Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Dancers from above

Dancers from the Creation Dance Production of Genesis United Methodist Church in San Jose, California, perform a dance of hospitality to open the April 25 evening worship celebration at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida.

I don’t like taking pictures of meetings, which are almost always visually boring. One exception I make is the quadrennial gathering of United Methodists called General Conference. It’s a chance to see a lot of friends and work with Mike DuBose, a photographer colleague who actually knows what he’s doing, and so I’m constantly pestering him with how-to questions, to which he consistently responds with quintessential Southern patience. But when he thinks I’m not looking, he messes with my images in Photoshop to try and fix the myriad defects.

General Conference is also an opportunity for a Catwalk Moment. Here’s one from last spring in Tampa. It wasn’t a very high ceiling, and I was trying to get a shot straight down on some dancers gathering around the communion table in the middle of the hall. There were some beams right below me, so I had to hold the camera way out over the edge, hoping there was no structural defect in the railing. I used Nikon “Live View” mode to see and center the image on the back LCD screen. I popped some flash into the scene to even out the white balance across the image (weird lighting abounds in arenas and convention centers). I think the result is kind of cool.

Over the years I’ve done this several times in different venues. There’s always a moment before walking out on one where I need to stop and insure that there’s nothing that could fall from my body or equipment. Even a pen dropped from such height could cause considerable harm if it reached terminal velocity before crashing into someone’s head. Cameras are always strapped carefully. I double check my lenses are properly seated (getting hit by a three pound lens would make a pen's impact seem pleasant). Catwalks are always interesting places, filled with techy gadgets and dirty cables, and often feature steep ladders and low beams. In a couple of places, security procedures dictated that I had to be accompanied by a technician to make sure I didn’t hurt myself or someone else. In St Louis’ Edward Jones Dome, a member of the rigging crew had to come with me, and our walk more than 200 feet above the heads of people at the United Methodist Women Assembly included a running commentary on the history of the stadium’s upper reaches, including the spot where a technician had missed a step and fallen to his death. Ahh, the possibilities for alternative tourism abound.

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