Making Time

Making Time

Happy Spring!

If it would only stop raining already it might be half-way decent out. Not that it matters- I’ve been too busy to enjoy the weather yet. Or much of anything else, for that matter. But I think that’s about to change. I have a couple more weeks left of working six days before I get my second day off back. It’s amazing what a critical difference having a second day off makes in my work-life-hobby balancing act. If I’m busy on Saturday, as I have been for the last couple weeks, I fall behind on everything else. My house is an absolute train wreck right now and it really effects my psyche. Going to burn my day off this week on deep cleaning and doing some long overdue organizing/throwing shit out. I like to have a clean slate when I start to get overwhelmed so I know that will help. My other two goals for the week are to get my Etsy shop updated (I have a batch of stuff already made that just needs to get listed- a more time consuming process than you might think) and edit the few pics I managed to get from Acen. (photo drop coming soon!)

I’m happy I made it down for Saturday of the con this year but, as always, I have a couple regrets. Once again, I really wish I got more pictures. I’m not sure how to rectify this without really changing my entire approach to conventions. If I want to get more pictures, and better quality pictures, I probably need to stake out places with better backdrops, away from the crowds, where I can really take my time. This means I need to break away from my friends and do my own thing (at least for part of the time) and I’ve NEVER done that. Cons have always been something I experience with a close friend group first and foremost. But, especially now that I don’t drink anymore, maybe that’s something to consider? I feel like my not drinking does have a noticeable impact on how I meld with my friend group and has changed how I experience conventions. Still, I don’t know. I have some more thinking to do on the whole thing and I know I don’t have to come up with any sort of definitive answer anytime soon. There were always be more cons and I can dabble with how I approach them as I go.

Speaking of changes, I want to switch up my focus going forward. For the past month or two, I’ve been spending all my spare time on crafting. While it’s definitely been fun and rewarding, and I certainly want to do more (especially with clay- I just started getting into making polymer clay charms and I really want to try some more) I think it’s time to shift my energy back to writing and editing instead. I like crafting and it’s a fun way to spend my time but, since I have so little of it to spend, I really need to get back on track if I want to finish anytime soon. And I really really do.

To a lesser degree, I also want to get back to spending time on non-productive hobbies. I haven’t sat down and just binged out on a video game or anything like that in months. Which, if you knew me, you’d know is incredibly strange. I think I have been consumed with this idea that I have to spend every moment of my time creating something. It’s a pitfall I’ve seen echoed amongst many other folks my age- especially (though not always) other creative types. That all our hobbies need to be monetized, that if we don’t have something to show for the time we spend, that time is wasted. It’s an unhealthy mindset, one that my boyfriend noticed I was starting to slip into when he pointed out how stressed I was getting over making stuff for my little shop. The shop is and always will be just for fun. I don’t really make a profit from it- it’s just a way to make back some of the money I have into materials and to find homes for the things I make rather than amassing a hoard of trinkets I don’t need. But it’s not a job- it was never meant to be. And if I start stressing over it like a job, then I’ve really lost the plot. I mean, I’m happy I’m spending my free time productively. There was a time in my earlier twenties where I would play games in excess- they consumed my life and left room for little else. I’m happy to have moved on from that but now the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. I want to find time to enjoy things just for the experience they give- just for how they enrich my life and give me a break from making.  It’s always a struggle to find harmony in my life, something I’m sure I have in common with many others. Yet, even if things are still a little out of balance, I cannot claim to be unhappy. I’m far from that.

Wishing you all luck in overcoming your own struggles, whatever they may be!

Rookie Photographer- So much to learn!

Rookie Photographer- So much to learn!

This past weekend was Anime Central down in Rosemont, IL. I usually go down for the whole weekend but since money’s been a little tight, I just went with a few friends on Saturday. I had a lovely time! Though I’m always a little sad when I’m not cosplaying, it was nice to have chill, casual con experience. No con crunch the night before and I got to sleep in my own bed. Plus, not having to worry about cosplay gave me a chance to bring the camera and get a little more practice taking pictures.

One thing became immediately clear- it’s so hard to get quality shots just finding people in the hall. To get a good picture, I need more control over the background and waaaaay more time to get a good sample size of shots and give the cosplayer time to pose. I also still struggle with stopping people for a photo (even though as a cosplayer I know we LOVE being asked for a picture) since I have a hard time getting past the idea that I may be inconveniencing someone. It’s illogical and stupid but it’s still an obstacle for me. So I got all of like 15 pictures between all the other fun stuff we were doing. Wah!

Even with so few pictures, I think I’ve gotten the hang of shooting in aperture priority mode. It would be much easier to get the kind of background blur I’m after with a better lens but that will have to wait until I’m less sad and broke. And I had already kinda figured that out from practicing before. What I didn’t realize was I definitely, absolutely bought the wrong editing software. Having no idea what I was doing, I bought Photoshop Elements a while back and it does get the job done. I’d used it before and it’s certainly better than nothing. But after watching a few tutorials it became obvious I should have gotten Lightroom instead. So I downloaded a free trial to confirm my fears and yeeeeaaaaaah- It’s WAY easier, way more tailored for the kind of editing I’m trying to do. So that’s getting plopped on the wish list too, though I have no idea when I’m going to be able to afford all this jazz. Still, it was fun to play around with. It’s crazy what a difference a little bit of basic editing does to a pic.

