Parties, Dinners, Dances, Oh My!
I hadn’t done event photography in over 10 years so it was with trepidation I agreed to photograph the Desert Caballeros Western Museum Annual Charity Dinner & Fundraiser. The venue was one of the worst I’d seen for photography, high ceilings, walls lined with glass cases and lots of mixed lights. The main lights were some sort of halogen lamps way up high. The museum display cases had some type of incandescent bulbs. Fortunately, both seemed to be daylight balanced which was more than I could say about the mixed LED/tungsten icicle decorative lights and the warm hanging lanterns. In the end, the lights turned to be about 4850 Kelvin, just a tad warmer than sunlight.
With 120+ attendees, there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver so I had to be in position for the “money shots.” I’m proud to say, I only missed 1 money shot, the most important one, of course. All in all, it was fun and I met a lot of interesting people.
The first is a test shot of Sharon, my VALS (voice activated light stand,) the Museum Marketing Mgr. She got stuck holding my light-on-a-stick (more on that in a moment) and pointing out various VIPs to be photographed. You’ll notice that 4 of the 5 men in the photos are wearing cowboy hats. I knew some would be wearing hats but didn’t think it would be 80%. Most of the women were wearing big, shiny, reflective silver and turquoise jewelery. Oh joy!
The first order of the day was to improvise a way to raise and lower the flash. Depending on whether the subject was wearing a hat and position of said hat (low over eyes, tilted back, square, etc,) I had to adjust the flash to throw light under the brim. What I really needed was a two flash Stroboframe but I don’t own one and had never heard of one. My solution was to draft the Marketing Manager.
To simplify the light positioning, I mounted my 580EX II on an old collapsible monopod, about 18″ long and wrapped with gaffer’s tape for handholds (light-on-a-stick.) It was triggered by a “dumb” CyberSync RF trigger. That’s all I needed since I was shooting strictly in Manual Mode. I set the 580 to Manual and power at 1/4 as I figured my average shooting distance would be ~5 feet. Tweaking was done by having Sharon move the light closer or further.
Not knowing what to expect, I carried 3 cameras. The Canon 5D MkII with Canon 50/1.4 turned out to be the best choice. I also had my Canon EOS-M Mirrorless with a 22/2.0 (35mm FOV) which came in handy for wider shots. A 3rd rig that I didn’t use was the 7D with an 85/1.8 (136mm FOV.)
Notice I didn’t use any zooms nor any fancy, expensive L or IS lenses such as a 24-70/2.8L IS or 70-200/2.8L IS. First of all, I didn’t want to lug around the weight of an L zoom. Secondly, for better focus accuracy, I prefer much faster primes. Third, I didn’t need the extra reach. Last, dragging the shutter is a better way to capture sharp low-light images.
The 50/1.4 is a very fast, sharp lens that weighs just 10 oz vs 2 lbs for a 28-70. It also costs just $400 compared to $1550 for the 50/1.2 and it’s a much better quality than the standard “plastic fantastic” 50/1.8 for $125. For low light photography indoors, the 50/1.4 can’t be beat.
Had I needed the 135mm range, the 85/1.8 would have served well because it’s a sharp, fast prime for just $420 compared to the 85/1.2L for $2100. It also weighs just 1 lbs vs 2.25 lbs for the L version.
In the next post, I’ll talk about setting exposure, “dragging the shutter” and “2nd curtain sync.” Until then, I hope you’ll be thinking of events you might photograph in the near future.
First Post of 2015 & I’m Freezing My Rear
Sometimes, I have to really work at finding a subject of interest to post and, other times, the subject literally falls out of the sky! We got real (Arizona style) snow on New Year’s Eve. I’ve seen a dusting of snow-like substance in the past but it never stuck for more than a nanosecond. This time, we got about 1/2″ to an inch of snow and it stuck.
I particularly like the cactus in front of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum Learning Center covered in snow. I used both my Canon 5D MkII with a 17-40/4L and my Canon 7D with 24-105/4L. All photos were cropped, levels/temp adjusted and sharpened in LR4.
Hope everyone had a safe New Year’s Eve and wishing you a wonderful 2015!
