For some people, it’s the lure of being one of the first to step into the chilly San Diego exhibit hall in the mid morning, for others it’s the excitement that comes with showing up in a elaborate costume and having others want to take photos with you. The annual Comic Con International convention that takes place in San Diego each year means a lot of different things for a lot of different people, and each of them have different things they look forward to each year during the Con. Each of these little traditions are the life force of the otherwise exhausting 5 days of the convention, it’s what keep people going and keep the exhaustion at bay. For myself, however, it’s something a little more simple… namely a Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chip Cookie and a Coca Cola.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking “That’s the best part of the Con for you? A cookie and a drink? What about all the hundreds of photos you take and all the adventures you have during the Con?” Well, those are always fun and for sure are the best highlights of Comic Con for me, but it’s that appeal and taste combination of the Mrs. Fields cookie along with that refreshing Coca Cola that really keep me going when it gets exhausting. I find myself looking forward to that very soft warm delight that is a cookie, and can’t wait to get my first one on preview night of Comic Con. What makes it different than going to any Mrs. Field’s store in a mall and getting a cookie and Coca Cola there? Well, that’s now Comic Con. It’s the atmosphere of the convention along with the delight of this simple pleasure that really has the most appeal, and I find that my love of this unspoken treasure of Comic Con is not alone. Once you say “I want to go get a Mrs. Field’s cookie” during the Con, you’ll find that people will say “Oooo, I want one too!” It’s become a tradition among my fellow friends who attend the Con to have one of these delights, often times saving having one throughout the year just for Comic Con.
Comic Con, for the 2 people in this world who have not heard of it, is a massive convention of Comics and Pop Culture in the San Diego Convention Center. Usually happening around July, the who’s who of actors and artists come together with hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world during the 5 days of the convention. Beyond just enjoying the con, one of the biggest draws is the massive cosplay/costuming world that shows up to every Con. Basically, think of any sort of character that is popular from movies, TV, comics, ANIME, etc and I’m sure someone at some point has come dressed up as that character. Even the most obscure characters who, even the people who are dressed up as them don’t believe many people would recognize them find themselves constantly stopped for photos. It’s a chaotic mess of everything popular in today’s world showcasing the best and worst of society’s trends. The convention itself started out with a couple people getting together to trade and talk about comic books and has now grown to be one of the most talked about entertainment and media events of the entire year. The biggest name stars make appearances for their fans, and the hottest Hollywood news is often released to the public at the various panels.
This year was certainly one of the most exhausting Comic Con I’ve had in many years. It was not because I had more photoshoots than normal, but it just seemed to be exhausting trying to run around the packed exhibit hall to catch everything. By the end of the second day I could tell exhaustion was already kicking in, and I still had three more days to go. It seems now, after the Convention is almost a week old, that it all went by in a blur faster than ever before. And even though I was so exhausted and had done so much, I can’t help but feel like I missed out on a lot of things at the Convention. But that’s really how it goes at Comic Con, making sacrifices for panels or events because it’s literally impossible to catch it all. Perhaps I should invest next year in cloning technology.
For a photographer, Comic Con can be very busy. Running around shooting everything and anything that looks interesting. This year, I saw more people with nicer SLR cameras than ever before, and photography at Cons seems to be bigger than any previous year. I spend most of the Con shooting photos all over the convention center. While a full play by play of the con would be very tedious, here I’ll describe the events that stood out the most.
