Epic World Events by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

In the +5 Spirit of Con Season, I've decided to write a post on event photography.

It is easy to get distracted by all the cool artwork, collectible swag, the possibility of spotting celebrities, seeing sneak peeks from developers, and all the half-naked cosplayers roaming the convention.  When taking photos, it might be best to take the level of excitement down a notch so you can focus on focusing.

Inventory Bonus: Papa's Brand New Bag

Press Swag: If you have a press pass, events will usually provide you with a bunch of information about all the vendors and where they are located.  There may even be samples of products in the kit so you can decide if it is worth reviewing.  Conventions are huge and you need to find a way to maximize your time.  Once you get your kit, make sure to verify your game plan.  With the new information, you may have just found more objects of curiosity that should be investigated.

My 2 cents on a 10 cent Photography Trick: My favorite event photography trick is using a #10 envelope and a rubber band.  You can throw your money at Gary Fong or other companies if you would like, but why not use up those envelopes in your office that are just taking up space nowadays.  Simply point your speedlite up and attach the envelope to the back.  The light will bounce off the paper and give a soft quality of light on the person.  If you are fortunate to be in a location where the ceilings are within 12', you can benefit from using it as well to provide nice light onto your subject.  Also consider using walls for bouncing light.  However conventions don't typically have much wall space to bounce off of.

Princess What's-Her-Name:  It is important to take down people's names to be used in captions.  I always keep a piece of paper clipped to my press pass so I can quickly take down the persons information (name, title, sometimes age, how they are involve, what they think, camera exposure number, etc.)  If you plan to use the images for commercial purposes instead of journalism, you should get a model release of the images.  This will protect you if they decided in the future to sue you or demand compensation for making a profit off their likeness.

Chief, Cook, and Bottle Washer... Tank, DPS, and Healer?

It helps to be able to write well as a photographer.  Photographers are now picking up the role of reporters as well.  They setup the video camera on a tripod, record themselves, and then edit the footage to send back to the news stations.  Same goes for still photographers, they are now also doing the interviews and writing the articles.  News writing has its own styles that need to be followed if you want to get published.  If you're interested in photo journalism, you should pick up the AP Styles Book.

Major Differences

  • Punctuation: There is usually less of it since news use to be transferred over The Wire and the fastest way to break news would be to use as little characters as possible.
  • Proper adjectives for proper nouns:  The way people need to be described has a very specific set of rules for age, gender, titles, and when names are used.
  • Prioritizing information:  All the important stuff goes at the top so that the editor can easily decide to cut the end of the article if it is too long.

Below is a review I wrote where you can see how AP Style is different than normal writing.

BlizzCon Attendee Reviews Cataclysm

BlizzCon 2009 was a video game convention of games produced by Blizzard Entertainment.  Attendees were invited to panels where the makers discussed new developments for the games.  I was lucky enough to attend and bring back exciting details.

Blizzard has made advancements in their game development.  Starcraft II and Diablo III both look great but still seem to be a long ways from being released.  However, for those who play World of Warcraft, cataclysmic goodness could be just around the corner.  Azeroth is getting a complete face, body and mind makeover.  It is the best-looking expansion with even more exciting story lines.

Terrain is completely transformed by the sheer destructive force of Deathwing's (a dragon protector) eruption from the world of Azeroth's crust.  Goblins are washed ashore becoming refugees, the Greymane Wall has been broken down exposing the humans to the worgen (werewolves), and social unrest draws an even stronger divide between Horde and Alliance armies.

While attending one of the WOW panels, a maker hinted that the game would be released within a year, "You'll all be complaining about goblins at the next Blizzcon."  Goblins will have a racial ability that gives them a rocket belt, complete with both rocket jump and barrage to mow 'em down.  Horde army will rejoice, as their new playable race is the goblin.

Players who rolled in the Alliance faction will be able to play a worgen.  They will be similar to a druid in respects of have more than one form (human and werewolf) and equipped gear while shape shifted will not show.  The worgen starting zone has an all too familiar Vanilla WOW look, so I was not as compelled to roll one.  Plus, no big changes happen within the Alliance faction to draw new interesting story lines for quest-chains. 

The terrain phasing from one look to another is more prevalent in Cataclysm.  In Wrath of the Litch King, phasing was first introduced after The Battle of Angrathar the Wrathgate.  The scene had changed from Horde and Alliance soldiers fighting the Scourge army, to dead bodies everywhere.  In Cataclysm, even small quest events will change the landscape.

What happens in Horde politics was not fully revealed.   From what I was able to gather, Garrosh Hellscream takes on new leadership by building and transforming zones.  I'm not ready to believe it, but this could mean a dire fate for Thrall and High Chieftain Cairne.

Failed attempts to slay bosses are going to be less aggravating with the new guild talent points.  Guild members can help earn points to level up their guild by completing quests, battlegrounds, and leveling professions.  Points can be spent on things such as raid wide resurrections or discounts on repair bills.

