San Diego, California

Darryl Pamplin's Photos

Fabricator Djinn and Spifzaya: The Road to Blizzcon

So what does it all look like? That moment when someone has a big project near completion and they're stuck in their workshop trying to finish, clean, and also test fit their work? In this instance I was able to get a look at what Fabricator Djinn and Spifzaya had been working on for Blizzcon. First off before I get to the questions with Fabricator Djinn, know that I have got to see what his whole project started off as a bit ago. It's pretty interesting to see what limitations one has get overcome with time and the acquisition of the right tools for the job. One day you have different pieces when you stop by to chat and then all of a sudden a full suit is nearly finished as it rests in the workshop. So without much more, let's get to the questions.

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E3 2015: A New Chapter

So to start, I had a blast with E3. I got to make some new friends, see some old, and just experience something far different than my usual event. While this wasn't my first time at an industry event, it was my first time at one directly dealing with video games. So what all did it entail? What did I get to witness? Who are some of these people I met? Well let's get to that after I go about some basic details.

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Another year, Another Fanime

Borderlands - Casey S. as Janey Springs and her friend as Athena

So yet another Fanime passes, and yet again I meet some cool new people and go to have a lot of fun. San Jose gets a sudden influx of anime fans(and then some) who sort of just roll over the downtown area like the morning fog. So what was this year like? What was there to see? And what did I actually do? Well let's get to that after a bit of the negatives out the way first.

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Prop Day

So what's really great about working with creative people is that it opens up a lot of new paths. You might meet new people, might learn new ways to do things, or can just unwind and talk about similar interests. My good friend Fabricator Djinn has been a bastion for such situations. He has been hosting almost every month a prop day. What does it end up being? All I said before. Some of the prop makers and cosplayers you might look up to and know as household names who are around southern California might be there as well as people looking to break into making things. It's a nice way to spend a day, get some work done, and catch up with people.

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WonderCon 2015

Charlie and Ky of Kadanaad Cosplay as Sera and Cole from Dragon Age: Inquisition

Have you ever had a time where you couldn't really figure out what to say about something? Well that's how I've been when it's come to WonderCon as of late. Basically it was an overall smooth experience. Lots to see, lots to do, and lots of people to see. So what makes it worth your time? I don't know, everyone is different but here's a small view.

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Long Beach Comic Expo 2015

Hectec Design and a young fan

So a few weeks back I went to Long Beach Comic Expo, and this is my own weird little take on it. As most of you know from how I carry around at cons, I don't do much of the usual panel hopping and buying stuff. Not to say for once I didn't think about it! But for me there is something more interesting.

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Fanime 2014: Anniversary time

 So Fanime is one of the largest anime conventions on the continent and the one I generally have the most fun at(it also being the event I started doing photos at 2 years ago, so anniversary!). People from all over come ranging from the eastern states, Canada, and I even talked with a Dio Brando from Hong Kong! So it's established and has all sorts of crazy and call things. So here is my experience of it all, but more so about the culture I see that goes along with it.

     So let's start off with general things I noticed at the con. The line management for registration cut back greatly on the time people spent compared to last year, but there ended up being a problem with reg at the Clockwork Alchemy venue so while times were down, people were unable to get their badges there, or at least on day 0. I do know there were problems with the swap meet starting late on Thursday night, and I saw some people waiting in that line for two or three hours, but it did stay open later to compensate for the issue. I also ran into the problem of having dropped my lens hood and the staff at Lost and Found helped greatly with that, even asking questions about what it looked like, any markings on it, and to see that it even fit on my camera before letting me claim it. The other really nice thing this year is since the construction on the convention centre is done, artist alley isn't around the block but just across from the exhibit floor! It was also a decently sized room which is really nice, just wish I had checked it out more since it had a lot to offer compared to other events I go to. Also with the new construct, you have reg on on the bottom in addition, a balcony up top which many used for photos before it was locked down(I assume due to people drinking and such up there, a group of inebriated youth were sitting next to the shoot I did up there Day 0).

