1st Half of 2017 – After Action Short

•July 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Upcoming Events I will be attending as of 7/10/2017:
SF Anime Fest in Japantown
SacAnime Summer
BlizzCon (ghost only)

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I entered into 2017 with a rather low turnout for shoots.  SacAnime Winter was basically rained out and I couldn’t attend AoD.  As for NorCal Spring, I was suffering from food poisoning before the event so I was extremely sluggish.  But mostly…The first quarter of 2017 was rather boring and I’m only going to be posting a few from this time for my portfolio here.

Thankfully I had a very busy month in April.  I had a very successful (if warm) WonderCon and my inner fanboy was more than satisfied by going to the 40th Anniversary for Star Wars at Celebration Star Wars in Orlando (yay for another East Coast Con!).  Adding some good experimental shoots with gels for Silicon Valley Comic Con (2 days, only had planned 1), April 2017 was a very good high for me.

Sadly so far, this summer has been rather disappointing.  While Fanime had finally fixed their badge system with an extremely fast pre-reg ticket system, two major things derailed my experience:  a 2nd bout with food poisoning and my decision to not book shoots between 12 PM and 6 PM.  While this did not prevent me from getting some good photos, I was unable to find everyone I wanted to find.  Fanime was….ok, TBH.  More portfolio-worthy photos than 2016 had, but still not as high as it should have been.

I only wish I had a better experience at Anime Expo.  I will elaborate in my next report.

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Attended:
SacAnime Winter
Animation on Display (Sunday only)
NorCal Spring
WonderCon (good times~   )
Star Wars Celebration
Silicon Valley Comic Con
FanimeCon
Hydra Comic Con
Anime Expo

Plans for 2018:
WonderCon (unconfirmed)
Fanime (unconfirmed)

Sony a6300 – First Impressions

•June 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Please Note:  This isn’t a full review as I’ve only had 2 days with the camera in question.  Think of this as more of a First Impressions.

On a whim I decided to rent the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for a local first-time convention: Hydra Comic Con in Santa Clara Convention Center.  It was a lot smaller and more compact than my current favorite, the Nikon D750 w/ f2.9 24-70mm lens and a lot of reviewers and people I know recommended it to me when asked.  When I first got it, the small size and weight was definitely a welcome change from my bruiser, but when I started fiddling with the controls I ran into a couple of problems.  Going back to a 1-mode dial system rather than the 2 dials I’m used to on DSLRs is a pain since I’ll have to also use the scroll wheel to have control of both the Shutter and Aperture settings in Manual Mode (I typically don’t use Auto, Shutter, or Aperture Priority). Thankfully most of the controls can be customized to perform different functions, but the missing mode dial will be sorely missed.

There are a couple of things that these Mirrorless cameras can do that DSLRs still cannot.  The Electronic View Finder (EVF) will actually display the same data as the rear LCD screen (if you elect to use it) so that you can see before taking the shot how it will look.  Also, because it is Mirrorless, the Autofocus can cover the entire image area.  Combined with Sony’s Eyeball tracking feature, it does make the Autofocus quicker and reduce the amount of guess-and-check, or “chimping”, the photographer has to do.   That being said, you’ll still have to do this with high-ISO (low light) photography without a flash as the Auto-ISO does default to having neutral lighting and colors.

Good

Taken on a6300

Tytalis Cosplay

 

  • Small, light, and with E-Mount lens, very portable.
  • LCD and EVF doesn’t have the same lag as point and shoot cameras.
  • Can handle high-ISO shots similarly to a mid-range DSLR.
  • Fast AutoFocus w/ eyeball tracking that covers ~90% of the screen / image area.

Bad

  • Single Mode Dial – I still prefer to have both shutter and aperture to be easy to change while aiming.
  • Missing a Touch Screen to quickly place manual focus points / handle menus
  • Lens Choices – Sony E-Mounts don’t have as large of a selection as DSLR Nikon or Canon.
  • Video Record button in an odd place. – I don’t see how people won’t be starting with a shaky video.

