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    • So, I'm sitting here at home after waking up at noon on a Monday because I don't have class today and I'm nursing a nasty cold I've had all weekend. I've had a Cake account for maybe 6 months now, but never posted anything due to insecurity, then forgetfulness, and maybe some laziness too. However, over the last several weeks I've become increasingly fed up with my existing social media, to the point where I seriously considered deactivating my Facebook account until I realized that I (unwisely) use it to log into several other sites and couldn't be bothered to figure out which ones and switch them to my email, so I remain trapped in that ecosystem.

      However, today I remembered Cake, and figured I should post something - an introduction, at least! Apologies if my journey is a bit of a ramble.

      Hi everyone! My name is Dallas, and I am a 31 year old photographer-turned-aspiring-fashion-designer living in Honolulu, Hawaii. I also draw/paint, play way too many video games, and had been known to cosplay before I went back to school for fashion design ten years after my first art degree. I am also very publicly a sufferer of general anxiety/depression, so I sometimes talk quite frankly about mental health and self care, the latter of which I still need to work on for myself.

      Even though I still love photography, and it's my sole source of income when I occasionally get a gig, I've grown really frustrated with the homogenization of creativity that has happened with social media. I realized I was going out and making landscape images solely for likes rather than my own personal fulfillment, even though I never had the follower counts of some of my friends. Briefly, in 2015, I started posting some cosplay photos to my main Instagram account that had previously been mostly landscapes, and immediately lost ~400 followers. Now I have 5+ Instagram accounts for different topics - two are currently scheduled out for months through Buffer, and I have only shot new landscape photos one day in the last 6 months. Meh.

      After I started feeling disinterested in what I'd been doing for years, I started shooting cosplay photos because though I was best known for my landscapes, my usual work was shooting for local fashion designers, and being a huge nerd among the fashionistas always left me feeling like an outsider. Cosplay seemed like the intersection of fashion, photography, and geek culture that was perfect for me - not as a career per say, but a place to be myself. Because I've always been crafty, it didn't take long for me to dive into making my own costumes, even though I had no idea what I was doing.

      It was during late spring 2016 where I spent all my time making 4 costumes in two weeks and wasn't shooting photos for work or pleasure at all that my husband sat me down and said something along the lines of "You're drifting in life. Why don't you go back to school and learn how to actually sew?" I agreed to do so.

      The Fall 2016 semester found me at Honolulu Community College's Fashion Technology department, which is just a 2 year Associate's Degree program, but has had three Project Runway finalists come out of that program, who were some of the best sewers on the show, so I figured that they must have learned something good while there. At first I only attended part time because I already had a bachelor's degree and didn't need another piece of paper, but after a year of school and still no growth in my photography career, I decided I wanted to finish the program with the goals of eventually starting my own geek fashion brand.

      In all honesty, the top reason I want my own brand is so I can do my own fashion shoots. Maybe not the best business goal, but it is what it is.

      And that brings me to today. I'm on my third year of the two year program since I had only been part time for the first year, but I'm on track to graduate next spring. I'm still not exactly sure what I'll be doing once that happens, but I'm currently working on expanding my textile pattern design repertoire since I have an illustration background. I've also been off my anti-anxiety/depression meds that I was on for the last four years, which has resulted in me having a lot more feelings, both good and bad, but I think more good overall. I am obsessed with the game Overwatch, which has become my first e-sports passion, but I am currently 100% sucked into Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and playing the strong female character Kassandra might be enough to get me to the gym. Maybe.

      Anyway, that's my introduction. Hopefully I'll have something to contribute to the Cake community, because especially considering what a shallow, divisive society we find ourselves in today, I can fully appreciate the need for actual in-depth conversation, rather than drive-by likes and bot comments.

      If you read through all of this, thank you! If not...

      TL;DR - Hi, I like photography, fashion design, cosplay, and gaming. Sometimes I talk about anxiety/depression. I am awkward and weird, but I'm okay with it.

