Conventions

Salute to Supernatural Vancouver 2016

By the time August rolls around it usually means three things; my birthday (ugh), lay-by now for Christmas (what?) and Salute to Supernatural Vancouver.

This was my fifth (what??) year going over to beautiful Vancouver, BC to attend Creation Entertainment’s convention at the mecca of Supernatural. While I haven’t done the normal touristy things that people do in Vancouver, the small downtown and harbour side places I’ve hung out are so, so beautiful and make it seem like it would be the coolest place to live. I could spend forever meandering along Robson St, or walking through the lush greenery of Stanley Park, or sitting on a park bench in Coal Harbour.

I was lucky this time, because my friend Chris actually took me out to see some of Stanley Park, so I did get to photograph something other than the inside of a hotel convention hall this time.

But for this weekend it was all about the con, and Supernatural.

The cons have become a well oiled machine by now, although this weekend was going to be different. Richard Speight Jr, who usually hosts the con weekend, was busy filming and couldn’t make the convention. Instead, we were going to be treated to Briana Buckmaster and Kim Rhodes as co-hosts, who promised Richard nothing except to totally throw his rule book out the window.

 

Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster, MC Queens, VanCon 2016

Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster, MC Queens, VanCon 2016

 

Filling in for Richard Speight Jr is a big task for anyone, but Kim and Briana more than rose to the challenge. They are so much fun and their attitudes to life and fandom are heady and infectious. They see fandom for all the good it does and can do. Their different personalities compliment each other in the way that those people with startling chemistry often do. It’s become one of the best parts of these cons for me; watching how these different friendship dynamics work and trying to capture that through photography.

 

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Richard had once joked that VanCon was Porncouver, and that was the only bit of advice Kim and Briana took and ran with. The whole weekend seemed like a chance for each of the cast to try to one-up each other in making it the best Porncouver it could possibly be. But most of all it was about having FUN. Kim and Briana had the same energy at the last panel on Sunday than they had very first thing on Friday.

 

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Kim Rhodes, Misha Collins, and Briana Buckmaster, Saturday, VanCon 2016

 

Kim Rhodes and Rob Benedict, Sunday, VanCon 2016

Kim Rhodes and Rob Benedict, Sunday, VanCon 2016

 

Even Jensen and Jared were a bit taken aback at Porncouver, Sunday, VanCon 2016

Even Jensen and Jared were a bit taken aback at Porncouver, Sunday, VanCon 2016

 

But they quickly got used to it. Sunday, VanCon 2016

But they quickly got used to it. Sunday, VanCon 2016

 

It was hard not having Richard there; without any of the core convention cast there it feels like there’s a hole there that can’t be replaced. He’s become the real heart of the whole thing, the glue that holds everyone together. But if he is the heart, then Kim and Briana definitely feel like representations of us. It was as if we were given the keys to car and we were all driving it headlong through the weekend.

Karaoke was the usual crazy affair, with some added weirdness with the (very) wrong lyrics being put up for a Justin Timberlake song. Matt Cohen was the King of the Con, with Rob Benedict as his Queen (?). Louden Swain came out to do a song, which is always fun (I love those guys).

 

Stephen Norton capturing the Karaoke audience, Friday, VanCon 2016

Stephen Norton capturing the Karaoke audience, Friday, VanCon 2016

 

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Matt Cohen, Karaoke, Friday VanCon 2016

 

The Louden Swain Saturday Night Special was a highlight, just like it always is. It has truly become one of my favourite things on earth, and the day I don’t get to see one anymore I think will crush me.

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

You can tell the cast put their all into it. I don’t think I’ve ever known a more talented, dedicated group of people, and the love and enjoyment they obviously get from doing this concert and watching it grow and evolve is so evident during every single moment. I am so, so honoured I’ve been able to photograph it as much as I have, and watch it change and become what it is now.

 

Kim Rhodes, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Kim Rhodes, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Jensen Ackles, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Jensen Ackles, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Briana Buckmaster, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Briana Buckmaster, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

I could never accurately sum up how much I admire and love the band Louden Swain either. One day I may try, but until then I don’t think I have the words or the photographs to do it justice.

 

Billy Moran, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Billy Moran, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Mike Borja, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Mike Borja, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Stephen Norton, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Stephen Norton, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2016

Stanley Park / Coal Harbour Vancouver 2016

While I’m finishing my galleries of the Vancouver convention, I thought I’d share some photos that I took of Vancouver itself. I actually ventured outside and saw some of the beautiful landscape this time!