Ugly

D750: My current Primary

  • Battery Life – On paper, it can last about 400 shots and while it does seem to do that, 400 shots is still lower than most entry-level DSLRs.
  • No Smart Lens Adaptors exist for Nikon (Canon-type mounts seem to be fine)

Verdict:

The a6300 is a good camera body for people who need a fast, portable camera.  I still wouldn’t say it blows higher-end DSLRs out of the water aside from the fast and versatile autofocus, but they still have neither the endurance or the lens selection.  I have to keep in mind that this is a trade-off for having a Mirrorless camera.  If I had started with this camera system, I might be using this as my primary. Still, the ergonomics and lack of both physical controls and touch screen prevent me from using this as a primary camera….but maybe not as a Secondary or “side-arm” with the right lens?

(taken on a6300)

Tytalis Cosplay

Additional Quick Tests:

Lens

  • Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6
    • + : Compact while “off” + Cheap.
    • – : Disadvantage: Kit lens quality of sharpness. Also, the current version is electronic so prefer for some lag while zooming.
  • E-Mount Adaptors
    • AF-compatible – Canon lenses only, sadly no “smart-adaptors” exist for Nikon. E-mount OSS are still needed to have full functionality such as image stabilization.
    • Manual-only – The a6300 has extra features on the screen such as “focus metering” which gives a visual indication of what is in focus.

Things I saw in my research about video:

  • 4K Video, though I have heard that while the AF works extremely well, several have complained about overheating issues. Best solution is to use multiple batteries.

Similar Price (~$1000 body only):

  • Nikon D7000 / D7100: Access to Nikon / 3rd party DSLR lenses with larger battery and dual-SD card slots. Similar ISO performance (Sony makes their sensors) but no eyeball tracking AF and has a slower memory buffer (while shooting in RAW).
  • Sony A7: Full Frame Sensor and much better ergonomics at the cost of larger camera size and older, narrower AF system. Also uses the same battery so less shots-per-charge.

Cheaper Alternatives (~600 w/ kit lens):

  • Sony a6000: while about the same price as an entry level DSLR, it does have higher ISO and faster and wider range of AF points than cheap DSLRs. Compared to a6300, it has a slower screen refresh rate and the AF system is older. (Note, the hot shoe has black paint, which MIGHT interfere with 3rd party or non-Sony flashes and other hot shoe accessories).
  • Most entry-level DSLRs: Still has a wider selection of lenses (especially Canon and Nikon) and larger batteries, but larger and usually has less / worse AF than the a6300.

Taken on a6300

2016 – A Year in Review

•December 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment
btp_3857

Cosplayers: polarbearseatbabyseals + Garp Stavo Sauce Cosplay + Mee-Shell Ma Bell Cosplay

2016 – Year in Review

I know the running meme of #f***2016 is going around a lot due to the deaths of so many influential people (as well as the elections in at least two major Western Countries, including my own), but if I am to be totally honest, 2016 was actually pretty good to me.  Besides the usual of having a steady job with decent flexibility, I’ve also met a lot of people after being rather shut out from my local community in 2015.

The best way I can describe this year is this: You’re at Disneyland and managed to get to the front of the line for a lot of rides.  Some of them were closed, but some really fun ones weren’t.  There’s a lot of good food too.  Unfortunately you ate again right before a really fast roller coaster and now you’re vomiting on the ground and being asked to leave the park before watching the fireworks show.

Still…I can’t say I regret 2016.  Not by a long shot.

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Ok, let’s get the bad out of the way:

2016 – Worst 3:

#3) AX Videographers

Many cons, especially Anime Expo, have had videographers doing Cosplay Music Videos (CMVs) for years and I have always tried to work around them and not get in the way of their work.  I know what it’s like for some <expletive> to ruin the shot. However, as the years continued, many of them have begun to exhibit elitist attitudes to photographers, including myself.  On Sunday night, a popular CMV Youtuber out right yelled at me for interrupting him despite the fact that he was clearly checking his footage at the time.  Up until that point, Anime Expo 2016 had been a very successful convention for me, so having it ruined by 1 person towards the end…

I’ve had many CMV makers out right yank a cosplayer from their scheduled shoots, including my own, to do 30 minutes of filming.  In the past, I have allowed it as I do not want to be “that jerk” they all talk about at drinking parties at night.  However after this year, I am enforcing a ZERO TOLLERANCE POLICY.  I’ve tried to be friendly, I’ve tried to be nice.  But years of bad behavior and I have finally hit my limit for all videographers.

#2) Fanime 2016

Excuse me, Fairmont San Jose?  Did you say I won’t have my hotel room?  I took the CalTrain and VTA over to the hotel and re-secured my hotel room the day before the con. Thankfully I managed to do this, but I know many people who cons / schedules were ruined because they had to transfer to one of the hotels near San Jose Airport.  I haven’t checked on the REASONING for this, but this is just plain inexcusable.  Especially with 0 refunds to the victims.

