Debshots Photography | SDCC Happened

SDCC Happened

August 06, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Well I did it, I shot 70 mm at San Diego Comic Con.

It was not the affirming magical experience that I expected however . . .  due to technical difficulties, humidity, and my favorite areas of the convention for photography being closed, it was more of a train wreck.


FYI this post is all words, photos to come later.


First: The Weather

Oh god the weather. It was humid, unbearable humid, all weekend. I looked at the forecast before I drove down, and everything said mid to low 70s and I was stoked. Okay I live in Fresno, while I was in San Diego it was upwards of 102 at home, it hit 106 a couple times. Overnight lows hover in the land of 78.
Do you have any idea how excited I was?

And then . . . the humidity attacked.
It felt like it was 90 the whole time. It was sticky and gross and nasty.

And I couldn’t shoot inside because 160 speed.

I won’t lie, by Friday am I wanted to go home and dry out. Photography was pretty far from my mind.

AND YET I shot four rolls of conventional color film, three rolls of slide film, and five (5) cartridges of 70mm.

I’d be proud of myself if I could remember doing any of it, but it’s all kind of a blur. . . that’s probably not good.

Technical Difficulties:

While testing my gear at Wondercon I had a minor issue getting the camera synced up with the back on Friday, and from then on everything was more or less fine. But on Thursday of SDCC the camera decided that it wasn’t going to sync up at all, and I mean physical gears. Remember that my camera is entirely mechanical. There’s no light meter, no batteries, and no connections to scrub or clean. Just gears.

At one point the back was stuck a full 3mm away from the body, that’s A LOT of space for light to come in, those frames are toast. It got so bad I had to brace the back against my chest when advancing the film. By Sunday I was just used to dealing with it, I have no way of knowing if this is related to the weather (think film swelling) or if it’s all mechanical. What I know is that I probably need a new back, or at least another one so I can swap out instead of changing rolls out in the open.


Closed for Photography:

There are areas of the San Diego Convention Center that are classic spots for open air photography. Areas where Cosplayer and Photographer alike can get away from the crowds, for the benefit of everyone. One of the biggest complaints I hear at cons is “people just stop in the middle of a walkway to take pictures and that negatively affects my experience”, and I get that, I do. Which is why so many cosplay photographers like to shoot in out of the way places. We don’t want to get in your way and more than you want us too, but at SDCC this year a wrench was thrown into all of that.

The convention decided it would close off one of the major areas where photographers would go, which meant more of us in the way, or shooting on the convention floor. Both bad options for me. With my film being 160 speed I couldn’t very well take it onto the convention floor, which is where a lot of people were hanging out because of the weather and closures of popular areas.
But more than that, cosplay for better or worse is how a lot of people celebrate what they love. It’s how they connect at conventions, how they find people who love what they do; and that’s a wonderful thing. Added to that, there is a reason that cosplay photos and videos are popular, people love see (or love to hate) cosplay. We live in an image driven society, and to effectively be told “We’ll use your photos for promotion but we won’t make spaces for you to take them” is more than a little messed up.

Ugh, soapbox aside, I didn’t get to shoot where I wanted too, that made me grumpy and threw off my whole weekend.


The Upshot:

I spent most of my time photographing cosplayers offsite, I don't think I took pictures of very many people at all at the convention a proper. But seeing as how I burned up probably a quarter of the film I took with me just trying to get it through the camera and constantly having to check on it and it and manually advance it I think it was for the best.

I had a lot more fun shooting film at Wondercon than I did at San Diego. If I get a chance to go to Stan Lee's Comikazi or LA Comic Con or whatever it's called now, I’ll be more confident taking the film. That's not to say I won't shoot film in San Diego next year, but now I know more about the limitations that I’ll be dealing with and how to anticipate them.


Now, on to development.


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