Chris Schmelke took me on a (long) walk on the Thursday before the con started, and showed me around Stanely Park. I didn’t take my camera, but I had my phone with me. He took his Leica, and it was fun watching him take photos, even if he kept making me hold his coffee while he did.

These were all just taken with my phone, that’s how stunning Vancouver is. It’s become one of my favourite places and I’m grateful Chris actually got me out to see some of the beautiful surroundings before a weekend locked in a convention hotel (nice hotel though).

Shooting At A Con // Some Tips

There isn’t really a magic formula to taking photos at conventions. It’s like all things in life – it takes a mixture of practice, patience and grit and more luck than people like to admit. What works for me won’t necessarily work for other people, but there are several questions that I get asked a lot that I thought I might try to answer here. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and things like actual photography theory and detailed editing would take too long to go into. But I can touch on some general things to help make it all seem a little less daunting.  I’ll also pepper the blog with links to articles explaining terms that I think might need more explaining, and add some useful links at the end.

That was one of the biggest things when I started out – it all seemed too big and too complicated and I just read and read and practiced and I was lucky that I had people willing to give me advice.

EQUIPMENT

I didn’t start out using the camera or lenses I have today. When I first started taking photos at conventions, I was using a Sony “bridge” camera. It’s called a bridge camera because it’s not quite a point and shoot, not quite a DSLR. It had a fixed zoom lens and could actually zoom quite far.  It was a great camera to learn on, and I used it at a few conventions. But as I started wanting to improve myself, it wasn’t giving me enough detail in low light.

 

Misha, AHBL 3 2012. This was shot using my Sony "bridge" camera

Misha Collins, AHBL 3 2012. This was shot using my Sony “bridge” camera

I then moved to a Canon 600D (which I’m not sure they even have anymore?) This was the camera I did quite a lot of learning on. It was close to what I’m shooting with now, just not as robust. Again, it was a great camera but it wasn’t giving me the scope I needed for the low light situations I was shooting in. At every step though, I made sure it was the fact that I felt I was outgrowing a camera rather than just upgrading because I thought it was what was expected, or thought the camera would somehow make me a better photographer. It was about what I thought me and the camera could do together.

That’s when I got my current camera body, a Canon EOS 5D MK III.

 

 

Jared Padalecki, SFCon 2015. Shot using my 5D MK III

Jared Padalecki, SFCon 2015. Shot using my 5D MK III. The benefit of not only a robust camera body but hours and hours and hours and hours of practice in photography and post-processing.

I have 3 lenses – a 50mm f/1.8, an 85mm f/1.8 and a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L Series. The 70-300mm is the workhorse and the one I use most often at conventions. It is by no means what they call a “fast lens”, meaning that it doesn’t have a particularly wide aperture setting  (http://digital-photography-school.com/what-is-a-fast-lens/) So it takes a bit of work to use it in low light settings like a panel room, but I’ve used it for three years now and I’ve made it work!

If I ever wanted to experiment with other types of lenses, I would hire them. Hiring is a great alternative to outlaying money for a new lens. A quick google search brought up this example in the US, and to give you some idea, a Canon 70-200mm  f/2.8 would cost you over $2,000 US, and yet you can hire one from borrowlenses.com for 10 days for $112 US. Perfect for having before a con weekend to play around with.

Photography is an expensive hobby and despite how appealing it seems to want the best equipment, especially because you think it will make your photos better, it is unnecessary to outlay so much money on something that in all likelihood will sit in a bag in your room for the majority of the time. Unless you are seriously considering making a career or a serious hobby of photography, there are much more cost effective ways to shoot conventions and renting is a big one.

There is a lot of talk in the photography world about how mirrorless cameras are going to take the place of DSLR’s, but I have never used a mirrorless camera so can’t really comment on it. It is another route to go though, if you’re interested in looking at different equipment.

AT THE CON

My camera takes both SD Cards and Compact Flash cards, and I use CF cards 99% of the time now. When I first started out, I was extremely reluctant to go over any of my cards, especially if they had photos that I was proud of, or of cons that I wanted to remember. The hard truth is, like everything else about photography, Compact Flash cards especially are expensive. So I had to give up being precious about my cards and I had to reuse them at each con.