     So outside of what most people would generally say about the convention, I'd rather focus on the culture I witness with it. Say you wake up and wander around at most other events, it's really cramped crowded and feels a bit like a rat race to get to this panel or booth on time for a giveaway or signing. Big brands label banners, signs, and the convention guide/badges. Sounds like San Diego Comic Con or Anime Expo, right? Not so much for Fanime. There is a small industry presence, but as my friend Hectec says "It's more homegrown and social." which I entirely agree with. It's easier to approach people who have similar interests because there aren't a million chaotic things and big pushes from companies to do this or that. Also unlike bigger events, you aren't constantly being told to move because of reasons other than breaking fire code.

     So it's kind of euphoric to go to Fanime really. You can easily run into all the people you know and chat or meet entirely new people and do some really amazing things. In my case of being a photographer I got to do a lot of working with new and old people. With things so relaxed you can easily talk about whatever is currently trending, get a shoot in, and a short walk away find something decently priced to eat. Try that at some of the other events and it will just be a chaotic mess seeing as their size leads to bigger venues in bigger or just overall congested cities. The city of San Jose if I were to contrast it with San Diego where I'm currently located is really laid back and it reflects on the how the con is managed a well. People are generally far more willing to work with you, from both staff to attendees. There's not a constant rush to get places and do things, I mean even on the way to shoot locations the people I was working with would get stopped and they would apologize to which I'd just say how it was cool and I wasn't in a rush.

     So without time being a major constraint, people get to do things at a leisurely pace. I got to speak to all sorts of cool people from across the country(and from out of it) who do all sorts of cool things! Meeting everything from Community managers for gaming companies, graphic designers, and independent artists! You never know what will happen in a conversation after you take a picture and hang out. The whole calm atmosphere around the con just makes it possible. Technically I should meet far more creatives at the bigger events, but just because I do doesn't mean I get to know them or can have dinner with them! And that's not just to say that's all you can do. I ended up having some drinks with a good many of my friends too. But I'll save the nightlife bit for a moment. If anything the event's venue choice, majority of their staff, and the welcoming air of the city have culminated into probably one of the easiest events to go to for someone who is new or just used to smaller conventions. It's not so in your face with everything that you will be scared, it has enough new and old blood that you can find where you fit and make a lot of new friends, and also has the perfect size to show that even with a lot of people things don't ave to always be a crowded mess due to pre-planning(even if it's not the most efficient, it can keep everyone from clotting a major area.

     So if anything, let's also talk about the nightlife of the con. Word from average attendees will say it's a debaucherous drunken affair, which it can be just like any con, but it has far more than that. San Jose has quite a few things that go on around the same time as Fanime. Some people will hit whatever the new blockbuster premier is(this year being a new X-Men movie), while some will go to a bar/room party, and then there are also the many who will go to the dances or game room that the con has. The event itself is 24 hours, stopping for nothing short of disaster, and even then they'll try to work around that. People also organize their own little gatherings of sort around the convention centre with like minded groups, so you might see a group of cosplayers sitting around for late night games as if they are the characters from their favourite media. Not everyone chooses to drink, so it's not that parents and younger folks would have to worry about it. Even for most of the people who do drink, they generally keep to hotel rooms and have a good time with their friends, a thing my own usual group does while playing Cards Against Humanity or Werewolf. So this alone shows not everyone has to get wild to have fun at night.

     So is there much more I can say? Sure there is, but you probably have other things to do(especially if you read all of that!). Fanime is the like the family member who tells you about their cool adventures and brings you along, letting you choose your own destiny. Compared to Anime Expo, it's far more about the fan experience than trying to overload you with what major companies wish to push. It's there to give you an alternative, a really good alternative. It brings in people from all over who want to go have fun and be social. Cosplayers, photographers, and all other sorts come and probably think of Fanime like a vacation. I know I have to thank it for kind of shaping how I do a lot of thing, being the event I first started doing photography at two years back and I'll surely keep going back. So thanks to the Fanime press staff for dealing with my onsite registration, the cosplayers who allow me to work with them, and for any of you who actually took the time to read this or just look at my worth. It's been two years of fun, but it's a blip on a map compared to Fanime's 20.

