We recently photographed a conference for a large international company, among the delegates were the engineers who had built and constructed the amazing Shard building in central London. What was particularly interesting from a photography point of view was the fact that we were am attending the conference am on the top floor of London’s City Hall. This enabled us to have a fantastic view not only the shard building of the surrounding scenery. This included an amazing night view of Tower Bridge, perfect views across the river of the Tower of London, the construction site which is currently in the city, the Shard building itself and the newly constructed glass office buildings which make up the area immediately south west of City Hall.
Over 200 delegates from a number of different countries attended the conference, this presented a variety of different photographic challenges in order to photograph a conference of this quality and scale. We used a variety of different equipment in order to photograph the conference. First among the equipment used were our digital SLR’s. We used three digital SLR’s shoot the Nikon on the 800, the Canon 7D, the Canon 5D mark two. I would personally say the Nikon was the best among these cameras but then it’s the newest so I guess that makes sense, it handled the best, shot the best video, but primarily returned the highest number of focused photographs this to us is by far the most important factor to us.
I personally found it very difficult to maintain concentration throughout a 12 hour conference this was made a lot easier by the regular stream of small photographic challenges that one encounters shooting this kind of event. Time after time you’re presented with little difficult moments that you have to figure out, solutions don’t always present themselves as easily as you might imagine. The best of these was trying to photograph large tables at the dinner, around each table sat 12 delegates and of course trying to photograph from any angle means that you’re presented with the backs of somebody’s head, if you asked all 12 delegates to face you busy trying photograph you’re going to be presented always with some people who are basically facing the wrong way or at least not in your plane focus, so we moved ourselves gently around the table photographing the delegates four at a time. This seemed to be the best solution for getting a well composed image with people almost in a straight line. Another problem with the table photography was the white tablecloth presents itself as a very bright area to the flash, the solution we found this was simply angling the flashgun up slightly, so that the light did not go onto the lower half of the image and consequently gave a better and more balanced results. CV examples below.
Shooting delegates while they are speaking from the podium is often the tricky part of conference photography, getting a photograph with a suitable background is often a real problem is you cannot approach to close without really becoming part of “the show” yourself, it’s often impossible to use powerfull on camera flash, as quite a few delegates find the regular flashing of cameras to be annoying when they’re trying to speak, and ask that we do not use it. The solutions are always compromises in this situation but we found using 200 mm 2.8 lens on a tripod pointed directly at the speakers head and shoulders work nicely on condition that one could find an angle that presented a nice background or the something deeply out of focus and not too distracting. At this particular conference most of the delegates were engineers and consequently they were practical people who understood the importance of getting a good photograph and were able to allow us to do our jobs without too much primadonna hassle. Unfortunately being engineers a very often presented their speeches without a great deal of animation which does not leads to the best possible photographs nonetheless if the images and clean and clear shop and well composed and have a nice background it does present an extremely nice and professional view of the conference which makes the clients very happy.
For me personally the highlight of the evening was really being able to photograph the skyline from the top City Hall. This is an extremely difficult vantage point to gain access to, because of the high security in the building and the fact they don’t often permit photography. We were allowed almost unrestricted access to the top of the building throughout the night and during one of the most beautiful Chris and clear Winter nights I’ve been able to take photographs in for very long time. Some of the video sequences would just superb. There were several boats passing up-and-down the river which gave us an interesting foreground and even more of a light show build some truly artistic and beautiful images.
The clients were so pleased with our work at the end of 12 hour day they were very happy to invite us all back to the hotel bar at the Hilton, and offered us a variety of different spinoff jobs including some architectural photography which we are very much looking forward to!