This was one of the coolest assignments I have had for a long time – and I thought I give some credit now where credit is due (a big thank you to Riitta in IL) and talk about it a bit. And maybe also share some light into a professional approach to a thing like this.
I got a phone call from my picture editor in IL (she had booked me like two months in advance):
“Listen, I know you know Pekka Haavisto and Antonio and you would like to shoot them. But we are betting that Sauli (the other candidate) will win. I’m assigning four other photographers to the Finlandia Hall as well.What I want from you is to do something special, some of those strange things you always come up with… Forget the routine, forget the usual. Do one image which summarizes the whole thing.”
Seriously: how cool is that? “Do one image”. Forget the come-il-faut-le-faire… and come up with something different. I mean, talk about a nice gig.
Sure, that is also a lot to ask. In a place which is swarming with photographers – good ones – totally packed with people so you cannot really move, etc…
But still: you are liberated from doing the obvious – as the standard brief is: “Do everything, do it fast, send directly out of the cam – and then do something different as well“. That defines the word “oxymoron” … and it just cannot be done.
So: I was one happy photographer with a luxury assignment I usually do not get… And worried beyond belief if I manage to deliver.
So I prepared for it. Five cameras: two in my hands and three remotes (Two Canon 1Dmk4’s and three 5D’s). Normal cams with 24-105 and 400mm – both with WFT2’s – and the remotes with 8-15mm, 15mm and 24mmTS lenses with radios. Prepared really to shoot with the 400mm and the all-around 24-105 was for back-up only.
I got to the venue. I had thought it would be in the main hall and I had figured out the placement of the cameras beforehand – I had worked there a week earlier and knew the area pretty well. I got to the place… and the whole shebang is in the lobby. Damn… to say the least. Time to rethink – and do it quickly…
So I decided to abandon the 24mm tilt-shift, I did not see it working in that setting. I set one remote on the side of the main stage (stage right) with a 15mm fish-eye. I set the 8-15mm with a radio on top of a very light weight carbonfibre pole and chose a position a bit further back next to the stage.
(Actually, if you look carefully, you can see my 15mm rig in the main image on top of the page the shadow on the right side of the image in blue light.)
Sauli and Jenni( the new first lady) walk in, the usual chaos (one of the security goes totally bananas…) and I wait ’til they place themselves behind couple of tables where the TV-cams are pointing.
I am torn between two choices: whether to back off to a bit more elevated position and shoot with a 400mm or advance and shoot wide. There is about 30 photographers in front of me, elbowing for a decent shot, but…
I don’t have to do the usual stuff!
I had talked to the TV guys beforehand, explaining what I might do, explaining that I would keep my eye on their FOV and not get on the way too obtrusively. At exactly 20:00 there is live countdown and they show the precast votes (which gives a pretty good estimate of how this will end). I extend the pole with the camera on top of the protagonists as they are celebrating (a clear victory) and fire the both remotes. Hoping for the best – i.e. no shake, correct exposure, correct focus etc.
Nobody really gives me attitude or anything… I check the images and yes! There it is. My one image.
I see one of our journalists and say: “I need a full spread. Got THE image”. Maybe a bit too self-confident… But I was pretty sure of it.
I edit and send it. I hang out for the rest of the evening, do all kind of stuff…
Turns out that the image I shot is my only image ending up in the printed version of the paper. Full spread, pages 2-3.
But: this is what they asked for – and I was proud I managed to deliver. Lucky? Yes, absolutely – and I humbly admit it. But as the saying goes: luck tends to follow those who come prepared…