For more of the cosplayers in my photos you can check out their pages for those have have them:

Burning Cosplays as Nudist Beach Gamagori and Mako

PiggyNukka as Punk Sailor Moon and Mamimi

Tenleid as Punk Sailor Mars

Kyle Mistry as Quiet

Yirico as Squall

I'm still going through photos, but I'm mostly posting them on facebook until I'm done, then I'll upload them here. Again, thanks for reading!

Afternoon talk with Mike Rollerson

  For those who don't know, Mike Rollerson and I have known each other for quite a few years. We have worked closely with each other and often hang out when we're not doing conventions or our own personal projects. So just to give you an insight into his world, I'm going to speak to with him so you can know about his recent, current, and future plans.

Mike: Good start

Darryl: Heh, yeah. Well to start asking, what have you been up to recently?

Mike: In the past I've focused mostly on at-convention shoots and covering live events. Lately I've changed that focus more towards piecing together specific photoshoots that I've been wanting to do (working with models/cosplayers, scouting locations, developing themes/ideas to shoot, assembling costumes as needed and often working with a team (makeup artist, prosthetics artists) to create specific looks for what I'm trying to accomplish. Some of these have been cosplay or horror related, some being ones that provided something I thought was a little out of the ordinary and unique.

Darryl: Yeah, it's been funny when people ask me what you have been up to and I generally have to say I don't know unless I was at your house or talking to you about things specifically. So I know the reason for the switch has been just to the over saturation of events as of late and it being hard to achieve the results you want onsite just because you have had more gore and blood as of late and a focus on more a... I would say a bit of a more intimate approach to the horror genre. Has this provided any challenges? Made any things easier?

Mike: It's definitely been a mix of both -- I've found it much easier to go "all out" with the effects as they're something that are only being worn for one specific thing (a photoshoot) opposed to something that needs to last all day with the model/cosplayer walking around a convention center. It also allows for the effects to be done a little more "extreme" than what would be appropriate at a convention center. On the other side, however, finding a location to do shoot a horror-themed set any time outside of October can be challenging. Typically during conventions and larger events (something along the lines of Comic Con), these are a bit more accepted in public areas. This limits some of the locations that can be used and requires you to be a bit more creative. Some sets were shot in-studio to give specific looks such as an empty area with the model in the spotlight.

Darryl: So when it comes to your more extreme stuff as I've seen, you really do go all out with the makeup, location, and editing. I can see how this all is easier when you don't have to deal with being in a public or semi-public area from both having to deal with onlookers(a problem I know you've had at events such as Anime Expo), being kicked out of an area, or just having to edit out random people in the background. But speaking of events like Comic Con, do you have any big plans for it or any other cons? I know I haven't really asked as of late since we kind of do a lot of fly-by-wire stuff when it comes to planning.

Mike: I haven't planned anything for future conventions yet -- with convention plans always changing (even right up until the last minute -- someone may change their costume lineup to accommodate a gathering, panel or other friends wearing a different costume), I've found it to be easiest to see who will be attending any events and set up actual plans/shoots as close to the time of the convention as possible. I'm definitely planning on attending San Diego Comic Con, a couple days of Anime Expo, PMX, Comikaze and hopefully another convention or two this year though.

Darryl: Any considerations for any new cons or are you just waiting to see what pops up and looks good for the moment?

Mike: A few smaller conventions popped up this year around the LA area -- I might make the trip up there to check one out for a day. Typically these smaller conventions are more laid back and a place for cosplayers and anime fans to just relax. I can definitely appreciate that, but from a photographer point of view, the bigger conventions are definitely going to be my priority this year.

