Thursday, April 6, 2017

Event photography: The conference

I've been shooting events for decades - weddings, sports, concerts, conferences - and enjoy it every time I have the opportunity to do it. Having a clearly defined role among a group of people puts me at ease and I, in turn, am able to put the others at ease.
In February I was asked to document the first meeting of the Forum Agile Verwaltung conference in Stuttgart, Germany, at which 42 various administrators learned how to work more efficiently within their structures and how to create more effective structures.

The keynote speech was given by Ard Leferink (above), who started a network of nurses in the Netherlands who work in small teams and are in charge of their own schedules and billing. In just 10 years the network has taken over 25% of the Dutch home care.
Afterwards, the participants met in workshops to explore various methods of teamwork.

Now I'll say a bit about shooting the event since this is my photoblog! It is essential to get a feel for the primary message and purpose of the event before planning the shots. Sometimes you can do it beforehand, for example, by asking the people in charge what they want photos of and where they will be used. Otherwise, you need to observe closely and move quickly.
Light is, of course, important. I chose to use only available light here, though I did have a flash in my bag in case they wanted a formal group shot. This venue had large windows and the day was bright enough that I didn't have problems with the amount of light. In the first workshop I attended the participants played Ubongo in teams, each time adhering to a different set of rules. In the first sequence, they had to wait for the first person to finish his/her specific job before the second could continue. Eventually, they all became multi-taskers and were able to finish the job in much less time. Lesson learned.

Here I was looking for the best way to capture the teamwork. The shot above is from the first round; you see folded, inactive hands in the background and the job description of the active participant in the foreground.

Here you can see how three people are working simultaneously.

Finally, everyone is working together actively and the task is completed much more quickly. With all the action I really had no other choice but to shoot from above. Because all four groups were in similar states of activity at this point, the bird's-eye view best represented this workshop's goals because it was about the task and not the people in this case.
The next workshop was fascinating! Using the same small set of Lego blocks, participants portrayed various abstract terms by building what they believed best represented it. The Lego Serious Play method then has the person explain the figure. The moderator or others can ask questions about the person's figure or the story that accompanied it. Sometimes they may have not explained a certain figure or set of blocks, an omission that might be meaningful for that person's (in)ability to explain his or her needs or ideas.

As the stories are told one-by-one, the blocks take on a life of their own in the listeners' minds. The figures thus stay in one's mind even after the conference is over - as do the stories or explanations. Creating something concrete from an abstract idea (an essential element of art and, it seems, of human communication) helps transport levels of meaning on a metaphorical plane that is not possible through other means. Thus, the following picture best (re)presents this workshop for me.

Throughout the day a very gifted man took notes in comic form and presented them as a summing up at the end of the conference. I wanted a picture of him at work, especially since most people were too busy to notice what he was doing. Only afterward would they notice how special his contribution was.

At the end of the day he was ready to show his roll via iPad and projector.

 Then the question for me was how to best capture his presentation. From the front?

From behind with the message in focus?

Or with him in focus?

In the end I settled on the side view with the participants enjoying the finale. If only I had captured a shot where they were all smiling! Next time!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bella Italia!

Aside from the mountains and the beautifully changing light on Lake Como, the water is what drew us to it. The sun warmed us up and the fairly cool water refreshed us on our little private beach.

Other creatures also warmed themselves in the sun...

...and refreshed themselves in the water... the air...

...and on the lush shores of the lake...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Northern Italian mountains

One of the wonderful rewards of driving through the Swiss Alps is arriving in Italy. For some reason, the mountains call to me. Perhaps it is because I grew up in flat-flat-flat Indiana. Perhaps it is because I like the potential adventure lurking in the cliffs. Or do the organic lines provide a welcome reprise from the structured symmetry all around me in the city?
The first evening we were there, the heavens put on a light show for us. As we were driving toward the northern tip of Lake Como and the mountain below, the clouds and the light from the setting sun provided the peak with unbelievably beautiful warmth. I drove as fast as I could so that I would be able to photograph it. We got there a bit too late, but this view will remain with me for a long time.

After we watched the kiteboarders for an hour or so, Christian and I walked up to the nature reserve and noticed the moon begin to rise.

Its arc was so low - and the mountain so high - that it came out the other side about 30 minutes later.

Lake Como provides many opportunities for outdoorsmen. Artists and photographers have ample scenes to capture and take back home with them.

The drying kites mimicked the distant peaks.

The sunsets were stunning.

Even on the clear days, at the right time of day the mountains showed their majesty in a quiet manner.

From our little terrace the ranges of hills and mountains showed off their grandeur as the sun set.

Turning an idea into pictures


In the summer of 2013 my friend Alane Cameron Miles drafted me to turn into a photo essay her scourge/blessing of synesthesia. She told me that as a youngster, whenever she heard music, it made her want to eat a certain type of food. Pop lead to cravings for popcorn, Mahler - malted milk balls. Well, it wasn't exactly like that and since she has grown up the connections have faded somewhat, but the extrasensory perception made her realize how omnipresent music is in everyday life and, furthermore, how it affects us all - even those 98% of us who don't have musical synesthesia.
So she asked me if I would like to create a series of photos, in which together we would try to represent everyday scenes together with music. The original idea was to show the pictures on a screen with moving pictures, something like this:


After playing with the pictures for a couple of years and brainstorming with her about how we should exhibit the results, I returned to our original idea of the slide show. Enjoy it and please let me know what you think.
Have you ever experienced synesthesia? How would you represent the combination of two (or more) senses in a photo essay?

Monday, March 27, 2017

More water sports on Lake Como

In my last post I wrote a bit about kiteboarding, which requires a strong wind to keep the athlete on top of the water. When the wind is not quite strong enough for that, the kiteboarders take a break and the windsurfers take over.

Kiteboarders dry their kites and wait for more wind

Meanwhile, on the other side of the lake, the windsurfing school is teaching new surfers the ropes.

And the advanced surfers show their stuff.

Then it is time for a windsurfing break.

Time to dry off and spend a moment with the family (dog).

Time for a selfie while the light is just right.

 One more go at it while there is still some wind.

 Time to pack up and go home.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The beautiful Lago di Como: Kiteboarding

When the wind picks up on Lake Como, the kitesurfers (or kiteboarders) come out in droves. An app informs them where the wind is best and what it will allow them to do. Our first full day on the northeastern shore of the lake in August 2016 provided us with a spectacular wind-and-water dancefest!

Not only were the kiteboarders fun to watch, but the clouds and light were changing as quickly as the people were skittering across the waves. I don't usually like to refer to Wikipedia, but the page on kite surfing is pretty good!

At one point, my eye caught a man who seemed to be riding above the water. Upon closer inspection, it seemed he was up on a foil, which kept him above the waves and allowed him to take off and fly much easier than those without a foil. 

Without being beat about by the waves, he seemed to have more endurance than the other athletes on the water. He surfed/flew back and forth for a good hour. The other kiteboarders seemed to have enough wind to fly and do flips, too, though.

But for the most part, they seemed to require a lot more effort to fly.

The foil-rider, on the other hand, would simply give his kite a jerk and take off. It was spectacular!

Although he didn't do any flips, he did pose at the zenith of his flight.

And at a certain point, he successfully disengaged his feet and turned the board around in the air, while hanging on to his harness with the other hand.

The evening couldn't have been more exciting. The light, the sports and being there with my family and best friend made for a memorable time.