Not to be outdone by last year’s winter storm mayhem, Mother Nature threw us some very strong winds for this year’s Katsucon. Despite nearly being turned into a frozen human-kite without a string, I did go outside a few times to get food and do some photoshoots.
The first con (for me anyway) of the year, I once again drove the 10 hours from Toronto with QuantumDestiny and Olivia Atelier to attend Katsucon 2015. We managed to make relatively good time and arrived around 8pm Thursday night. We grabbed our baggage and took it to our hotel room. Two years in a row, our room has been at the very back of the Gaylord hotel, the furthest point away from the elevators. How did this happen? I like to be steps away from the elevator TYVM.
I convinced my passengers it was in our best interest to stop by the Elevation Burger joint and buy dinner. Better than walking the distance to and from the hotel.
After unpacking, I picked up my badge and immediately proceeded to take photos in dimly-lit locations. Seeing con friends after so long made me happy. I was slowly reuniting!
I stayed up late, until 1 am or so I believe before heading back to sleep. Friday morning had me getting up early and gearing up to shoot. Including Thursday night, it took me a little bit before my creative juices were flowing. I find this common at all the conventions I go to, I start off slow,but gradually build-up to Sunday afternoon where the photography adrenaline hits its peak. I find it difficult shooting without the rush. The struggle is real. I did manage to shoot a lot of photos and do plenty of photoshoots, I was surprised by the numbers, more on that later.
Cell reception was particularly bad this year. Being from Canada, I was using both Tmobile and ATT, yet both proved to be slow and almost unusable, sending/receiving messages late. I think at worst I may have had 2/4 bars strength. Gaylord wifi worked ok if you're in the room, but completely useless if you're anywhere else. In this age an day why are we having these issues? I need to tweet pics and communicate with people y'know!
Thinking back on cons and trying to remember what I did during the weekend becomes a blur. I have difficulty remembering what happened, in what order, or question myself if it even happened. Maybe I’m getting old. I do recall at one point getting on an elevator and once it was packed and the doors closed, one of the guys said “Before we start, does anyone want to get off?” (Captain America 2 reference FYI.)
Katsucon is definitely one of my more photoshoot-requested cons of the year, is it because of the Gazebo? I had close to 40 requests, but was barely able to take half. I ended up shooting with both fresh and familiar cosplayers, it’s good because I enjoy meeting new people. New people also means I have brand-new names/usernames/costume-history to remember... I’m the worst at this, I still struggle to remember people’s names and faces even those I see on a fairly average rate, different costumes or even clothes really throws me off. I think I just about have my best friend’s face+name memorized if that makes you feel better.
One funny story from Friday. I was on the Gazebo level when I spotted Kamui Cosplay doing a shoot on the lower level. I decided to make it my mission to go down the one level and say Hello to her, haven't talked to her since NYCC. Only problem was, each time I made a few steps towards the elevator I was greeted by a friend who I had not yet seen at con. We would exchange a few words and I would again make a little more progress towards her, keeping an eye as she posed on the balcony below. I must've been stopped about 4 times by different people before I reached the elevator (which was only about 50 yards away from where I started!), and as I turned the corner yet another friend pops out to greet me as I take a quick look around the corner, Kamui was gone. It was one of those dumbfounded moments for me where I was left scratching my head wondering "how could I let this happen...!?"
Now to address the elephant in the room, photography policy at Katsucon. This likely involves most people who were in a photoshoot this weekend.
Frankly, it seems to get worse every year. I was talked to by staff of both the Gaylord and Katsucon several times about what I was allowed and not allowed to do. Before I rip a bit on this, let me say I totally understand neither party wanting photographers to set up backdrops and lighting equipment near the gazebo or on the little bridges in the atrium, I’m against that as well as it would take up a lot of space and simply be too obtrusive for the growing con. Running wires and setting up three softboxes in some sort of triangle-shaped real-estate are in a crowded hallway is also not friendly. I get it. But that’s all I’m getting.
I don’t understand restriction of lightstands in general. If I’m in a corner in some part of the hotel, am I in anybody’s way? Likely answer, No! They were pushing the “hand-held equipment only” term this year, but even then apparently not all the staff got the memo. I was chatting with various photographers during the weekend and each one had an interesting story to tell me. One said that he was told he couldn’t use his 70-200mm telephoto lens because it was “too professional.” Another claimed that staff told him “no professional photography equipment allowed.” I don’t know how accurate the stories I heard are, but I’m willing to bet there’s some truth to them. Although I commend the staff for being courteous, attentive, and professional from what I saw and experienced, the photography policy really throws them in for a loop. At one point during my photoshoot, I was told by a con staff member that I was not allowed to have someone hold my equipment, that *I* had to hold the equipment myself… It was something that wasn’t mentioned anywhere in any policy. I sort of blew up a bit on the poor guy going on about how the rules keep changing, etc… Luckily, shortly thereafter he came back with another member of staff who apologized and said they were in the wrong and that I didn’t need to hold my own equipment (which is just outright dumb), so I respect and thank them for that.
