Serendipity is when two areas of interest overlap. I have a soft spot for a particular actor – and I love all kinds of photography.
Ooops, that sounds as if I am open to paparrazzi photography – that’s about the only genre I am most definitely not interested in. But these two passions collided nicely a couple of days ago when I went to Berlin to attend the European Premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: an chance to see my movie boyfriend favourite actor up close and an opportunity to try my hand at red carpet photography.
I had made a half-hearted first attempt at this last year, when the first instalment of The Hobbit trilogy was launched in London. I had left it too late to get accredited for the event, and then found myself locked out of the fan area despite hanging out around Leicester Square for most of the day… I decided to give it another try this year as the European premiere was scheduled for Berlin – and I still have a suitcase in Berlin, as Marlene Dietrich famously sang , i.e. I have good friends who will put me up for the night if I so wish.
A number of my fandom pals were going to be at the premiere – therefore it was clear from the beginning that I would most likely be shooting from the fan area, not the press pit. Moreso, as I again had left it too late to get accreditation for the press pit. (I did try to get late accreditation on the day, but I must say that Warner Bros did not even open their press box until very late. I kept hanging around their press tent all through the morning and over lunch, but their booth was unattended so I eventually decided to stay where I was and observe the proceedings from the fan perspective rather than the press perspective.)
The spot was strategically chosen: It was towards the beginning of the long stretch of red carpet, but not too close to the start. A row of spotlights illuminated the red carpet right where I was. Initially there were fans only on one side of the red carpet – my side – and later there were few people opposite me which meant that the stars were working their way up the railings on my side and neglecting the other side. Best of all: The railings were lined two, sometimes three rows deep but I was able to stand on a handy bench, behind the throng, close enough to shoot with my regular 28-70mm lens, but higher than the fans, and therefore got an unrestricted view of the stars. And I was able to see in advance who was making their way towards us.
I had lugged all my kit to the event – the battery grip was on, the speedlite in my bag, and the 70-300mm zoom at the ready. The latter was not even needed, I was only a metre away from the railings, with unrestriced view of the celebs. But I ultimately made the wrong call when it came to shooting. I opted to shoot without flash, cranking up the ISO instead, assuming the spotlights would give me enough light. However, in the heat of the moment (or in the excitement of seeing those actors, whose journey I had been following for the last year or so), I did not factor in that I would shoot at a very large aperture and slow shutter speed which would blur my pictures. And thus I am not particularly happy with the images I got. At the biggest size they are fuzzy – I can just about get away with crops, but that is it. Also, the higher vantage point meant that I was shooting down on the celebs – who had their heads down, anyway, for signing the autograph books that were held out to them.
Thus, my favourite picture of the day is one that is not really a red carpet image of a famous actor, but one that captures the magic moment of the situation:
Mr Movie Heartthrob is blurred out in the background, but you get an impression of the buzz and the excitement and the fan activity on the red carpet – the fans (mainly fanGIRLS) waiting for their star, all heads turned toward the star, holding out their autograph sheets and their presents… Ultimately, and in hindsight, those impressions were visually much more interesting than the view of the stars signing the autographs. The elation of the fans when their admired star was in front of them, happy smiles, excited screams, waving arms, outstretched hands, the surge of the fans towards the railings. If I am ever doing this again, I would actually be more interested to observe that from the other side, catching their faces as they interact with the actors. There are enough images of the stars, anyway, and technically brilliant ones at that.
On a personal note: As I
confessed mentioned at the beginning, I was there for a particular actor myself. My own fan recollection of the moment when he was in front of me, is actually really blurry. As blurry as my pictures of him (camera shake from being over-excited???). That is something I had actually feared anticipated beforehand, based on my experiences with music photography at concerts. Essentially, the buzz and the excitement of seeing him completely passed me by as I was in work mode, rather than fan mode. My attention was taken up by framing the shot, by keeping him in my view, by capturing him at the best possible moment, by taking as many shots as I could. In a way, I was removed from the action as it unfolded in front of me – a screen between me and him. When he had moved on, I could not even tell what clothes he wore. And I did not have time to “squee” and “thud” when he actually looked up to smile directly into my lens… The so-called “feelz” only came with a time-lag.
But you live and you learn. Red carpet photography? Great if you have no personal interest in the attending stars. If you *are* there for your movie boyfriend, however, it is better to rely on the camera in your head. Those images will be there forever – and sharper, clearer, more colourful than anything you could ever capture on sensor.