PREVIEW NIGHT (Day 0) – JULY 21, 2010
Normally for most people the first day, which is technically an unofficial first day called ‘Preview Night’ where anyone who has purchased a 4-Day pass gets to attend this day, people will take it easy and pick up the exclusive items being sold at the Con before the main hoards of people show up for the actual Con days. You’ll find a lot of people shopping, and while some people do indeed dress up in costume, they are few and far between saving costumes for the more popular days of the Con. It’s a very relaxed day, and generally the least crowded of them all. It’s also the least amount of time the Con is open, only running from 6pm till 9pm. Those three hours, however, are used strategically by most to be able to see as much of the Con as possible and scope out the exclusives along with the massive amounts of freebies given out at booths all over. For myself, this day was also the journey to the Con and hotel check in and ultimately badge pickup which leads right in to the opening of Preview Night. Generally I take time to scope out the booths that will be harder to walk through later on during the peak days of the Con, and I often scope out the showcased upcoming toys that booths like Hasbro and Mattel put out which can be impossible to see during the most crowded days. Often I’ll take photos of the toys I’m looking forward to picking up, a little reminder per say to keep an eye out for them. It’s a great time to take photos of the Con itself, the displays, the booths, etc as you’ll have the least amount of people getting in your shots. Trust me, for those of you who have never been to Con, when I say it’s the only chance you’ll get.
COMIC CON DAY 1 – JULY 22, 2010
While Thursday is the first official day of the Con, it’s still one of the lightest. Many people are still in the shopping and scoping out mode, but the costumed people start to appear in larger numbers. Booths start to bring out the better freebies, and many of the exclusives are now available for purchase. For me, it’s the start of photographing the various costumed characters around the Con. This year, I had two friends who’d never been to the Con before, so I spent most of the day showing them around the Con as much as I could, which made for an exhausting day trying to pack in something you normally do over 5 days into one single day. Passing through the entire Con all day, I was able to snap shots of some of the early costumers which ranged from Captain EO to a very sexy Boba Fett (my favorite costume I saw this year). The 501st Star Wars group was already out in full force manning the official Star Wars and LucasFilm booths with a variety of various types of Stormtroopers and Scout Troopers. This day went by pretty fast I believe for most people mostly because no one was tired yet… but that would change the next day.
COMIC CON DAY 2 – JULY 23, 2010
One of the busiest days of the Con for myself and many other people always starts on Friday. Usually this entails waking up pretty early if you want to have any sort of breakfast as you’ll be so busy you won’t have time to eat again until much later in the day. This is one of the two ‘peak days’ of the Con, where the most amount of people are on the exhibit floor and the really popular panels take place. Naturally, the lines are very long with people starting to line up in the wee hours of the morning for panels that won’t happen till much later in the day. The day for me started out with an early morning group photoshoot with the Rebel Legion Star Wars costuming group at the backside of the convention center. It’s a shoot I’ve normally helped take going back many years at various conventions. Unfortunately, the group was pretty small this year, one of the smallest I’ve ever seen. But I suppose that’s not surprise with the lure of Star Wars slowly fading as the release of movies ended a few years ago. After splitting the various groups up to do mini-group shoots, I had to hurry back to the hotel where I was staying for yet another photoshoot, but of a very different kind.
Last year (2009) I had the honor of being a photographer for a rather popular group of gals at Comic Con; often refereed to as the Sexy Princess group. Many of them are really close friends, and I spent most of my Saturday at the Con last year helping them out and snapping shots. This year, I offered to do studio type of shoots in the hotel room with a portable studio setup to get some high quality shots of them before they set out into the sea of people wanting to take their photos at the Con. It worked out great since a few of them were staying with me in the hotel, and so the decision was made to have them all get ready in the hotel room. I set up the studio in one corner of the room (it was a very large hotel room with two joining rooms), and had a one by one photoshoot with each of the gals once they finished getting ready. It was a lot of fun, though we found ourselves often running out of pose ideas on the spot, which was pretty funny considering how much I’ve shot the actual Disney Princesses at Disneyland. After each gal had been photographed, we recreated the now world-wide famous artwork of Bri-Chan (Brianna) with the Princesses making funny faces and smothering Alice, who was Brianna for this photo! The result was by far the closest we’ve gotten yet to her artwork!
