Anime Mid Atlantic “New Age, New Place” Con Review
TL;DR 8.6/10 Miss me with all the drama, this con was pretty great. Looking at it as a photographer, I did what I always do, and that’s to make use of the hand you’re dealt. Rain or Shine, bad interior lighting or otherwise, I feel that I captured phenomenal photos of the cosplayers at the new venue. As an attendee, there may have been a few hiccups here and there, but dealer’s room was excellent, bonding with friends took place, and for the most part, the staff was actually really helpful.
So where do I begin? I guess I’ll switch it up and list some cons first, because they were indeed present.
The Hotel: Tbh, I’ve already said that if AMA takes place in the same hotel next year, that I would not book or recommend the Waterside Marriott. There were check in issues and extreme delays, recent renovation problems that needed to be addressed, and the con’s layout was generally confusing. Upon arrival, I spent an hour completely lost and without guidance from a friend to the third floor registration, I would have been lost much longer. The fact that the second floor was almost pointless to attendees (aside from lounging and the bar), upset me a little, as this floor could have been used for more attendee specific events/panels. The escalators were famously broken from floor 3 downward, and often, and the elevators were notoriously slow. Keeping in mind that there’s only one central set of elevators, it was really concerning hearing the jarring noises while inside with other congoers, for a supposedly renovated space.
Photo Locations (Indoor): Because there were hindering storms, there were extremely limited location options to do shoots. So here they are: 4th floor window lighting, 6th floor terrace, 3rd floor bridge, potential 3rd floor balcony. That was it. Rain aside, scheduled meetups for group shoots took up huge amounts of space in very cramped areas with poor lighting conditions. Even though I feel I personally captured great images, the background variety was definitely stunted by this location, and that is unfortunate. It isn’t really a hotel fitting for large group gatherings for photos.
Food Availability: I’m not a downtown Norfolk native, and thus, because of threatening storms through the weekend, I was completely unaware of good, relatively cheap locations for both food and drinks. While water was thankfully available for Friday and Saturday in great amounts thanks to the con, on Sunday I felt completely boxed in and overpaid at the hotel marketplace for a simple refreshment. It was nice to have an in hotel restaurant, but we all know about the dramatic price increases during con season. Were it not for the threatening rain, I would have probably walked 10 minutes to MacArthur mall every meal to get decently priced food, and I felt the con could have done a better job at letting people know what was more readily available (rather than urge you to order pizza).
Security Staff (namely Saturday): I had little to no problem with Security, or any other staff until Saturday, when I suppose the ‘stricter’ badge checks came into play? I was accosted several times while STILL ON the escalator to show my badge, even when I was simply going up to the fourth floor. It was frankly very annoying, and just a little rude. I understand if there is a need to restrict the ‘con exclusive’ parts of the hotel, but I also know that if you’re going to implement this type of roadblock, that you should do it on the first day of the convention, and be consistent throughout the weekend.
Saturday’s Rave: I won’t talk much about it. But what I will say is that this has been the only convention in my five year history of attending cons that the Saturday rave was much much worse than the one on Friday. That’s all I will say.
So why am I giving this con an 8.6/10?? Read on!!
The Photos: Anyone who knows me knows that I do NOT attend conventions for panels, nor do I do so for events like the fashion show, masquerade, karaoke, or the competitions. But I do attend for the photos, and despite the lack of locations available, I am SUPER happy with my results. Perhaps a portion of this can be attributed to finally going full frame, but you just can’t replace the experiences of working with nice people, both old and new, and having a genuinely fun time while doing so. This con has me extremely excited about even my in camera shots, which was an extremely rare occurrence before this con. I’m really amped to start editing.
The Staff: And with this I’m talking about Hotel Staff, Registration, Guest Relations, and 3rd floor Volunteers. Everyone was extremely nice. Registration was swift and orderly, expertise was everywhere, and the mood was always positive. When wrenches got thrown into the system, or someone else needed to be reached, even if circumstances weren’t the best, I was re-routed appropriately, and to the correct space, on more than one occasion. My interviews went off without a hitch, in their proper location, and things were laid out well in advance. As a graphic and media outlet for the con, I experienced no problems at all gaining access to panels, main events, and other places where recording was necessary. Issues got solved relatively quickly, and that in itself was greatly appreciated.
The Dealer’s Room: Laaaaaawd this was the best con all year for Evangelion figures I swear!! There was so much variety and I spent reasonably (even if it was a new con record) while getting everything I wanted! I actually ended up being a little bit sad that I didn’t spend more, because there was plenty of excess merch available! I usually bias my review of the dealer’s room based on the amount of Eva stock available, so I can’t comment too much about booth variety, other than the fact that Cosmic Crown gets huge props for holding it down like always in the apparel department. I think these days, most people go in the dealer’s room with an idea of what they want already, and if they don’t find that item, they get pretty disappointed. So in my view, I got everything I came for, and a bit more!
The People: This almost seems like a given, but one of the reasons I have been consistently attending AMA despite it being a smaller, more family oriented con has been the fact that it is great for bonding with old and new friends, and is an excellent place to relax (to get lit if you catch that subtle undertone). Group outings were always fun and adventurous, and eating out with folks was the best. I was a bit spoiled this convention by a select few wonderful people, but nevertheless, even when taking photos I had a wonderful experience. The ‘homely’ aspect of this convention always impresses and there was no negativity on my end to disrupt that perception.
The Interviews: I’ve been doing musical artist interviews for AMA for a few years now, and this was the best year yet. Big thanks to my assistant Bruce, they went off without a hitch, even when being told that for one of them, video recording was not an option. I had an amazing time, and there were some future photography opportunities generated during them that have me super excited. With the pleasant guest list, it became an awesome time simply relaxing outside the interviews with them, and getting an inside look into their lives. Make no mistake, this was a really huge part of my con experience, and I’m glad to have been able to conduct the interviews so smoothly.
The Challenge: This one goes hand in hand with photography, but given the constant threat of rain and the few locations available, I didn’t have any time at all to scout out the location beforehand, but I had shoots to complete, so I quickly had to make decisions where each would take place. So as a photographer, it definitely tested one of my principles, which is “No matter what the lighting looks like, make use of the space you have.” Situations are rarely ideal for photography whether studio or natural light, so a completely new venue with undiscovered wonders was a great way to truly showcase that principle, and overall, I feel that I was greatly successful.
The Raves: Friday was the bomb, and it was so fun overall. Met some new people, danced until I could dance no more, and there were some pretty awesome dancers both on the floor and on stage. Forged friendships in the fires of sweat and rapid, stylish movements. Greatness. Saturday may have been for the most part a bust (aside from Que) but staff members were getting down and enjoying themselves, there was available water on hand (kudos kudos), and I went with someone who made the night worthwhile regardless of how hype it was. The aftermath was me completely wearing the soles out of my shoes, and that means I had a great time.
In the end, this con was great for me. The drama started getting close to the friends around me, but I missed it entirely. I did not get sick at all, staff for the most part was kind, and despite the lack of photo locations, a great photographer will make great images with whatever they have on hand, wherever they happen to be. So for next year, while I can’t recommend staying at the Waterside Marriott, I can say that I will be returning to AMA 2018. 8.6/10, let’s do it again.