Earlier this month, Colossalcon was held in Sandusky, Ohio. And it was there that a team of five photographers, two videographers and a cosplayer decided to try something different.
Normally, at a nerd con, you’ll see two types of cosplay photo emerge: ones taken quickly on the convention floor, and others taken at arranged photoshoots in or around the con’s grounds. Sometimes these are of individuals, other times groups, but they generally have one thing in common: they’re short-term engagements, capturing only a brief moment in time and reflecting the work of just two, the subject and the photographer.
The Colossalcon Co-op project sought to change that by sending an entire team after a single cosplayer, who would document her over the course of an afternoon, as she moved between locations and costumes. Sometimes they worked individually or in small teams, but other times they’d all follow her at once.
The star and subject—chosen after an application and interview process involving over 60 other cosplayers—was Ladee Danger. And “star” is a pretty fitting word.
You can see the results of the team’s work throughout this feature. They achieved a number of things: not just an understanding of how photographers can work together, but also of how they work differently. Despite all of them being in the same place at the same time taking pictures of the same person, there’s a clear and fascinating variety in the work they produced, showing that the art of posing for and taking cosplay pictures involves a lot more than just a person in a costume standing in front of a camera.
“Cosplay photography can be an isolated pursuit”, says Anna Fischer. “You spend a lot of time with cosplayers, but even more time alone editing.”
For Dave Yang, the idea of working in a pack also appealed. “It was great being able to bounce ideas for location, framing, and composition off each other. It also helped to have people with gear to be able to trade back and forth or use as backup when/if something went wrong.”
Julia To signed up for similar reasons. “As someone who has never worked beside such a large group of photographers and videographers before, it was really nice seeing everyone work together so harmoniously.”
Genia Baida, meanwhile, saw the chance for an insight into the work of others. “Personally, it was the chance to shoot together with so many awesome people. It was interesting to see how all the photographers/videographers, shooting in a similar environment, would create completely different results. In addition, I’ve not met Ladee danger till the project and she makes a fantastic subject!”
“Perspective is the most vital thing when it comes to working with peers I find”, adds Kayhettin. “Kinda like having eyes in the back of your head. You get to expand your world by getting a chance to see glimpsing of the way they see the world.”
“We worked together during a time period we like to call the ‘golden hour’”, says Michael Zhang, “where the sun is quickly setting and the clouds and sky reflect a warm hue. Since we were all short on time we had to work around each other and I would say that it takes a lot of concentration to work fast and efficiently as a group, but we were able to accomplish that in the short amount of time we had.”
“Having everyone around one subject kind of made it hard to manoeuvre around and sometimes someone would move in front of my camera and I would get a shot of their butt”, adds Julia To. “Also, like Mike said, we had a limited time slot because the sun sets so quickly.”
“Colossalcon is known for its outdoor environment and golden hour shots”, says Zhang. “We knew the environment provided a lot of summer vibrancy, especially with the good weather you get in Ohio in June.”
“There was this kind of magnetic force about group shoots”, says Fischer. “We were shooting with our core group, and I look up from my viewfinder and suddenly there are all these people taking photos of Ladee Danger (above). I think if enough people are photographing the same subject, it develops it’s own gravity.”
“I thought the whole experience was surreal”, says Ben Tran. “I’ve never been around so many talented photographers before.”
For the enthusiasts or would-be enthusiasts in the audience, here’s the gear that each artist used over the shoot:
Anna Fischer: A canon Mark III until the mirror went bad mid con, then I switched to a canon 60D. My two standby lenses are the 50 and 85 1.2.
Dave Yang: I used a Nikon D810 with a Sigma ART 50mm 1.4 and Nikon 85mm 1.8. I also borrowed Benjamin’s Phottix Indra 500s for part of the Saber shoot.
Benjamin Tran: I used a Nikon D600 with various lenses through the weekend. Sigma Art 35mm 1.4, Nikon 16-35 f/4, Nikon 85 1.8, and my favorite Nikon 70-200 f2.8. As for lighting gear, I used Phottix Indra 500s and my Elinchrom 600’s.
Michael Zhang: I use a Canon 5D mark III and a Steadicam pilot to film and I swap between a Canon 16-35mm wide angle lens and a Canon 24mm prime lens depending on the environment and the amount of light I have.
Julia To: A Canon T3i mounted on a Glidecam HD 1000, with the 18-50mm Sigma lens
Genia Baida: All shots were done with a Canon 1Dx and 200/f2 or 35/1.4. In addition, 2 600ex and 1 580ex speedlights with respective transmitters/receivers along with gels. Enslaved my fellow photographers to be human light stands.
Kay: I used the Canon 5D Mark III as my camera body, coupled with the Canon 24-70mm L, and I bummed the 50mm 1.2L lens from Anna :D
This shoot is just another example of how the artists at the forefront of cosplay are trying to push the scene forwards, exploring new ways and new opportunities to do what they do best.
If you want to see some of the shoot in action, aside from the video above there’s also this behind-the-scenes look from Julia To:
And here’s an example of what I mean about the different types of shot. These were all taken at the same place at the same time.