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My volunteering experience at the GoShort Festival

I’ve been working quite intensely on my photography skills lately, and I felt it was about time to turn the volume up a notch and try something more professional. So I signed up to volunteer at Go Short, the main international short film festival in the Netherlands, which happens to take place here, in lovely Nijmegen.

Go Short has been a platform for new film-making talent for nearly 10 years. In fact, the forthcoming edition (2018) will be its 10th Birthday. It gathers film makers and enthusiasts from all over Europe for five full days of films, talks, events and, of course, parties! It is definitely the venue that young artists should not miss. Being a volunteer is a great deal of fun, you get to work with a young dynamic team, you get to know the in and outs of event organization, and if you have free time before or after your shifts, you can attend movie screenings for free 🙂

Today, I wanted to talk about my experience as a photography volunteer. Besides that one time, nearly ten years ago, when I worked at a photography studio (mainly post-production work), I had ZERO professional experience as a photographer. “It cannot be that different from going on my travel photo adventures, right?” WRONG! It has been SO intense, such a learning curve. I would like to narrate you my experience throughout.

Wednesday, April 5th

For days, I could not sleep. I was officially nervous and kept having dreams about blurry pictures and yelling editors. “Have fun; you are doing them a favor” claimed Flo. But nope. In my world, I strive towards doing the most professional job ever, even if it’s the first time. Can’t help it.

Armed with two cameras (my Canon EOS 6D, my Fujifilm X-m1) and a tripod it so happens I would never get to use, I made my way to the festival office. Just as I got there, I realized I had lost the camera mount to attach the camera to the tripod. I thought, why is this happening to me? Shall I pretend that I am still a professional photographer and carry the tripod along, even when knowing I won’t get to use it? See, like in any other job, the first day is always about faking. Except it’s not really faking because, deep down, you know you’ve got it. It’s the same with teaching.

One of the reasons I signed up was that I would be doing a great deal of people photographs, whereas normally I do static landscapes. Imagine my shock when I discovered that my first assignment was not just people, but children! Children move, circle, jump, yell and ask too many questions. However, I have to admit that working with children was fun! But, wait a minute, OMG, they keep on running, why is my light estimate so low in the shutter-preference mode? Camera, I NEED YOU TO WORK WITH ME! 

Those indoors, in-the-dark portraits of targets that moved in their seats like worms was the first learning shock. You know your camera and the settings you should be using but, still, you’re under heavy cognitive load and must react fast, and it often results in a lot of missed shots. Since I was photographing hand-held, as I had to be hopping from room to room in the theater, I made my peace with something I thought I would never do: photographing at an extremely high ISO.

The shock of the day came later when I learned I was in charge of taking this year’s Jury pictures. What do you mean, in charge? What do you mean with “I don’t know, you’re the boss”? It was my first day on the job! I knew I had to react and entered faking mode, level 10000. For a few minutes, it was worse than my very first conference presentation. Well, ok, no, I lie. I locked myself up in the bathroom and cried on that one. This time the pressure wasn’t as bad, so I tried my best to look like I knew what I was doing, and had them pose for me on the photocall, and later for the group shots I luckily found a composition that worked. I was saved by the bell! I won’t post all the individual photos, but just a couple of the group ones.

I also got to photograph Lissi Muschol’s masterclass on how to plan and fund your projects, targeted to a selected audience of film students currently in the planning phase of their new projects. I stood there in a corner, reliving all the old classes back in university on pitching, funding and managing, and thinking that the parallelisms with obtaining funding in research are uncanny. In the end it’s all a business, one and only, the same.

Thursday, April 6th

I couldn’t sleep that night either. I thought I had messed up and my pictures were useless. I was so incredibly upset, that the prospect of an evening shift involving lots of low-light shots, plus night club pictures (a new “new”) was quite daunting. But I got out of bed and collected myself, walked to my computer, and edited all the pictures from the day before, all before breakfast. It turns out there were some good shots in there!

I was so desperate thinking of the night shots that I went and bought myself a (second-hand) flash for my Canon camera. What I did not know is that working Flash is freaking difficult, and it is not so easy to obtain beautiful artistic images when a flash-light washes it all away. You gotta work hard until you dominate your settings and find that sweet spot where you get both foreground and background relatively lit up, and your subjects on focus. I repeat, dancing subjects.

It turns out I took quite some whimsical pictures. Were they perfect? no! But, somehow, they had “me” written over them, they had some sort of a style, which made me happy. I also found out that dancing with a camera on my hand, and a beer on the other hand, is not easy. But I had to blend in a little. A little.

Friday, April 7th

Break! No volunteering today, but I got to attend (and photograph) my good friends Vicky and Benny’s wedding! ♥ Here is a sneak preview!

Saturday, April 8th

After a week of insecurities, I woke up finally thinking “I’ve got this”. Saturday was great, sunny, and festive. You see these pictures and think it’s always this nice warm in the Netherlands. It’s not.

I also got to photograph a couple of special sessions, such as the music short films, and a very cool session with screenings of very old, almost forgotten and destroyed short horror films. The music videos were stunning. I was taking pictures during the interview to Emmanuel Adjei, who directed The Formula. Below you can see the film too. It’s delicate yet rough, and so beautiful!

SEVDALIZA – “THE FORMULA” from Emmanuel Adjei on Vimeo.

I also found really interesting the interview to Iranian filmmakers Ali Asgari and Farnoosh Samadi.

Sunday, April 9th

The last day was mostly chilling, eating good food and watching some films! I got to take a few last pictures to the kids activities, as well as of the surroundings of the festival. Great ending to a great week!

That was it!!

♥ Ingrid ♥


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