Wow. I haven’t been to Otakon, or any SciFi/Fantasy/Anime convention, in years. I’m not into anime, but I am into photography and costumes. Otakon is packed with cosplayers and for a photographer, it is a target rich environment. Not only are there a lot of really good costumes including detailed makeup, but the cosplayers want to be photographed. A willing model makes a ton of difference in a photo. Album here.
Since photography is just a hobby for me and, like any Dad, I have a lot of higher priority items in my life, I rarely get a large chunk of time to immerse myself in my camera. I tentatively schedule a number of photo events for myself throughout the year but I have to cancel out of most of them because other things come up. I’m not complaining, that’s just life.
When I determined that, yes, I was actually going to Otakon this year, it was too late to get the con rate at one of the con hotels. I wanted to stay close to the con in the Inner Harbor for the convenience. If I am shooting till the con shuts down at 2:00am and then maybe night shooting for another hour, I will be a zombie and I really don’t want to drive a half hour in that condition. It was disappointing not the get the con rate at a con hotel but worse, everything close was full or very expensive. I will pay for convenience but I won’t pay that much for convenience. I could bail out to BWI area. It’s cheap. It’s never full. It’s not far. It’s still a drive.
Priceline here I come. As usual, I was cutting things close. I was on Priceline the day I was checking in. I did a little research on how to game Priceline and found an Inner Harbor, 3-star hotel listed at half what the others were. But I knew that BWI was still cheaper and Priceline’s Name Your Own Price could be really good. After all was said and done. I ended up in the con staff hotel in a king room overlooking Camden Yards, AKA: Orioles’ Stadium. The room card listed the rate as $1000/night. I paid about 10% of that. Admittedly still more than I wanted to pay but; I had parking; I walked everywhere; and I could even get to the con without ever leaving air conditioning.
This year, I have been updating my aging photo-gear (see other post) and picked up a new camera just prior to going to Otakon. In this case, “just prior” is defined as “3 days before”. Not my preference but the best way to learn a camera is to use it.
I am late leaving home. To me, this is not a big deal. I am able to get my gear together and organized a bit and I head out. Its past rush hour and I make good time. I get to the hotel, check in, unload, and gear up before going to the con to check in. Con registration is closed. What? The con is open till 2:00am but registration closes at 10:00pm? What about late arrivals like me? “Too bad, so sad, registration opens tomorrow 8:30am and the line forms at 8:00am, see you then”. Actually everybody was sympathetic but unable to do anything for a single person like me.
Well, let’s test the limits. Social Engineering 101. Wait to be in the middle of a crowd, act like I own the place, ignore the guard, and walk purposefully through the door on my way to the registration desk. The guard stops me and asks to see badge. I respond “I don’t have one, I’m on my way to registration. See? I have my bar-coded registration receipt”. “I think Registration is closed” says he. While continuing past, I counter with “Oh, OK, I’ll go check”. Faced with dealing with one idiot (me) who doesn’t seem to understand that he won’t get anywhere anyway and checking the rest of the badges, he decides I’m somebody else’s problem and I’m in.
I find official looking people issuing age verification straps and talk to them. I show my papers and ask about registration. Its closed. Oh, but the con is open till 2:00am, how do late entrants attend event they have paid for like the panels and dance that go till 2:00am? After all, This paper shows that I paid full price for a 3-day event and this evening is part of day 1. I’m sorry, I can’t help you. Oh, OK, Thanks anyway and I skulk away. They don’t even try to stop me or escort me out.
I spy a pile of boxes and trash just behind the main registration table. Hmmm, maybe it’s not all trash. I look around to see what the official con badge looks like. Red lanyard, anime scene on the front, single barcode on white background for the back. I wander over to the boxes. Yep it’s trash. And I see a red strap. Nobody watching me… so I quickly rummage through and come out with a broken lanyard with badge holder and an intact lanyard without a badge holder. A quick reconfigure and I have a perfectly good lanyard and badge holder. I fold my bar-coded receipt and tuck it into the badge holder. Not only does it blend, but it case I am challenged, it provides me a story of “Look. I paid to be here. It’s not my fault registration closes early”. If I carry my camera naturally in front of my chest, the badge is obscured anyway. I don’t really care about the panels and events, I just want to be where cosplayers are hanging out so all I need is general access. Nobody challenges me the rest of the night as I walk through multiple security checkpoints.
I have crashed Otakon.