When you start out with a card, if you’re going over an old card or even if it’s just out of the packet, don’t forget to use your camera menu and format your card. This completely cleans your card and gives you a fresh slate to work on. You’re much less likely to end up with a corrupted card, which is a nightmare. Take a few cards with you, since it’s always better to have more than you need than less. I actually carry a small pencil case in my camera bag, and once I have used one card I will put it in there and I know it’s used and not to go over it the rest of the weekend. Professional!

 

On the left, an SD Card and on the right a Compact Flash Card

On the left, an SD Card and on the right a Compact Flash Card

SHOOT IN RAW. If you are at all interested in doing a lot of processing and making big editing changes to your photos after the con, shoot in RAW rather than JPEG. Raw files contain every single scrap of information; JPEG compresses a lot of that information. JPEG is fine if you are simply wanting to capture photos and share them online without too much fuss. It’s quick and you don’t need specialized software to open them and work on them. But if you’re wanting to perhaps fix up some photos – recover any exposure mistakes, make any big changes – you’ll need access to as much digital information as possible and that means using a RAW file. RAW files are subsequently much larger and take up more room on your cards. You also need dedicated software like Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom to open the files and work on them. But if you are serious about working with your photos, your best bet is to always shoot in RAW.

Always remember to have your charger and charge your batteries at night. I have a camera grip on my camera, which is an extra attachment that means that I have two rechargeable batteries working rather than one. This lessens the chances that I will run out of juice during the day of a con. It’s not necessary, but it’s something that has helped me (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/847530-REG/Canon_5261B001_BG_E11_Battery_Grip_for.html) It’s also useful because it means that when I’m shooting portrait and turn the camera vertically, I have a vertically positioned shutter button and control dials. Which, again, isn’t necessary but it helps ergonomically for photographing for long periods of time.

I do have a flash gun, but I never use flash at conventions. By their nature, the reach of a flash will only work if you are in the first couple of rows at best, and if you’re that close chances are you’ll have light spill from the stage lights and won’t need it. You’re better off trying to work with your camera settings organically, rather than introducing an artificial light source that in all likelihood won’t help much anyway. If you’re not using it outside the con, it’s an expense you don’t need at one.

EXPOSURE SETTINGS

This is a topic that could take another whole blog on its own. I can put some links to some basic exposure tutorials, but it’s impossible to give a strict guideline about how to expose because every con venue is different. There’s even often differences from one panel to the next in how they are lit, and so how you need to best adjust your settings is a matter of experimenting.

If you’re working with a DSLR, you will have Automatic, Program, Manual, Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority settings. The camera picks all the settings for you if you use automatic, the camera picks settings but allows you to make adjustments if you want if you use program, and manual it is all up to you. Shutter Priority means you will set how fast or slow you want the shutter speed and the camera will adjust the other settings to compensate, and the Aperture Priority is the same only you set how wide or narrow your aperture will be. People will often talk about going “full manual” as if it’s the pro thing to do, and while it will give you maximum control over your exposure choices, it is perfectly acceptable to use the other settings, especially in an environment as complex as a convention panel where you have absolutely no control over the light sources. I will often use Shutter Priority, because I want to keep my shutter speed up to avoid camera shake, which can happen if you have your shutter set at a slow speed which you can tend to do in a situation where there isn’t much light.

Probably the single biggest lesson I’ve learned is not to be afraid of grain.

Exposure is an equilateral triangle. All three settings – shutter speed, aperture and  ISO work to expose an image correctly, but they are entirely dependent on each other. If you change one, you have to change the other two to compensate. In low light settings, one of the things that often have to be pushed to the limit is your ISO. The ISO determines the sensor’s sensitivity to light.  The higher the ISO, the more grain or noise is introduced. Have you ever taken a photo at a con and it’s come out very grainy like an old photo? That’s digital noise and often comes from having a high ISO setting.

The thing about grain is that it can be cleaned up in editing. Poor exposure is a lot harder to fix. So if you need to pump up your ISO, do it. Just be aware that it can also affect how sharp your images can look, so go high but not overboard.

 

EDITING

I use a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop when I’m editing. There are other options, but these are the ones I’ve always used. Unless you have the physical software from a few years ago, Adobe now works on a cloud based subscription, and you can purchase a Photographer’s Bundle that is Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for $9.99 US a month.

