Gatecon 2008, Vancouver, Stargate Convention

In early December of 2007, Paul Brown of Legends Memorabilia invited me to be a guest at Gatecon 2008, a sci-fi convention for Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis fans.

Sea Shepherd with Richard Dean Anderson
Can you spot the poseur? Hint: it's me.

I was introduced to Paul by Kim McCoy, International Executive Director of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Gatecon 2008 was to be very special this year because Richard Dean Anderson (RDA) would be in attendance for the first time in Stargate convention history. "Rick" (as he likes to be called) is on Sea Shepherd's board of directors, and through RDA and Legends, Gatecon 2008 was set up as a benefit event for Sea Shepherd.

Stargate SG-1 is my father's favorite show, and he has been talking about it for over a decade. But even though I had heard about the TV show for years, I had never actually seen an episode of SG-1 nor Atlantis prior to my involvement in Gatecon. In the last 8 months, I made it a mission to watch as many episodes as possible to prepare for Gatecon. I loaded up on DVDs before each trip abroad and spent evenings on boats winding down by watching an episode or two. I'm proud to say that I made it through 8.5 seasons of SG-1 (about 175 episodes) in 8 months! I'm now thoroughly invested in the characters, and am sure to finish up the 10 seasons of SG-1 before starting to make my way through Atlantis and the SG-1 movies.

This year's Gatecon was dedicated to the memory of Don S. Davis. I never met Don, but I enjoyed his character a lot. His wife was present at the show to accept the support of Don's fans, who applauded for minutes as she stood on stage overwhelmed with emotion (as was everyone).

The Gatecon website lists the following guests who made it to Gatecon 2008:

> ... joining us at Gatecon 08 will be Andee Frizzell (Wraith Queen: Stargate Atlantis), Cliff Simon (Baal), Corin Nemec (Jonas Quinn), Dan Payne (Kull Warrior: Stargate Sg-1 and Uber Wraith: Stargate Atlantis), Alex Zahara (many, many roles on Stargate), Gary Jones (Walter Harriman) and a special Guest of Gary's, Dean Haglund.

> Our very special guest for Gatecon CA is of course Richard Dean Anderson. Richard will be attending the convention for the full weekend of activities and will be a part of a very special day dedicated to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). Also joining us from SSCS will be Capt. Paul Watson.

In addition, Amanda Tapping showed up for the final presentation on stage, which made the crowd go crazy. She's a huge draw, and I hear that the U.K. organization that organizes some of the Stargate events internationally is actually called something like "Bring Back Amanda" (I know that's wrong, but it's something similar).

One side of the Legends room was filled with ocean booths including Sea Shepherd, Wetpixel Quarterly, Eric Cheng Photography, Shark Angels, and Sharkwater. Adam Lau, Kim McCoy and I worked the WPQ / Eric Cheng / Shark Angels booth for most of the show and were unable to get out to see what else was going on.

our booth @ gatecon

The 3.5 days of Gatecon 2008 featured stage sessions with RDA and Stargate actors, a Sea Shepherd talk by Captain Watson and RDA, a panel discussion with Kim and me, numerous portrait and signing sessions, a benefit auction for SSCS, and a wrap party for Gatecon staff and volunteers.

RDA and Captain Paul Watson on stage

Gatecon was utterly exhausting! I had never been to a sci-fi convention before, and was pleased to find that the people I met were some of the nicest and most sincere folks I have ever encountered. Everyone, including the coordinators, staff, guests, and attendees were really great to hang out with.

With 20 minutes notice, Kim and I were invited up onto the stage for an hour-long panel discussion about underwater photography and ocean conservation (we walked out through the Stargate -- I wish my dad had been there to see it ;). About 100 people showed up for our talk (it's hard to compete with an RDA signing session), and it was both engaging and fun. I'm really glad the red shirts / volunteers were there; it seemed that 95% of the questions came from them!

Paul Watson and some Sea Shepherd staff

I was really fortunate to have Adam Lau with me; Adam spent most of his time at Gatecon helping to sell my underwater photography prints and taking pictures of just about everything that happened around us. I am used to being the guy behind the camera, but after a few days, I became totally accustomed to Adam's lens in my face (thankfully, he was as discrete as he could be). It often takes 1000 shutter actuations to get 50 keepers, and I was happy to see Adam charge forward and plant himself in the best position possible for photos during the benefit auction.

Adam Lau and Eric Cheng

Speaking of the auction, the SSCS fundraiser was absolutely insane. I saw photos from prior Gatecon benefit auctions that involved bare butts and lipstick; this year's auction was relatively tame in comparison. Still, there was some bidding craziness. Autographed SSCS hats went for hundreds of dollars, a SSCS flag for nearly $6,000, and RDA cartoon doodles for upwards of $2,000. The crew t-shirt off of Kim McCoy's back went for $1,000, and one of my RDA/Watson/Cheng-autographed clownfish prints went for $700. In total, Gatecon participants raised over $65,000 for Sea Shepherd.

Richard Dean Anderson, Alex Zahara, Dan Payne, and Garim Sanford auction off a Sea Shepherd hat (signed by Richard Dean Anderson)

Our booths were swarmed with people every time a signing or portrait session ended, and I sold a ton of baby animal prints. It turns out that people like babies, and next time I won't bring any prints of open-mouthed sharks or abstract underwater art. Nearly everyone who stopped at the booth seemed to be genuinely interested in marine life and ocean conservation (and babies), and many expressed that their eyes had been opened for the first time to the threats facing the ocean (and their babies), which in itself was reward enough for coming to the convention.

Kim McCoy, me, Paul Watson, an Asgard, and Linda, the Asgard's keeper

I was pleased to only have two confrontations with what I like to call "challengers." Every once in awhile, someone walks up already having decided that they don't like me. I can see it in their eyes before they even arrive.

Challengers typically do one of two things:

1. Say derogatory things about my work, presumably because they feel like they can produce better images themselves. This year, one woman walked up and implied that I must have inserted things into my images because they looked "fake." After the initial confrontation, she walked by the booth numerous times, expressing silent disapproval each time. But she bought a print, so my work can't have been *that* bad.

2. Give me unending, unsolicited advice about where to go to see cool stuff in the ocean. Apparently, I am supposed to go to Saba because it is the "last [and best] reef in the Caribbean after the hurricane." Kim offered to write down all of the advice for me, but I told her that I probably wasn't necessary. Fake Challenger and Saba Challenger ended up being friends, and I saw them hanging out together on the last day.

Only two challengers out of hundreds of visitors? I like that ratio. :)

signing prints at our booth

I met tons of people during my time in Vancouver. In addition to getting to know Captain Paul Watson and the rest of the Sea Shepherd staff and volunteers (Kim McCoy, Jonny Vasic, Kristine Vasic, Alex Earl, Amy Baird, Paula Kenworthy, Phyllis Clem, Tiffany Spendiff, Heather Callin, Danielle Olivas, Sam Wheeler, Tod Emko, Kylie Herd), I enjoyed spending time with Adam Lau (intern extraordinaire), the Brown family (Paul, Angie, Julie, Jackie), Simon Ager (VFX team), the Iannone family (Michael, Kacy, and Madison), and the numerous people who stopped by to chat at our booth. From the Stargate cast and crew, I met Richard Dean Anderson, Gary Jones, Garwin Sanford, Peter Williams, Barry Campbell (Arctic Submarine Laboratory), Bruce Woloshyn (VFX), and Simon Ager.

I was up on stage with the rest of the guests during the auction, but I didn't actually get to talk to any of them.

I hope I didn't leave anyone out -- everyone was so welcoming and open to our message from the oceans. Thank you for a wonderful experience at my first Gatecon!

My breaching white shark print, signed by Peter Williams ("Apophis"), Gary Jones ("Walter Harriman"), Kim McCoy, Garwin Sanford ("Narim"), Bruce Woloshyn (VFX), Richard Dean Anderson (the man, the myth), Simon Ager (VFX), Eric Cheng (me!), Paul Brown (Legends), Captain Paul Watson

Glub, glub, indeed!


Adam Lau and I took hundreds of photos while were at Gatecon. To see/purchase the full inventory of prints, please use the following links. All print proceeds benefit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Special thanks to Pictopia for the tremendous discount they provided in producing our SSCS fundraising prints!

- Gatecon 2008 Photos by Eric Cheng - Gatecon 2008 Photos by Adam Lau

Adam took two images of me that were particularly inspired by photojournalistic genius. They make me look like a celebrity. [eric 1] [eric 2]

If you missed your chance to purchase one of my prints at Gatecon, you can still get them online. Underwater print sales (not for benefit of SSCS):

- Eric Cheng Photography Prints