    • Oh my God, Dallas, it's so great to see you here. I've been an admirer of yours (and Ed's) for so many years.

      This is true: 30 minutes before you posted, I told @bstrong that I've wanted to interview you about the photoshoot you did of our family. You posed us in front of the Hawaiian sunset with a Canon camera not really known for its dynamic range. I took some behind the scenes photos that made everyone look silhouetted. And then I saw yours and thought WHAT?!! How did she do that?

      Here's mine (with you in it):

      And here's yours:

      Oh. My. God.

      Thank you for being so open, honest and vulnerable with your intro. I have to believe that is so much better for people's psychological health than seeing perfect shiny images of ourselves, leading our viewers to think our lives are perfect and why aren't theirs?

    • Thank you for your kind words, Chris! You've always been such a wonderful supporter of my work, from your first order of the Lava Kiss metal print to letting us crash at your house! I'm so happy I got to do that shoot for you. I'm sure I could go find my Lightroom settings for that photo - I feel like I edit in a weird way from others but it works for me. I have to say, as disillusioned as I've felt with my work over the last few years, taking personal photos for people like you and your family who truly appreciate it has made it worth it. It's been just over a year since one of my oldest friends passed away in a motorcycle accident, and one of my ways of coping with it was finding the thousands of photos and videos I'd taken of him over the years to give to his family. Photos of people are what really matter in the end - not another rainbow or empty sunset.

    • Welcome to Cake, @DallasNagata! What a great intro post.

      I am obsessed with the game Overwatch, which has become my first e-sports passion, but I am currently 100% sucked into Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and playing the strong female character Kassandra might be enough to get me to the gym.

      Sounds like you and @Felicity share a love of Overwatch! I know she's been dying to talk to other women Overwatch players on Cake. 😄

      I've been debating whether to buy Assassin's Creed Odyssey. On the one hand, it looks gorgeous. On the other, I'm not sure I have time for it. I've dipped my toes into a few Assassin's Creed games in the past and enjoyed them, but they're so huge! I always end up getting like a quarter of the way through the game and then I get busy and forget about it. And by the time I've remembered, there's a new sequel out. 😬

      I am awkward and weird, but I'm okay with it.


    • Welcome, Dallas!

      I'm a huge fan of your photography work. It's a pleasure seeing you post about it here on Cake. Congrats for pushing the envelope, and keeping your creativity going as a photographer rather than chasing the likes!

    • Always happy to talk Overwatch, especially with other women! I'm part of the Women of Overwatch group on FB but the majority of it is women (rightfully) complaining about the verbal abuse they receive from male players, which I'm sympathetic to, but also suffer from negativity fatigue.

      EDIT: I just went by @Felicity's profile and saw she's a SF author! My mom, Linda Nagata, is as well, and even though she doesn't like gaming, she's definitely a factor in my geekness.

      As for Assassin's Creed Odyssey, it is gorgeous. I've actually started an IG account solely for game photography, and I'm constantly taking pictures in this game. The game is also massive - I'm like...50+ hours in and still have a 1/3 of the world map to uncover. But the story is great, and Kassandra is such a fantastic character - especially coming from the company that infamously said that "female characters are too hard to animate". One of my friends who actually had 35 hours into playing the male character Alexios actually quit and started fresh with Kassandra because he said she was a far superior character to play! Honestly, I am a pretty big AC fan - I 100% completed AC 2/Brotherhood/Revelations/3, played through Black Flag and Unity, but once Syndicate hit, I bought it and played an hour before I got bored. I actually got Origins about a year after it was released and put 90 hours into it, but quit playing before the end because I fell into Overwatch. (Same reason I never finished Witcher III much to my regret, because I also love the in-game photography there). Maybe it's because I grew up being a huge fan of Xena, but fighting my way through ancient Greece as a strong female warrior is pushing all the right buttons for me, and I can't recommend it enough!