For comparison:

 

Pretty basic stuff but I really enjoy it! I want to set up some some little practice mini-sessions with my friends this summer.

My only issue going forward is it will always be a battle to chose between playing photographer and cosplaying myself. I suppose I could try to do both but that might get complicated. We’ll see!

After Acen – My Evolving Relationship with Cosplay & Conventions

After Acen – My Evolving Relationship with Cosplay & Conventions

(Cover photo by Vontography)

It’s been more than a month since Anime Central and I feel like I’m only just now in a place to properly reflect on it.

Let me start by saying that I love Acen.

Acen was one of my first experiences with large-scale conventions, anime conventions specifically, and my first real interaction with cosplay; so it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s the con that doesn’t sleep- there’s always something to see, something to do. But my relationship with this con has grown complicated over time, mostly due to an evolution in the way I interact with the convention and a vast change in what I want to get out of it.

My first Acen was back in 2012. Four years doesn’t seem like a long time, but being in my early twenties, a whole heck of a lot has changed. I’ve definitely changed. In May of 2012 I was 21, new to drinking and partying, and excited to do both in this shiny new setting. And what a great venue for it! If you like to party, Acen is a fantastic choice as far as cons go. There’s room parties galore; whole floors designated for it. There’s the infamous soap bubble rave. The whole con smacks of a carefree, cut-loose, festival vibe- especially after dark.

Even now, this is something about the con that I love- there’s a bubbly buoyancy to everything and everyone around.

But. I’m 25 now and my priorities and interests are decidedly different. My personal space has become a lot more important to me. Sharing a cramped hotel room with a bunch of other con-goers used to be no big deal; if anything it was part of the experience, part of the party. But I’m not really looking to party anymore. I need my own space. Especially now that I’ve gotten more interested in and more serious about cosplay. And that elevated interest in cosplay manifests mainly as an interest in the cosplayers themselves and the photographers.

I’m far less the wide-eyed, tipsy tourist, meandering round the convention in a giddy haze. I’m laser-targeted now. I want to put myself out there, attend scheduled events, network, make new friends. I want to meet new people- especially the talented, passionate people I admire online; artists in their own right who inspire me.

I honestly can’t imagine being day drunk anymore. If anything, given this new focus, it’d be too embarrassing. (for me, that’s not a judgment on anyone else. Acen is surely a more than acceptable place to day drink.) But that’s another huge change- drinking just isn’t my thing anymore. There’s a myriad of personal factors behind that change, but in any case, not being much of a drinker vastly changes the things I want to do and the way I choose to spend my time.

My growing interest in cosplay and cosplay culture is the shaping factor in my con experience. Cosplay is a complicated passion for me. I still consider myself more of an awed admirer than an active participant. I’m simultaneously thrilled and terrified at the prospect of digging in and building more ambitious  and ‘serious’ costumes. I want to try. I have three new costume builds in mind that I’m beginning to lay the groundwork for. I’ve started researching, bookmarking supplies and tutorials online. The only thing stopping me from diving right in is a lack of superfluous funds. Cosplay can get a little pricey, and I have to stagger my purchases. Thankfully, the next con I’m planning on cosplaying for isn’t until November, so I have plenty of time to pace myself.

And after pouring all this time, energy, and money into building these costumes, I’m understandably anxious to showcase them. Which brings me to my other coinciding desire and fear: working with photographers. I am entranced with the ultra-talented pool of photographers in the midwest cosplay community, and I’m as anxious to work with them as I am to meet/learn from/shoot with all the awesome local cosplayers. But I also dread it. I am cripplingly shy. I’m not hugely self-confident, especially where my looks are concerned. I know I’m not photogenic. I’m probably the worst person, from a mental standpoint, to have an interest in a hobby that ultimately asks that I stand confidently in front of a camera. But here I am!

I had my first taste of working with photographers this Acen, and it was amazing, informative, and brought this paradox within myself front and center. I went to the open shoot, which was incredible; a nice wading pool for novice cosplayers like me to get an idea of what working with real photographers is like. I was beyond fascinated, but so afraid that I nearly walked away. (I’m glad I didn’t) I felt way out of my league, but all the photographers were patient and kind. My fellow cosplayers were supportive. I had a friend with me, thankfully, who urged me to stay- told me that I would relax once we started. (she was mostly right) And I have to thank the wonderful woman dressed as Mad Moxxi- your words of encouragement, helped me hold fast when all I wanted to do was run away. Standing around, considering my exits, I think she noticed how uncomfortable I was. I admitted I had truly no idea what I was doing. She looked gorgeous and elegant and had posed like a professional model in her last shoot. Still, she protested, “None of us really do. We just pretend and hope it turns out.” That struck a chord with me. So thank you, Moxxi, your advice will be my little mantra in times of doubt.

And I’m sure I’ll have plenty more of those fearful, ‘I can’t do this’ moments, both in building cosplays and in wearing them. But just as in writing, I think it’s only the things that sort of scare me that I really take seriously. My passion is always directly intertwined with my fear of failure- but that’s okay. It just gives more meaning to the things I enjoy. And I cannot deny that I enjoy this.

So here’s to costumes and cons to come! To meeting new people, making new friends, and trying the things that scare me! I think I am only just on the cusp of defining what this hobby really means to me.

vont1
My Haruko cosplay photographed by Vontography

Photographs used taken by Vontography at the Anime Central Open Shoot