Photographer & Gentleman

Journal

A journal of stories and photographs by Calgary photographer, Riley J.B.

The Red Carpet Photographer? Calgary International Film Festival

I am primarily a landscape/cityscape photographer that does the occasional portrait. An event photographer I am not. So why did I volunteer to be a red carpet photographer for the Calgary International Film Festival this year? Answers to this question, gear talk and true stories of me pretending to be an event photographer after the break..

The Gear

With a media pass in my hands and little direction from the Calgary International Film Festival {CIFF} as to what they wanted from us, I attended the Globe Theatre in downtown Calgary for the Alberta Spirit Gala event. I packed my Thinktank Retrospective 7 with the following gear:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EF 35mm f1.4L
Canon EF 50mm f1.2L
Canon EF 17-40mm f4L

Camera Porn

Camera Porn

Certainly it was not the preferred kit list of an actual event photographer. When I arrived a cool 1 1/2 hours early for the film gala my only plan was to look the part. Fake-it-till-I-make-it mentality. But without a 70-200 2.8II on my camera and a flash it would be hard to fake that I was a red carpet photographer.

Finally the red carpet was being rolled...err...kicked out...and a line of well dressed Calgarians was queuing.


I wanted very badly to provide photos that the CIFF would look at and say "I like this." 

In the world of photography it is so easy to just take the same photo that the guy next to you is taking. A backdrop of sponsors, a red carpet and a velvet rope. On one side stars and directors. On the other, the photographers.

I am glad that I did not get direction to just stand at the red rope and take photos of people in front of the sponsor logos. (Although that's probably exactly what the sponsors would want).

As the line grew bigger a small handful of photographers showed up. As people began to enter into the theatre the actors and filmmakers were being posed by a seemingly veteran event photographer who seemed to know who they were. Photographers kind of crowded around taking the exact same photo. After I did the same I checked my LCD & knew those were not the photos I wanted.

My goal from here on out was to make more interesting photos that were my style...not just snapshots of a gala. This was how I was going to capture the red carpet.

It was hard making a photo look like another photographer didn't just step into my view while I was pressing the shutter. Real hard.I always return to the photography I love making.


After the first gala I was walking back to my car and found a big poster for the Film Festival in a window. I stood across the street and put my 50mm lens on my camera. I laid in wait for people to walk by. After a dozen different people and a dozen different photos I got what I was looking for.

It was not going to win the Pulitzer this year but it was a vision in my head that I was able to transfer onto a CF card in my camera.

I hope the event photographers out there that may stumble upon this do not think I am trying to cut down what they do. I have seen some great event photography. And it is difficult.

I almost broke down and rented a 70-200II or 24-70II for the next gala. It was a moment of weakness that if I followed it would have taken me off of my chartered course. I am an admitted gear junkie. I love gear. Bodies, lenses, filters, bags, tripods, tripod straps... everything. When I go to The Camera Store I imagine the employees think I may be trying to shoplift as I just seem to wander around looking at everything. *For the record I am not shoplifting.. as it would be too difficult to conceal tilt-shift lenses in my pants.

To battle my constant quest for gear I am just using what I have. They are tools that are fully capable if I just let them be. My bag was packed again with fast primes and slow zooms and I headed to the Green Carpet Gala for the screening of Chasing Ice.

The CIFF is heavily dependant on their great volunteers. Here is a photo of one taking the ticket from a beautiful-bokeh moustachioed patron.

The CIFF is heavily dependant on their great volunteers. Here is a photo of one taking the ticket from a beautiful-bokeh moustachioed patron.

You would not believe how hard it is to make a photo of people's shoes standing on a red carpet without looking like you're trying to take up-skirt shots...well you might believe it. I assure everyone, especially those in the above photo, that is not what I was doing.

You would not believe how hard it is to make a photo of people's shoes standing on a red carpet without looking like you're trying to take up-skirt shots...well you might believe it. I assure everyone, especially those in the above photo, that is not what I was doing.


I still wanted to take some kind of red carpet photos. Just not the same as the photographer standing next to me. A lot of them turned out to look like I had snuck near the red carpet. Some I liked though.

The last gala I was able to attend was the Black Carpet Gala screening of the movie Antiviral. I brought two things with me I had not brought to the other Galas. My wife and a tripod. I showed up nice and early as I wanted to take some daytime long exposures of the Globe Theatre with my Lee Big-Stopper. When I drove by I saw hundreds and hundreds of people lined up. This made where I could set up a tripod very limited. I went across the street in a loading zone to prevent cars from parking in front of me.

I could not get to a position to really capture just how many people were there.

I could not get to a position to really capture just how many people were there.

I did stand at the red velvet rope and take a few photos of people that everyone else was taking. But after 5 or so minutes I left to walk the long line up of film-goers.

Best Dressed

Best Dressed

I don't know how the CIFF will respond to my photos. I know I went there and did the best I could with a vision. Do you need a flash and 70-200II to be an event photographer? You don't to be a volunteer one. But they would be handy if that was your job.

The best part of this week was I was given an opportunity to move to a different genre of photography and apply my landscaper vision and try out some new stuff too.

I want to thank The Camera Store for running the contest to get a media pass and I want to thank the Calgary International Film Festival for providing me access and allowing me to take whatever photos I wanted. All organizers and the volunteers were great.