No Birds but Lots of Chicks
I was hoping to post a few sandhill crane photos from Whitewater Draw but it was a total bust. As I explained in a previous post, the conditions at WD were absolutely perfect but someone forgot to invite the cranes. There should have been 15,000 to 20,000 cranes there but I didn’t see more than 5000. Every crane was on the west side of the impoundment pond, at least 1/4 mile away from the observation decks. The rookery on the east side had fewer than 200 birds and the background was really ugly. Bottom line, I decided not to post any ugly photos. I’m hoping I might have another chance at WD in Feb if more cranes show up.
The only other unprocessed files I had left at this time were from the Arizona Shootout in November. After thinking about it, I decided nude photos were a bit much for this site so I cropped tight and demonstrated how Portrait Professional can make even young, attractive models look better. All the following photos were made with a Canon 5D MkII with a 24-105/4L USM and processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 and Portrait Professional. BTW, PortraitPro is running a 10% discount on upgrades right now. At least, that’s what shows up on my screen when I go to the PP Upgrade page.
The order is mixed up so Before & After aren’t always in the same order. However, you should be able to easily see the difference after I ran each photo through Portrait Professional. If you can’t, you’re looking at the wrong parts!
BTW, registration is open for the April Arizona Shootout. If it’s anything like the one I attended in Nov, it should be a fun shoot with lots of glamour models including Playboy and Penthouse centerfolds. If you can’t find their site, drop me a line.
This is my last post for 2014. I wish all my readers a Merry, Merry and a Happy, Happy! I’ll see you on the flip side with more photos and more photographic tips & techniques.
Finally Caught Up Processing Photos
Here are the last few from the Date Creek Ranch when I organized a shoot for A Day In the Life of Wickenburg. These didn’t make the cut for submission for the exhibit at Desert Caballeros Western Museum but I thought they were interesting. Five members of the Prescott Photography Meetup Group joined me at Date Creek Ranch at Oh-Dark-Hundred to make some great photos.
The first is the always faithful ranch dog. This one was accustomed to riding around on the back of an ATV. The 2nd photo is titled, “Behind the Green (Cattle) Door.” The cattle know no one ever comes back from behind that door! The heavily modified Jeep is the first I’ve ever seen with duallies. This is a serious Jeep. Tools of the Trade shows a bunch of tools I’ve never seen before and remind me of medieval torture instruments. The last is definitely a weird tool. Can anyone tell me what those plates are? If so, you’re a true farmer/rancher!
All were made with a Canon 5DMkII and 24-105/4L. Can you tell this is my favorite, go-to rig these days. Next time, I’ll post a few from Whitewater Draw made with my Canon 7D and 300/2.8 with a 1.4TC. That’s still my favorite bird/critters and action rig.
All images were processed in Lightroom 4.0 and the Green Door was run through Topaz Adjust for that ominous look.
Arizona Surfer Chick
Ever since I did a shoot at a junkyard in Wittmann, I’ve had an image in mind for a bikini-clad surfer chick against a wall of Arizona “surfboards” (truck tailgates.) I’ve been looking for the right model for 2 1/2 years and finally found her in Alyssa Caitlain. I organized a shoot for 4 photographers and hired Alyssa to pose for us in 3 different themes: Swimsuit, High Fashion and Pin-Up. Alyssa, being the consummate professional, went above and beyond with four wardrobe changes and several accessories changes.
I believe the “Arizona Surfer Chick” concept turned out well, if I say so myself. The only “boo-boo” was the faded orange paint that rubbed off on Alyssa when she leaned against it. Her Mom was there to fix problems like that but we still managed to miss a few strategic spots. The only other error was a failure to try different lighting angles with the soft gold reflector.
All the photos were made with a Canon 5DMkII and 24-105/4L and processed in Lightroom 4. I also experimented with Portrait Professional but, for full body shots, it was easier to just use the tools in LR.
The Wickenburg Art Club voted to allow use of the art center for photography workshops. I plan to hire Alyssa to pose for bodyscapes, figure studies and portrait sessions. If you’re interested, stay tuned. I also want to hire other models for B&W fine art nudes.
Whitewater Draw a Bust
I was at Whitewater Draw in McNeal, AZ for my annual sandhill crane shoot. Given the brutal cold in the midwest and the high water levels at Whitewater Draw, I had hoped record numbers of sandhills would be crowding the main impoundment at WD. Alas, there were less than half the usual number of cranes and every single one was on the west bank, about 1/4 mile from the observation decks. A few hundred were in the roosting area but the closest I could get was 100 yards, still too far for any meaningful photos. I’ll post a few as I process them.