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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Photographer for a day

On Saturday Tzu Chi held its annual Charity Fair. I was asked if I'd like to lend a hand. I agreed and was given the job of collecting garbage. They didn't call it that, they said 'recycling'. And that is what they actually do. The garbage collectors—sorry recyclers—wander around with trolleys. In each trolley are several large heavy-duty garbage bags and any garbage they collect is sorted; paper in one, cans in another, glass in yet another and so on. It seemed my life at Tzu Chi had gone full cycle. When I first offered to volunteer three years ago they asked me to come one evening a week to sort paper for recycling.

Friday afternoon one of the photographers asked if I was coming to the fair. 'Yes', I told her. 'I'm going to be a gar...sorry, recycler.'

'What! Are you sure? Why? Can't you help us? We need an extra photographer.'

'I don't mind. But you'll have to square it up with the recycling people.'

It was arranged. I became a photographer for a day. A bonus was that I didn't have to arrive until 8.30 am. The recyclers were starting at 7.30.

At 8.30 I turned up with my fz20, loaded with a 1 GB memory card, a spare battery and the battery charger. I even wore the Tzu Chi volunteers' uniform (for the second time). When I got there I put the spare battery in the charger while I went off to shoot. My main focus was to get as many shots as possible of busy volunteers. They were good subjects, most of them simply stayed busy which is what was wanted. The odd one would turn and give me a nice smile. Nice for me but not what Tzu Chi wanted.

After a couple of hours the battery was flat. The card wasn't full but I took the lot in and while the photos were downloaded from the card I swapped batteries and then back out to capture more volunteers.

Tzu Chi sure gets a lot of support. I was thinking of how a press photographer would cover such an event. S/he would spend probably half an hour there, take the necessary photos and be off to the next assignment. They have to make each shot a good one. They won't have time to return for another go. On the other hand we had six or more of us, each staying the whole day. I estimate I took between 600 and 1,000 shots. Multiply that by six. I trust Tzu Chi should have one or two good shots out of that lot for their website and monthly journal.

There was a big crowd there. I think it could be said that the fair was a great success. I did have a secondary job to do but that is perhaps interesting enough that I'll save it for another blog.

It was a hot day and by time I'd downloaded the third lot of photos I was worn out. I only kept the ones from the third battery charge. I haven't had time to process many yet. The photos you see here are just the start. Like to see more? Take a look at my flickr page (see sidebar) in a few days.

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