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Downtown Atlanta, Georgia was the place to be on Labor Day weekend August 30 to September 2 for the spectacularly awesome Dragon*Con fantasy extravaganza! 2012 was my second year attending the show, and it has firmly entrenched itself as my favorite costume convention. I can't think of another show that offers so much for so many in a more relaxed (relatively!) environment with some breathing room to have fun.
Dragon*Con is a little different from other shows, there is no convention center involved at all, the show is spread out across four main hotels in the downtown Peachtree Street neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. Each hotel hosts the "tracks" of the official show program, which are themed meetings of interest to particular groups of con-goers, in mid-size conference rooms. At first this format can be a little confusing, but it has the benefit of spreading people out across downtown without creating an obvious choke point at the entrance of just one building. Some of the hotels have open plazas that make great photo shoot locations that are easy to get to, away from the crowds, and have minimalistic industrial looks to them that make for good backdrops. Overall I like the Dragon*Con format, even though it did seem a lot more crowded this year and it was difficult to move through the walkways at peak times, it was nothing like the San Diego Comic-Con show floor where we could pretty much not even move the entire day due to the crush of people jammed into that one spot.
Getting to the show this year was a little stressful, I fretted over Hurricane Isaac for a week, but fortunately it turned west at the last minute and missed Atlanta. For a while it looked like it might score a direct hit, but there ended up being little more than some light sprinkles and a few clouds. Atlanta does get very hot and humid though, I was sweating like a pig in my photo vest which is great for San Francisco but a little warm for Atlanta. I don't know how some costumers even survive the heat in full-body outfits that must be unbearable inside, I noticed quite a few sweaty costumes, there's just no getting around that.
So what is Dragon*Con? For me it's about the costumes, amazing people come from all around the country with intricate/sexy/weird/inexplicable/funny/scary costumes, many of which must take a huge amount of time to make and look quite painful (or drafty) to wear. Lest these photos misdirect the reader, I feel I should say something about the other sides of the show, which include science fiction and fantasy discussion, celebrity meet and greets, music, comics, adult themes, video games, there's so much to see and do that no one could possibly do it all. So this is my blog and I love the costumes, so that's what we do here!
I'm told Pax Prime, the big Seattle gaming convention, was held the same weekend, a few high-profile cosplayers chose to attend that instead, but Dragon*Con drew more than its share of great costumers, known and unknown. We spotted Alisa Farrington, Kearstin Nicholson, Monika Lee, and we know mega-famous and totally awesome Yaya Han was there, but we somehow missed her every time. This is the first costume show in a while where we got zero pictures of Yaya, usually we have great luck bumping into her after every costume change, we were really hoping to get her amazing new Jessica Rabbit, other photographers showed us stunning shots of her, but we missed it. Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!
Anyway, one of the most fun things at costume conventions is to turn the corner and run into an awesome costume done by someone we have never seen before, and there were a lot of those! I salute the dedication and talent of people who put so much effort into designing a costume and tirelessly wearing it all day at a show.
We stayed at the Ellis Hotel again this year, it's not one of the official hotels, but it's right on the edge of the Peachtree district and an easy walk to the main hotels. It's nice, although there is no pool and we had a little trouble with a vengeful maid who paid us back for sleeping in with no soap and no coffee cups the next day. Next year I'll try harder for the Marriott, which is the main costumer hotel, even though it means getting up at 5AM Pacific time and gnashing my teeth while fast-clicking on the reservation button. Swimming in the morning in a nice heated hotel pool is an invigorating start to the day, hopefully we can try that next year.
Once again so many people asked us about our photo gear. Photographically I kept it simple this year, was just using the Nikon D7000 as main camera, with an SB-900 flash in the Aurora Firefly Beauty Box as key light (the one that casts the directional shadows), and another SB-900 in the Orbis ring flash adapter to fill in those shadows and make them less severe. It gives a distinctive look that I like, it's more interesting than just straight flash, although it requires an assistant to hold the key light, which fortunately I have in the lovely and talented Melissa Case, who did another great job this year with lighting, directing and roping people in for pictures. Another awesome job Mellie, and as is my custom, I am continuing my generosity by tripling your salary again next year!
One new discovery for me was the Trader Vic's tucked into the back of the Hilton Hotel. It isn't promoted heavily and you really have to look for the secret entrance past the registration area, but they do serve a mean Mai Tai with tasty appetizers and a varied menu. I kind of suspect there are other great unknown spots around the area, being out of towners we need help finding those places!
As for regrets, we did miss the Dragon*Con After Dark adult-themed costume contest, we were so disappointed because we missed it last year too and it was to be one of our highlights for this year. We didn't realize the line would be wrapped around the building onto Peachtree over an hour before the start of the show and then it ended up starting hours late! On top of that, even though my golden-tongued assistant almost talked us past the guy guarding the door, we ending up leaving after the guard told us there would be no photo ops of the contest, which turned out not to be true and if we had stayed the winners would have walked right past us as they exited the stage! Argggghhhh! Dragon*Con powers that be, if there are any photo passes that can get us past stuff like this to help us tell your story, can we have one?
And a special shout out to great costumers and awesome supporters of The BAT Cave, Brooke Fox and Captain Ahmazing, we got some great shots of both in Dragon Age and Mass Effect gear! Follow
them on Twitter and find out what they're up to next!
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