Shooting hybrid events with a Fuji X-T4

My name is André Wagenzik and I live as a photographer in Berlin. My main areas of activity include congress and conference photography. However, due to the corona pandemic since March of this year, almost all the events booked have been postponed or cancelled entirely within a few days.

Fortunately, we had the opportunity to work and live on a farm in Brandenburg in spring. I captured the intensive work and closeness with the cows photographically, some of the pictures can be seen in issue #49 of the Fuji X Passion magazine – July 2020, and further pictures are to be presented in an exhibition project next year. After the summer break, I slowly received again first requests for photo jobs, mainly from a Berlin PR agency, which among other things, works for a well-known tool and heating technology company.

My job was to shoot reports with and about their products. There were still no requests for analogue event and congress photography. Companies and organizations switched to virtual and online events, and unfortunately, photographic documentation was usually not provided.

But then I got a request for a conference with around 150 people, which was to take place in autumn as a hybrid event in a large hotel in Berlin, i.e. the organization team is on-site with the technology in the hotel’s congress rooms, but the participants are connected online.

It was a great challenge for everyone involved. My job was to capture the work of the team in the hotel with all the technology and external communication to the 150 online participants. All rooms booked in advance were made available to my customer, so that a lot of space was available. I already knew the hotel from another event, at that time there were 750 people, back then it was full, loud and very lively.

Now the emptiness and silence in the large rooms seemed almost eerie, with a lot of technology and little life. I found it extremely interesting to capture this atmosphere but also quite challenging. At first, however, I had the feeling that I couldn’t find any exciting motifs. The moderation room was darkened, the existing light was not nice and there were only 16 people who acted either behind or in front of the cameras.

There were also various screens, three video cameras, a piano for entertainment during breaks and a couple of empty chairs in the room to represent the non-present audience. At the same time, everyone was very tense and excited, as for most of us it was the first event of its kind. Virtual and online events certainly have their place in pandemic times.

However, a hybrid event can never replace the personal conversation between the participants and the associated actions, emotions and gestures. All participants on-site and also those at the other end of the many screens, shared the opinion that it was important to hold the conference, but next time everyone would want to meet again in an analogue setting!

For my events jobs, I use a Fuji X-T4 camera. My lenses are the Fuji XF8-16mm F2.8 R LM WR, XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR and XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR. What always fascinates me about the Fuji X-T4 is the quiet and unexcited work. Much positive has been written about these three zoom lenses. The quality is always sensational for me.

My Samyang MF 8mm F2.8 Fisheye is used again and again to photograph other interesting perspectives. With a monopod and a remote release, you can also photograph very beautiful subjects from a height. In this report, I rarely used a flash. Most of the pictures were taken with the existing lighting conditions, which in retrospect also worked well and underlines the atmosphere better.

For me, it was a silent report, but I still had a lot of fun. Nevertheless, like everyone else, I hope for many sociable, analogue events in the near future! Stay healthy!

"My name is Andre Wagenzik. Born in East-Berlin (Germany) I have been working as a freelance photographer since 1992. After training as a photo technician and working in a photo shop, I started as a freelance photographer in 1992. At that time, shortly after the Turning Point of the GDR, a lot was built and restored in Berlin. So, in the beginning, my jobs offers were mainly architectural motives and one of my first professional equipment was a Sinar large-format camera. But even then, as working with two Fuji medium format cameras (Fuji GS 645 W & GW690) I was very impressed by their overall quality. I also used a Canon T90 as a 35mm camera."

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