Published March 2nd 2013

Here comes the photographer!


It's amazing what large cameras can do for you when you are out shooting. They can literally open doors and break down fences.

A view of the jumpers that I wouldn't have gotten from behind the fence
[Martin Joergensen, D200, 70-200 f/2.8]

Some years ago I toured the city during the Copenhagen Harbor Festival, an annual event where the city of Copenhagen celebrates its location on the water and a lot of activities take place on the waterfront.
I was together with my wife, and as always I had brought a camera. I was carrying the D200 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 mounted and had my 17-55 f/2.8 in a (large) pocket.

Sesame open!

I shot the events, the people and had a pretty good time. We were going along a long quay with all sorts of things happening. At one place there were people making jumps into the water from a trampoline, doing somersaults and all kinds of tricks. The area was fenced off, and we of course staid behind the fence, me shooting the people jumping.
- Hey, let the photographer in!
A guy coordinating the jumps and obviously in charge in some way, pointed at me, and another man rushed to my place behind the fence amongst all the other spectators, opened a link and let me in, and I could roam the enclosure and get to far better positions than was available to the general audience.
No camera phone or compact camera could have done that! A pro-looking SLR did.
You can see a few photos from the day here.

Let the waters part

A year or so later I went to the Copenhagen Carnival to do a blog and a podcast for the Nikonians, which I did on a regular basis back then. I armed myself with the two cameras I had: a D40 and a D200. On each I stuck a flash and the 17-55 and 70-200 respectively.
I was probably even wearing headphones and having a microphone stuck on my collar.
The carnival parade was making its way down the main pedestrian street of Copenhagen, and already from a distance I could see a major problem. People! Not only a lot of people, but actually an insane number of people!
All lined up to look at the parade, which would pass by through a fenced off lane in the middle of the street.
I made my way, and as the first bands and dancers passed, I was shooting by holding the camera high over the crowd – like most other people taking pictures.
But lo and behold!
As I was clicking and flashing away, the crowd simply parted and let me through. And not only that, but when I got to the fence, I hesitated a moment, and then simply ducked under and into the closed-off area.
None of the guards or policemen as much as lifted an eyebrow, and I was now in the middle of the cauldron shooting from in front of the first row and in the middle of the action. And both musicians and dancers were definitely aware of my presence and often approached me and gave their best pose to my honor.
A couple of more or less impressing looking cameras had done the trick.

Over the crowds
Going close
Going low
A couple of more or less impressing looking cameras had done the trick.

At the BMX World Championships. Getting accredited wasn't hard.
[Martin Joergensen, D300s, 70-200 f/2.8]

Getting accredited

As much as the camera can open doors, they don't always do the trick. I am after all not the only person who owns a couple of SLR's and some large glass. At most venues you need to be accredited to gain better access to the action.
But that's possible too. If you don't try, you will never get in, and if you get turned down, well, you are back where you would have been anyway: behind the fences.
I have applied for several events here in Copenhagen, and gotten access every time. My first success was the Copenhagen Classic Gran Prix, a motor race that takes place in the streets of the city.
I went to their home page, found an email address and fired off a request for a press pass. I was doing podcasts and writing articles, and used that as my reason for wanting access.
No problem at all. I got the pass, and had full access for the two day event, could move freely behind fences, “backstage” and everywhere I wanted. I did of course make both a podcast and publish images, and made sure to report back to the PR-department of the race with links to my work. And I offered them to use my pictures – which they seemed very pleased with, but haven't done as far as I know.
Another attempt was for the BMX world championships a few years back. Again no problem: free access, backstage pass and even a goodie bag and free beverages in a press tent with shadow, wifi and the whole shebang.

Gearing up. I borrowed a D3 and a 300mm f/2.8
Beating the crowds (here the audience)
Getting close
Beating the crowd (here the other photographers)

Not all are impressed

It's not all PR and press departments that get impressed by bloggers or people who own good cameras and sell an image now and then.
I once tried to get press access to the large expo Photokina in Cologne in Germany. No go! They wanted a press card, tearsheets of published articles and whatnot. No chance for the odd blogger or web publisher!
The same typically goes for big name concerts and other similar events. They only let through a few photographers and want to know what media you work for or have a full CV for freelancers, work samples and more, and also set some very strict rules for the time and place you can shoot and the use of your images.
But smaller and lesser known names performing humbler locations with less attention. Drop them a mail and ask. Don't necessarily offer free images, but make sure to send samples if you get in. Returning and saying thank you has never hurt, and might make it easier for you to get in the next time.