Following the photoshoot and cleaning everything up, eventually the gals made their way to the Convention after stopping for some interviews and made their way to the famed artist J. Scott Campbell’s booth to pose with his Sexy Princess calendar which both inspired some of the outfits and reversely the outfits inspired his work! Already massive crowds began to form with people wanting to get photos of the gals. After the impromptu photoshoot with the calendar and the artist, the gals finally made their way out into the convention hallway being followed by a massing crowd of Con goers wanting photos. The gals found a spot and started to pose for photos, and the amount of people began to skyrocket. I snapped photos when I could, documenting the crowds and taking the occasional candid photo along with helping out the gals when they needed someone to hold something for them. Soon enough, the Convention staff came by and asked the gals to move because of ‘making a fire hazard’ so the gals moved outside to the large Comic Con wall poster just outside the entrance. This ended up being a pretty great location for the gals and those wanting photos, so they stayed in this location for quite some time, taking breaks ever so often from the hoards of cameras and flashes.
One of the strangest moments and weirdest crossovers I’ve ever seen took place in the late afternoon when the gals were posting for photos. Out of what seemed like nowhere, a huge gaggle of half-dead zombies appeared and jumped into the photos with the gals, trying to eat their flesh and just causing the princesses to be terrified. From a photo standpoint, the photos were classic shots with really awesome expressions, but it was for sure one of the weirdest things I’ve seen. Huge props for the zombies for staying in character and the incredibly elaborate makeup jobs. Later on I’d come to find out they were promoting a show called ‘Walking-Dead.’ Beyond zombies, the gals were a big hit with many different types of costumed characters, everyone from a Captain America to Star Wars characters wanted to hop in with the Princesses. Even a few celebrities such as the famous TV and Movie director Joss Whedon stepped in for a photo with the gals.
The day went on and the gals continues to travel around the Con snapping shots, losing a few of the gals to other Comic Con events going on that they needed to attend to. By the end of the day, only 4 remained with the group. It had been a very long and exhausting day for the gals being on their feet (or heels should I say) pretty much all day long taking photos with the occasional break which still meant they were standing. Even though tired and ready to call it a day, two of the gals wanted to do one last photoshoot. Taking the gals out back, we did a mini shoot with the sun setting in the distance with Ariel and TinkerBell, racing against the San Diego fog that was rapidly taking over the sky along with the very chilly wind. Once the light had all but vanished, we all called it a very long exhausting day.
COMIC CON DAY 3 – JULY 24, 2010
Saturday is arguably the most busy day of the entire Con, where the walking areas of the Comic Con Exhibit Hall packing up so much you feel like a herd of cattle walking two steps ever so often. The best of the best panels take place on this day, and often the stars are out in force. I had two major events myself that took place on this day, the 501st Star Wars group photoshoot photo and the TV show CHUCK (my favorite TV show) panel. Like many people who try to multitask and hit multiple things at Con, I found myself in a dilemma as the 501st photo was to be taken at 8am and the CHUCK panel starting promptly at 10am. Two hours might seem like plenty of time, but I knew the 501st photo wouldn’t actually happen till about 8:30am, and by the time it was all finished it’d be near 9am. Still, that leaves an hour right? Yes, but that’s not enough time. Even by 7:30am when I arrived at the back of the convention center for the 501st photo I saw the line for the ballroom 20 room (where CHUCK’s panel was taking place) already spanned incredibly long. One of the main problems with Comic Con’s panel systems is that they don’t clean out the rooms after a panel, so people have started to do something called ‘Panel Squatting’ where you might want to see a panel later in the day, but because no one leaves the panels they’ll get in line in the morning and stay in the room all day until their panel happens. This is bad for people like myself who just want to see one panel for their favorite show, but have to compete with people who could care less about your show and are only in the room for their panel later on. So naturally, I was concerned about being able to get into my panel and doing the 501st photo.
Thankfully, and I would like to give a HUGE shout out to him, a member of the 501st volunteered to stand in line for me as I took the photo, which ended up being nearly a good two hours by the time we got everyone together and all the various photos taken. If it was not for this really kind individual, I would not have made it into the CHUCK panel, and I really appreciate that. At any rate, the 501st photo went pretty well this year, though once again a smaller group than I’m used to seeing at the Con. As always, LucasFilm favorite Steve SanSweet and Mary Franklin showed up to the photo to jump in as they do every year along with a few other Star Wars/Lucasfilm show notables. The group was then split in smaller groups by costume type and photographed with both helmets on and off. Overall the photo went pretty well considering how long 501st photos usually last for, which was good for myself as I was able to get over to the line to relieve the 501st member who was graciously waiting for me right in time as the line started to move.