A few weeks before the con started I looked up the photography policy on Katsucon’s webpage. Rule 3 and 4 I’m fine with, but 1 and 2 are essentially the same thing. This is apparently a “More relaxed than they have during the rest of the year” (minus Magfest). Maybe a little bit? But if that’s the case, why does Magfest (which happened about 3 weeks before Katsu) that takes place in the same hotel not seem to have those same restrictions/policies? I heard a rumor that Magfest pays additional fees for Gaylord’s photography policy to be really lean. Not certain this is true, but the general buzz seems to point to that idea. IF that’s the case, I don’t see why Katsucon doesn’t jump aboard this option as well.
Year after the year, it’s becoming more difficult to set up lighting on the Gaylord property. I did about 3 outdoor shoots this year and I’m willing to bet if it weren’t for the extreme cold that was present that there would be more staff patrolling the outdoors saying we can’t have any equipment set-up there as well. It’s happened in previous years after all. I heard even some of the videographers with steadicams were told they weren't allowed to do their thing, again going back to staff being confused on what official policy is. I also got the sense that there were "tiers" of photography. For example, no badge = no photography, badge = photography, press = little more leniency, and finally Guests/BigName people with cameras = ok. That's what it felt like. Just set everyone on equal footing.
What I think Katsucon should be doing instead, is looking at opportunities to make photography a welcome pastime at Katsucon, not some sort of “harass the photographer” mission. Negotiate with the hotel to get the same leniency that Magfest seems to get, open up part of the large halls to allow photographers to come in and shoot (I heard that something like that may have been offered this year, but I guess it wasn't very well advertised, should have been on the photo policy page at least). You can do it Katsu! Turn this into something positive you can feel good about advertising to future potential con attendees! Oddly enough Sunday was totally carefree in terms of leniency. People were using equipment and going into places that Staff would normally freak out on. It would be great if everyday was like this : )
Both Cosplayers and Photographers are becoming aggravated with these policies. Both want good photos and if neither can get them, it's possible they'll consider simply dropping Katsucon or end up going to some other con. Cosplayers DO book photoshoots at cons! Let’s not confuse photoshoots with simple hallway shots though, different beasts. It’s almost ironic because Katsucon has one of the better locations to shoot cosplay. A wide variety of scenery, indoor and outdoor.
This photography policy is the Achilles’ heel for Katsucon, Youmacon has its own issues with GM.
Again, I understand not setting up three light stand in a busy hallway, but don’t bother me when I’m in a remote corner with no one else around.
On Saturday I had time to briefly check out the Dealer’s room, and did a complete tour of the Artist alley. It was on Sunday though that I caught Gery Tysk at her table, we chatted for a while about books, photography and cosplay. Sunday is also the day I ended up doing a complete tour of the dealer’s room which I must say is pretty nice, a lot of variety thrown in and they still have room to expand for future years.
Staff worked well and professionally from what I witnessed. There was a medical emergency at one point during the Friday I believe where someone collapsed on the floor in the atrium near the cafe. Staff from both Gaylord and Katsu were on it. Unfortunately it seems that Katsu suffered the same blow as Otakon and had some system failure with their pre-reg system which caused some people to wait in line for up to 6 hours, wow. Fortunately, I think many of them received a $15 discount which is a nice gesture and apology from the con, so good on them for taking the initiative.
I would prefer not to be stuck in line anywhere near the length, with or without a discount. I think cons should invest in some other alternatives should computer/networks ever be in jeopardy, something like printed paper. It sucks when it happens, but there needs to be a contingency plans for cons to fall back on. I'd hate to see NYCC's tap badges suddenly be useless due to any sort of network error on their tablets, I guess they'd do a visual check when letting people in/out.
There was a dance/party room on the 19th floor of the Gaylord which I attended Friday night, I took some club-style photos, which you can find here featuring many well-known faces. I don’t typically attend parties but enjoyed the night none the less. Weird stuff happens! I met up with BeatDownBoogie members several times and finally got a personalized signed copy of Mario Warfare, Woot!
I ended up taking quite a few selfies with the usual suspects. Lots of the Frenchie girls from Quebec were present as well! It gets overwhelming meeting up with so many friends after so many months.
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The twitter posts can fill in more blanks, but that was basically my weekend. Lots of photoshoots, elevation burger thrice, a party, money-spending rooms, and seeing my chaps and friends. Dinner-wise I went to a Walrus restaurant on Friday night, and Nando's Saturday night. Both nights dinner was very good and I enjoyed the company of people such as MeltingMirror, Deltaree, Tamar, Keren, Larina, Candace and a slew of others, sorry I didn't list you all! T.T <3
Thanks for the lengthy read, again I’m uncertain about next year but would like to return to a con without such harsh photography policies. The gallery below contains photos from all around the cons. I took over 1300 photos at the con, and ended up processing and posting about 350 of them. About 400 of those are from photoshoots, which will begin being edited soon! : )
Thanks for the read and be sure to check out all the photos below!
THURSDAY - FRIDAY