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People and events

Daughter Roselyn had a big musical debut last Saturday presenting me with a great ‘self assignment’ opportunity at the 2010 South Canterbury Hospice Wine Festival.

‘High value’ exercise

Believing there would be high value gained from covering Roselyn’s performance, I thought my time would be well spent creating something to share with all those who enjoy her music or couldn’t make it to the event. Also the organisers may benefit from some extra photos and promotion, while the general public could find and enjoy the candid photography on my web gallery. By writing this blog, I hope photographers may also gain some benefit, learning from my approach to photography and results of the assignment.

Besides, I need unending practice to keep ‘camera fit’ and this was a good chance to improve my candid photography skills and gain greater confidence when working among large crowds. This was also a great reason to learn about making videos with my new Canon EOS 5DMII. and editing software. Not to stop there, my very recent YouTube channel had to be mastered so anyone is able to find and enjoy the final product. I was also to benefit from experimentation with email promotion, - and mentions on FaceBook, and even this Blog.

Video combined with slide-show

My idea was to record one of her songs on video and overlay a candid slide-show of still images and to carry the mood of the big day out. The best of both worlds was to be achieved: more appealing studies supported by animation. A greater variety and quantity of candid studies was to be possible by shooting stills. They are easier to compose and optimise into stunning images cmpared to a full video production. And then, the chances of getting any similar quantiy on video would be very low due to my lack of experience and power zoom and focus on the DSLR.

The large sound boxes had us sitting well away from the stage. I found a 2x teleconverter was needed to stretch my 70-200mm zoom lens to 400mm to get a reasonable view of Roselyn at her board of ’88 keys of joy’ (in her words). Later when editing the  video, I found the very large and clear 1920×1080 pixel video format allowed me to easily ‘zoom in’ even further – probably to the equivalent of using a 600mm lens. This is also true for getting really up close still shots.

I set the camera on a tripod and let it run (I didn’t want ot make things too difficult for starters). Keeping my older 5D on hand for chance ‘grab’ shots, I fitted it with a 24-105 zoom lens. Chances of quick auto focusing improves greatly with wider angle lenses because of their inherentlywider ‘depth of field’. I usually don’t worry too much about zooming in tightly, the best crop is better decided later on when putting my slides into sequence.  Ah, the joys of tons of pixels and lens resolution!

After the performance, I went walkabout to grab more candid shots. I found people we not unduly concerned by my presence, some even playing to the camera – such is the advantage of looking ‘professional’ with all the gear! Shots were so much easier having two cameras at my disposal, one with the wide angle zoom, a telephoto zoom on the other. Productivity also went up by not having to change lenses, while eliminating the risk of getting dust on the sensors. My prime reason for buying the 5DMII was that my old 5D did not have sensor auto-dusting. I have spent many hours cleaning up images over the last few years. The value of saving this time easily justifies the cost of the new camera body.

Hospice Wine and Food Festival 2010

'Posers' inconsiderately blocking my video work at the 2010 South Canterbury Hospice Wine Festival. Better to go along with them and turn their nuisance into a photo opportunity. A second camera ready really helps!

Coping with glaring white tents and cold black shadows and louts!

The lighting was very hash to say the least! The sun was like a spotlight! White tents glared in the background, shadows were very cold and black. The cloudless sky gave little fill lighting and on such a clear day was very blue. Worse, a dominance of green trees and lawn reflected unwanted colours making skin tones difficult to capture correctly.

In these widely varying situations I find it easier to set the cameras on one fixed setting for all day and rely on shooting with RAW format files to get all the data. It is possible JPegswould be as useful with the 5DMII but I have yet find out..

On this sort of day I prefer to forget about the time saving advantages of getting it right the first time ‘in camera’. I figure my time is better spent hunting and shooting spontaneously. Good shots can easily be missed while the correct camera setting is considered and automation can be easily misled in these conditions.

When shooting in full light I usually set my cameras to something simple to remember like ISO 200, 1/200 sec, f20, 5200K. Yes, this may not be optimum and generally underexposing, but when shooting RAW, I am assured I will get the full range of useful tone regardless – even if the sun itself is included. I also know I can lift any shadow detail as if it was the subject of correct exposure. Adobe’s ‘fill’ and’ vibrance’ tools are supurb for acheiving this.

I must say, now that I am evaluating images with 21mega pixels, I do detect slight weaknesses in lens clarity by not using their optimumapertures, generally f8-f11. Normally this is not important but if I intend to crop say to 20% (1:1) crops I will change the manual settings. Equally, I will increase the shutter speed and ISO for fast moving subjects.

That said, I have not used the automatic functions on the 5DMII a lot, so used them occasionally to see how well they worked. In general, it wasn’t worth the bother as I still wanted to give them a good cranking on the computer afterwards. Auto can be very useful when the light is randomly changing, due to passing clouds say. Especially so if extremes in depth of field or shutter speed are also needed. Setting ISO to automatic seems to help out very well in such cases. I could go more into how I setup my camera preferences and automatic settings etc but not for now.

Tweaking for mood and style

Processing RAW formatted images can be very time consuming and not recommended for the occasional shooter. I wont go into all theissues of shooting RAW only to say I can only justify my use with Adobe Lightroom. It helps me quickly optimise and output large batches of files. Using the same manual settings throughout really pays off here. I only need to get the adjustments right for one  image and all others needing similar treatment can have the same adjustments applied in a jiffy. If automatic settings were used, each image would have to be individually optimised taking an impossible amount of time.

Of course I like to vary the results and will tweak the odd one in each batch for different effects. You will see from the results in my gallery I can go for excessively warm or cold effects, high or low tonal range, strong of flat contrast for the same type of image. I was not overly bent on being consistent or technically correct that day. I was after the mood and wanted to make creative use of imperfections and nuances to effect this. Only in this way can I develop my own individual style.

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