Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Since working at LivinginPeru.com I have done a lot of photography of special events and Lima's nightlife but last Sunday I got my first big break when I was sent to cover the presidential debate. This was my first real assignment covering a news/political related event, and it was awesome! The event was held at the well known Marriott hotel in Miraflores just in front of Larcomar and was scheduled to begin at 8:45pm. Being new to such an event I arrived early in order to get a good spot among what I anticipated to be a heavily crowded press section. When I reached the Marriott at 4pm the streets were barricaded in a two block radius of the hotel and the press section was already teeming with a good size group of veteran photographers and cameramen who had claimed their spot and set up their gear. The press section was situated a about 25-50 meters from the hotels entrance with a blocks length of waist high metal fences and a stair step style stand for the press to position themselves for the candidates. I was totally excited about being there but at the same time felt like such a rookie that I'm sure I must have let out the stench of one as the vets all seemed to have that same look on their faces which probably shared the mental thought of "great, who the hell is this fucking noob!" To make matters even more embarrassing for myself I played the role of the guy who asks everyone 100 questions about photography and the biz, not that I really cared though since it was so interesting to hear how many of these guys got their careers started.
After waiting a few hours I met up with another co-worker and professional photographer from my job who after having just entered the hotel as part of (what I initially believed to be the more privileged journalists) a group of journalists who were going to cover the event from inside, had quickly turned around and left when she was informed of the reality of the controlled situation that had been arranged by the internal security. Apparently all the press were crammed into a "special" room which had one lousy TV that would broadcast the event, while the photographers on the inside would be given the opportunity to take a five minute photo op of the candidates before the debate and nothing more. It turned out that the best photo opportunities that night would be the ones taken outside. One after another the candidates arrived in their security detail convoys and took turns posing briefly for the press before entering the hotel. It all happened so quickly and I remember that when the walked towards the press section my body went into autopilot as I frantically took photos all while desperately trying to remain calm. Though the area was fairly well lit, thanks in part to the camera crews of various TV channels who set up these huge spotlights which had what looked like big pieces of white paper taped to them in order the soften the light, I still had to use an ISO above 1600 for my f4-5.6, 55-200mm lenses. The noise in my photos were fairly high but luckily I was able to tone it down later in Lightroom.
Once the candidates were inside Elie (the co-worker I mentioned earlier) and I went out and took photos of the supporters who had been corralled into their respective corners. Just like any sporting event the supporters of each candidate were both watching the debate while cheering and jeering as loud as they could, a spectacle that was aided by the use of live bands, air horns (damn, were there a lot of air horns!), and music. I rapped up the shooting at around 10:30pm, a little after the debate had ended, having spend six hours waiting and taking photos. I was beat but it was an amazing experience, one I look forward to repeating in the future.