Orange County photographer

Superhero for a Day // WonderCon 2013

I was 8 years old. Wearing my Strawberry Shortcake plastic apron and hot-as-heck mask with the elastic bands and barely-there mouth hole (children of the 70s/80s... you KNOW what I'm talking about), but I wasn't simply wearing a costume. I WAS Strawberry Shortcake. For a few short hours on Halloween night, my pretend world became real, and I was her. It was the ultimate expression of what I loved and who I really wanted to be. As I grew older, and it became less acceptable to play in the pretend world, my toys and dolls were regulated to their shelves. Stuffed animals stayed on my bed a bit longer, but even they eventually got put away. I still decorated my notebooks with Hello Kitty stickers (because that form of expression was still "okay"), but most of the land of make-believe got left behind.

But I still looked forward to Halloween each year, because only then could I dress up and PLAY like I used to when I was a kid.

Till now...

Last weekend I took a trip to the Anaheim Convention Center, although for all intents and purposes I might as well have been on another planet.

Surrounded my space aliens, superheroes and cartoon characters alike, it was definitely a geek's paradise. And I loved every moment of it.

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Welcome to WonderCon. For those of you who haven't ever heard of WonderCon before, don't worry. You're not alone.

WonderCon is like the kid sister of Comic-Con (which is the mother-ship of all geekdom). Here's the scoop: Comic-Con is a 4-day spectacle of everything comic, cartoon and pop-culture, including panels of actor interviews, sneak peeks at upcoming movies and tv shows, and a humongous tradeshow. But tickets are known to sell out within 15 minutes (no joke), so not everyone gets to play. So the people who operate Comic-Con did something pretty brilliant... offer smaller versions of the event at various locations throughout different times of the year.

Enter WonderCon. Now in it's second year at the Anaheim Convention Center, there are talks of making this a permanent annual event. (woohoo!) Yes, the tradeshow is nice, and some of the panels are pretty spectacular (Joss Whedon was there this year), but my favorite part of it all are the costumes!

It's like Halloween. On crack.

No, you don't have to dress up, but it's definitely encouraged. And applauded. The world of cosplay is pretty amazing like that.

So, this is me. As a steampunk version of Iron Man. (Costume designed by my husband and created by my mother-in-law. Yeah... they kinda rock like that.)

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My husband (Tony) also got into the fun, dressed as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. (Most of this costume was also created from scratch by his mother.)

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And then... we PLAYED. Tony and I met up with friends of ours (also in Marvel-universe steampunk costumes) and simply wandered the lobby area, enjoying the spectacle. (And many, many thanks to Tony, for tag-teaming the camera with me... to ensure that I actually ended up IN some photos for a change...ha!)

(Deadpool, Iron Man, Lady Deathstrike, another Deadpool and Wolverine)

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(And Jack Sparrow, of course...)

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There were plenty of pirates to go around.

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And I found other members of my Avengers team... and nemesis Loki, as well.

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There were also lots of other people there in Iron Man costumes, as well. WonderCon2013 73.jpg

But none as cute as THIS kid, dressed as Tony Stark!

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I headed back outside just in time to capture this fantastic photo-op... sooooo many costumed characters from the DC Universe posing all together. The rows of photographers lined up to get these shots were 10 people deep, so rather than wait behind them all for a glance at the scene, I wedged into the sidelines and shot from where I was.

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But I got lucky. The person running the show spotted me in costume with my camera, and waved me over to the FRONT  of the group of photographers, and gave me a dead-center position!!! Which is how I got this shot below, as well as the first one in this blog post.

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Words cannot express how much FUN this day was. So I'll let my photos do the talking for a bit...

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Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible and a person from the Bad Horse Chorus (Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog)

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Plenty of players from the Star Wars universe

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Cosplayers from the Batman world

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Misc. others

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And, of course, lots of Disney characters. How CUTE is this father/daughter dressed as Wreck-It-Ralph and Penelope Von Schweetz???

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And a few personal favorites of mine... My Little Pony characters.

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Wolverine and Wolverine. Too, too adorable!!!

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Note to parents: this is a kid-friendly place, and makes for fantastic entertainment at a low-low cost. Meaning, it's FREE. While tickets to actually get into the tradeshow and panel area do cost a little bit (and are known to sell out ahead of time, as I learned the hard way), the front and lobby area of the Anaheim Convention Center are open to the public for free. And this is where the people in costume spend most of their time.

I highly recommend putting this on your radar for next year. I know I'll be there... dressed and ready to PLAY.


Click here to see even MORE pictures from the day.

sneak peek: Hannah

Sometimes it's fun to just get in front of a camera and PLAY. Archery Portrait from The Suitcase Studio

LOVE what you see?  Share the love by simply leaving a comment below. If this blog post receives 25+ comments, Hannah will receive an 8x10 print of her choice.

