I’ve been shooting photos at FanimeCon since 2011 and although that doesn’t seem that long, there has been a lot of changes to my style and technique since then. There’s been several significant changes to the tools I’ve used that the difference between my current setup compared to what I had is night and day. After looking back at my previous work, I can follow my progression as a photographer and see what influenced my vision at that time.
Warning: long winded rambling ahead. Get your popcorn and favorite alcoholic beverage ready.
I started shooting back in 2002, when the sole purpose of photography is to take pictures of my friends and photoshop them into hilarious and compromising situations. Before the mainstream popularity memes and advancing complexity of photoshop, me and my friends would take photos from each other’s now-defunct friendster accounts and create intricate PaintShop Pro masterpieces. Armed with a lowly Casio whatchamacallit point and shoot and a huge 128MB CF card, the possibility were endless. I immediately upgraded to a Canon G5 and then to a Nikon D70s when the latter was stolen. The D70s was a game changer for me since it opened up the moneypit world of interchangeable lens and solid manual controls. It was upgraded to a D7000 when fellow ThoseAreNice photog Myron showed me his new T2i shoots videos. I was considering about dabbling into video work, but lets save that for next time. Nonetheless, this gave me that push to upgrade my gear with some serious glass. The 18-105VR kit lens had to go, replaced with a Tamron 17-50/2.8VC on the mid range and a Tokina 11-16/2.8 for the wide. I threw in a Nikoor 35/1.8DX for portraiture and bought a Nikon 80-200/2.8 AF-D from Alex Wong, which was later upgraded to a Nikon 70-200/2.8 VR. I was set and ready to take on some next level shit but first, what do I shoot?
2011 was my first Fanime (I don’t know why it took me that long to go to one). I’ve shot both photos and video during the event and since this was my first foray into the uncharted territories of cosplay photography, I didn’t really know what I was doing. While most shots are run-and-gun, it definitely motivated me to refine my style. 2011 Fanime was special to me since not only was I able to field test my new gear outfit, but also to see my favorite anime characters come to life via cosplay.
anon then came out with the 5D Mark III which fixes all the issues I had with the Mark II at the time. It wasn’t hard to dump all my Nikon gear through craigslist, the most difficult part of the switch now I have a legitimate reason to spend on exotic glass. I think half my paycheck of the entire 2012 year went to acquiring gear. Although it sounded like I’m just blowing money left and right without a thought about financial responsibility, it gave me leverage to jump start my own photography business. I shot 2012 FanimeCon with this new setup and again, I found myself venturing into unknown territory; It was my first full frame camera and it was a system that was completely different from my trusty D7000. After leaving BorrowLenses at the end of 2012, I ventured out as a full time professional photographer. I was kitted out with the best what Canon has to offer; 16-35mm/2.8II, 24-70mm/2.8, 50mm/1.2 and a 70-200mm/2.8ISII. And then again, I was ready to take on some next level shit but first, how do I make a living?
It wasn’t easy.
I sort of took a break from 2013 Fanime since I was focused on shooting weddings, motorsports and anything else that brings home the bacon. There wasn’t any time to shoot anything that I wasn’t getting paid for and getting “credit” for work won’t make my credit card payments go away. In the past, free work has led me nowhere except to the possibility of more unpaid work, so shooting fun things have to put on the back burner. The skill level and technical proficiency required to get into this lifestyle is set pretty high, so it’s either that you’re pretty damn good or you’re eating leftover instant ramen rationed from the night before.
It was a rough year, but from it, I’ve gained invaluable experience. Things started to settle down and once again I had time to shoot for fun. Along the way, I had a few major changes in my gear lineup. Some of my gear went to fellow ThoseAreNice photogs; the 5D mark III the to Myron and my 24-70 went to Ed. I picked up a 1Dx, 6D, Sigma 35/1.4 art, and a Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS along the way and used it to shootFanime 2014.
So it pretty much leads me here, my current state of this ever evolving style of photography. I found my niche with my 300mm since no one in their right mind would haul a supertele around Fanime. I like the challenge of shooting subject with unconventional gear, so the 300mm focal length for cosplay photography was the perfect choice. Normally cosplay photos are taken to showcase the costume in its entirety, but I opted for something more personal and nothing gets more personal than someone pointing a big ass lens at you from a distance. Using motorsport photography as inspiration, I wanted to get the “moment of” emotions typically seen with portraits of drivers prepping for a race. I don’t really want to show case the costume, but by the way the cosplayer gets into character from it.
This unconventional choice of gear leads to unconventional methods of using it. I have to remain unnoticed while dodging other photogs just to get that angle right. More often than not, the majority of the photos suck but with the pile of shit, a handful of gems emerge. Setting my 1DX at 10fps lets me capture fleeting moments of transition before anyone notices and stop to look for the idiot that’s burning through their shutter. I don’t care, I’m there to take my shots, not give each other handjobs and high fives. I’d rather give myself handjobs and high fives, so here’s the rest of Day 1