April 9th, 2015. There was this crazy buzz in the foyer of church. Creative Team Night set aside for Colour Conference rehearsals. For the first time the whole Communications & Media team was put in one room. People I knew, people I didn’t know. Photographers in the first row and Film in the second. I sat at the back of the room, staring at my competition, scouting who would be my biggest rival. Yes, that’s me, a dark secret that I’ve been carrying… I am, extremely competitive.
Colour would be the biggest event for our local church. Two conferences. Almost 10 000 people at the Grand West Arena, with a total of over 1000 volunteers serving in a space of four days. Last year that was just a number to me, this year I’m part of that number.
Walking into the Arena the Monday of rehearsals, Production volunteers were all around the place. Some was laying cables, others testing microphones. Everything had to be excellent. We wanted every woman who walked into the conference to feel special. As I walked in I remembered the smell of the backstage rooms… Being able to shoot rehearsals is a big plus. Being a professional photographer you want to be prepared for anything and everything. I was listening close to everything the creative leaders said, making notes of changes and memorising the whole set. Believe me that is possible.
April 14th, 2015. Volunteer rally. All the volunteers under one roof. People from all campuses. Everyone showed up expectant. People stood in awe. This was actually happening, again. Shooting volunteer rally was easy, or so I thought. No shot list. Only a speaker shot, a few interesting things and then the big volunteer photo. Standing next to stage waiting for the call to take the photo I turned around looking for Philip. I was under the impression Philip would take the photo. I mean, Philip is Philip. But no, he looked at me and indicated that I should take it. The first thought that went through my head was, “Dang Philip, now is not the time to be humble”. A lot of emotions flooded me. Standing alone on stage with over 1000 people staring at you is frightening. On my left, Global Creative Pastor Cass Langton, guest speakers, our SA lead pastors Ps. Phil and Lucinda Dooley, and the front row stacked with our key team. Honestly I was scared to death. This was the annual photo everyone anticipates. I was staring at FJ for advice. Hands waving around, he just said go wide. I had a Canon 16 – 35mm f/2.8 on me so wide was definitely not a problem. Ps Phil made the call, everyone went crazy, and I took around 30 photos. Looked at my LCD screen, one should be ok. I nodded my head and walked off stage. I knew I messed up.
All the photographers got together for a quick brief. We went up to our office which was situated on the other side of creation. I now understand why all the people in the Communications team are so fit. I clearly didn’t get the memo. Standing in a room filled with photographers and videographers we had one mandate; and that is to work as a team with excellence. Christen shared something, I wouldn’t know what, because I was so distracted by the fact that I just messed up the biggest photo of the week. I wanted to kick myself, I mean, how I managed to mess up a photo like that is beyond me. A lot went through my head.
I started editing as soon as we were done. Emailed my best shots and left the Arena. I got home, raided the whole kitchen for food and sat on my bed crying. If this was how Colour starts, I don’t want to know how it would end. I messaged FJ to say that I’m sorry about the photo and knew that I had to pull myself together because this is the start of something big.
A few months ago we had Christmas Spectacular at the same place but, this time was different. This wasn’t just a production; this was Colour Conference Cape Town 2015.
Only a few people got shortlisted to shoot at Colour. The magnitude of this global conference is indescribable. The pressure is on. There is no turning back. We are a team, a team that has to showcase photos to the world…
We split into two groups. One group shot the first conference and a different group shot the second conference. I was in the second. Sitting in Block B I was staring at all the photographers wandering around trying to get the perfect shot. In my head I was wondering who had what lens on and what settings they were using. I had everything planned out. Where I was going to stand, what lenses I’ll shoot with, how many shots I’ll take… I just needed a camera. Overwhelmed with frustration I could not wait for the second conference.