Blizzard has decided to release more game expansions than originally planned.  To do this, they have lowered the expansion level cap to five additional levels instead of 10.  Therefore, three more game expansions are to come before players reach the final level cap of 100 and can say they actually beat WOW.  At that point, the WOW saga would have lasted almost 10 years.  There will probably be a new massive multiplayer online game out by that time, but what if there isn't?  I have yet to see a really good adventure game since the release of Kings Quest VII in 1994.

SWAT: Special Weapons And Tactics by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

I've worked as a photographer for many different industries.  All of them have had their pros and cons, but if I picked the most enjoyable, I would have to say that the time I took photos of the San Joaquin County SWAT team for an editorial article.  Lifestyles/Fashion shoots for comes in a close second.

For about 2 years I was the sole photographer for San Joaquin Magazine.  They sent me on assignment for things ranging from restaurant features, covering events, editorial portraits, ads, home architecture, seasonal decor styling, and more.  I think my strangest Hodge-podge of shoots to book in a day consisted of taking photos of cheese, a cabinet maker, and a high class gala event. FACT: I've photographed a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker.  My life is complete.

Training Day

I joined them to observe one of their drills.  It was like watching them raid a castle, well it was a rundown apartment complex in downtown Stockton.. So it was like watching them raid a sketchy wooden castle?  Anyway, they broke out all the equipment to bust through and get the job done as quickly as possible.  They used a battering ram on the door, took formation to securely clear the rooms, and forced the targets into submission.  In addition to watching the drill at full speed, they allowed me to "hit pause" and direct the photos to better capture close ups to tell their story.  For this kind of high risk and high stress job, I expected to be photographing a bunch of young, buff, adrenaline junkies- but they were more Average Joes that knew it was just a job that needed to get done.  The age range seemed wide from straight out of college to people in their late 40's to early 50's, but perhaps the job aged them a bit- I could be wrong.  All I know is that they seemed to be a very respectful group of gentlemen.

Their equipment was also pretty cool.  They had an armored car, gas masks, battering rams, giant crowbars, sight mirrors, and serious guts to be working in Stockton.  In addition to their armored car, they also had an old Wonder Bread truck that was repainted to carrying various gear.  I don't know why, but this makes me smile.

Why this shoot?

I would have to say it is part subject matter and part meeting the people who made up the team.  I have an appreciation for the tactics that they used for breaking and entering.. wait- that makes me sound like a criminal.  Kicking down the door?  (Very obscure, Much Munchkin reference, Such face palm.)  Maybe I should elaborate.  In college, I was into scenario paintball.  My friends and I would go to a place in Corona that had fields that were based on war zones.  They had helicopters, cars, and old buses for Iraq, tall bamboo and huts for Vietnam, and trenches for Germany just to name a few.  Most of the rounds were team elimination but there was also capture the flag.  Being able to take a part in a Real Life RTS was epic (nerd is me.)  Capture the flag was often coordinated by split up the team into a group those that would stay and defend, a group to rush the opponent, and a small group that would sneak around to flank the other team.  Being able to see the SWAT team’s rush tactics in action were quite impressive.

Another thing.  These aren't trained models that pose for photos all day. Although I do love my models, editorial photography focus on the forgotten people in our community that make a difference.  We have ideas of what those people might be like, but it is nice to help break down those walls (bad pun, deal with it) and show that these people are just like us.  Being able to share that realism and meet people who serve our community is something that goes beyond just taking pretty pictures.  I am able to really appreciate the individual and their story.  In those moments, it makes me feel like my photos/work has a purpose.  I think being able to feel connected through your work to the rest of the world is key for any profession.  If you’re not connected, it might be fun for a while- but the question ultimately arise, "what is your purpose is in this world?"  For those of us who do the 40-hour grind, work makes up a large part of our lives.  I spend more time with my coworkers than I do with my friends and family (the ones who are suppose to be most important to me in my life.)  It’s kind of a strange concept to think about, but it’s very true and I’m sure it’s not that uncommon.  Because of this realization early in my career, I’ve been able to throw out my ego and have a strong bond with my teams to drive successful projects.  If you live those 40-hours with meaning, you will accomplish a lot.  We can’t all go to Africa to help the poor, sick, and hungry.  As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”

Archaeology Photos: Miwok Village Sites by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

My dad is a modern day Indiana Jones.. but with less encounters with Nazis, biblical relics that melt your face, sacrificial temples, and aliens (can we please forget the last movie?)  Ok, so maybe he's nothing like Indy, but he has been doing some archaeology lately.   Using a combination of old maps, written periodicals, and Google Earth he has been able to locate several ancient Miwok Village sites.  Many Miwok sites are known to the State of California and have been examined before many major modern day reservoirs, towns, and factories were constructed.  However, some of these locations have been lost due to the influence of the Gold Rush driving the Miwoks away from their homes.  By studying old records and comparing them to current topographical maps, he has been able to rediscover some of these lost village sites.

Above are some photos that I have taken during these explorations.  You can see bedrock mortar (more commonly referred to as Indian Grinding Rocks) that clearly shows evidence that Native Americans were indeed living in these areas.  I've also included some wide shots of the landscape to provide the backdrop of where these villages were located.  In some of these photos, we can see how the '49ers had moved into these areas by building bridges and small dams for mining.  

The video below briefly explains his method of finding these sites.