CeBIT 2017 with Ray Kurzweil, Nolan Bushnell, Angela Merkel, and Shinzō Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the CeBIT 2017 opening ceremony

CeBIT. A combination of trade show and conference (and this year, festival), CeBIT’s history runs deep. Not a “regular” on the tech-conference circuit, it’s one that if you ask anyone about it, they might have been in the past, or they at know of it and often ask me about it.

I suspect all of that is going to change this year, as the group has moved the dates to June, and undergone a massive rebranding. With that in mind, I’m REALLY looking forward to see what they’ve got planned.

The big names come out

Dignitaries are welcomed and guided to CeBIT’s opening ceremony

Being an official German entity, CeBIT has some pretty heavy weight behind it. I can’t name another single event where state figures gather and present at an opening ceremony.

In 2017, CeBIT’s partner country was Japan, and I had the honour of sitting (ok, kneeling in a photo line) just metres away from the Japanese Prime Minister and the German Chancellor. Needless to say, a choice spot, and one that the entire media fights for. I got as close as I could seconds before, and the minute the pair sat down. Pounce!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe
CeBIT’s partner country Japan presents at the opening ceremony

The Art of the Performance

Every year, CeBIT produces an eye popping opening ceremony that features the partner country. 2017 was no different, and audiences were treated to a visual spectacle courtesy of a number of talented Japanese performers.

And naturally, there’s a full compliment of welcome and opening remarks, from both sides, Germany and Japan

Mobile phones abound for Shinzō Abe’s address at CeBIT
And would you believe — this is only HALF the auditorium
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the audience at CeBIT
Almost as far as the eye can see. Attendees listen to Merkel’s words on technology and Germany’s role

I will admit, with this much political power in one building, there are a number of protocols to be observed. … and if you’ve ever met me in person, you can probably guess that protocol isn’t my natural state of being.

Having been physically escorted out of the building a few years prior by Fr. Merkel’s personal security detail (I guess I got just a biiiiiiit too close), this year I kept my distance, and everything worked out just fine.

In fact, hanging back a bit was a good lesson in seeing the whole scene, and not just the focus. Case in point:

Hartwig von Sass, Spokesman, Deutsche Messe keeps everything on track at the opening ceremony

The Main Event

After an evening of welcomes and hand shakes and toasts, it’s time to get down to business. The Deutsche Messe (translated … German Convention Centre) in Hannover is a massive complex. And when I say massive, I mean on a German scale.

When one exhibitor is in Hall A, and you’re in Hall G, you’re going to want to find the shuttle, as the walk would consume most of the time you’ve allotted to that meeting.

Thankfully, CeBIT brings me in to cover the conference side of things, and I have the luxury of working with one of the nicest, closest, tight knit, backend families every year.

The crowds pack the main stage at CeBIT Global Conferences on opening day

In 2017, one of the highlight speakers was Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer at the Microsoft Corporation. Needless to say, a kinda big deal. Maybe, just sorta. Read: whoa!

What I still find remarkable to this day is that the higher up in the hierarchy you go, the more approachable and amicable I find these people. I guess, you could say that they’ve done their time, and worked hard, and arrived at a position where they know they’re respected for their talent and the work they’ve produced.

Peter Hopwood prepares speakers before taking the stage

To this end, Brad was standing around backstage with my friend and MC for the day, Peter Hopwood. As I’m never shy to go in for the deadpan “got a minute for a quick headshot?”, I hovered, found the right time to jump into the conversation, and minutes later, had the president smiling.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer — Brad Smith

Backstage in Black and White

I tend to do this at most events that I cover, but it was born at CeBIT, the backstage in Black and White.

Makeup for Made up — Backstage at CeBIT

For one, lighting backstage can be, let’s be generous and say “minimal” at best. This light can often be a mixture of stage lights, lamps, and the often abysmal overhead lighting. Meaning, it can be any range of colours. Overhead lighting can sometimes be fluorescent, table lamps incandescent, and stage lights, especially if they’re LED based, any range of “white”.

Peter Hopwood. MC, trainer, and excellent deliverer of Blue Steel.

What this translates into photographically is that if I colour correct for incandescent, the fluorescent hue of green becomes overly apparent, where as if I correct for LED, the incandescent can produce overly yellow tones, with a fun haze of green from the fluorescent lighting.

The quick and easy fix? Black and white it is. Now enough of the technical speak, another great aspect of black and white photography in general is that when you remove the element of colour, the composition tends to dominate the image. … at least in my not-so-humble opinion.

And one of my favourite production families never fails to provide me with some outstanding moments to capture. In black and white.

Hosts Brent Goff and Peter Hoopwood at lunch backstage at CeBIT 2017
Author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil and Head of Protocol and Events at Deutsche Messe Michael Rose, backstage at CeBIT 2017

Seeing into the future with Ray Kurzweil

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, a quick introduction to a man who (probably) needs no introduction:

RaymondRayKurzweil (/ˈkɜːrzwaɪl/ KURZ-wyl; born February 12, 1948) is an American author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist. Aside from futurism, he is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He has written books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, and gives public talks to share his optimistic outlook on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology.
Ray Kurzweil on stage at CeBIT 2017

While I’d heard many things about Mr. Kurzweil, it’s a completely different thing to be in his presence. He’s one of those types of figures that when he walks in the room, you know he’s there.

Ray Kurzweil

And on and on

The following few days at CeBIT are filled with a wide variety of talks, stands, and genuinely interested (and interesting) attendees. … and not to mention a rollicking party. Always a treat to see the conversion from conference by day, nightclub by night.

Conference by day, dance floor by night at CeBIT 2017
Electric Cherry Blossoms at CeBIT 2017
Where DJ’s and VC’s rub shoulders with ease at CeBIT 2017

Again, with the massive rebranding and moving of dates, it should be a real treat to see what CeBIT cooks up this year.

Atari and Chuck E. Cheese founder Nolan Bushnell reacts to an audience question at CeBIT 2017
Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer at the Microsoft Corporation.
The robot Pepper at CeBIT 2017
Porsche shows off it’s forward thinking with the Panamera 4 e-hybrid at CeBIT 2017
An attendee elects to receive a subdural data chip at CeBIT 2017
Host Peter Hopwood backstage at CeBIT 2017
Late afternoon sun strikes a tree of blossoms at CeBIT 2017

Oh, and there’s one more thing

Having enjoyed the setup and outcome of Peter’s shot above, I asked if he’d do me the favour of repeating the shot with me as the subject.

A quick learner, a few, “this moves that. Put that focal point just about here. Wait for it to turn green. ..” banters et voilà: