SDCC 2013 – Preparation

I’ve been to conventions before, and not just as a visitor, but have never been abroad specifically for a convention. Up to this point I’ve never even been to North America either so when the opportunity arose to go to San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) it’s a chance I couldn’t pass up. As I some friends that would be in America for several months anyway it seemed like a good chance to meet up with them for a few days as well so started formulating a plan and decided that I’d fly out for two days of SDCC and then have one day to look around San Diego.

San Diego Comic Con International logoThe problem though was that it wasn’t guaranteed we’d be able to get tickets. For SDCC the tickets go on sale months before the actual event, but before this you have to pre-register so that you’ll be sent a link to where you can try and get tickets closer to the time. On the day of registration we each opened up a browser window and waited for the ticket sales to be opened. Of the three of us only one was able to get through to the ticket sales page even though we’d all tried visiting the page within seconds of it going live.

Fortunately one of the group being able to access the page is all it takes – this was enough for tickets to be booked and our attendance to SDCC being guaranteed. It was a bit touch and go to start with though as the page failed to load once for the one that got through to the queue – fortunately due to his web development knowledge he was able to rejoin his place in the queue and continue the wait.

Once we had confirmation we made the mistake of waiting quite a few months before booking a hotel; fortunately after some extensive searching we did find a suitable hostel not far from the convention centre so once again we were quite lucky.

Beyond this though, there was no real preparation for going to SDCC. I had viewed a few blogs about people’s experiences and got the general impression that panels are very busy and would require a lot of queuing. It also sounded like there was very little chance of getting a Boba Fett from the Hasbro stand.

All I could do now was wait, and hope for the best.

In the last few weeks before the event I started to think about what camera gear I’d need to take with me – the plan was I’d take anything I could possibly need with the plan of storing away at the hostel anything not needed for Comic Con. As I’d got a day to look around San Diego I figured I would need my large lens and flash just to be on the safe side.

Camera Equipment and Gadgets

Camera Equipment and Gadgets

Packing List

  • Padlock (for backpack)
  • iPad
  • Card reader (for photo backups)
  • Canon Speedlite 580EX
  • Lenspen
  • Air blower for removing dust
  • Lens cloth
  • Canon EOS 5D mk3
  • Canon 28-135mm lens
  • Sigma 150-500mm lens
  • Charger for iPhone and iPad
  • Earphones
  • USB Camera adapter for iPad
  • iPod Shuffle
  • Audio adapter for airplane
  • Compact Flash
  • Camera batteries
  • Passport
  • Foreign currency

Since taking the photo I’ve since decided I don’t need to take a remote release with me and a couple of the other bits. The reason for taking so many batteries is that I don’t want to take my charger, and I have no idea how many photos I will be taking and will probably leave my camera switched on most of the time. I’ve also decided since then to not take the Gorillapod – I can’t see me using it.


King Richard III

Whilst I was away in East Africa the University of Leicester (which is the University I went to and is located in my hometown) announced that the skeleton they had unearthed in one of their trenches sunk into the car park at Greyfriars in Leicester was indeed that of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. This was determined by comparing the mitochondrial DNA to a descendant of Anne of York, Richard’s sister.

The Guild Hall

Within weeks of this announcement they set up an exhibition in the Guild Hall of Leicester with plans to have him buried in the cathedral, St. Martin’s Cathedral Church of Leicester, which is situated just next door. Around the time that the extensive DNA testing was taking place to confirm the identity of the body they also took a 3D scan of the print and did two things – they first produced a 3D print-out of the skull and then employed an expert in facial reconstruction to estimate what the person would have looked like by adding muscles, fat, and eventually skin-like structures to the skull into it resembled a person.

King Richard III of England

This facial reconstruction was also made part of the exhibition and was still on display months later when I finally got chance to visit.

The Guild Hall opens at 10:00 during school holidays so figured it would be a good idea to get there early in case there were queues. Fortunately we were the first in the line and didn’t have to wait too long.

The exhibition is quite short, and the very first thing you see is the facial reconstruction of the fallen King (other than a couple of informational boards). Though a couple of days after we visited it was due to be leaving on a tour of the country, starting with Bosworth Battlefield – the place where this King fell at the end of the War of the Roses.

