Friday, March 13, 2015

When being prepared isn't enough

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 250, ƒ/8, 1/250
This week I have been covering the grand opening of the brand new Chick-fil-A in Birmingham, Alabama.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/80 ***4:13 a.m. EST***
One of the fun and yet not so fun things is waking up to capture Dan Cathy playing Reveille, which is a bugle call, trumpet call or pipes call most often associated with the military; it is chiefly used to wake military personnel at sunrise. It was used to wakeup all the First 100 overnight campers.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5, 1/20
People lined up 24 hours earlier and then because there were so many they had a raffle drawing to pick the first 100 customers.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 3200, ƒ/5, 1/60—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. 
People played all types of games to fill the time. Here some are playing corn hole.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/25
Most everyone at some time took their selfie with the Chick-fil-A Cow. 

My gear for this event:
  • 2 – Nikon D4 Cameras
  • 1 – Nikon D750
  • AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Nikon D750
  • AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
  • Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G
  • Sigma APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM
  • Nikon SB800
  • Nikon SB900
  • Pocketwizard kit, TT1, AC3, 2–TT5
  • 2 – Interfit Metal Umbrella Bracket with Adjustable Flash Shoe
  • 2 – Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stand - 6.2' (1.9m)
  • 2 – CowboyStudio 43-Inch Black and White Umbrella for Photography and Video Lighting Reflective
  • Røde Video Pro microphone
  • Shure FP15/83 Lavalier Wireless System
  • ExpoDisc
  • Eneloop XX batteries
  • Gitzo GT-0531 Mountaineer 6X Carbon Fiber tripod
  • ProMaster XC525 Tripod
  • ThinkTank Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag
  • Zacuto Z-Finder, Gorilla Plate V2, and Z-Finder 3.2” Mounting Frame for Tall DSLR Bodies
  • Beats by Dr. Dre Solo HD On-Ear Compact Folding Headphones
Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 720, ƒ/1.8, 1/250
Some Tips:

This is event photography. Generally speaking, you don’t need a ton of fancy equipment to do event photography. I use two DSLR cameras as a bare minimum (Nikon D4), a wide angle lens (14-24mm f/2.8), a general zoom lens (28-300mm f/3.5-5.6), and external flash units (Nikon SB800 & SB900). I am able to have two cameras by my side, eliminating the need to pause and change lenses.

I was carrying more gear than many since I was also shooting video and creating a multimedia package.

Be Prepared – Do your best to get the run of the show. The run of show is a timeline of what is happening next. Most event planners have one and you should ask for it. By the way two times someone needed a pocket knife and like a good boy scout, which I was, I had one for them to use.

Ask Questions – Be sure to ask the even planner are their any planned surprises. You would be surprised how often this happens and it just isn't included in the official run of show just in case it fell into the wrong hands. If they are doing something for someone's birthday you need to know.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60
Slow down and remain calm – "Hey photographer can you come and capture this for us?" is asked so often at events that this is what I call planning for the unexpected.

This is when being prepared is still not enough. It isn't on the run of show and requires you to adjust. Be sure you are fully aware of the timeline and your main objective. Be sure that by getting this quick grab shot doesn't risk meeting the primary objective.

The single most thing that gets under my skin the most is the unexpected. The reason is pretty simple. The difference between good and bad photography lies in the preparation.

What often happens is I am in the middle of setting up for something that requires me to put my cameras into special setup. The best example is doing video with my Nikon D4 cameras. There are so many setting changes that I have them now memorized and saved in the Shooting Memory Bank as VIDEO.

I am in manual mode and the autofocus is changed to manual are two things I can think of right away that is not how I would shoot stills.  Cameras have microphones on them and they are on tripods. If someone were to ask me to shoot something right in the middle of this setup I have to explain it will take me a good five minutes to be ready and then I will need more time to set up once again for the video interview I am doing.

Most of the time when this happens it isn't the client but someone else who thinks I am there to capture everything anyone will want.

"I would love to get that photo for you, can you give me just one minute to make some changes with my gear?" I typically try to say when asked for the unexpected. I am only saying this when I do need a moment to make some changes to the gear. "I am sorry but I need to be getting what I am working on right now for _____________ [insert client's name] that I was contracted to do for them. I have a shot list I am working on and will miss some of those to capture that for you." is also just as appropriate.

If you are hiring a photographer give them a shot list before you sign the contract. Remember that when you ask for those last minute photos the professional photographer needs some time to adjust–this is why you hired them remember. If it were that easy then your smart phone would have sufficed.

Now back to the photographer. Be sure when you are saying no that the reason is that you cannot meet your primary objective versus just being unwilling to be inconvenienced.  Do this too much and you will not appear to be there doing all you can to help the client.

My third camera is often setup for quick reaction to just about anything. Auto White Balance, Auto ISO and auto focus settings for face recognition. I typically use the Nikon D750 for this camera. It has a popup flash just in case I need it.

Remember when people ask you do something at the spur of the moment do your best to accommodate them, but also let them know you may need a moment to get ready.

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