I use Lightroom mainly to as a way to catalogue my photos, open the RAW files and to do very basic early touching up. I’ll open the RAW file and adjust white balance if needed, and sharpen and reduce noise in Lightroom, then export the photo into Photoshop to do the bulk of the work. Don’t be afraid of either Lightroom or Photoshop – they are daunting, but there are plenty of online tutorials to show you how to make your way around them. I’ve used Photoshop for over ten years, even before I started photography again I was using it for graphics work, and there is still a lot I don’t understand. But like most of photography, it’s about experimenting and finding what works. The beauty of it is if you do shoot in RAW, your files will not be destructed by anything you do – that original file will always still be there and recoverable for you to work from and start again. One of the joys of this is to go back on old photos and edit them with all the updated knowledge you have gained along the way.

 

Events like Karaoke at the SPN Creation conventions are a great opportunity to experiment with camera angles and pushing your editing to extremes

Events like Karaoke at the SPN Creation conventions are a great opportunity to experiment with camera angles and pushing your editing to extremes. Matt Cohen, Karaoke, PasCon 2015

REMEMBER

The biggest tip I have for shooting at a convention is not really to do with photography technique at all. It’s to do with looking after yourself.

I am a big believer in how you are feeling affects your output. If I am having a bad day, or I’m not feeling very well, I really believe that my photos won’t be as good. A convention is a very unnatural environment. It’s frenetic and emotional and it’s very easy to get swept away in the adrenaline. But there are a few ways you can keep an even keel and it will help you avoid such a startling crash at the end of the weekend.

Drink water. All the time. Even if it’s a con like VegasCon where there is a steady supply of alcohol, drink water too. Water will help you concentrate, help you sleep and help you function.

Eat. Even if you can manage one sit down meal with friends at some point in the day, where you are actually sitting and focusing on eating it’s better than nothing. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, just one proper meal. Throughout the day, try to snack on things like nuts or fruit.Trail mix is great. You will mostly be running on adrenaline and chances are you’ll be too nervous to eat much, but try to eat something.

Sleep. Even if it’s a couple of hours a night. You’ll want to stay up all night deconstructing every photo op with your friends, and that’s part of the fun of a con. But try to snatch a few hours just so that you are somewhat refreshed for the next day.

Shower and take any medications you need. Showering will make you feel more human, and take any medications you would take at home. If you’re on blood pressure meds, or anti-anxiety meds or anything like that, be responsible and take them during the con when you should. I am on anti-depressants, and I am of absolutely no use to anyone if I don’t take them. It’s my responsibility to make sure that I do.

If you have any questions or concerns or something has gone wrong, speak to someone. A volunteer, a staff member, a friend. Don’t think that any question is stupid, or trivial. Chances are, you are not the first person to ask it and you won’t be the last.

Thank the cast, thank the staff and thank the volunteers. They all need to hear it, especially the volunteers. It’s a hard job and they have to do and put up with a lot all weekend. (If you’re at a Creation convention, thank Chris, the photographer in the photo op room!)

Have fun! It’s one of the most fun things you will ever do but it’s so easy to get caught up in feeling anxious and overwhelmed that you miss out on the fact that it is fun. Especially if you’re wanting to photograph the con, you can get distracted by wanting to do such a good job that you forget to really listen and enjoy a panel. It’s okay to say you want to sit a panel out and just be there and experience it rather than photograph it. There’s no shame in that. A few years ago, I had a bad migraine on the Saturday night at SPN VegasCon, and the next day I couldn’t focus properly to photograph Misha Collins’ Sunday panel. He brought his son West out on stage and while I was extremely disappointed I didn’t get to photograph that, I knew that in all likelihood my photos wouldn’t have been very good anyway because I was so sick. So I just got to be there and enjoy the panel itself, and there are still lots of other photos of the panel out there.

This may all seem like strange advice for a blog about con photography, but taking care of yourself on a weekend like this is a big deal, and your photos, and your experience overall, will be much better for it!

 

USEFUL LINKS

Exposure Guidehttp://www.exposureguide.com/exposure.htm

Cambridge In Color: Learn Photography Concepts –  http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/learn-photography-concepts.htm

Digital Camera World Lightroom Tutorialshttp://www.digitalcameraworld.com/tag/adobe-lightroom-tutorial/

Digital Camera World Photoshop Tutorialshttp://www.digitalcameraworld.com/category/tutorials/photoshop-tutorials/

Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC Photographer’s Bundlehttp://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/photography.html?promoid=KSDQE

Borrow lenses US – borrowlenses.com

Fstoppershttps://fstoppers.com/

How To Become A Rockstar Photographerhttp://howtobecomearockstarphotographer.com/ – a great blog that is geared towards concert photography but the principles between that and con photography are often the same

