Conventions

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.

Salute to Supernatural Denver 2015

DenverCon 2015 Schedule

DenverCon 2015 Schedule

 

The Creation Supernatural conventions have become such a huge production that in 2015 (and by the looks of things it will be the same in 2016 too) so many more dates had been added, often in places the cons have never been held before. In some instances, the conventions would run one weekend after another.

As was the case with the November conventions in Denver and Pasadena. I was going over for Pasadena (it replaced Burbank from 2013 and 2014) so I thought that as long as I was flying all the way over there, and would more than likely have a few days before the con in Pasadena anyway, I might as well bite the bullet and do DenverCon as well. It sounded like such a wise decision in my head. Perhaps not fiscally, and definitely not emotionally or energy-wise, but it made sense in some esoteric way to me.

This blog post will be about Denver, and the next will focus on Pasadena.

The conventions had never been held in Denver, so as well as the excitement for me personally going to a place I’d never been before, there was a palpable sense of excitement that finally the “traveling circus” (as Richard Speight Jr tends to call it) was visiting a new location. The Marriot Denver Tech Center where the convention was held was small; a lot smaller than any convention venue I have been in. There were lots of winding corridors where the actors had to navigate between the photo op room, the green room, the meet and greet rooms, and the room where the panel was held. The vendors were placed out in an open atrium in the middle of the hotel, surrounded and overlooked by balconies belonging to the hotel rooms. Fans got the ingenious idea to decorate their balconies to celebrate the con and the mythology of the show, which gave the whole place an awesome – and somewhat eerie – atmosphere. My roommate and I wanted to do a “Friday People” balcony (long story) but we didn’t have time.

 

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Croatoan

 

Denver was probably the smallest convention I had done, and there’s something nice about doing the smaller cons. There will always be something exciting about the big flashy cons like Vegas, Chicago or Vancouver, but the smaller cons tend to be a bit more laid back. There’s an excitement, but not a suffocating you-may-not-last-the-weekend excitement (Vegas I’m looking at you).

 

Panel Room, Day One

Panel Room, Day One

 

One of the things I considered, but obviously not in too much detail, was how difficult it was not being able to put convention photos out after a con. I am by no means someone who gets their photos out quickly; it takes me time to travel home and go through and edit them. I don’t have a laptop, so I don’t have a way to work on them while I’m overseas. This time though, I would have to put aside a whole convention’s worth of photos on several compact flash cards to shoot a second con, then have two whole cons to edit at home.

That’s a lot of photos.

I tried to take little phone photos here and there, and upload them to Instagram whenever I found wi-fi, just as a shallow way of documenting what was going on. They weren’t great photos and I hate my phone so I felt embarrassed about doing it, but one photo of Matt Cohen at karaoke seemed to get a good reaction, so that made me happy!

 

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Matt Cohen, Karaoke

 

I’ve come to realise this year that I will probably never love shooting anything as much as I love shooting the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special (and Pasadena truly cemented that for me, but I will talk about that in the next post). I actually feel physically drained coming out of it, like I’ve expended energy just trying to take everything in. It’s using so many skills and makes me fine tune the way I pay attention and look at things and work with the light given to me. It’s movement, stillness, emotion, volume. It’s stretching lots of different skill sets; even in the editing a big part of it is deciding what photos to keep to really show what happened, and what to leave behind and I’ve become quite ruthless about it. Maybe this just means I need to move into concert photography, I have no idea. But it is definitely my favourite thing to shoot at the moment.

 

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That’s not to say I don’t enjoy shooting the other parts of the convention, because I still do and I still find them challenging every time. Whether it’s the quality of the house lights, where I’m sitting in the room, how a particular panel is going (if the guest is in a good mood or not, if the audience is engaged etc) there’s always challenges and tests. I love it though, I feel alive doing it. That may seem strange, but it’s honest.

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It may also seem strange that it’s still challenging shooting the same people, but it is. In the same way that you can hear a song more than once and have it mean something different to you each time, people change and grow and it all happens in front of and behind the camera. I’m growing as a photographer and a person, and I feel like as I do that my photography will improve. A big obstacle for me is my own self doubt but I’m challenging that little by little at each convention.

Of course there will be a time when I’ll have to do something different, and I am already doing different things a long the way. But this has made me a photographer. I call myself a photographer because of the things I’ve learned shooting these cons and how lucky I have been to find such an amazing support system there and as well as my family and friends at home.