Darryl: And with big priorities I have to ask a simple yet loaded question: When it comes to all that you do and the styles you choose to do them in, what causes you to prioritize a certain aesthetic in your work? Does it rely more on what you think you will do based on equipment choice, at the time of the shoot with the location, or more so when you're sitting down editing everything with all the post-process tools available and can bridge everything together?

Mike: One thing I've always appreciated were the details -- whether it's in a horror prosthetic, a hand-made costume/prop or anything else that stands out during a shoot. Using different lights and modifiers, I try to get some shots that focus in on those details. I try to have an idea going into a shoot on how I'd like the finished shot to work, light it accordingly and then do any additional work in post-processing. Having tried out all sorts of equipment over the years, I'm comfortable with setting up different types of lights, sets, poses, etc.. in a way that would allow me to create the end-result I was going for. A lot of times the shot in-camera will look completely different from the final shot.. but shooting it any differently (softboxes and umbrellas opposed to gridded lights, for example) can make it much more challenging to achieve that same end result.

Darryl: Grand statements and thoughts. For you it's not so much the result, but the challenge in reaching it. I mean I've seen what you bring, how you set it up, and how you use all that gear seeing as we often hang out and do shoots in conjunction, even at times having to hold each other's lighting equipment for that one shot. But knowing that all of that and seeing what you pull out of a shot is still an amazing and refreshing experience, particularly because you are so in depth and willing to put in the extra effort. Also it goes to say that you're also well known, where as people around the world have seen your work because it's published so much! Xbox Brazil and Konami's UK portal both have been graced with your photos. So withstanding all of that, is there one thing you would want to say to fledgling photographers and cosplayers respectively on just achieving a goal or dream?

Mike: Try new things, see what works for you. Move outside of the "Auto" settings, try new angles, lighting and lenses. These won't always work out, but find out why (Was the light too strong? did it need to be re-positioned? was the angle too distorted?) and work off of these to find what does work. Staying in the "safe" zone and only going for one look can be easy, but it won't open new possibilities or styles. Ask for critique/feedback on photos and don't just accept the positive feedback.

Darryl: Wow, yeah, that's all the sort of stuff people need to know and try to go for instead of being stuck in a rut wondering why they can't progress. If anything I really have to thank you for answering that as well as everything else. I know you're like everyone else and have to deal with work and all, so this means a lot to be able to share your thoughts and views with others! But otherwise, is there anything else you want to say before we end this? Some inspiring parting words?

Mike: Go out and have fun with it. That's what this is all about. Don't be afraid to try new things, but also don't be afraid to say "You know what, I didn't enjoy (ABC) as much as I do (123)" and learn from those experiences. In the past I've tried new things -- common photography areas like weddings and engagements [unpaid shoots to get a feel for them] and quickly learned that I just didn't have fun with them and they weren't something I wanted to continue in. I don't regret trying them at all, but I wouldn't want to do them again. Too much stress and not the same level of enjoyment I'd get out of other shoots. On the other hand, trying new things can quickly become something you're very interested in. I attended a circus a few years ago when they were in town -- bought a cheap seat in the bleacher and sat at the very back with a zoom lens capturing the show. I quickly learned just how much I liked these types of live-event coverage and sent the finished photos to the circus who has been inviting me back for several years since then, and has been a fantastic experience and something that has made me want to attend and cover other types of live events such as concerts and haunted houses.

Darryl: Well there you go folks, go out and try new things. Explore the world around you and make the most of the experiences, whether you fully enjoy them or not! Most people don't start off knowing what they want to do exactly, nor do they start off good all the time. So do something when possible and learn from everything. Also generally Mike and I are easy to catch at events if you want to ask anything or talk about any amount of topics. We also are on Google hangout too in case you would ever want to stop in if we're talking or editing. But until next time, thanks Mike, it was a pleasure to speak with you today! If you guys want to check out more of his work, you can find it over here.

