19th November 2015 – Bygones

Life Begins at 40 ….. the Title was disingenuous in that our presentation last meeting was a delightfully in character tour of the 1940’s by Carol and Bob Burton.

 

Having celebrated the fact that we had our first AV show for a fairly long time last week we get a second. This, split into 14 parts,  really did site how it needs to be done in order to keep an audience’s attention. Presented in period dress by the husband and wife team this bumped along at a pleasant pace, was informative and varied. It used a mixture of contemporary images as well as modern images taken by Bob and Carol at the in vogue 1940’s events around the country

 

As regular attendees of these sort of events, and photographers too, Bob and Carol manage to merge two interests. We all have our favourite things to do and the discipline of making an audio visual presentation – whether it sees the light of day in public or not – is a good way of improving our photographic skills. This is because it forces us to think in terms of sequence and logic and to look at the images in a more critical way. It also, if we set out to make an AV in the first instance, rather than make one of what we have, effects what we look for. It’s because we have a purpose and that purpose affects the way we look at things. We have a story in mind, not that that should blind us to serendipity when something else presents itself, and that we can use to discipline what we look for.

 

So this week’s potter will be around event photography, in a very broad sense. This is because what people determine as an “Event” covers a wide range of situations, numbers, ambience, lighting, venues and purpose. At the bigger events or at corporate ones then there may well be official photographers and videographers; at hobbyist and life style events the atmosphere may well be very different, more relaxed. Regardless the key to success is having an idea of what you want and the likelihood of getting that is dependent on knowing what is going to go on. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Photography. Not a cast iron guarantee, it won’t cover a skills deficit, that can only be addressed through, first and foremost, recognising the deficit, then determining to do something about it and finally doing something about it. Repeatedly. Having mentioned serendipity it’s well worth repeating that you make your own luck by being prepared for it.

 

Yes wedding photography comes under Event photography, but that will be covered on another evening of this year’s programme, so won’t be covered here (and we have visited it before). The sort of event that amateur photographers are likely to attend are less the corporate and art gallery affairs, more festivals, fetes and fun fairs, when we take the wider view. Bob and Carol use of a blend of contemporary and their own photography worked because they didn’t attempt to pass off their own as period. Their use of the modern was to augment the contemporary, but it paid off that they were prepared to go the extra mile to get the shots they need by varying the angles and cropping tight.

 

Outdoors it’s usually a case of matching your white balance symbol to the cloud cover or switching to auto white balance (AWB). Indoors it can be different. My own experience of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), for instance, has been one of mixed lighting: 2400K tungsten mixed with 5500K daylight and for some reason never being quite consistent between two successive shots unless taken from the same position and facing in the same direction. That means that shooting in RAW is probably your best bet (unless doing Photojournalism for Reuters where, from this last week, only JPEG direct from camera will do) so that colour casts can be easily corrected. There is also more detail that is recoverable too. I also find that using auto ISO helps when the lighting isn’t even or when flash is banned or inappropriate.

 

Some people will, of course, never be persuaded that anything other than full manual is ever to be countenanced, but you have to be pretty quick and very confident of your camera controls to make that work effectively. Also it is pretty perverse having all that automation, paying sometimes very large sums for that automation, and not using it. The trick is not to let it dictate to you what you can and cannot shoot, but to know its limitations, practice with those limitations. There is a corollary to this that pays dividends and that is knowing what is there to shoot and under what conditions. A weather eye at outdoor events is a valuable piece of intelligence. Being prepared to shoot everything from dawn till dusk is greatly helped by having advanced knowledge of times and attractions. Then it is, as we mentioned above, a question of an eye for detail, an eye for shots developing, good reactions to shots that are there already, getting in tight on details, showing things in relation to others in broad panoramas and everything else in between – and, of course, try to tell a story.

 

Lenses are a matter of what you have not what would be ideal, then all lens choices are. Fast primes where wide apertures mean faster shutter speed are all very well – if you have a fast prime lens. Then it’s all very different if you are getting paid for it. Comes back to the old adages that the best camera gear in the world is what you have on you at the time and you can never have too many batteries and memory cards.

 

Perhaps the best lesson that Bob and Carol had to show on this topic was that you need to keep your wits about you and your eyes open to the unusual or the candid. These sort of things have many of the elements of street photography about them, to all intents and purposes shooting at themed events such as the 1940’s festivals are a version of street, the big difference being you are less likely to get people not wanting their photograph taken. After all if they have taken the effort to dress up, sometimes very elaborately, then they are going to be happy to show it off for a camera. Don’t take anything for granted, though, play nicely, be social, it pays dividends.

 

So, a lively and engaging presentation that was made seamless through the application of skills, knowledge and confidence of its deliverers who are passionate about their subject and who have honed that passion and those skills into a package that has a broad appeal. That sounds like a plan to me. Yes the appeal is not going to be universal, but if you try and please all of the people all of the time you end up pleasing no one.

 

N E X T   W E E K

How to size and profile images for competitions. A practical evening.