Dragon Con 2014
This Dragon 2014 report was written by Brent Allen Thale on September 2, 2014. Please do not use these pictures for any commercial purpose or post them on any web site without written consent from Brent Allen Thale, the copyright holder.
Follow me on Twitter for con Tweets and more photos! Follow @BattyBlogger
Dragon Con, the largest fan-centric sci-fi/fantasy convention in the universe, took over downtown Atlanta, Georgia, August 29 to September 1, 2014! Dragon Con is a lot of different things to different people. Some go for the celebrity sightings and signings, some go for the endless partying, some for the official programming which includes panels on many different science fiction and fantasy properties, some for the art and collectibles on sale, some for the marathon gaming sessions... there are so many things to do at the con. However, we here at The BAT Cave go for primarily one reason, to photograph the awesome costumes of which there are a seemingly infinite amount!
Dragon Con is my (I am Brent Allen Thale, aka Batty) favorite convention so far, primarily because of the format and the people who come to the show. Most large cons of this type use convention centers as the focal point for pretty much all activity, but Dragon Con doesn't really have a convention center, it's spread across five hotels in the downtown "Peachtree" section of Atlanta, Georgia. Now that the show has gotten so large, it has also spilled over into the "America's Mart" building which hosts all sorts of vendors, but for the most part the hotel arrangement remains, with the Atlanta Marriott Marquis right at the center. We were somehow lucky enough to get a room at the Marriott, so it was very easy to do our photography thing in the lower levels of the hotel, and then go back to our room for breaks, I would definitely stay at the Marriott again given the chance. We did hear the Dragon Con traditional drum circles banging away until 6AM one night, but hey, this is Dragon Con baby, pound those skins and damn the noise ordinances!
We are San Francisco-based, so Dragon Con is quite a distance for us to travel, it's only because it's so awesome that we make the effort. This year we tried something different and took a red eye overnight flight on Wednesday night, putting us in Atlanta at 7AM Thursday morning. The show officially starts on Friday, but Thursday night now has a number of unofficial events and parties like the "Bunny Hutch" at the Marriott Pulse Bar where people dress up in various interpretations of Playboy Bunny outfits. We missed it last year, but we shot tons of bunnies this year. Arriving early also let us explore Atlanta a bit, so we had Thursday lunch at Atlanta's Dining Room, famous local favorite "Mary Mac's Tea Room" which features classic southern cooking, it was great. It's almost walking distance from the con, but it is so dang hot in Atlanta over Labor Day Weekend that we took a cab instead after attempting the walk. Later we had dinner at the hidden Trader Vic's polynesian restaurant below the Hilton Hotel. Try the original Mai Tai, they're not watered!
There were several changes to the show this year, the official logo was changed to emphasize a forward-looking direction and to get additional distance from the show ownership issues that were settled last year. I'm personally not a huge fan of the new logo, it's a little generic looking, and the subtle texture on the dragon isn't really noticeable at all except when viewed from inches away, it just looks like flat yellow when viewed at normal distances. Another big change was the tenth floor of the Marriott hotel, which is an open meeting area with no guest rooms, has traditionally been unused for official functions so many cosplay photographers took advantage of the space to set up large lighting and backdrop rigs to do quality photography on-site. However this year Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends, sponsored a "Cospitality Zone" on the tenth floor, so the photographers were pretty much booted out. At the last minute, Riot Games reduced the size of the Cospitality Zone to half of the tenth floor, but there were still signs posted on the empty half that absolutely no photography was allowed there despite the space being unused. Oh well. An additional negative for photography was the open area on the back stairs of the Hilton hotel was greatly reduced in size due to construction on a building back there, and it seems that space will never again be available to con goers, and that was a cool space. Anyway, it seems that everyone adapted to the situation and found other spaces to shoot in.
The costumes were great as always, I think my personal favorite for this year was Ryuko Matoi from the "Kill La Kill" anime in her Senketsu Kisaragi armor with trademark red scissor blades. We had never seen that group of cosplayers before, it's great to keep discovering new people that exceed expectations of quality! Elsa from "Frozen" was very popular this year, as well as perennial favorite for women Harley Quinn in all her varieties and mashups. For men the Joker seems to be very popular as well as different interpretations of Batman.
The concentrated fanbase of Dragon Con attracts of lot of celebrities who like to do autograph signings and photo ops for money. We avoid this because I can't afford to spend $50-$100 for pictures unless they're really something special, and these canned celeb shoots usually are not. But, I did have a celebrity close encounter, Lou Ferrigno, star of TV's "The Incredible Hulk", walked through one of my shots not once but twice when he realized he was going the wrong way! I should have taken a pic, but I missed the opportunity, dang it. I also spoke briefly with media personality and hard partier Chris Gore of "Attack of the Show" fame: When I was taking a while to shoot the High Inquisitor Whitemane costume on this page, he was standing right behind me the whole time waiting patiently for an opportunity to get the same photo. So, maybe my luck with celebrities is changing, perhaps next year I'll catch Jean Luc Picard in the elevator or that Mythbusters guy in his secret incognito costume!
This was our fourth year at Dragon Con, so we've grown accustomed to seeing a few faces at the show, and we were mostly not disappointed. We caught Mr. "Beat Down Boogie" himself Micah Moore in some off time cosplaying Freddie Mercury, and he shared some of his Youtube mastery with us. We also caught our bud Ben "Captain Ahmazing" Moon in several costumes including a pimped-out Stormtrooper! We spotted Ambassador for Cosplay and Atlanta cosplay star Yaya Han in one of the brief moments she was not cosplaying at a meetup in the Pulse Bar at the Marriott. I saw photos of other high-profile cosplayers at the con, but it is so crowded it can be really hard to get a shot of anyone in particular without making arrangements.
People see us carrying tons of camera gear around and many people ask about it. This year we were using the brand new Nikon D810 camera with my Nikon D7100 as a backup. We use three lights, all Nikon SB-900/SB-910 speedlights, one in a Chimera 24-inch Octa 2 modifier as key, one in an Orbis ring flash adapter as fill, and one in a snoot used mostly for rim lighting. It works pretty well, although using the rim light effectively is a challenge with only two people. I use Pocketwizards to control the three lights from my camera over radio, it works pretty well. My intrepid lighting assistant/key grip Melissa Case carries our main and rim lights while I operate the camera and control the lights. Melissa also ropes people in because the tone of her voice can be easily heard above the loudest crowds!
By the way, getting a "membership", or ticket, to Dragon Con is surprisingly easy, much easier than for some other shows like San Diego Comic-Con. Dragon Con memberships go on sale during the show for the next year, and that's when they are cheapest. This year you have until Sept. 15 to buy a 4-day membership for $75, and the price goes up quite a bit as next year's show approaches, so if you know you want to attend 2015, search those couches and piggy banks for 75 bucks, it'll be money well spent! We'll definitely be returning next year!
Next stop.... BlizzCon!
|All content under the domain wingedmammal.com is Copyright © Brent Allen Thale, All Rights Reserved, unless otherwise noted or used under authorization of the copyright owner.|