Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A Conference from a different perspective - photographer

The weekend of May 18-9 I was asked to be the official photographer for JALT PANSIG Conference 2013, held at Nanzan University in Nagoya.

I was very excited to have been asked, and thank David Kluge for the leap of faith. I should also thank all the presenters etc who tried to ignore me scuttling in & out of rooms. I tried my hardest to be unobtrusive & uninvasive. I sincerely hope I managed that, and that the shots I did achieve captured the lovely feel of the Conference - very friendly, co-operative and calmly professional. My regret is that I did not spend any time in any presentations for long enough, but I did get a taste of a lot more than usual, and got to meet a lot of inspiring educators.

A lot of people worked very hard to put the Conference together, and a testament to their hard work was that you couldn't see any obvious signs of panic!

This slideshow highlights the people I portraited during the first day:



After a long day for presenters and audience alike, there was a short walk to a local Italian restaurant, which tried valiantly to refresh an hungry & thirsty crowd. It was a very confined space with everyone diving for the plates & topping off each others' drinks. Like everyone else, I was starving and keen to talk to friends - such as Theron Muller - and less worried about the actual photography.



This slideshow features some of the people I could catch on the second day:



Every Conference needs a volunteer team on the day to do all the running around, finding cables, carrying umbrellas & telling presenters when to stop...the "Green shirts" at PANSIG were very cheerful as well as efficiently organised. One of the perks of my job this weekend was to take their 'official' photos.



I have the feeling I took far too many pictures, but my encouragement to anyone doing this kind of assignment is keep looking & keep shooting. A theme will emerge although you probably will not realise until you get home and start looking through your raw shots. While shooting you have to keep checking thumbnails & adjusting your settings - try not to be too ambtious with zoom indoors (so be nosy & get closer - "ignore me" works wonders!). I prefer to avoid using my flash in intimate groups, so think about natural light from windows (awfully hard if presenters draw curtains & turn the lights off to show a slideshow...come back later near the end if you can). Lean on stuff as much as possible to get steady (I should have taken my monopod). Clutches of people in conversations in corridors are as much the conference experience as listening to presentations, and often the speaker will be more relaxed chatting with interested audience members when they have finished presenting & not in the flustered setting up stage. Don't be shy about asking co-presenters to pose for you as a team, and get Plenaries & other VIPs to give you a few seconds for a banker (try stepping outside for some greenery background & warmer lighting). Most importantly, keep track of where you have been! Your metadata will give you times shots taken, but you will not remember which rooms you were in/which presentation was which - certainly not after 2 days in 3 floors of rooms with 26 different Special Interest Groups! My solution was to scribble a timeline on my conference schedule & circle any speakers in it as I went. Another solution would be to snapshoot the door number before you go in. And talk to people; they will have no idea who you are or why you are aiming a camera at them all the time - especially outside the presentation rooms - so say hello & chat early. They will relax & ignore you (photographically!) as the event progresses allowing you to 'pry' and get better candids.

I loved this opportunity to get my tired 10D out of its bag. You can find the whole weekend of PANSIG right here http://www.flickr.com/photos/saint_george/sets/72157633731993876/  If anyone wants a picture without the copyright notice, please drop me a quick email with the jpeg number & I will happily oblige. Likewise, if you are in a photo and would rather not be, let me know & I will take it down.

Important last note - make sure the organisers have included a 'photo release' clause in the registration process.