Backstage at Nikon Solutions in Germany / by Bill Frakes


What a wonderful weekend in Germany. Old friends, new friends, lots of toys, terrific food and chance to learn from some impressive teachers.

Yasuo Baba from Nikon Professional Services Germany invited Laura and I to come to Dusseldorf to spend five days doing workshops and giving talks at Nikon Solutions in Essen.

I was excited about having a chance to work with some great folks, and spend time interacting with the 11,000 photographers who would be attending the expo.  Plus with plenty of fine German beer for Laura, I knew it could only be a happy environment.

Before anything else I need to talk about Yasuo for a moment.  This was a mammoth undertaking. I think it has to be the largest event of it's kind in the world.  With his team at Nikon Germany, he put together not only an impressive group of speakers, but also filled a giant hall with a wide range of corporate friends and provided a brilliant environment for everyone to learn and share.     He had time and kind words for everyone.  Gracious and generous while under so much pressure and stress is a lesson we can all learn from.

The last month I've had a chance to work often with my long time friend Joe McNally.  Every time I hear him present it's an education.  He is not only incredibly knowledgeable about photography, he is just flat out fun to listen to.

Laura and I were backstage with Anne Cahill right before Joe's first presentation on Saturday -- he was lighting an elephant and a lingerie model with small flash -- and there was a lighting diagram/sketch Joe had drawn on a piece of cardboard lying on one of the shipping cases.   Some of the group--and I am not naming names here,  but it wasn't me, were discussing selling it on Ebay.

I got the chance to make a new friend this weekend who spends significant time with some of my old friends.  Florian Schulz is a contributor to  National Geographic with a world of talent.  Seeing his work on display and meeting his young family was a joy.   I hope to see more of him down the road soon.

The guys from Profoto Germany knocked themselves out to help us with various lighting solutions.  They  introduced us to their ProDaylight system for our shoot with the body builder and gymnasts.  These are an extremely powerful continuous light source -- they will be very helpful particularly for video solutions.  These lights allowed us to show the audience exactly what the light would look like, why we placed the lights where we did and -- more important -- allowed the photographers in the audience to join and shoot with me.   At one point I was struggling to make a point so I invited some of the crowd to come and sit on the floor with me to see things from my, literal, point of view.  About 150 flooded out of the seats and surrounded me.  This was really fun for all of us.

Photo by Carsten Bockermann

Nikon Solutions was a 2 day festival.  Each of the days, we did three presentations: one on DSLR video, one on a Love of Photography and a live shooting demonstration with multi remote cameras.

I always learn more than I can teach at this type of conference.  I have shot about 150,000 frames now with the Nikon D4 but every day I get new information that helps me make the images I want to make.  Each of the other presenters opened my eyes to useful solutions.

It's time to take the inspiration and information and get back to work.

Tomorrow first thing, we are loading up 20 cases of gear and heading to see another group of old friends at my favorite yearly event, the Kentucky Derby.  The only place to be the first weekend of May, every year.