All photos used are © Mike Rollerson

Something a bit different

So this is something a bit different than what I usually post. A few weeks back at Gaslight Gathering I ended up letting someone use one of my speedlights during the dance because they were having some problems getting a lot of the action(low light, slower lens, and etc). I grabbed my extra, put it on their camera and gave them a quick demo and set them on their way. This is the email I received after: Thank you, Darryl, for your kindness in sharing your flash and teaching me last night. I realize that took time out of a rare opportunity for you, and I appreciate very much the time you spent. Your selflessness is a great example to us, and we plan to remember and do the same for others. We looked at your photos. Really fun! Love the anime cosplay girl with yellow background! We look forward to seeing you at events! I go to events to have fun and see people. Me losing out on a photo or two is worth a lot less than helping someone learn a new way of doing things. Sure, I probably won't be the best or most popular with some people, but at least I make some sort of a difference elsewhere. Or I could just be sentimental and thinking of times where people would(or wouldn't in some cases) do the same for me. So go out, do what you love! Ask for help! Help others! Make an adventure out of life and make happy little accidents as Bob Ross would say.

My time at Gaslight Gathering

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Wondercon 2014

So here we go for a first, a retrospective on a convention! I never really say much about what I do or how I view things so this will be a bit different. What can I start with? Wondercon was fun. I had went last year and enjoyed it, and this year was just another bout of fun.

The convention itself had possibly one of the fastest reg lines I had ever seen, but is this really surprising seeing as Comic Con International runs it? It just kind of breezes by and you spend more time walking in than the whole registration process takes. Pretty much they scan a barcode you get from your email and give you a badge, surprising that they didn't bother checking I.D. though. Once this bit is done, you're pretty much free to roam the halls and panel rooms. I'm not too sure about panels, but I do know the exhibit floor itself was plenty large and a far cry from the crowded mass that is San Diego Comic Con! But just like Comic Con, you see the variety of booths from large companies promoting their newest shows, movies, and games all the way down to independent artists!

But what do I know about all of that that usual event stuff? I am a photographer who almost exclusively does coverage of those in costumes. So just like other big events, Wondercon had every level of people out having fun while they assumed the likeliness of their favourite characters! As you can see from my slideshow, you had everything from the CW's Arrow to obscure webcomics such as Gone with the Blastwave represented. This all makes for a fun time and an easy way to communicate with other fans. The convention center isn't rife with too man places for a private shoot, being littered with a few parking garages, terraces, and some foliage. Outside of this, for any public gathering, they do have the massive plaza right in front of the convention center and the fountain where the likes of the massive DC and Marvel gatherings take place.

Overall I do quite enjoy Wondercon and can see myself going again and trying to actually check out more booths and a few panels(such as my friend Kai who did a prop making one), but even without that it's still a wonderful event to go and see costumers having fun and to just hang out with those who are into popular culture. It's not too expensive to attend and can even be made into a bit of a last minute trip without much planning if you compare it to other events of a similar size. So if anything go check it out one day!

Some of the included cosplayers in the album above are:

Hectec Design

Precious Cosplay

Americo Galli

Yuks General


And sadly everyone else doesn't have a page to link to.

The Lights and Trapeze

 So being that I have friends who do all sorts of interesting things, it's a wonder to think what I might happen on to next. Again, Mike Rollerson gave me another opportunity to tag along onto something interesting. What was it? Circus Vargas, a traveling show that mostly is situated in California but have do shows outside of the area, on occasion Las Vegas and even a stint in the Philippines. So what about it would interest you? Well just have a look.

     So let's think what comes to mind when you first hear the word "Circus", shall we? You think clowns, lions, and trapeze acts, right? While this circus doesn't use animals, they do have a clown, a trapeze, and other cool acts. So let's kind of start with the fact they have a varied performance. You have the use of rigid bindings on which gymnastic techniques are performed with two people showing the dexterity the human form can achieve. You also have a woman who can bend and contort into a variety of ways, hold the pose, and then rotate herself on a small block of wood attached to a pole. You have a magic act with a charismatic magician who has a look of being amazed the entire show. There are also dance numbers, balancing acts, death defying stunts, and some flame juggling. What more could you ask for?