10 Years of Supernatural

So it’s the 10th Birthday of Supernatural today. “The Little Show Who Could”. The little show that has changed so many lives. I know that it’s irrevocably changed mine.

There are certain high points of the show itself that will stay with me – the angel Castiel walking into the barn in the Season 4 premiere Lazarus Rising example, but long after the show has gone it will be everything that’s happened outside the show that I will most remember. The strong friendships I’ve made in the fandom, the impetus to travel overseas by myself for my first convention (thank you, Misha Collins) and most especially, these men in this cast that I have grown to know through a lens.

I wouldn’t be even half the person I am today thanks to the unwavering support of my family and friends, especially those I’ve made through Supernatural. To mention them all I would be too scared I would miss someone.

But these guys; it’s snippets of them that I think of when I think of Supernatural now, not even really the show. It’s become so much more than that. And I’ll remember so much more than that.

 

Like Misha Collins, who was the incentive for me to travel to my first con. His great emotional strength and kindness, as well as his depth and complexity. He carries around a lot, it’s easy to see that. But he does it with grace (no pun intended). I will always, always be grateful to him, and go to bat for him.

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Rob Benedict and his beautiful smile that could light up a night sky. Without him and Louden Swain, I wouldn’t be half the photographer I am today. I feel blessed each time I’m tasked with trying to capture even half of the emotion and energy they give people on stage. I get teary around Rob, which I think gives him a complex. But it’s just because I’m so overwhelmed I don’t know how to put it into words.

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Osric Chau and his warm hugs and his refusal to conform to any constraints people put on him, inside the industry or out. It’s his encouragement I’ll remember, the way his mind works, his laugh. The way he’s completely and utterly fascinating.

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Richard Speight Jr and his incredible mind. Always the sharpest person in the room, he’s also the most considerate and warmest person you could hope to meet. The true heart and soul of the convention and the convention fandom, he really takes care of everyone. And he can sell a joke like no one else.

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Matt Cohen, his beautiful soul like a warm summer afternoon. Warm and loyal, his friendship with Richard and Rob is one of my most favourite things I get to see.

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Gil McKinney and his heavenly voice. The way he had lost some of his confidence and got it back by singing at the conventions, like a mirror of so many people who walk away renewed by being at the cons. He is our Snarky Prince Charming, and he seems so touched and amused to be.

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Jensen Ackles and his grandpa syndrome! His unparalleled talent and the way he so obviously leads everyone by example. His unicorn laugh where he can’t hold it in any longer, and his whole body shakes.  Oh and his comedy elbows before he tells a joke that he thinks is funny.

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And Jared Padalecki, the 6ft 4 whirling bundle of energy who wears his heart firmly on his sleeve. All legs, hair and heart. That’s what he is.

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And sort of outside the Supernatural cast but definitely part of the Supernatural family, Chris Schmelke. My big brother. Who won’t let me say goodbye at the end of conventions now. I love him and am grateful for the fact he puts up with me.

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I don’t know how I came to be so lucky to be able to hold these memories of these people but I will hold onto them for as long as I can. Maybe that’s why I strive so hard to get better at taking photos. Because I have such dynamic people I’m trying to capture and don’t want to forget.

Salute to Supernatural Vancouver 2015

I’ve been so remiss with blogging. The truth is I feel as though I’ve been remiss with photography in general. After photographing Bruce Campbell at Oz Comic Con in June, I felt as though I hardly did any photography. The prospect then of being thrown into VanCon, one of the biggest SPN cons of the year, was a bit overwhelming.

It was entirely my fault though. I had started doing some freelance work at home and I had been concentrating so much on that I hadn’t focused on photography. I hadn’t even been studying it or researching or doing tutorials, which were at least things I was doing previously when I wasn’t actually shooting. So I was a little hesitant and nervous heading to Vancouver for the convention.

People say that when you have a passion for something, it’s like riding a bike. You never really get “out of the way” of doing it, which in some respects is true. But that fire needs to be stoked, and your focus can always be sharpened. I felt … blunt? Maybe that’s the wrong word. Anyway, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself.

The convention itself was wonderful, in the way that they all are. Vancouver is such a beautiful place, and the convention there really feels like a homecoming. This time was a little different, because the convention was held at the Vancouver Convention Center rather than at the Sheraton Wall Center. I have to admit I really, really missed the Sheraton. I missed the feeling of knowing you would bump into other convention goers in the lobby. I missed the ease of making plans with people staying in the same place as you. I missed the fairy lights in the courtyard by the sound of the water fountains. I missed the glass walkway where we all stood for registration. The Vancouver Convention Center is a world-class event location by the water, and it had beautiful sound and lighting. But it wasn’t the same; it was never going to be the same.

