Ursula & The Mermaid | Montreal Comic-Con

Welcome back!

You may recognize the lovely Jessica Harkonnen as the wonderful Queen Ravenna from the Snow White and the Huntsman series… I had taken photos of her the year or so prior. It’s very cool to see how far you progress as a photographer as these photos were very well received. It was a very stressful photo shoot due to working with a new venue (for me) and handling a much larger costume than I expected.

Jessica had broken down her experience of what it’s like to do a “Hell build” (a costume of 100+ hours in less than a month) and how it was executed via Facebook. It was a great idea to show people of different skill and experience what it takes to do something like that.

A few friends, myself included, volunteered to help Jessica get into her costume while simultaneously trying not to ruin it, which was probably the part that caused me the most anxiety at that point. I should be clear and say that I had never been to MCC before, as everyone involved had been made aware of this fact ahead of time. I tried to scout photoshoot locations the day prior but was still trying to grasp my bearings even by the Saturday morning (the Palais de Congres is huge and the upper levels can be a bit labyrinthine when you’re unfamiliar).

I had to stop helping Jess get ready partway through since I had to give a panel with Lexa Lefay and OS Cosplay, but by the time we were finished our panel she and Peekaboo Cosplay were pretty much ready to go. On the advice of those present who had attended the convention before I went to check out a certain area as a possible shoot location… which I did, and I wasn’t overall a huge fan of the spot. I came back to the Cosplay Lounge. I was then asked to go look again, and that’s when I came across a friend of mine who I was able to ask for the inside scoop on good photo locations. He said: “I have the perfect place!” and knew how to get there, but I failed to ask exactly on which floor it was.  You see, we knew her costume was huge, but we didn’t quite have a grasp on how mobile she would be once she got into it. So, when my friend informed us we had to go down a floor for the location, a troop of 4 of us guided Jess down the stairs (which took 20 minutes). It was quite a fiasco, but con-goers were generally very nice and patient with us.

We finally got off the staircase and Jess asked where to next. I looked at my friend and he said, “It’s downstairs”. I remember thinking “fuuuuuuck” in my head (excuse the language), and Jess said “no.” instantly, and I totally shared that sentiment. Strike 1. We decided we’d have to find somewhere on that floor to shoot, and her handler suggested making use of some of the glass walls. We were out of the way, but the costumes still gained a lot of attention. I had to be strategic about how much or how often I moved her (Peekaboo was a bit more mobile). I should also mention at this point that not only was I dealing with the stress of the fragile and large costume and the guilt for not being clearer about the ideal shoot location, I was also doing my best to take good photos while a sea of people clamoring to take their own photos of Ursula and The Mermaid built up behind and around us.

By this point, some of her costume had torn (the friction against the carpet and stairs was bad for the tentacles), so we moved things around to hide those spots. While we were getting her settled into a new pose, I was frantically trying to help by adjusting her costume.  She looked down at me and firmly told me to stop and wait. Strike 2. I was shaking.

At this point in time I only knew three things:

  1. After this great friendship we’d built up in the months before, it was official that she now hated me.
  2. No cosplayer would want to have me shoot with them again.
  3. This disaster – the chaos, the miscommunications, the frustration – was a sign that I should just stop doing photography altogether.

In that moment, nothing could have convinced me otherwise, and my hands were shaking as I lined up shot after shot, thinking to myself that this shoot would be my last.

We spent a good amount of time in our spot, taking photos as waves of people continued to surge around me. I was thankful that my models were very attentive and professional; they made sure to keep their eyes on me. All the folks around me with big professional camera equipment was extremely intimidating, but I just stayed on target. We did our thing, and once everyone had enough we moved Jessica and Peekaboo along to a larger, more open area where I helped their handler set them up for hallway shots. I stayed for a while to help their handler out and then eventually left them there.

I started to calm down when I attended the Mass Effect Andromeda panel and gave myself some time to sit and breathe, but I was still very stressed out about the results. I know my Queen Ravenna photos weren’t the best, so I was worried that all of this was going to be for nothing if they hated the photos. We’re our own worst critics, and I try not to over-think a situation, buuuuuut I’m human, and so of course I did.

As a reward for a “job well done” a few of us decided to get together late that night for a hotel drink and Jess was eager to see my raw images (which terrifies me). To my revelation, she was thrilled with them, so that instantly was a huge relief. There were certainly some learning curves in this experience, but it also gave me a new-found level of respect for what I, and other photographers, do and why we keep doing it.  Overall I REALLY enjoyed the convention, as it was very enjoyable and it was so nice to see my con-friends. 🙂


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