      It is a show for all ages, rife with audience participation to interject time where the stage is being set. Before the show even starts, the ringmaster gives a bit of insight on a small scale of what will happen later on by showing any kids in the audience how to balance objects on their faces(of which he teaches them with feathers and later uses a shopping cart and ladder himself). There is also an impromptu boxing match where the ring is made up of 4 men standing in as the posts, another being the bell, and one lucky audience member going up against Alex, the clown of the show.

     So what else can I say without ruining the whole show(but let's face it, you can't ruin a show like this, I watched it twice and it still seemed fresh and new and many audience members come multiple times when they're in town)!?!? It's a fun show to take you friends and family to, so give it a chance, check it out, and just go with the flow and the show. All in all they are a wonderful group who love what they do and wish to share what they as a family do with yours.

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Just another day

So I got bored and decided to head to Balboa Park before I go to the Circus. I've never been too fond of the park in recent years just because it's used so much for everything. The only good thing about the area is just the amount of diversity you get to witness as you have people local to international show up on a daily basis. But while I sit here, I got some photos taken and that one edited. So yeah, seize the day and all!

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Pacific Media Expo

 I kept forgetting to actually do this write up for PMX 2013(I didn't do a whole lot so I didn't think to really do it...)! But For this con I can say one thing: It's one of my favourites. Compared to other events which might push for their guests in a panel line up, PMX strives to bring in a lot of different things. They have viewing rooms for Asian Dramas, different music acts from abroad, and a strong Gohitc Lolita culture.

     Now don't get me wrong, most people who know me by virtue have realized I don't go to many panels or events depending on the event. PMX is one of the ones where I do spend most of my time getting in photo shoots, but I still make time to go to some of the panels they hold. The fact they have such a varied amount of material to showcase makes it where I don't feel as if I'm wasting my time. One performance/workshop I enjoyed was the one on Taiko as shown above. You have so many events purposed on just showcasing what is new and not so much traditional, which you kind of get the opposite of at PMX at times. The dance has also never really disappointed me, and I know for sure people enjoy the Pocky tasting room and Maid Cafe.

     But let's get into the real beef, what most people wade through the dough for. PMX is an event that embraces cosplay of all sorts. Everything from just people in Japanese/Korean/etc Fashion to elaborate gowns from series such as Jellyfish Princess can be seen. This year was a bit harsher on people cosplaying in certain areas due to a shooting incident that happened at LAX the week prior, but otherwise it was more or less pleasant and easy to get around. The venue is quite different from most other hotels though by offering different decks to take photos in(sadly the garden deck was closed for renovation) and also having a decent sized staircase that while often busy, can provide for pretty cool photos. There are also different sort of reflective murals strewn about with pottery enclosed in cases. This also is pretty neat depending on what you're doing(Nathan Drake from Uncharted for instance).

     So to say in short? I think PMX has a lot to offer people. It's location isn't too hard to get to, being that it's just down the road from LAX and a block down from the Marriot Anime Los Angeles is held at. Their dealer's room has a good bit of variety, even if I didn't go into until the last day(not my thing). The cosplayers that come end up doing all sorts of things that fit with the varied looks the hotel has to offer. And hey, if you're into Lolita, they have designers come, a fashion show, and even a boutique! It also isn't so much an anime convention though which does turn off some people, but hey, if you like media produced in the pacific at all it shouldn't matter! Let alone how many conventions can you go to where the Crunchyroll panel has a corgi on it? Junkers approves, and so should you.

