This Dragon Con 2015 report was written by Brent Allen Thale on September 6, 2015. 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
Dragon Con 2015, the greatest fan-centric sci-fi/fantasy convention in the known universe, roared into downtown Atlanta, Georgia over Labor Day weekend September 4-7!
This was our fifth Dragon Con, so we are "asterisk legit", the name of the show actually used to be
Dragon*Con but was changed slightly last year due to an ownership shuffle. But little
else has changed about the show, it's still a giant party that straddles the Peachtree Center area of Atlanta, with most of the action taking place in the Marriott Marquis, Hyatt, Hilton,
Sheraton, and Westin hotels. It doesn't use an actual convention center, although the large vendor area of artwork and pop culture items is now in a large building across the street from the hotels
to save space.
I'm told a record crowd of 70,000 filled the city this year, that may sound like less than some other shows, but take it from me, it's crowded. Although there's no single-entrance convention
center bottleneck like at San Diego Comic-Con, there are enough people to choke the hallways between the hotels and the show requires quite a bit of crowd management. Some small changes this
year on that front were single-direction walking paths in the major hotels where previously people could move both ways, and it seemed like they were holding up traffic in the "hamster tube"
hotel connectors for much longer waiting for crowds to thin a bit.
So what is Dragon Con? People go for many different reasons, a big draw is celebrity photo ops, quite a few actors from famous TV shows and movies make themselves available to sign
autographs and have pictures taken. We don't do this because those people usually charge money and there are long lines for access to the highest-profile celebs, it isn't worth the effort
for us but some find it fun. Others attend for the "tracks", these are themed discussion panels where people might talk about pop culture, science, costuming, all sorts of things. Again, we
don't do this because it is time consuming and long lines are often a requirement to get in. Another reason people attend is the partying, there is a fun "anything goes" attitude at the show
and there are constant giant parties that sometime stretch into 5 or 6AM, and there is much less of the politically correct nannying here than at some other shows.
Midnight is about all I can take, so we miss that as well.
So why do we go to Dragon Con? For the cosplay! I've never seen so many costumes at other shows, even shows with far more people. It seems that Dragon Con has a very high percentage of costume
wearers, there are so many that no one could actually photograph every single one, the photos you see on this page are probably like one percent or less of the number of costumes at the show.
Some are famous cosplayers who are monetizing their craft through appearance fees and gear sales, but most are just people having fun who want to dress up as their favorite character. One nice
thing about Dragon Con is that there seems to be less money involved so it really brings out the fans compared to pros. I've heard there is a rival show in Canada that pays quite a bit of money
for high-profile costumers to attend, the general rule seems to be Dragon Con for the love, Fan Expo Canada for the money.
Special note to cosplayers in the photos: Can you share your photo on Social Media? Yes! Just be sure to credit me, my photo name is "Brent Allen Thale", and try to include a link back to the page on
my site where you found your picture. Please don't crop watermarks (ask me if you need to do that), and please ask me before posting on blogs or commercial sites.
I can't believe we went all-bro on our two lead shots, that has never happened before. Famous cosplayer Lonstermash and his gigantic bud gave us a great fighting pose from the movie "Rocky IV"
so we had to use that, and we ran into a cosplayer we
haven't seen before who did a great Maleficent crossplay and sold the shot with his expression. Last year we led with DC-area cosplayer
Maki Roll, and we were fortunate enough to run into her again this year in three different costumes, Comic-Cook Gamora, Latex Boba Fett, and Josie and the Pussycats. We also ran into
our favorite Asari pair Sam and Mae from Canada who sported new casual dresses for their trademark Mass Effect looks. And we spotted long-time Dragon Con man-about-town Ben Moon in his Poppin'
Stormtrooper and Boom-Box Star Wars outfits. Bernadette Bentley, of Wonder Woman and Xena cosplay fame, also said hello in her fan-less burlesque Wonder Woman costume.