Besides hotel issues, between the heat and the heavily booked schedule (almost half of which canceled day-of or never showed up), the con was rather…meh.  That should not be Fanime, period.

#1) Yaoi-Con

I was told to get a room so that I could do shoots there, but then many of the people who agreed to do it cancelled and did not show up.  If I had known that would happen, I would either cancel before the deadline or not book the room.  That was money that could have been used to travel across the country for off-con shoots with people more than willing to help make it happen.  Definitely in my Top 5 Worst Experiences as BlizzardTerrak.

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Ok, I would like to do a Top 3, but honestly I only need 2.  So hopefully that illustrates how good of a there were to eclipse the bad things above:

2016 – Best 2:

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Cosplayers: ShellyNotShally + Jazikinn Cosplay

#2) New Friends / Clients on the East and West

I have made it clear how much I dislike that area due to the cost as well as the limited amount of spaces to shoot.  That said, I am thankful that many cosplayers who did shoot with me, both planned and unplanned.  And this year, I actually have convention photoshoot-quality photos from these events I can be proud of in the future.  Much of the credit goes to the cosplayers who did shoots with me.

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Thank you!

 

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ShazuHime

#1) MAGFest 2016

I’ve had many photographers tell me to do more out-of-state conventions. After this con, I can see why.  As a photographer, it is important for photographers to seek out new conventions and new cosplayers.  And to boldly go where no NorCal Photographer has gone before *insert Star Trek: The Next Generation theme here*.

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JK Cosplay

I thought it would be more stressful since I am in a new environment (and a new time zone), but the cosplayers and even photographers there were relaxed and chill.  I got to drop my guard and derp around with them despite it being my first day there. MAGFest 2016 will be a career highlight for me.  I am sad I won’t be able to attend the 2017 one due to work, but I do hope to visit and shoot in the East Coast again.  Just let me know which events to attend.

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2016 was rough a good chunk of the time, but at least those of you who are still with me and those who take the time out of their con, event, or even their personal lives to shoot with me:

Thank you!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You are the reason why I keep pushing forward.

And to the Undiscovered Country we see ourselves approaching in 2017….there really is only one phrase that we should all hold onto:

NEVER GIVE UP!
NEVER SURRENDER!

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PinkProxy Cosplay

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Hopefully before the end of the year, I hope to do a “Best In <CATEGORY>” Photoset that will be posted on the Facebook Page (and probably on Twitter / Instagram).  Many will or should be on my portfolio on DeviantArt and probably posted on a website someday.  Comment below as to what categories you want (please be reasonable with the categories and keep it positive).

Till next post.

Samsung T3 SSD Review

•September 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

portablessd_t3_main

So one of the main problems I had with the Surface 3 is the eMMC – type “SSD” Hard Drive. Basically it is the same type of Hard Drive used on Smart Phones and tablet machines. While it is good enough for daily usage and for media playback, for things like gaming and (especially for me) storing large amounts of phones, it is a pain to load. And when I have to download a 64 GB SD card…

So while shopping around, I noticed that the T3 was having some sort of flash sale for the 250 GB model. That’s at least 3 64-GB SD cards, so I thought why not since any SSD would at least be drop proof. The fact that it was tiny (about the size of small pack of gum, and light also makes travelling with one easy. And of course being designed as a travel SSD, it uses a USB connection….wait, actually it’s a USB Type-C for more bandwidth and futureproofing. The connector is reversible (meaning less fumbling since there is no “upside-down” (NOTE that at the time of my purchase, it comes with a USB Type-C to USB 3.1 Type A, so it’s going to plug into your standard USB port and you will have to get a separate cable for Type-C to Type-C). It’s also supposed to be very secure as it comes with software for Windows (with links to the Apple and Android versions) that allows the drive to be password-protected encryption (AES 256-bit). This should make it very hard for a thief to steal your data without your password, though that also means that if you lose said password, your data on the drive is basically lost forever.

