Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Event Photography

Last week I did two sessions of event photography... one was a coworker's baby shower in the office and the next day was the office picnic out in Long Beach. I didn't get many good photos (maybe not even one) but I figured I'd at least jot down some thoughts on both lens selection, shooting style and results. It's rare that I get to practice event photography, it's always a challenge for me so I always really look forward to it and hope to break through one of these days. Maybe the hardest part about event photography is striking the balance between being a participant and enjoying yourself vs. actually trying to capture all the fun moments which is always harder than it seems. There are no retakes, you miss a shot... that's it. Gone. Lost forever in the long list of regrets that I have as a photographer. You don't get much control over lighting (well maybe you can pop on a flash or set a remote trigger flash out in the corner), but for the most part, everything is out of my control and I just have to pray I click that little black button at the right time. First, quick list of the lenses I normally carry with me:
  • EF 50mm f/1.4 - Great fast prime. Pros: decently sharp and just lets in a ton of light for those low light situations. Cons: Slow to focus, razor thing DOF at larger apertures... you better hope you focus is spot on or else....
  • EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro - Super sharp macro lens. Pros: Super sharp, beautiful bokeh, nice portrait lens. Cons: Even slower to focus, hard to hand hold in low light, too long for indoor.
  • EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5 - 4.5 - One of my favorite lens. Super wides are just SO much fun to play with. Great for all sorts of things including portraits believe it or not... just be careful who you use it on :).
  • EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS - My general purpose walk around lens. Pros: Great zoom range, has IS which always helps... Cons: it is slow and not terribly sharp.
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS - The white cannon.... need I say more? I'm convinced it can double as a self defense weapon.... or was that it's primary function and the fact you can take pictures with it just a bonus feature....
So anyways, the first event was my friend's baby shower at work. I knew it was just going to be indoors with available light (well, again, I could bring my flash but in general I'd rather shoot available light). Since I haven't used my 50mm in a long time, I decided to put on the 50 and only the 50... left everything else back at home. This is probably the lightest I've ever traveled :). Shooting with the 50 only posed interesting challenges, I basically had to relearn to "zoom with your feet". The 50 was also a bit long for group shots so trying to fit more than 2 people together meant that they had to be on the other half of the room. Also, with the available light, I had to shoot at ISO 800, and keep the aperture at roughly 2.0 to even have a shot of hand holding it.... I wished for just that much more light but oh well. Since the album contains lots of photos of manly guys playing funny baby shower games, I've made the album private and only upload innocent photos ;). The first shot is a close up of the tiara my friend got... it demonstrates the razor thin DOF for the 50mm... at least I got the entire "mother" to be more or less in focus. The second shot is from another coworker holding his "baby" balloon. I figured the post and composition is similar to standard maternity shots and was fun to have a guy as the subject.

This might be my favorite shot from the day. I just like the passing off feel. I also love the cropped composition so you don't see any faces, you just see the hands handing off the cute bear and it's simple yet it works (at least for me).

The next day was the company picnic out in Long Beach... again, I wanted to travel light so I dropped my 2 primes (plenty of light, no need for a super fast lens). I also left the 17-85 at home... it's a nice focal range, but just too plain, nothing really interesting about it. I brought the 10-22 as backup for potentially interesting shots, but I really wanted to use the 70-200 all day (which I pretty much did). The 70-200 was the perfect zoom range for a day at the beach, it is wide enough for me to still get some "landscape" type photos (and actually works better than my wide angle) while it also allows me to zoom in to get some nice candid portraits from some distance away. The fact that it is an L lens and weather sealed was also a factor for me to bring it out to the beach. The shots I had in mind were kids and action shots (of volleyball). There was also a harbor cruise so I figured 70-200 would be perfect for any type of shots I might get from the middle of the harbor. Here are some resulting shots:
From Summer picnic...

Nice and simple stop action shots of two girls participating in the tug of war. I was lucky in capturing the moment just as the girl in front turns and starts to really tug on the rope. I just love the innocent smiles on kids' faces.

Something about this shot just worked for me. I like the fact that you don't see his full body and it just lets you focus in on his right shoulder and all the sand on his back.

One of the better shots from the harbor tour. If only the sky wasn't so smoggy.... Overall, I thought it was a poor photograph outing for me with limited stuff I can shoot and just limited creativity on my part. I might have had much better luck not going on the boat tour and instead staying at the beach area to photograph more volleyball action or kids running around with water guns :).