 

The view from the East Wing of the Vancouver Convention Center

The view from the East Wing of the Vancouver Convention Center

 

Despite how over anxious I was leading up to the convention, photographing it turned out pretty straight forward. The lighting was good, and I managed some interesting experimenting with angles and viewpoints especially at Karaoke, since I was to the side of the stage.

 

Rob Benedict, Karaoke VanCon 2015

Rob Benedict, Karaoke VanCon 2015

 

Gil McKinney, Karaoke VanCon 2015

Gil McKinney, Karaoke VanCon 2015

 

Osric Chau with fans, Karaoke VanCon 2015

Osric Chau with fans, Karaoke VanCon 2015

 

I’m really discovering how much I actually thrive on the events like Karaoke and especially the Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, where there is so much movement and dynamics and interaction between people. It feels like so much of a challenge to try to capture it, to bottle it up in a way that can really show people what it’s like to be there and experience it.  I like stretching my photos so they feel as though they can barely be contained by the frame of the photograph, to push the point that there is just so much going on.

 

Jensen Ackles, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2015

Jensen Ackles, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2015

 

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special VanCon 2015

Osric Chau, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special VanCon 2015

 

The panels are challenging but in a completely different way; this feels much more like thinking on your feet. Like if you’re not careful you can completely miss a moment that you’ll never get back. I guess it’s an adrenaline rush I never really thought too hard about before? (That being said, this is NO WAY means I want to take up something similar like wedding photography. No thank you.)

 

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2015

Rob Benedict, Louden Swain Saturday Night Special, VanCon 2015

 

As far as the panels went, I’m also finding it much more fulfilling trying to capture relationships between more than one person on stage. The R2M panel was honestly one of my favourite panels I’ve ever seen, and it made it incredibly hard to try to capture it when I was laughing so much.

 

R2M VanCon 2015

R2M VanCon 2015

 

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J2, VanCon 2015

 

Misha Collins and Richard Speight Jr, VanCon 2015

Misha Collins and Richard Speight Jr, VanCon 2015

 

 

I still went through the same thing I do after every con, where I come away thinking I haven’t done enough, I could have done better etc. But I’m learning to recognise that I do it, and I do it for a reason. Because if I ever come away thinking I’ve totally nailed it, it would all be over. I would never want to get better and I always want to get better. I want to keep learning and pushing myself. I think I’m nowhere near “there” yet, wherever “there” even is.

I just need to tell myself to enjoy the journey and not worry quite so much.

 

Bruce Campbell at Oz Comic Con Melbourne 2015

I am a huge Bruce Campbell fan, and I have been for a long time.

So when I heard that he was going to be coming to Melbourne for Oz Comic Con I was both elated and shocked. He was definitely someone I thought I would have to travel to see. He does a lot of the multi-fandom conventions in the US fairly regularly, but he hadn’t really done many overseas cons. I guess since he was in New Zealand filming Ash vs Evil Dead, he thought why not?

My pass allowed me into the con for the Saturday, which was the only day Bruce was appearing. So between queuing for his autograph and photo, and then his panel, I wasn’t able to photograph any other panels that day. I got a few shots of the exhibition floor and some cosplayers first thing in the morning – it’s so thrilling how cosplay has taken off so much here. There is so much time and effort and passion going into people’s creations, it’s amazing.

 

 

I was actually really nervous to meet Bruce Campbell, because he just seemed like such a cool guy but also such a larger than life personality – he’s very much a huge cult figure. But I didn’t have to worry; he was so lovely and charming, and then his panel was a riot! Honestly one of the best panels I have attended, and I’m really hoping it was recorded so we can purchase it at some stage because I’d love to relive it.

The only downside was the standard “only photographs for the first five minutes” so the moment I had been waiting all day for – being able to photograph Bruce Campbell – only lasted five minutes. It’s a real challenge and one that keeps you on your toes. You not only have to very quickly work out the best settings to shoot the panel, but you also have to encapsulate as much feeling as you can in those first five minutes. So usually by the time your chance to photograph is over, guests become looser and start to ease up more in front of the crowd. But I worked within the confines as best as I could. It was at the Plenary, which was where I had photographed both Whoniverse and All Hell Breaks Loose VI recently, so I was fairly familiar with the lighting. And I think because I was so excited and so happy it came out in my photos. I was also lucky enough to be in the front row, dead centre!

 

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