So many photographers come up to us at the show and ask about our gear since we have a lot. This year we kept it simple with a Nikon D7100 main camera, a Nikon D7000 backup camera,
18-35 f/1.8 lens, the Nikon 70-200 f/4 lens, and new for this year the Sigma 8-16mm superwide lens. The superwide is fun because it distorts things up close and makes them look huge, it
works for some types of photos. We try to control our lighting so we bring 3 lights, all Nikon SB-900/SB-910 speedlights, one inside a 24-inch Chimera octabox with grid, one inside an orbis
ring flash adapter, and one using a Magmod grid/gel system for an accent light. They all worked well except we dropped the accent light several times and it flew into pieces while hitting
the floor, but fortunately it goes together well and it didn't actually break permanently.
Last year we tried "Mary Macs Tea Room", a famous southern restaurant not too far from downtown, and it has become our new tradition for some tasty Dixie cookin' before the con. We returned
this year and had the pot roast and fried catfish, delicious. We always make the hidden Trader Vic's inside the Hilton a required stop as well, for efficiency's sake they dumbed down the
menu this year at Vic's for the Dragon Con crush, but it was still good. Try the Original Mai Tai! We also stopped at churrascurria Fires of Brazil for a meaty all-you-can-eat feast.
Labor Day Weekend in Atlanta is right in the middle of hurricane season, so it pays to keep one eye on the weather. Named storms Erika and Fred were briefly threats, but they pooped out
and were non-issues. The forecast was for rain on Saturday but it didn't rain, so crowds were
at their peak. On Sunday a weak cold front came through and brought some windy relief to the heat and it spit just a little bit of rain. Was nice, actually. The weather in Atlanta
this time of year is always hot and humid which makes it difficult for cosplayers and photographers due to sweat soaking through garments, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. I must have
sweat out a gallon a day, I downed a bunch of Ruby Red juice bottles and still was parched much of the time. I don't know how the costumers with the huge, layered costumes even
survive the heat at all.
The Marriott Marquis Atlanta hotel, which is a very cool architecturally significant building that has been featured in the "Hunger Games" movies, was undergoing a renovation
and had several
floors wrapped in plastic and seemed to be closed off. Rooms in these host hotels are precious commodities so that was not good. The hotel has had very distinctive crazy-design carpets
for many years, but this year they began replacing them with a boring, straight-lines pattern. I noticed that although these carpets are brand new, they were already very dirty
with visible stains during Dragon Con! Oops! One interesting thing about the Marriott is the 10th floor is kind of empty with space for small meetings and other activities. In past years
it was jammed with photographers, but I'm told Dragon Con policy discourages paid photo shoots (we are most definitely NOT about the Benjamins, if you want the big bucks you should be shooting video, anyway) so
it was pretty empty, so we took a few shots up there. The Riot Cospitality Suite of last year was nowhere to be found.
One big change this year was for the parade route, the Dragon Con parade is a huge deal, and hundreds of costumed participants march through downtown Atlanta to the joy of many thousands
of spectators. The route used to be very twisty, now it is
almost completely straight, following Peachtree Avenue for most of its length, making it easier for vehicles and large
costumes to navigate. You have to find a spot very early to have a good view, it starts at 10AM, by 8:30 when I went out, most of the remaining spots were in the sun, the shade was
long taken, so at least I got a good view with a bit of a sunburn.
We stayed at the lovely Ellis hotel, it's not a host a hotel but it's right on the edge of the Peachtree area and a short walk to the con itself. It is nice, our only issue was the
maid didn't like us sleeping in and didn't make up our room one day. And there is something about the card keys they use that causes them to work three of four times,
work every again, annoying! We make sure we get in early on Thursday because "Thursday is the new Friday" and there are tons of costumes already out on Thursday night including the
Bunny Hutch Playboy Bunny mashup!
Thank you to all the awesome costumers who shot with us! A shout-out to Dragon Con security for keeping the crowds moving without being vindictive at all about photo taking! And much-deserved
recognition to my partner in crime Melissa Case who tirelessly carries our key light and assists with direction and posing! I don't know how I can afford it, but I'm tripling your salary
again next year!
definitely return this year, I'm flexing my clicking finger right now for that host hotel rush coming soon!