If you're interested in the cosplayers displayed they are:

Hectec Design as an NCR Ranger

Bar-code-cat as Speedwagon

Junkers as himself

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The Start

I finally saw it as time to get an actual website, and here's the fruition of that! I have some goals and ideas, but let's just see what happens. I will try to say bits about what I'm thinking and even how I accomplish things if anyone is interested. Otherwise enjoy a preview image for an idea I will fully flesh out when I have the time and models willing to work on it!

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Horror to be found

   So what is there to do as Halloween comes closer? What does San Diego have to offer that might be fun and scary? Well outside of the night itself and the costumes it brings and the random things some bars do, we have three haunted houses I got to explore with Mike Rollerson

     So maybe it's hard to put in words first without showing you what some of these attractions look like. So let's start Downtown proper with the Haunted Hotel. It's been in some top lists for haunted houses and even opens up during Comic Con to show our out of town guests a... unique time. So from the outside it looks like any other downtown building, yet once you step inside it takes a turn for the unnerving. Starting off in the lobby the doorman is mad, matted, and looking like he hasn't cleaned himself between murder victims. You enter an elevator with yet another crazed individual and it jolts and the lights go off, and from there I'll let you go on your own to see everything yourself. But throughout the type of things you witness change, ranging from those interred in a psychiatric facility to a normal(yet blood and gore filled) deli. So what's not to love?

     But what about those who like the outdoors more? Well you can drive about two minutes from the Haunted Hotel and end up at Balboa Park for the Haunted Trail. Being as it's out in the park, a stroll through is more unsettling due to uneven ground and other natural barriers from getting away.

     Unlike the hotel, the Haunted Trail offers a choice, do you do the trail proper or the maze they have installed? Filled with fog, wrong turns, and walls that may house more than a glance will reveal one might have a bit of trouble navigating. Making your way through might be a bit slow since you can walk into other groups who might be ahead of you, but that doesn't lessen the experience any. It has quite a few things like a scene from a trailer park nightmare, inflatable walls that might have someone grab at you, while you might also have someone sneak up next to you in the fog and bang a wall as you try to pass.

     So what if you make it through the maze or just don't like an experience that's almost entirely claustrophobic? Well the trail proper is just for you. It also has elements of fog, but has scenes reminiscent to new horror films. You have escaped mental patients, a trek through a bus of the dead where some might be reanimated, and a mixture of Silent Hill small town horror and masked figures that could be mannequins or more.... The sounds of chainsaws leaves you unsure of what will happen, but do know that just because you get out the gate doesn't mean something or someone might not be waiting for you.

     So last but not least, we have the Screamzone that is in Del Mar, a bit of a way away from the last two attractions. What can be so bad about it? You're already done a maze and a standard horror crawl at the last two events.

     Well the difference is in themes(there's a few more pop culture scares and clowns for example) and scope. There are two haunted houses, one having more pneumatic approaches and corners while being overall larger. You might have someone come from behind a bush, car, or as shown above the ceiling! There ends up being some crossover between both in style, but one is more on a straightforward while the other uses lighting and design to inspire a more internalized dread through confusing the senses.

     But how about we talk about what the Screamzone has that sets it apart from the other two. They have a haunted hayride and a paintball range for shooting zombies(this I didn't get to do unfortunately, had two friends who acted in it I wanted a shot at...) that is set up along the racetrack. So while the other things are all contained to rooms, this attraction has lanes. So imagine you're in a tractor that does about 5 MPH while you go through a prison, a child's nightmare, and more. Every lane has a different theme and a variety of areas from where "they" might come from. Some might throw barrels at you like a super-powered zombie Donkey Kong, others might brandish weapons, and others might chase down the tractor. The soundtrack for each leads to an unnerving mix of kids story melodies that have been transformed to ruin your childhood up to a carnival of screams. It all ends up being a different approach to what you might have already seen.

     So yeah, it all is pretty cool to see behind the scenes, but why bother with that? Go when they're open and experience the scares San Diego has to offer, whether you try to hit all three in the time leading up to Halloween or wander to the Haunted Hotel during Comic Con, you'll have fun, I'm sure of it.