3D printed replica of Richard III’s skull

For those not familiar with Richard Plantagenet’s history, he was short-lived in the role of King after the death of his brother Edward IV. Rather than Edward’s 12-year old son take the throne this was taken away by the former King’s marriage being declared invalid, therefore making what would have been Edward V illegitimate. This then ties in with the stories of the Tower of London’s Prince’s Tower where it is rumoured his nephews were murdered.

During the rebellion that followed he went to battle with Henry Tudor (who later became King and the first of the Tudor dynasty) and was later killed in Bosworth – the last King to die in battle, and one of the few to do so in England.

During the battle some of his skull was sliced away along with other wounds, both of which could be seen on the skeleton found under Greyfriars. After his death his hands were bound and carried to Greyfriars where he was buried without ceremony, and based on the evidence appears to have just been thrown into a hole in the ground without any recognition – the reason his remains were lost for so long.

14th Century Leather Knife Sheath

Pewter Paten and Yew Pin

Alabaster sculpture in painted oak case

Spectacle buckle, ring, ring, Richard III groat

Cup, Tyg and Hawthorne comb

Greyfriars Stonework

Leicester Automation Clock

Once we’d finished looking around the exhibition and reading about the excavation via the interactive display of the King’s bones, we moved on to look around the rest of the Guild Hall as despite living in Leicester I’ve never actually looked around it.

Across the courtyard is the entrance to a chamber and the Great Hall. At the time we were there is was filled with chairs as apparently the Guildhall was going to be used for a wedding that day.

From the Great Hall we took the stairs from the rear up to where there was a bedroom and then another room with old chests and other old furniture. It reminded me a little of the other Guildhall I’d seen before in Coventry.

The Great Hall, Leicester Guildhall

Next to this is then a library with a relatively small number of books – I’m sure I’ve got more books than them at home, but none as old as these. From there it is then a short staircase back down into the courtyard. We walked from there through the next archway into the cells. There were a few cells that you could look in, and also a torture device known as a Gibbet.

Leicester Guildhall

There isn’t really that much to see in the cells so we wandered back out into the courtyard and had a look at some of the pieces they have there. On one of the exterior walls is a massive clock known as the “Leicester Automation Clock”. It is a replica built from parts of the original and extensive notes that were available describing the original. There is also an old water fountain dating from around 1922 which is sculpted to look like Æthelflæd (Ethelfleda), the daughter of Alfred the Great and defender of Mercia. In 918AD, Æthelflæd had repelled the Danes from Leicester, hence her importance here.

In memory of Richard III

It was then time to go over to the St. Martin’s Cathedral Church. A few years previous the King Richard III society had paid for a memorial slab to be placed near the altar in the cathedral, one which describes his final resting place as being nearby in the Greyfriars church.

This was the first time I’d been in Leicester’s cathedral as well – surprising considering how many I’d visited to photograph. This one is a little unusual as far as cathedrals go, and that is because it was built as a church and later became a cathedral. It also has no pews for people to sit at.

As part of the King Richard III they have a person standing at the memorial stone who will talk about the King to anyone who wants to listen.

St. Martin’s Cathedral Church, Leicester

We didn’t stay there long though as we knew that there would be a talk at the dig site every half hour, on the half hour. So we left the cathedral behind us, taking a few exterior photographs as we went and walked over the road to New Street. From the outside you’d never be able to tell that behind the green gates was the burial place of a King. As Leicester City Council will be expanding the King Richard III exhibition to include the burial site at Greyfriars they have left a tent over the part of the carpark where the open trench from the archaeological excavation remains open.

Tent over trench 1

The first trench they dug just happens to have been the area where they found the bones of King Richard III and will soon have more permanent protection rather than just the tent. It seems the rest of the car park will remain used by the Council as the other two trenches where they uncovered parts of the Greyfriars building have now been filled in and parking spaces painted back in.

The Grave of a King

This then brought our tour of King Richard III sites to an end at the same spot the King was once buried. It is expected that the final resting place of the controversial Richard Plantagenet will eventually be inside the cathedral in Leicester.