And if you think you'd like to PLAY with a photo session of your own, be sure to sign up for my newsletter (just click the red tab to the left). I've got something incredibly FUN coming up in 2013, and would love for you to be a part of it when the announcement is made.

eating my way through Old Town Orange

I love discovering local treasures while playing "tourist" within my own town. Having lived in Orange County my whole life, it's a humbling experience to realize that I've driven past some amazing places thousands of time, but have never really SEEN them before. And I'm glad that my eyes are finally being opened, little by little. This past weekend, I got the chance to explore some hidden gems of the Orange Circle as a few friends and I participated in a walking food tour of Old Town Orange. Just so I wouldn't get caught up in "work" mode while hanging out with my besties, I left my good camera at home. But I couldn't resist whipping out my iPhone camera to capture a few highlights as we went along.

Here we go...

First up, I just have to say... I LOVE the Orange Circle. The textures and lines of the buildings are amazing... but I'm glad that I finally got the chance to go a little deeper into the heart of the city.

We met inside of the old Wells Fargo building (which I learned is one of the oldest buildings in Orange County). Just look at the beautiful ceiling.

Jen and I, about to get our grub on...

We began with empanadas and plaintains at Felix Continental Cafe. And having skipped breakfast that morning (oops), I couldn't have been happier. My husband being Colombian, I am definitely partial to this food, and it did NOT disappoint. (Side note: I also highly recommend their Cuban sandwich. Your stomach will make yummy noises.)

Then a quick stop into The Enchanted Florist, where the owner (Kate) presented each of us with a gorgeous long-stemmed rose. I have to say, I was very impressed with this place... and Kate. This wasn't just another flower shop. It is definitely unique, as EVERYTHING is custom made. There are no floral arrangements sitting on the shelf just waiting to be brought home or sent to someone. When you call or come in to place an order, the floral arrangement is created from scratch right then and there. It's pretty magical.

Next up was Paris in a Cup... tea salon, market & boutique. It was the most adorable thing I've ever seen. I wish I had pictures of the super-cute tea salon to share, but it was closed for private parties. Instead, we sipped on tea and slurped some baked potato soup, then wandered around their market area inside.

We then crossed the street to Francoli Gourmet... Authentic Northern Italian Cuisine & Specialty Giftstore. I will definitely be coming back. Not only was the food delicious, but the place itself was beautiful, and I felt completely taken care of by Luis, the manager. He is onsite 6 days a week, and says he has a knack for remembering faces and favorite foods ordered. He believes that food is to be enjoyed, and that a good meal should last at least an hour to an hour and a half. (No power-lunches here, people.) And I LOVE how community-minded this restaurant is... all artwork in the restaurant is by a local artist who actually has her studio around the corner. We were thrilled when she actually popped into the restaurant for a minute and we were able to meet her in person!

Next it was off to Watson's Drug & Soda Fountain, which has been an establishment in Orange since 1899. Did you know that it used to be illegal to sell soda water on Sundays? As an alternative on Sunday's, Watson's started selling ice cream sodas minus the soda... which led to what we now know as the traditional ice cream sundae! (You can read even more cool facts here on their site.) While at Watson's, we were treated to some of their famous rice pudding.

We made a quick stop-off in the middle of the Orange Circle, where we learned that the original fountain that used to be here is now resting at the Orange Library & Historic Center. We were also told about how the Orange Circle gets dressed up for Christmas each year, and inevitably... the Baby Jesus gets stolen. So, it's a good thing they happen to keep a couple "spares" on hand. Ha!

Then we were off to The Bruery to enjoy some beer & cheese. I'm not much of a beer person, myself, which was why I was totally surprised to be enjoying our little sampling. I swear it smelled like citrus and was all kinds of yummy.

Next we popped into The Bite Market, a gluten-free and dairy free community grocery store. Bridget, the owner, told us how she has started this market out of necessity... her had been having medical problems where his lungs were filling with fluid and the doctors couldn't figure out why. This issue was ongoing for several months. After visiting with a holistic health provider, she was told that her son was allergic to gluten. And after removing gluten from his diet, his lungs cleared up within 3 DAYS! Wow, pretty amazing, huh? Bridget promotes local products in her store, and we were able to sample one of her gluten & dairy free cookies.

Next up was the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Yum! We were treated to a bite of their "avalanche bar" which contained all kinds of rice krispie and peanut butter goodness.

The next stop was the Orange Candy Co. And this was like a blast from the past... all kinds of candies and characters from my childhood surrounded me.  We all sampled a piece of ZOTS candy, laughing at each others' expressions as the candy started to fizz in our mouths.

We next headed to the Citrus City Grille, where we were treated to french onion soup and their delicious rosemary bread.

Our last stop on the tour was at Cafe Lucca for some gelatto. Because everyone needs to finish with dessert, right? And how sweet it was... I sampled their chocolate-covered banana flavor and was in heaven.

It's a good thing we ended our tour at this time, because we were all stuffed!

If you're looking for something a bit different to do, and want a taste of local flavor, I highly recommend taking this food tour yourself. And if you get Linda as your guide, be sure to tell her I said "HI."