By Friday I was dead tired. The night before I cleaned and packed all my equipment. I was ready to shoot my first ever Colour Conference. With sweat dripping down my forehead and a cold autumn wind rushing through my shirt I walked into the Arena. Put everything down and mentally prepared myself for the evening. I had one photo on my mind and that was to shoot wide. After the opening ceremony I waited for Justin’s call to go and edit. If there is one person on the team I have 100% trust in, that would be Justin. Going through hundreds of photos I quickly edited my best, emailed the photos, grabbed the wide lens and ran to the other side of building. As I walked out I saw a staff member of Grand West standing behind the curtain listening to the message. I knew I only had one shot to get the image. It was difficult. Overexposed on stage and underexposed behind the curtain. I took one photo, it sounded like a gunshot that went off. She turned around and looked at me as if I was crazy. I turned around, looked at my screen and I knew I had the photo.
There is one shot I needed to get. I quietly walked up the stairs praying to God I don’t pull a hamstring. I was at the highest section of the Arena. I started shaking, my throat wanted to close and for some reason I got emotional. A lot of thoughts rushed through my head and for a split second I looked around and it hit me.
One of my biggest dreams became a reality. This wasn’t not about me, the photo that I want to get or the equipment I use… I caught myself daydreaming in a reality. Sitting in the corner, I had a slight smile on my face. This is it. This is my calling. But, it wouldn’t have happened if everyone didn’t work as a team. Sometimes as a photographer I become so self-centred in what I want to do, but not here. There was no time for that.
Pushingmy bad attitude and competitiveness aside I slowly walked down. I got the shot and at this point that was all that mattered. I walked back to the office to edit. While my photos were copying to my laptop I remembered the staff member behind the curtain. How easy is it for some of us to get so used to the idea of church on such a scale. Almost every Sunday I walk in and out with a camera in my hand. For some, that is not normal, for me, that is a lifestyle. Take it away and I’ll go ballistic.
I got home, did my routine equipment clean up, charged my batteries and packed all my bags for the next day. As tired as I was, I could not sleep. Something truly happened to me at the top of those stairs. A 5am wake up call, I am not a morning person, everything before sunset is early. I got to the Arena still trying to wake up. Everyone walked in with smiles on their faces. Who does that at 7am in the morning?
It was the last day of Colour. The foyer was buzzing. Ladies standing in lines with coffee cups waiting for the doors to open. Pressure on! As a photographer you walk around looking for moments. There was a lot happening. I got overwhelmed by the amount of people in one building. You could smell freshly ground coffee beans and hear people talk about their excitement for the day.
The first two sessions went past so quickly. By the time the boys did Uptown Funk I was buzzing. I couldn’t wait to shoot it. I remembered the full rehearsal; I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Done and dusted. I went back to the office to go and edit. I went through my photos. Stefan Green nailed it. He was absolutely brilliant! The funny thing is; he saw me and he knew exactly where I was standing.
A few minutes later Ps. Cass Langton walked in. Philip was busy with the global ‘Colour highlights video’ and she needed to see it. I couldn’t show my excitement. FJ, Christen, Philip and Cass were sitting and talking about changes on the video. I made a cup of tea and stared at these people. Creative geniuses right next to me. While I was eavesdropping on the conversation I closed my eyes for five minutes. My body aching and as tired as I am; the last session was still coming.
The last opener was difficult. It’s fun and it pretty much sums up Colour. I got distracted. Missed everything I planned and yet again completely messed up the shots. Disappointed with myself I went back to the office. I knew I shouldn’t get myself down. The last segment was still coming; the wave. This year we got our national flag. It was one heck of a crazy moment on stage. The moment everyone was waiting for. You could see the anticipation on people’s faces. We took our positions to shoot. The wave started and unexpectedly a massive crowed joined us on stage. This wasn’t planned. The dancers were running around. I got smashed in the face by my own camera. They spontaneously started singing Shozoloza. It was just crazy. You could tell that everyone was enjoying themselves. The moment was over and I went to edit. I walked up the stairs with a smile on my face.
All fun and games, but the night ended. Colour was over. Tears flooded my face. This just happened. Colour conference just happened and I was part of it. Looking at all the volunteers, dancers, singers, actors, photographers I couldn’t contain myself. Everyone did extremely well! Our leaders led with excellence. The office was buzzing and everyone went crazy. But it was over…
Everything packed up, lights out and we went home. What a week?!
I cannot explain the pressure, the excitement and rush we worked with.
Yes we did it. We… because we are a team.