Sunday, July 6, 2008

Looking back at AX 2008

It's 4th of July again... and that can only mean one thing... the largest gathering of anime fans, otakus, and photographers in Southern California - Anime Expo. Looking back at AX 2007, I only kept 33 photos, none of them particularly good... just a collection of snapshots of people's costumes. While I certainly hope I've gotten better over the past year, the photos tells a different story. I ended up keeping 60 photos but again, most of them are just passing snapshots of people's costumes. Arguably the majority of the photos from this year's AX was actually WORSE than last years. Crappier composition (i.e. cutting parts off) and screwed up exposures. I thought overall the costumes were more interesting last year, but maybe I went on an off day. Either way, I'm not terribly happy with how I shot this year. Part of the problem is that I'm still just shooting snapshots... "hey can I take a quick picture of you?" and I rely on the cosplayers to pose themselves and I just take a quick photo, thank them and move on. I feel bad for troubling them and sometimes there is just nothing you can do with the background inside the dealer hall. It is so easy to be stuck in that mindset. But I see other photographers (there were some real good ones it seems) actually pulling them aside, posing the cosplayers, adjusting them, etc, taking their time to get a good shot. Perhaps next year I just gotta bite the bullet and force myself into that mindset or just forget about bringing my camera.

Anyways... some photos:

This was one of the earlier photos from the day that I liked. She was by herself and had enough distance from the background for me to blur it out sufficiently. I really like the natural sunlight on the left side of her body. Also I had some fill flash to just make her pop out a bit more. She was probably a professional cosplayer and knew what she was doing... either way, not a great capture, but at least not a terrible one.

Here I am in stalker mode probably about 20-30 ft away taking quick snapshots of Jyukai's Manami at their autograph session. I wasn't sure if I am actually allowed to get close to take photos since I wasn't in the long line for her autograph. I just knelt down, switched to the 100mm macro lens and fired a couple shots using my legs to stablize the camera.

Here are some good kingdom hearts cosplayers. This was after I got out of shooting inside one of the halls and had set the ISO to 1600 and forgot to dial it back down.... So a bunch of the photos were over exposed... this one is particularly noticeable since I completely blew out the windows and most details in the background. But I still kind of light the resulting effect (not something I'd ever try again but...) and how this makes their colorful costumes stand out even more from the basically white background now.

Nel Tu from Bleach. One of the better exposed photos I got. The fill flash here while barely noticeable does help a bit to light up his/her face and costume.

Here I am finally starting to get into it a bit more. After taking a standard snap of these two, I asked for another photo and decided to go low shooting up at them. With a slightly wide angle lens it makes them seem a bit taller and just more powerful (looking down at you). Just sort of commands more respect with their cool won't-take-any-bs look.

I walked past this Rukia on her cell phone (probably talking to Soul Society) and just wanted to try something. I always like those shots of someone's side/back the face is intentionally blurred out and you focus on their hands or something. I liked her gloves so I figured this would be a good opportunity to try. When I first asked she got all confused and stuck her hand out for me to photograph, I said "no no, just keep talking naturally" and she probably thought I was a psycho... but she listened anyways. I swung around beside her and started taking a few photos. I'm not entirely sure how well this turned out, there are things I like about it, but at the same time, its not as cool of an image as I had originally planned (oh it never is...). Next time I try this, I'd probably have to include less of her arm but I do kind of like the over the back/shoulder feel.

I liked this girl, she has done this before and knew exactly what to do. After posing her self she knew to look around at the different photog's thats gathering around her (there were quite a few... at least 2 Canon white L lenses too). I really liked the fact that she knew to make eye contact with each one of her photogs for a few seconds before moving on. I am not sure I like her first pose all that much, the hand angle doesn't look natural. Oh well, like I said, next time I come to AX, I should take a more active approach and be mindful of all the minor details

Someone else was doing a group shot with these two girls and a few other people. I caught the tail end of it but the other people have already left. Since she was still sitting, I asked if I can get another couple of shots in. With her dress laid out so neatly, I knew exactly what I wanted to do... do an almost top-down shot with a wide angle lens to let the distortion work in my favor and make the skirt seem larger than it actually is (exactly like what people do when doing engagement/wedding photos to make the train seem even more dramatic). Since I was probably blocking the view for at least 3 photographers behind me (who were all kneeling down to about eye level with her with a long lens), I took a couple quick snaps and jumped out of everyone's way while apologizing. I can be such an ass sometimes when photographing things... just ignoring the world around me...

This led to my friend commenting "you are so different when taking pictures... all the other guys take a long time before taking a picture but you just go in there, snap snap snap and move on" well... maybe its because I was destroying their composition by standing right in front of their main subject :p... that and if I didn't go snap snap snap and move out the way, I'm sure one of the other photographers was able to jump me and drag me away...

Full album available here. While for the most part the day was a failure for photography, I still had fun and certainly learned a lot. Just because I'm at a trade show or convention, doesn't mean the basic rules of photography doesn't apply. In fact, they are more important ever... one of my favorite photographers Albert ( takes some great photos at shows... Next year, I'll have to be more active, try to work with the cosplayers and pose them if they don't pose themselves... and most importantly, be mindful of the background...