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A Noob Visits AFA X for the First Time
By Alvin Soon - on 15 Nov 2010, 2:09pm

So, Anime Festival Asia 2010, a.k.a. AFA X, came and went over the weekend. I'd never been to one before, and I'll have to admit that my anime watching days ended after I left my teens. But even though I only have a passing interest in anime, I do have a deep love for photography, so I decided to attend the Canon photography workshops over the two days, and see what the convention was all about at the same time.

Canon Photography Workshops at AFA X

On day one, Alvin Chua from Alafista talked about figurine photography, and he shared some tips on how to snap great figurine photos, like how to shape the lighting and focus on details. And most of all, how the secret to taking a great photograph is to have each shot tell a story.

But how do you do that? He encouraged the audience to experiment, use interesting backgrounds, dioramas, to mix and match different parts, depict different moods in their shots and to try shooting their figurines outdoors (for the last tip he added to try carrying your figurine everywhere! you never know when a good shot might happen).

The only figurine I have left are two USS Enterprise Federation ships (wrong convention!) but I couldn't really see myself carrying them around on my Orchard Road jaunts. Still, it was a good session.

On day two, Chee Sin a.k.a. ValeFor Ho talked about cosplay photography. Like Alvin, ValeFor talked about shaping the light, and they both use serious gear like reflectors and external lights for their shoots (the results bear out, ValeFor showed some very cool shots in challenging natural light conditions like direct harsh sunlight and near night). Flash photography is my weakness, so this was the talk for me and I enjoyed his session quite a bit.

Sights Seen around AFA X

Since I had some time, I decided to wander around the exhibition halls after the two talks. And man, was there a lot to see! I'd seen photos from the previous AFA conventions before from our sister site GameAxis.com, but it was nothing like being there myself. I gotta say 'respect' to the cosplayers who went - some of them clearly spent a lot of time and put a lot of heart into their elaborate costumes.

That is one long dress!

Not everyday you have a big...whatever he is...going up the escalators in Suntec City.

AFA X was a photographer's treat. There were so many colors and textures in the costumes, and the cosplayers gamely posed around for the huge gaggle of photographers that crowded around them.

There were even a couple of Star Wars cosplayers walking around - something I think one of my editors could really get into...but hey guys, Star Trek anyone? Maybe next year?

There was a maid cafe and even a butler cafe round the back if you needed to catch a breather and get some drinks and food, but the queues were crazy long on both days. The girls were gamely playing the part, posing for photos Japanese schoolgirl-esque doing the cute hand signs held up to faces thing, and serving food in Japanese.

It wasn't all about anime though, there was also tech from Japan on display as part of the Cool Japan Experience zone. Toyota's Winglet was on show, it looked like a smaller, more mobile, and certainly more colorful version of a Segway. Wouldn't mind having one in the office!

Canon mascots were also walking around with a Canon PowerShot S95 and a Selphy portable printer, with which you could have your photo taken with and printed out on. But if you wanted larger print-outs, there was also a Canon photography booth with some backdrops and A4 inkjet printers on hand next to the stage.

There was a 3D booth with Panasonic 3D cameras and a couple of 3D TVs for people to try the 3D experience. If you were game and in costume you could even be the stars of your own 3D movie.

If appearing in 3D wasn't your thing, the Brother booth had a karoke machine and the Animax booth had an anime dubbing studio.

Best of all, AFA wasn't just for the anime or tech-lovers, kids really seemed to enjoy themselves too, posing for photographs with the cosplayers outside and inside the convention halls.

All in all, it was a pretty good experience. I found the AFA crowd to be mostly positive, and the cosplayers friendly and sporting. Don't know how they do it though, I saw some of them posing for 15 to 20 minutes straight. I was only holding a camera and already I felt dog-tired after a half-day of shooting (sorta like the guy in the last photograph of this page).

Here are more scenes from what I saw at AFA X, with special thanks to the cosplayers who made it all possible.

Alvin Soon

Alvin Soon / Deputy Editor

I like coffee and cameras, but not together.