    • Thank you so much, Kevin! Now that I've done my career pivot toward fashion design, I feel like there's less pressure for me to churn out work I don't care about and that I have more breathing room for my photographic creativity. I might be putting out 95% less work than I used to, but the 5% I do make is stuff I actually enjoy doing!

    • your first order of the Lava Kiss metal print

      That metal print is still hanging on SmugMug's walls. It's one of the best engagement photos I have ever seen.

      That's one of the things I loved most about working at SmugMug, was getting to hang out with my heroines & heroes of photography — Sarah Lee, @vonwong , @ReneeRobyn — and amaze our visitors with their prints on our walls.

    • Hi hi! Welcome to Cake!

      Wow, yes, it would be cool to gab about Overwatch. I go through phases of finding time for gaming or not, and when I'm in a Overwatch-every-day phase, I have to hold my mouth shut to keep from going on and on about it to @yaypie, who hasn't played in a long time and shouldn't really have to put up with my triumphant stories. I play on PS4, which means I don't encounter nearly the abuse that I understand PC gamers do -- no text chat. Almost enough to make me not miss mouse aim from my PC-gaming FPS days. I was a little worried about getting a headset to start doing voice chat, but it's sort of necessary for serious competitive matches, and thus far I haven't had a lot of trouble with guys hearing my voice. Once I was on voicechat and found my team had not only another woman, but also a tween girl! We were all quite excited to be on a team with MORE THAN ONE OTHER FEMALE PLAYER AT ONCE! Do you play on the console or on computer?

      Anyhow, welcome! I have heard of your mom, that's wild! I come by my geekiness honestly in a different way: my parents first became friends because they were both reading The Two Towers in high school (the First Authorized Paperback editions came out in the mid-60s :)

      I have never gotten into Assassin's Creed, but I feel what you're saying about the gym. It is kind of embarrassing, but my regular running habit definitely got a boost from how much Mass Effect I was playing when I started. Shepard runs everywhere, I better be able to run just a little!

      I'll be interested in seeing what you have to say here about fashion, geeky and otherwise. I don't follow fashion a whole bunch, but I am interested enough to, you know, go through entire collections pinning the most droolworthy ones to Pinterest, etc. :) I am not a cosplayer but I've made some costumes for other things before, and have benefitted GREATLY from cosplayer know-how and generosity with tips and help! Also I started what I am pretty sure is the geekiest fashion conversation on Cake.

      Really glad to see you here, and hope to hear more from you!

    • “ of my ways of coping with it was finding the thousands of photos and videos I'd taken of him over the years to give to his family. Photos of people are what really matter in the end - not another rainbow or empty sunset.”

      Yes. Exactly this. I had the same inclination this month as I tried to cope with two different near-and-dears who passed away on the same day due to completely different circumstances. ❤️❤️

    • I'm so sorry for your losses. ❤️ I try to encourage people, especially the young parents of my generation who tend to take photos of their kids only with their phones, to not only make sure all their photos are backed up in multiple offsite locations, but also get prints made, because as disposable as photography tends to be treated these days, some images might tragically become priceless out of nowhere. I actually just had to borrow $900 from my parents (I'm embarassed to be a sad broke college student in my 30s) to recover a drive that had most of my 2009 photos because my Backblaze had an error and lost that drive, but the drive had the raw photos of my husband and I when we first started dating, as well as photos of my dog from her puppy days, so it was painfully worth it.

    • Hi, nice to meet you! I'm a proud member of the PC Master Race! 🤣 I kid, but gaming has resulted in my always having a PC, despite the naysaying photographers and graphic designers of Apple loyalty. I do have a PS4 and Xbox One, but barely play on them - though I'll be playing Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4 since Rockstar never releases games on PC till years later.

      I'm definitely going to go contribute to your movie fashion conversation, maybe tomorrow - for now, it's back to Ancient Greece for me!