Truth be told, speed wasn’t a primary factor in obtaining this drive. Having said that, this thing is a lot faster than many USB external HDDs and Flash sticks I’ve used, being able to dumb a 64 GB SD card (Type 10) in about 30-40 minutes. So what I do is have the drive and an SD-card reader plugged into a generic USB 3.0 travel hub and it could dumb a 64-GB SD card into the SSD directly in about 30-40 minutes. I’ve also seen video reviews online that have them using the drive to edit / “scrubbing” HD-video footage on Adobe Premier as well as gaming (assuming you meet CPU and graphics specifications), but I have yet to test this personally.

Bottom line, for anyone who travels and needs lots of fast, secure, and shock resistant storage, I would definitely recommend any of the Samsung T3 SSDs. Everything is perfect except for the speed and perhaps the included cable if one wants to plug into a USB Type-C connection. It is more expensive per GB (about twice as much), but considering what you are getting, it’s great for photographers, videographers, and even some gamers.

Average Pricing as of time of review: $100 – $710

Storage Capacity: 250 GB to 2 TB.

Rating: Must Have!

Credits for the Photographer? Please?

•September 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Of all the news feeds in all the profiles on Facebook, this article had to land on mine.

The topic of crediting photographers is somehow a controversial one with a wide variety of opinions as to whom is correct on the topic.  The law says the Copyright Holder is typically the photographer in question.  Various models / cosplayers have said that because it is “their image” on the line, they are the ones who should have final say.  Sadly, many businesses / conventions have used the “It’s on Google, so it is therefore free for anyone to use” defense, though that is not technically true.  As a TL;DR to this article, if someone is searching for royalty-free / free to use photos, they should check out sites like ShutterStock.com to get them (This is not an endorsement by BlizzardTerrak Photography but rather something I have heard from various content creators.  Please do your due diligence when using stock photos).

The sad truth is that this kind of thing happens to many photographers, including cosplay photographers.  While many of our photos occupy a legal grey area (again, due to insufficient copyright laws), it is generally accepted that the photographer is the copyright holder.  However, I have had several cosplayers whom have refused to give credit, giving such reasons such as “Instagram forces me to crop it out”, “It’s my image”, and “I kept your watermark. That is good enough”. I’ve especially had this happen by various conventions whom feel that because the photo is freely available online that they can use the entire image or crop / edit it.  They argue that it becomes a “transformative work”, which makes THEM the copyright holder / artist instead of the photographer.  I’ve consulted various legal experts and, generally speaking, this is not true in photography.  Again, this is a legal grey area photographers occupy.  Nevertheless, there are times when it would generate negative word-of-mouth, so generally this is a bad idea.

There are only a few choices for a photographer to mitigate people from using photos without your permission:

  • Local Court System. This will involve lawyers and registering the photo with the Copyright Office.
  • Using obnoxious watermarks like the default ones on DeviantArt that cover the entire photo.
  • Making sure the model / cosplayer / agent you are working with/through has the ability to mobilize a large fan base or cause enough negative drama to force a party to stop using photos.
  • Giving up because you don’t make enough money or because it takes a lot of work.

All of the ones above are not guarantees that you will regain control.  That is the risk-reward of the current system available to photographers in general in order to promote oneself.  Again the complexities of copyright laws as well as the desire to show off your work to the masses makes it difficult.  My only suggestion is to pick your battles.

As for cosplayers / models whom we photographers serve, here are a few things that help us keep working:

  • Keep in contact with each other. Ask each other when submitting a photo for a contest is a good idea or if a promotional deal is wise.
  • Make agreements ahead of time (preferably on paper). Define the goal of the photoshoot (commercial prints, posting on social media, etc.).  And if you want to change the terms, renegotiate.  The worse thing is that the photographer says “no” and you can go to another photographer who will say “yes”.  (We’re kind of stupid like that…or is that just me?)
  • ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS tag / link the photographer. We generally like it when you, the model, uses something we shot to promote yourself.
    • And really, does it actually cost you anything?

This is a blog so my opinions do not apply to every single photographer out there.  Some of us want to make sure we get paid because it’s how they put food on the table.  Some of us do it more as a hobby than to get paid (such as myself).  It does take a little extra effort, but I’d like to think that the work we do to promote your image is worth that extra effort for our fragile egos.

If you have managed to get this far, I implore you to do the following (other than sharing this of course):

  • Thank your photographers. It’s not as simple as pushing a button.  Even selfies need some effort other than stickers.
  • If you want a photographer to remove their watermark / not credit them…at least use a contract.
  • Don’t reply like the café owner in the article (linked below).

