Event Photography… and I need a lot more practice

Yesterday I went to the annual Santa Barbara Solstice Parade. I had a great time, but boy do I need a lot more practice shooting events.

Here were some of my problems:

  1. Focus, focus, focus – and I don’t mean clearing my mind. So many soft images or images that I never took because I knew I could not keep up with the focus. I’m shooting with a 5dMkII which does not have the most sophisticated focus system in the world, but mostly it is me. First of all, I was shooting with a long lens much of the day which wasn’t helping to with depth of field. I should have probably bumped up the ISO and stopped down a little more. Second, although I tried to think about this while shooting, I did a lot of shooting with people coming at me. That is HARD. I know I should have been looking for situations with people moving across my field of view. Next time.
  2. Finding a clear path – there is a lot going on at an event and it was not easy for me to find clear backgrounds. I think I need to look harder for this. I tried to compensate with shallower depth of field (see #1). What I think I needed to do, was find my spot in the parade based on the background, not on convenience.
  3. Finding interesting AND photogenic subjects – I hate to say this, but some (many) of the people I photographed were just plain, well, plain. Even with their costume they were, well, plain. Some were nervous and that was really apparent on the portrait too.

I got some “nice” shots and one or two that I like a lot and a couple that I like by my husband doesn’t.

It was a fun day and I’ll do it again because I need a lot more practice.

Shadow Bike – Returning Home

It’s been a few weeks since “the workshop” in “the building” came to a close. And having shown only images from New York up to this point, I’m finally ready to put up several images taken after the workshop. Did Jay’s messages sink in? Was I able to juice up my visual curiosity after a week of work? I certainly had my fears heading out to Venice Beach that Saturday afternoon with fellow “graduate” Jerry.  But, to be sure, I had a great time and returned with a few keepers.

“Shoot what excites you” – Jay Maisel

At lunch on Thursday Jay gave us the following suggestion: “Go out for 45 minutes and just shoot what you love. Shoot what excites you”. I got three of my favorite shots of the week from these two short sessions. The learning was seeping in. Was I seeing better? Was I was digging deeper? Was I beginning to discard my preconceptions and shooting (and editing) only that which truly excited me?

On Wednesday, I explicitly remember going through a phase of shooting doors and door knobs in a desperate attempt to clean up my framing. These shots will be hidden away forever, they are studies. I also shot some recipe shots of people playing cards at the park. For these I received the critique, “You don’t look like you are enjoying yourself.” This critique was devastating but psychologically strategic. When I arrived at the workshop I was shooting intuitively. After some instruction, my photography became more inhibited and restrained. This critique (and I understand it is a common zinger), reminded me to maintain a heightened awareness of frame but not to loose the excitement.

Thursday afternoon I was out shooting with two other workshop participants. We had about 20 minutes until we would meet for dinner and were near a local park. We notices some interesting activity of two Greek men playing chess and they agreed to allow us to photograph their game. Amazingly we didn’t seem to bother them in the least.

Most of the time I spent doing portraits of one or the other of the two players. I played with moving around the depth of field on their faces, their hands, and the pieces. Two things, however, were bothering me. There was too much distraction in the background and the timer they were using for the game was really ugly and had writing on the front. Jay would crucify you for including text if it wasn’t part of the story. So I began to look for an angle to minimize the timer, As I moved around to my left I noticed the sun streaming in across the table and through the white captured pieces on the edge of the table. I then honed in on the players actions and saw the repeated action of him hitting the top of the timer to reset the clock. The placement of the white rook and black king was icing on the cake.

This was the last image I showed on Friday’s critique. Silence. Jay looked up, grinned, and said in an undertone, “did you know this was good when you took it?” “Yea”, I replied in the same undertone.

This image is printed as a small 8×10 on my wall in my office with a few others from the week. Everyone who comes into my office comments on my photography and invariable I hear, “I really like that chess one”.