Digital Photography School on twitter – @digitalps

Fstoppers on twitter – @fstoppers

 

 

 

Osric Chau and Timothy Omundson, AHBL 6 Melbourne 2015

Osric Chau and Timothy Omundson, AHBL 6 Melbourne 2015

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Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

Bruce Campbell, OzCC Melbourne 2015

Bruce Campbell, OzCC Melbourne 2015

Misha Collins, DenverCon 2015

Misha Collins, DenverCon 2015

Jensen Ackles, DenverCon 2015

Jensen Ackles, DenverCon 2015

Osric Chau with fans, Karaoke VanCon 2015

Osric Chau with fans, Karaoke VanCon 2015

Briana Buckmaster, PasCon 2015

Briana Buckmaster, PasCon 2015

Gil McKinney, Louden Swain Saturday NIght Special, DenverCon 2015

Gil McKinney, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, DenverCon 2015

SPN Cast, VegasCon 2015

SPN Cast, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VegasCon 2015

Matt Smith, Whoniverse Melbourne 2015

Matt Smith, Whoniverse Melbourne 2015

Mark Sheppard and Osric Chau, Jus In Bello

Mark Sheppard and Osric Chau, Jus In Bello V, 2014

“Happy Snaps”

Yesterday at All Hell Breaks Loose XMAS in Melbourne I lost my cool and ranted on Twitter.

I don’t usually – I generally try to keep anger over things to a minimum. I’m not someone who likes confrontation, I don’t really like to cause a fuss. But it happened.

The anger needs some context. AHBL has a rule that states that photography is only allowed during the first five minutes of each panel. It’s a challenge – trying to encapsulate the context and feeling of a panel from photos of the very first five minutes, when people have barely had a chance to warm up in front of the crowd. It’s hard but I’ve tried to do it before.

But yesterday I went to AHBL XMAS and I decided I wasn’t going to take my camera. It was being held at a university lecture hall that I wasn’t familiar with, and we were in Row O so I decided it wasn’t worth bringing my heavy DSLR and all my equipment.

Before the panels, the MC usually goes through the rules (a less fun version of Richard Speight Jr’s Rules and Regulations song from Creation’s cons) . She reiterated the “no photography” rule. Fine. I’ve heard it before. But she then hammered it home by saying (paraphrasing) that there’s nothing she “hates more than seeing people watch a panel through a camera” and that we should “just take our happy snaps” then put the camera away.

I was so angry. I was shocked by how angry I was. Irrational as it may be, it felt like she was invalidating so much of me. How I see the cons and the world (through a lens pretty much), as well as the difficulty of taking photos at a convention. I have so much pride in what I do. I take it to heart. Every photo has a lot of me in it. I don’t see them as “happy snaps”. No, it’s not brain surgery. It’s not going to solve the problems of the world. But to me it’s taken something like four years  travelling to the US to do these cons (I think I’ve almost done over 20) to cultivate the patience, to refine my own style and technique, and to build up the trust and relationships to do what I do.

I don’t raise my camera and point it at the stage and hope for the best. I’ve trained myself to pay attention to the tiniest shifts in people – this person is about to laugh, this person feels moved by what that fan is saying. I’m making decisions simultaneously, reading those cues and taking into account the limits of my technology as well as aesthetic decisions, often in a split second. Jensen Ackles is about to jump into the air at the end of J2’s intro song, how will I shoot this? Vertically to show height? Horizontally to include Rob Benedict and Louden Swain in to show synchronicity? Will I frame him in the centre or weighted on one side? Do I want to freeze them in midair or will I show blur to suggest movement? All of this is going through my head as the music builds and I watch Jensen start to crouch.

 

There are still surprises at panels, like Jensen Ackles during the J2 panel intro, BurCon 2014

Jensen Ackles during the J2 panel intro, BurCon 2014

 

And I probably take it too seriously. It’s not a job for me at the moment but I am hoping eventually it will be. I don’t get paid for my convention photography and I can’t sell what photographs I do take. I have another much more boring job. I make huge sacrifices to do what I do because I genuinely love it and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I have so much genuine affection and respect for this cast that I want to try to show people how I see them, how amazing I think they are. I put so much into it that sometimes I come home feeling empty, like I have nothing left in me.

