Sakura-Con, one of the premier Anime conventions in Seattle, Washington, has definitely changed and evolved since our last official attendance. While giving a blanket overview of the convention is a good idea for a general audience, we believe a cosplay photography focused review will give you, our readers and cosplay photography enthusiasts, a much more useful and relevant insight into Sakura-Con. So here it is: our Sakura-Con 2014 convention report: Cosplay Photographers Edition.
Sakura-Con has been using Washington State Convention Center ever since I started attending in 2008. WSCC is located near the heart of Seattle so driving and parking can be difficult. However, it is also surrounded by many hotels, so staying at a nearby hotel is definitely recommended if you wish to avoid the hassle of commuting (plus using some of their interiors as additional photo shoot locations).
WSCC is closely attached to Freeway Park and it is a location that is heavily used by cosplayers and photographers alike. The combo grants you a variety of scenery and backdrops ranging from futuristic interior design to calming foliage; You will definitely have options when it comes to deciding where to do your cosplay photo shoots.
Are you interested in setting up lights or even backdrops? That’s definitely possible here as long as you are in a relatively quiet corner of the convention center. Convention staff will more than likely let you do what you do. Note that staff will ask you to not stand on tables, chairs, or other possibly unsafe actions though (for your own safety!).
In Freeway Park, almost everything is possible. There are a few key areas fenced off due to past attendees abusing and damaging these art installations and structures, but since the park is huge, a little hike toward the outer edge of the park will land you spectacular spots for photo shoots. And if you are really feeling adventurous, there are even more interesting buildings and structures only one block away from the WSCC / Freeway Park area.
Seattle weather in early April is generally mild but can vary a lot from year to year. Over the past 5 years I have been attending this convention, we have seen sunshine, overcast clouds, rain, and even snow. Here’s a suggestion from myself as a Seattlelite: don’t trust the forecast. The best way to deal with shooting in Seattle is to know the locations well enough so that you always have backups in case of rain or snow.
I briefly mentioned this above, but the rules on equipment have been really lax throughout the years. As long as you are not blocking traffic or doing anything unsafe, you have relative free roam when it comes to setting up lights, backdrops, or more complicated setups at low traffic spots. Note: staff and organizers are really keen on keeping the walkways free of crowds or blockage, so even if you are doing simple hallway shots, please practice good etiquette and consider pulling the cosplayers to the side to photograph from there.
This year there is a surge of Kill ka Kill cosplays at Sakura-Con. Aside from KLK, in general you can find a good mix of cosplays. I am sure the convention imposes certain costume limitations, but from my observation, you can still easily find cosplays ranging from fully armored Gundams to Satsuki in Kamui Junketsu, as well as weapons of all types and sizes. On top of that, you are sure to find many intricate cosplays here at Sakura-Con. Of course, there are also many casual cosplayers who simply want to enjoy the convention comfortably.
Ever since my attending the very first Sakura-Con in 2008, the age demographic of the attendees has stayed around the late teens / young adults (~ 16-24). Being in Seattle, you can also expect a lot of cosplayers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia, Alberta, and parts of the Pacific Northwest that you might not usually see at other conventions.
Cosplay aside, peace bonding is a rule here at Sakura-Con, but they tend to tie the lime green bond in easily concealed areas where cosplayers can hide it from sight, and thus making them less of an issue in photographs.
Convention staff / Volunteers
The staff and volunteers at Sakura-Con are certainly on top of their game. In the past few years they have implemented the “no-stop” zones where they will hustle anyone who is attempting to pause for even for a few seconds. This implementation has really helped to reduce congestion so these zones have slightly expanded this year. This is one of the primary reasons we recommend that you avoid taking hallway shots in high foot traffic areas.
For those who are interested in guests and performances, the venues have really changed for the better with a lot of technical upgrades (e.g. mega screen for people far away from the stage). Like almost all other conventions, guests change from year to year, so checking the website for the latest announcements will help you better plan your convention schedule. Note that Sakura-Con may pose stricter photography rules for certain performances, so plan accordingly.
Sakura-Con 2014 overall is a worthy convention to attend. From a cosplay photographer’s point of view, you get a good variety of cosplayers to work with, and the location definitely gives you an array of different backdrops as well as room to do larger setups. Weather is a concern, but once you have explored the convention layout, finding a great photo spot should be easy.
With that said, did you attend Sakura-Con 2014? Whether you attended as a cosplayer, photographer, or both, we would love to hear about your experience in the comments!