The year is 2009; it honestly feels like forever ago now. So why am I writing about 2009 now? In 2009, I had a chance to attend for a second time the Canada Youth event at Brock University. Canada Youth was the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s response to the Youth Triennium Event hosted by the Presbyterian Church’s various branches in the USA, primarily Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA). I did get to one Triennium event, but by the time the next event came along, PCUSA had curtailed the number of spots available for Canadians. The PCC had already started their own event Canada Youth back in 2000. But why am I, now twelve years later, posting about this event?
Well, a few weeks ago, while scrolling through Facebook, trying to avoid all the usual doom and gloom that occupies a lot of our social media feeds, and I stumbled across a lovely post from a friend whom I met at this event. From there, I had to go back and start looking at all the images that I took at the CY2009 event. Officially, I was there attending the Youth Ministry Stream, which in itself offered up some amazing lessons and sessions. But my second job at the event was acting as a photographer and writer for the Presbyterian Record, the former magazine for the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Event photography at Church Youth events was nothing new to me. I had been doing it for years at PYPS events and managed to hone my skills both there and at 1812 Reenactment events. Plus I had a big camera and plenty of lenses. At CY09, I ran primarily with my Nikon D300 with the 17-55, 70-200, 105 (manual focus), and 10-20mm. I did have a film camera with me, a Nikon F3, but I did not use it a lot because I was there shooting for a magazine.
What made CY09 interesting is that the idea of Web 2.0 and user-generated content along with Social Media was starting to become a major part of people’s lives. I would shoot in both RAW and JPG formats and even uploaded a selection of images each day to a separate album on Flickr, then head over to the Record’s site and write a blog post about the day’s events. The idea was that the congregations who sent their members and youth to the event could see everything real-time. It certainly helped me in learning how to edit my images. Edit in the sense of picking out the favourites of the day that expressed the day’s events.
I also learned how to be a better event photographer. My usual technique had always been to stand back and let the event happen, removing myself from the equation. And in many cases, that’s what you have to do. Capturing people at the moment, without them knowing that a camera was pointing in their general direction. Here is where the 70-200mm and 105mm (the iconic Nikkor 105/2.5) came in handy. I also learned the power of aperture priority and long lenses to isolate the subjects. But I also learned that sometimes you have to be there and throw yourself into the fray, using those short lenses, the 17-55 and 10-20 and let people mug and pose for the cameras. And importantly, to capture people’s expressions, hugging, jumping. Letting your camera often think in full program mode so you can focus on the moment and the people rather than exposure. And sometimes, life can be a little out of focus, and that’s okay if the image is powerful.
Do I miss being able to go to these events? I do, and sadly I never did make it to the 2012 event. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to revisit Canada Youth and take a camera along again and get back into the swing of things. If you want to see all the images I took, you can head over to Flickr and see the collection. Sadly, the Presbyterian Record website is no longer active, but I still have a print copy where my photos and an article are published.