Behind the Scenes at Ignite Lansing 4.0

I have counted down the minutes to Ignite Lansing 4.0 ever since last year’s Ignite Lansing 3.0 came to a close. How would the team behind such an awe-inspiring event outdo themselves? I could hardly wait to see.

I was one of the presenters at Ignite Lansing 3.0. And let me tell you, it was a great experience. I tried to think of a way to improve upon last year’s performance, but I had difficulty finding inspiration.

Thankfully, Fate intervened.

Sign Me Up ... Again

Well, to be specific, Dan Bjorklund intervened. He was in charge of the photography team for Ignite Lansing 4.0 and he asked me if I would be interested in taking photos at the event.

I was honored and, honestly, surprised. I do not consider myself a professional photographer in the least, merely an enthusiastic amateur. But, Dan was a regular reader of my Lovable Geek photoblog, and he liked what he saw. He also knew, thanks to the blog, Flickr and my sharing links on Twitter, I had no difficulty getting my photos online.

Always up for a creative challenge, and shooting at an event like Ignite Lansing certainly qualified, I agreed to join the ranks of Ignite volunteers.

Now What?

I have only been actively shooting for my blog since last April. Do the math. That’s less than a year of experience with my DSLR (“big boy camera”). But, I’m the kind of person who learns by doing—and Ignite Lansing would present an excellent chance to learn.

Why? I don’t normally shoot events, or even shoot indoors. Most of my photos are taken outside during the day. I also do not shoot people too often either (remember, I’m taking about photography here), as most of my subjects are animals (ducks on the Grand River) or still life (rusty pipes in alleys).

Ignite Lansing 4.0 would be indoors, without sunlight and would, sadly, not feature any ducks (there is always next year) or rusty pipes. I would be out of my usual comfort zone.

This would put my duck/rusty pipe photography skills to the test.

Ignite in Focus

I asked Bjorklund for advice and what kind of shots he wanted. He said, “Play to your strengths.”

OK. So, what were my strengths? I enjoy still life and catching animals “in the moment.” Could I translate my strengths to a live event like Ignite Lansing?

Since I was not the only member on the photo team, I knew there would be no shortage of shots of the speakers. That gave me an idea: let the rest of the team focus on the speakers—I would focus on behind the scenes moments, the crowd and the minutiae of this large event—anything that may usually be over looked.

Photoblogging had given me an eye for spotting objects others may pass by without notice. It was time to put that skill to use.

Set Up

My girlfriend volunteered to help with set up on Friday morning, and sensing a chance for a few photo ops, I tagged along.

Last year, Ignite Lansing was held at the Knapp’s building downtown. This year, it was in an airplane hangar. Yes. An airplane hangar.

The bulky exterior of the hangar was nothing special, but upon stepping inside, I realized why this spot was chosen.

The spacious, white interior granted the event planners a blank canvas. The stage was nearly complete, giving me an idea as the scale of the event. Columns of folding chairs lay stacked to my right as I walked into the main hangar, and several dozen were already set up in neat rows.

This event was going to be huge … or, to use the parlance of our Internet times, EPIC.

In-between helping set up chairs and the twin rear projection screens, I took photos. A favorite was of two volunteers looking over the event “map” which detailed where everything, down to where each seat was to be placed.

This was no parking lot jamboree. This was the real deal. Lending a hand with the mid-morning set-up made me appreciate all of the work going into this event. I could tell this was a labor of love for those behind the scenes—people like Ben and Erin Slayter and Nick Kwiatkowski.

Show Time

My girlfriend and me arrived at the airport around 5p.m. on Friday. She had a shift checking in attendees at the terminal before they boarded a CATA bus to the hangar. I caught a shuttle with a few other volunteers.

Once I walked into the completed hangar, I might as well have been on another planet.

Lasers. Colored lighting. Flashing stage lights. This was no longer a simple airplane hangar. It was a venue a Las Vegas performer would be jealous of, and blew away all of my expectations.

The photo team met with Dan one last time before the start of the show. His orders were simple: “Have fun. Play to your strengths.” It was on us to do a good job.

The lighting made for some unique photo ops. The flashing colors and fog machine blanketed the on-stage DJs, granting me a few photos full of rich purples and blues. I crept behind the stage to take photos of the projector lamps illuminating the fog.

I stayed behind stage to take photos of what went on while speakers give presentations. I even took photos of photographers at work. I left backstage and mixed with the crowd, opting for shots of attendees enveloped in different colors. I snuck up to the production booth. I wanted shots of what went into making the event work.

I blinked, and Ignite Lansing 4.0 came to an end. It was over, but not gone—this once-in-a-lifetime event would live on, captured for prosperity, in my photos.

Daniel J. Hogan is the Geek half of the Ginger and the Geek Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter, @danieljhogan

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Daniel J. Hogan at Ignite Lansing 4.0

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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