I have a letter from the Russian Misha Collins Fandom that I have never shared with anyone. I won’t share it all here, but there’s one line in it that has always stayed with me and I will still read it when I feel like giving up, when I feel like I’m just putting photos out there into a void and am never getting anywhere (which does happen, no matter how much I love this). They thanked me for taking and sharing photos of Misha, because:

“Thanks to your photos every minion, who hasn’t met Misha personally, feel closer to the ‘Sun’. They transmit the warmth, which Misha radiates, through thousand miles.”

This isn’t about me. This is about how powerful a medium photography is. It’s a shared experience. It’s me being lucky enough to see what I see and trying so hard to share it with people. For someone to be so dismissive as she was felt so upsetting. I was hurt and angry and I ranted and I probably shouldn’t have. Even now I’ll probably regret writing this, but I felt like I should kind of try to explain why I felt so bad. Maybe even to try to understand it myself.

But over and above all that – throwing everything I said about my own photography out the window and how serious I take it (probably too seriously) – even if you do point your iPhone or even your iPad at the stage and just get a photo so you can remember you were there that is yours too. Don’t let someone invalidate that for you. That is your photography, your moment, your experience, your truth. However you choose to capture it.

Salute to Supernatural Pasadena 2015

On the Monday following DenverCon, I made my way across to Pasadena for the convention there the following weekend. It was really different being able to say, “well I didn’t get such great shots at that panel, but I’ll have another chance in a week.” Usually you have your one shot and then it’s months before the next. I did try not to use it as an excuse to be lazy, or complacent in Denver though!

PasCon was a standout for me in so many ways. There were so many people I knew there, I got to see so many friends and familiar faces. My good friend Michelle, who I first met when I sat next to her at BurCon two years ago, was kind enough to drive us around for the few days before the con started. The weather was perfect. I love California.

 

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As far as my photography goes, the standout for me was both Karaoke and the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special. Anyone reading these blogs will know that I am extremely critical of my photography, but both of these times something in me clicked and I just felt it all really working. I don’t know how else to explain it. You know those images that show what happens when a key fits into a lock properly and all the tumblers move into place? It was kind of like that.

 

Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, Karaoke PasCon 2015

Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict, Karaoke PasCon 2015

 

Briana Buckmaster, Karaoke PasCon 2015

Briana Buckmaster, Karaoke PasCon 2015

 

Matt Cohen, Karaoke, PasCon 2015

Matt Cohen, Karaoke, PasCon 2015

 

Again, it was the Saturday Night Special that I truly found the most challenging and the most rewarding to shoot. I thought it would be especially bittersweet because it was the last of the year, but instead it felt like a huge celebration, an acknowledgement that they have found this amazing event that they want to hold onto and share into next year. Of course I cried, but that was a given.

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

 

Briana Buckmaster, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

Briana Buckmaster, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

 

Chris Schmelke, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

Chris Schmelke, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special PasCon 2015

 

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

 

Richard Speight Jr, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

Richard Speight Jr, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, PasCon 2015

 

PasCon was also the first time I got to properly photograph Briana Buckmaster and Kathryn Newton, and I fell for them both. So lovely and funny!

 

Kathryn Newton, PasCon 2015

Kathryn Newton, PasCon 2015

 

Briana Buckmaster, PasCon 2015

Briana Buckmaster, PasCon 2015

 

2015 was a big year for the Supernatural conventions. It was the 10th anniversary, there were more dates in different cities, bigger venues and the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special truly became a big monster event of its own. But at its heart, these were still the same conventions that they have always been. Some things will change, get bigger, get smaller. But some things will always be the same.

It’s the waiting in the lobby when you check in to your hotel wondering who else is there for the same convention, until you spot someone with a Family Business shirt and you know you’re in the right place. It’s your room at the start of a weekend,  an explosion of schedules and highlighters and different coloured tickets and lanyards and cosplay and phone chargers and SD cards for cameras. There’s the same nervous excitement waiting around for the doors to open before Karaoke late on a Friday night, laughing about being Friday People even though your feet already hurt and you could probably fall asleep if you sat down long enough. There is still the feeling of the sound of your heartbeat almost drowning out the music in Chris’ photo op room while you watch other people pose for photo ops and you wait your turn. There’s the butterflies when you wake up each morning and try desperately to force in breakfast because you know it’s probably the only decent food you’ll have all day. There’s still that feeling when your last autograph is done on a Sunday, and you start to see people leaving and you wonder if you’ll ever get used to what that feels like.

2015 was a big year, but 2016 will be bigger. The same but different. I think I’m ready for it.