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Source of Discussion / Topic:

http://petapixel.com/2016/09/08/cafe-mocks-photographer-asked-stolen-photo-taken/

(PS: I really should make that review for the Samsung T3 and Nikon D750 I’ve been using…someone remind me.).

Photographer’s StarLog – 8/12/2016

•August 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Apologies for neglecting this blog page.  A lot of things have been keeping me busy in my personal life.  Mainly, work is getting more and more hectic, so I have had less time to do any writing.  Hopefully I can do shorter posts like these, but we’ll see.

I have finally started an Instagram page (@BlizzardTerrak) so please check it out for random photos of the day (around 12 PM PST).

In the mean time, I do have 2…maybe 3 product reviews:

  • Nikon D750 (Full Frame)
    • Maybe the Nikor f2.8 24-70mm Lens will be combined?
  • Samsung T3 External SSD Drive (specifically for low-powered machines)

I also have the following events and shoots coming up in August:

  • Off-Con shoots during misc weekends in August
  • ?Heroes Fest? (Pending Ride / Commuting/ Shoot Requests)
  • SacAnime Summer 2016 (Pending Ride)
  • Yaoi-Con (Hotel Confirmed)
  • Comikaze (Confirmed)
  • KrakenCon Fall (Commuting)

Anyways, if you have questions, please comment below or email me.  Or message me on the following areas:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlizzardTerrakPhotography/

Instagram: @BlizzardTerrak

Twitter: @BlizzardTerrak

Anime Expo 2016 – After Action Report

•July 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I don’t think I need to describe Anime Expo for the Sixth time in a row, but as to whether or not I can call it the San Diego Comic Con / Comic-Con International of Anime is well earned this time around. A lot of changes happened this year along with the staff apparently.  One of the biggest thing attendees noticed was the move of the Artist Alley from its usual location inside of the Exhibit Hall into the…what is the Kentia Hall?  The indoor parking lot with barely any Air Conditioning? I gathered that the Exhibit Hall didn’t actually use the space that Artist Alley used to occupy.  Nor was the Photography / Video Game Entertainment Hall filled to capacity (in terms of booths and area used.  I think the worst part is that one really does need a badge to enter their baggage-check lines, something that wasn’t there during WonderCon this year. Oh, and no one without a badge was allowed inside, so anyone who wanted to purchase / pick-up a badge had to go all the way to the South Hall from the outside (so the JW / Luxe hotel advantage was nullified).  I have to wonder how many people at the con had suffered heat stroke / exhaustion as a result of all these “necessary changes”.

Sad to say that the problems didn’t end there.  In attendance were a lot of cosplay guests which would of course bring a lot of photographers and vidographers.  Of course, many of them, particularly the videographers, were rather rude to everyone, their peers, me, and even some of the cosplayers they were photographing.  I’ve had several videographers barge in and take clients right in front of me (again). I’ve also had a couple of photographers insult the cosplayer I am friends with or working with right in front of me.  Somehow, this whole con was more about me resisting the urge to not leave people in a bloody mess.

Did I regret going?  No, I’ve had a few cosplay shoots arranged and met a few new people…hopefully future clients for shoots.  However, this con is still far from my first choice.  IF I had to compare, Fanime 2016 (which I rated poorly) was much better than Anime Expo and one I’d rather go to even if I had to fly out to it.  Honestly, if it weren’t for a select group of people like Dokitude, PolarBearSeatBabySeals, and a couple of others, this con would be an absolute zero…something I wish I had to endure the sweltering temperatures.

The bottom line: The ONLY reason one should go is the special guests from Japan.  Otherwise, I’d highly recommend other conventions.  They may be smaller, but you’ll have a much better time than deal with TSA: The Anime Convention.

Con-Rating

:star-empty: :star-empty: :star-empty: :star-empty: :star-empty:  – Con was designed to lock down, Apple-style, rather than put the needs of the con-goers.  I have to wonder what the hospital bills total up to.

Personal Fun-Factor

Star! Star!   – Bullied by Staff AND by the locals / famous shooters.

PS: Locking people out is a dick move.  I hope they’re ready for the cleaning bill….to say nothing about all the ambulances they probably needs for those who fell from heat stroke.

Warning:

  • Heat-Advisory (outdoors)
  • Heat-Advisory (indoors)
  • Lockdown
  • TSA-style bag check

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I’ll be going over what happened to me personally with some of the more…famous photographers and videographers in the next report.