Fan Expo Canada 2007

I’d better take a moment to explain the most recent photos on my Flickr photostream, which feature folks dressed as Star Wars characters, playing Guitar Hero behind their backs, and getting autographs from sci-fi celebs, sometimes all at once.

I’ve just returned from Fan Expo Canada 2007, which was undoubtedly the geekiest event I’ve ever attended. Which is saying a lot. And I have to say, I had a great time! 

Jean-Luc David from Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform Group (pictured above with his buddy Batman) had a spare ticket which he very kindly offered to me earlier in the week. There was only one thing to do: charge the battery, set the camera on stun, and spend the weekend in fan land!

You know those conventions you hear about: Sci Fi conventions, Anime conventions, Gaming conventions, Horror conventions, Comic book conventions? The common thread among all of them being the obsessive fans rallying around their common passion? Well, take them all, put them under one roof, and you’ve got Fan Expo Canada.

I’m not one for getting autographs, but if I were, there were celebs like Jonathan Frakes (above) and Malcolm McDowell around greeting and chatting with fans.

My favorite memories would have to be:

  • Greg Pak (from Marvel Comics)’s presentation on the writing for comics and how that creative process differs from writing a screenplay.

  • The staggering displays of Guitar Hero skill exhibited during the World Series of Video Games, like this girl who played a solo behind her head.  The song I can’t beat on Expert mode is Psychobilly Freakout.  I watched a guy perfectly play the passage I can’t complete, with the guitar behind his back.  Whoa.

(Guitar Hero, by the way, was the clear game of choice, and the XBox360 was the clear system of choice.  I would have broken out the game systems being used around the convention centre at 70% XBox360 and XBox, 25% Nintendo Wii and DS, 5% other.)

  • The incredible amount of work fans put into their costumes, and the number of characters I recognized.

The photo I most wish I’d taken?  A girl dressed impeccably as Midna from Zelda: Twilight Princess.  She would have looked great beside my sister’s husky dog standing in for Link in his wolf form.

For the record, if I had gone in costume, I would have tried to pull off Phoenix Wright.  Shame I cut my hair last week.

And although I didn’t buy any t-shirts to complement my zillion Microsoft-branded ones, I would have picked up this one:

Anyway, it was by far and away the geekiest event I’ve ever been at, and I had an awesome time. 

I suppose Triumph would have a field day, and inform me that I’m an omnigeek, made out of parts of lesser geeks.  I’m down with that.

Mazinaw Lake by Night

I was up at Mazinaw Lake over the weekend, where my sister’s fiancé and his family have a cottage.  This is proper Ontario, where you head out to the lake and scurry across by boat to your getaway. 

Go on hikes, watch the meteor shower, swim, chill with the other lads in the wedding party, have a few polites, and gawk at what your future brother-in-law’s D80 can do shooting long-exposure shots of the night sky.

Mazinaw Lake by night

Making videos is a different kettle of …

…fish!  (And eagle rays!  And giant moray eels!)

For the second half of my diving in Dahab and Ras Mohammed, I shot video footage instead of photos.  Here’s a 2-minute highlight reel, in YouTube format:

The shots were taken on dives in Egypt, at Dahab and Ras Mohammed (between Shark Reef and Yolanda Reef).  They feature Siofra, Gregory, and a cast of thousands (of fish).

The background music is called In Space by the Norwegian (Tromsøværing) group Røyksopp, whose mellow tracks were played endlessly at the Penguin Restaurantin Dahab.

To create this, I used:

  • SeaLife DC500 underwater camera to film it
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 to cut the video together
  • Expression Media Encoder to preview and export a web-ready format

Adobe’s Premiere Pro was the real hero in this operation; it offers a very intuitive interface for cutting video together.  Expression Media Encoder does one job and it does it well.

I hope you enjoy!

(note: Silverlight Streaming version will be up when I can figure out how to get the video sent to the Silverlight streaming service. grr.)

Redundancy and Routine

Safe Scuba Diving is about redundancy and routine. 

On the redundancy front, not only do you learn backups and workarounds for the unlikely event of an equipment failure, but you also dive with a buddy, making some of your equipment quadrupally redundant.

On the routine front, the gear is assembled “just so.”  A “buddy check” before you dive ensures that your gear has been scrutinized by two sets of eyes.  During a recreational dive, you perform a 3 minute “safety stop” 5 meters below the surface to significantly reduce the chances of decompression sickness.  And after the dive, the gear is also disassembled into a precise and well-thought-out configuration that readies it for the next dive.

Waiting on the line to do 'three at five'... scuba divers 

My photography should perhaps be more like my scuba diving.

In Petra I used a lot of manual settings on the camera, including manual focus and modified ISO.  On Day 1, I forgot that I was on manual focus and rendered dozens of shots out of focus.  On Day 2, after a long-exposure shot at Petra By Night (below), I forgot I was at ISO 500, and many of my subsequent shots were unnecessarily grainy.

Petra by Night at ISO500

I was devastated at the time but now I see it as a hard lesson learned.  I often don’t have time to check every single camera setting before firing off a shot, and so I tend to assume the camera is configured in a certain way.  Neither ISO nor manual/auto focus is immediately obvious in the heads-up display in the D70s, and unlike in scuba, I don’t have a buddy to perform a “buddy check” before each shot. :)

So instead, I wonder if I should arrive at a configuration that I know I’m always going to leave my camera in when I turn it off.  And stick to it.  Or at the very least, arrive at a configuration for each shoot (desert, wedding banquet, pints in pub) and stick to it for the duration.

Does this resonate with any of the other photographers out there?