a riot, so simple and so clever.  She won several categories, including audience favorite.  I originally thought it would be fun to play the video clip during Closing Ceremonies.. until I thought about it more.  She was one person, with a simple setup; why not have her do it live?  It didn’t take much to arrange, and she was willing, of course.

My favorite Cosplay Contest moment, however (and possibly others’ as well) was during the awards.  One particularly talented cosplayer, Veraca Chan (Kuro-Heise Cosplay) as Kanata (Trinity Universe), won in the journeyman category.  She had no expectation of winning and was so overwhelmed she had to be led onto stage by a friend, in tears with disbelief.  It was an absolutely beautiful moment, bringing others watching to near-tears as well.  These are the people I especially love seeing win.

Sunday also saw the second of two Whose Line panels (the 18+ edition).  I look forward to these at every Con; it’s the one panel I’ll never miss.  The room is always packed, and laughter is guaranteed.  Conventional Improv know how to play this game right; all of their members are very animated and talented.  My AI servo came in handy here, as well, as the improv games involve a lot of movement.

Day 4

Photo courtesy of Amy Sakurai (lovelyangel.zenfolio.com)
Cosplay: Chain Chomp (photo courtesy of Amy Sakurai, DarkShinyObject.com)
  • Hours of sleep going in: 3
  • Panels/events attended: 1
  • Pictures produced: 72

That’s.  Just.  Pathetic.  🙁

Truth be told, Monday was terribly disappointing for me.  Going into the day, I had high hopes for the day’s activities.  I wanted to attend Cosplay Chess.  This is another event I frequently skip, but it, too, has been getting better.  I attended the late night version at Sak, and I actually enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, Day 4 is just that: Day 4.  Which means: crunch time.  Closing Ceremonies was at 4pm, and we had deliverables that had to be completed.  To complicate matters, I was going on very little sleep, I was exhausted, I hadn’t been eating very well (this is Con, after all), and my brain wasn’t exactly functioning at top speed.

I deviate here for a moment, but I promise it has a point…  Our room wound up with an octopus plush as well as a “tentacle kitty” that has apparently become quite popular at cons (as such, our room was dubbed the “tentacle room”).  Upon seeing the fuzzy cat with giant eyes and tentacles instead of a body on Day 0, I decided I needed to have one – they were so stinkin’ cute!  I heard a rumor that someone in the Vendors Hall was selling them, but I hadn’t had a chance to get down there all weekend.  A gal killing time in the Pub office on Day 4 offered to go down with some money and get one for me, and I was delighted to see her return successful.  She told me it was the very last one and that people were beginning to fight over it before she won out.  As staff, she even managed a discount on it.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Shortly thereafter, as tensions were rising with our fast-approaching deadline, I was summoned to the Vendor’s Hall.  Being the Multimedia Manager, I am never requested by name over the radios, so this took me by surprise.  On top of that, the timing was too coincidental.  I instantly feared someone was upset by my snatching the last octocat, but that really didn’t make a lot of sense, and the rational side of me said I was being silly.  I didn’t know what to expect.  It turned out my paranoid mind was just that – paranoid (see what little sleep will do to you?).  The Slants (manning their booth) simply wanted to request pictures from the staff (and I had spoken to them the previous day about just that).  I wouldn’t have anyone coming after me and the last tentakitty, but this did add another item to our growing list of to-dos.

It quickly became evident that I wouldn’t meet my deadlines, so I started making sacrifices.  I opted out of Cosplay Chess.. then a voice acting panel.  Then I dropped the slideshow I wanted to make for Closing Ceremonies (though I revisited this and still made it after the fact).  And all our focus narrowed to the PowerPoint that would drive Closing Ceremonies.  Wires were crossed (as often happens with so many sleep-deprived, crazy-busy people), and individuals weren’t clear on their responsibility.  Before I knew it, we were at 3:30, and the slides still weren’t ready.  At 4:30, we were still working on them, desperately scrambling to insert pictures of the contest winners.  These were somehow missed last year, so I was determined to not repeat the abysmal failure.

At 4:40, I literally ran out of the office with my camera over my shoulder and my thumbdrive in-hand.  I delivered the file to the Main Events guys in the back of the room and proceeded to sneak backstage to alert the MCs that they could prompt them for slides.  They had already stalled as long as they could and had begun moving forward without them.

As I caught my breath, I discovered I was in Closing Ceremonies with only my wide angle – the only lens I did not want for the event.  I accepted I wouldn’t be able to shoot it like I wanted to, then changed my mind when I saw no other photographers in the room.  I parked just in front of the stage (the only way I’d capture anything).  I was ultimately pleased with that decision, as it positioned me close to Koop, con chair, who was speaking on stage.  From there, I prompted him (which the slides were supposed to do) to talk about tournament winners, contest winners, and the new mascot: “we have slides for that!”  All in all, it was far better than the disaster of last year’s Closing Ceremonies, but I still wasn’t pleased.  Needless to say, next year will be much smoother.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

There was even a final tribute to “the chair” (a Con inside joke since 2011) as we won’t have the same chairs after we move.  This involved bubbles and ended with an unceremonious topple off the stage.  Kieran, in her infinite energy, was quick to participate, even rolling in the bubbles.  A blessing in disguise, I suppose, I was glad to have my wide angle that forced me to get shots from a different perspective than I had planned.

After that, I couldn’t bring myself to finish editing my photos.  I even forgot to transfer all of the finished pictures from a work machine to the hard drive, necessitating an online transfer post-Con.  The rest of the afternoon was a hazy blur, until I managed my way down to Dead Dog (aptly named).

I was very shocked to see Kieran make an appearance; guests never crash our afterparties.  I saw an opportunity to hang with the coolest person in conspace, so I sat at her table and we chatted until she saw an imminent food fight with chex mix.  Her enthusiastic participation earned her “whiskers of shame” from her manager (why didn’t I snatch a picture?).  I even managed to request an autograph, and she drew a kitty on my badge :3

Dead Dog dissolved into hanging out in the green room, watching a bad Korean comedy series (“Huh?”), and playing Exploding Kittens.  I didn’t really get the chance to do the latter, though I wanted to, but it was fun showing some of our staff hijinks to Kieran (who was still hanging with us).

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

I was sad to wake the next morning knowing the fun was over for another year.  It was especially depressing knowing we weren’t coming back to this location.  Overall, I’m thrilled at the prospect of the Convention Center, and I absolutely can’t wait to see what next year brings (my anticipation might even eclipse this year’s).  But we had still established a home there; the memories will remain.

Fortunately, I had a super lovey kitty awaiting me at home, and she melted away all lingering PCD.

One more year down, and thousands more photos added to my library.  So, if you’ve been counting:

  • Total sleep, Day 0 – Day 4: 14
  • Total panels/events attended: 23
  • Total pictures taken: 5444
  • Total pictures published: 1693
© LotsaSmiles Photography 2011
The cosplay aftermath!

Thanks, Hilton.. it’s been an awesome ride.  Now I can start on my cosplay and planning for next year!  Convention Center, here we come!!

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