I won’t go into the CHUCK panel itself, you can find videos of the whole panel on youtube, but it was a lot of fun and I’m certainly excited for the upcoming 4th Season of the show. In the future I’ll probably write a post about the show and why you should be watching it! Seasons 1-2 are already on DVD, and if you like action shows that have a geek twist with humor and explosions… you’ll love CHUCK. Naturally, I brought with me my 100-400mm lens, and got some great shots of the cast (who was all there at the panel) from the good distance away I was. After the panel and the following Family Guy panel that came after, I went down to the exhibit hall and got to see the CHUCK cast up close as they were signing at the Warner Brothers booth. Sadly, I didn’t make it in time to be able to get in line, but I was able to snap some portrait shots of a few of the stars including the show’s main star Zachary Levi.
Most of the rest of the day was spent walking around with various groups and snapping photos when I was able, and ultimately ending with a photoshoot out near the water with one of the princesses from the previous day, Christy who is the creator of the group, who’d decided to once again done the outfit by herself. We walked out to the water’s edge just out back of the San Diego Convention Center, which got a lot of looks from people in the park as a photographer, a sexy Princess Ariel, a female version of the Johnny Depp Mad Hatter from the recent Alice in Wonderland movie, a Link from the Zelda game world, and the main character from the recent ‘Kick Ass’ movie all walked together towards the furthest point we could go to the rocky shore. Not to mention it was freezing cold outside, and the sun was disappearing very fast. But we were able to get in a bunch of shots before it was too dark to continue, and we headed back to the Con to end the day… for them, but evening was just getting started. Another final photoshoot took place not at the convention center, but all over the town as I took my friend who was in the ‘Kick Ass’ costume and we did a impromptu photoshoot all over the San Diego city area. Finally, at about 1am, the day ended for myself.
COMIC CON DAY 4 – JULY 25, 2010
The last day of the Con is always the shopping day for myself and many many others. I try to leave the camera back at the hotel and just enjoy the last day and try to find all the deals from the vendors who’d rather sell their stuff at incredible deals rather than lug it all home. Once again the costumes are a bit more rare to find there, but you’ll still find quite a few, especially those who had debuted their new costumes at the big Comic Con Masquerade the night before, and want to show off the new costumes since they are not allowed to wear the costumes till the night of the Masquerade and the day after. The rush to see the rest of things you missed, grab more free things, and purchase your last minute things you were waiting to get until you could barter makes this Con a bit more hectic as far as running around, but still relaxed as there’s no where you really NEED to be and you can take the time to take in the Con for one last day… that is if by this point you’re still able to stand.
CONCLUSION – COMIC CON 2010
While by the end of the Con everyone is exhausted and ready to go home, once the announcement comes on that the Con is over and people have exited the Convention Center, almost everyone suddenly is hit with a bit of sadness that it’s over once again. A mix of regret for the things you weren’t able to do or purchase and the excitement for the next year’s Comic Con tug at you in both directions, making you want to head back into the Con and magically hope it’ll open back up for a few more days. Feeling defeated, however, everyone shuffles their way through the massive crowds of people trying to leave to their individual hotels, and in turn into their cars to head home to finally rest. For myself, it was a mix of relief that I could finally sit down for a while and rest, and also give the camera a rest from the constant shooting. Not to mention giving a rest to my checking account after all the things I’d bought. But as I walked away from that convention center heading across the street towards the hotel, I regretted one thing in particular which came to mind and shroud of sadness flowed over me as I looked back at the doors I’d just gone through: it’d be another year until I’d have one of those delicious Mrs. Field’s Cookies and an ice cold Coca Cola in the convention center.
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