Sometimes, everything that can go wrong on a shoot, will go wrong. While I was able to capture so many great, intricate and beautiful costumes at Katsucon, I would not be alone in saying that Saturday was a mixture of “absolute horror show” and “raging dumpster fire” for photography.
First, the beautiful Gaylord hotel was absolutely packed. Pretty much every inch of floor space was taken up by a photographer shooting with a cosplayer. This is not a joke. There were even instances where I was shooting with a cosplayer who was standing next to a photographer who was shooting with a cosplayer standing next to me. It was a bizarre maze that was not even remotely ideal.
The second issue, which made the first issue worst, was the weather. The temperatures were barely above freezing and to add to the mayhem, we faced a nice mix of rain, light snow and sleet. Any other time, I would have called it a day and chilled out in my room, but when you are surrounded by some of the most outstanding costumes and talented professionals with only one chance to work with them, well you better find ways to make things work.
During my session with December Cosplays, we were facing the worst part of day where the crowds were the largest and hail was pelting outside. I wanted to do her costume (Ichimoku Ren from the mobile game Onmyoji) justice and had to quickly work through ways to do this while compensating for the crowds and weather. To do this, we started to shoot in a small garden area near the back of the hotel. The light was decent for what I needed, but trying to frame out the crowds while keeping the setting something appropriate for the costume was tricky. From here, we decided to brave the frigid temperatures and precipitation by going outside. It was very important for us to protect the costume, protect the camera and stay warm, so we planned on going outside for a few minutes, grab a few pictures, head back inside to warm up/dry off, then repeat. With this method, we had to shoot with a lot of speed, so I adopted the mindset of “get the shot and move on.” In other words, when I knew that I had the look I wanted, we moved on to the next without lingering on a concept.
Though I wish we had more time and better conditions, we definitely made the most of our situation!
When planning my shoot with Megan (Yashuntafun) and her “Hinoka” costume from “Fire Emblem: Fates,” I wanted a dramatic and epic location. I was pulled in by the costume’s design as well as its strong use of whites and reds and wanted to pair that with scenery complimenting the work Megan did to pull it together. Fortunately, we did not have to go very far to find the perfect place. With a bamboo forest that sits on the nearby Chattahoochee River, we had a location that would serve as a perfect compliment for the concept.
While having shots of just the forest as a backdrop or just the river as a backdrop were easy, trying to create an epic scene that incorporated both would be tricky. There was not a lot of room to maneuver by the river bank and my field of view was limited to either the forest, the river but not both. That said, there were ways of getting around this limitation. Utilizing the Brenizer Method, it was possible to do a panoramic photo that captured the forest, Megan, as well as the river. What makes the Brenizer Method different then a simple photo panorama is the use of a shallow depth of field (in my case, using my 50mm f/1.4) with the wide viewing angle. The result, a dramatic wide shot of the scene and costume that told a story beyond a portrait.
After nearly two years, dozens of shoots, and hundreds of hours of editing, I am extremely proud to present the full website for “The World of Gwendana.” Named after my late mother, Gwendolyn Williams, “The World of Gwendana” is a project that explores the worlds of fantasy and storytelling through photography.
It’s long been my dream to share something that is truly unique and expands into worlds of infinite possibilities. Through collaborations with costumers, prop-makers, cosplayers, and other creative professionals, I have been supremely fortunate to capture fantastical tales, elaborate costuming, and other worldly concepts.
When my mother passed away in 2014 from pancreatic cancer, things were difficult. To see such a vibrant, caring light fade from the world was the most devastating thing my family had experienced. Though the times were hard, it was absolutely important that we found ways to honor the life she lived. Gwendolyn Williams was a caring soul who embodied the principle of putting others ahead of herself. She was a bedrock to the community and an inspiration to all of those around her. Furthermore, her love, guidance, and wisdom provided me the foundation to grow as a human being.
The original idea of Gwendana began as an effort to honor her memory. It had been a driving and focusing force and it is my desire to share stories and tales that will inspire and give hope in even our darker times.
I thank all of those who have worked with me from the bottom of my heart. It meant a lot for you to take a chance and shoot with a random fashion photographer. Thank you for your time, for spending hours putting on makeup and costumes, and for braving the elements when the weather and locations were less than ideal. You all have been absolutely critical in this journey and I thank you for that.
And for all of those who continue to support me as a go deeper into the world of photography, your love and support has been truly appreciated.