Lessons Learned and Some Upside

In my last post, I was chatting a little about an upcoming fashion shoot and thoughts on preparing for it.  A quick recap on the gear side first.

Because this was paid entry event, I can’t post any results, so I won’t.Smile  BUT despite some of the issues I ran into, I had a blast, and it gave me a very renewed interest in photography.  Much more elevated than ever.  This is the 2nd time I’ve done this shoot from a more serious standpoint.  I’ve done this one several times now but more from a candid shot standpoint.  This is one of the charity events that my wife is involved with, and so I am well known here.  Last year, I took a Panasonic GX1with a Fuji X10 and Panasonic LX7 plus a travel camera to this event.  What I learned there, was that I didn’t have enough battery power.  I was swapping more than I wanted to be.  This year, I was better prepared from the gear side with my Nikon D3200 and a Nikon SB400 flash as a primary with the GX1 as the backup.  Plus, of course my Fuji XF1 and another travel cam.  These two didn’t get used this time around.  The GX1 though, did get used for certain shots.  More on that later.

I got there early enough to check how lights, stage etc. were set up.  I had taken enough test shots, or so I thought,, with my SB400 that I felt reasonably comfortable with it.  I even had my wife pose for some test shots.  From other shoots I’ve done at other venues, this was one of the toughest I’ve encountered.  It had a rafter ceiling, which meant bounce was out of the question.  The stage was elevated about 4 or 5 feet and the lights were up around 10-12 ft, coupled with a variety of lights – fluorescent, tungsten and LED’s.  The music and lighting person said everything was balanced out for daylight, and based on what the pro measured when he got there, that was pretty true (my test shots also showed this), but there were hot spots everywhere.  I checked with the pro to make sure I wasn’t going to get in his way and we had some great discussion about photography in general.  He positioned himself at the end of  the ramp and I picked two spots along the ramp.  The model had to go up a set of about 5 steps to the ramp, take a few steps and then pivot – two possible shots within about 3 to 5 seconds.  Down about 30 ft and then pivot again – 1 possible shot only and then to end and down some steps and out.  My initial thought was to get a shot as they came out but I found out that I would block the view of the spectators.  I positioned myself at the back behind about 5 rows of chairs.  Nice thing here – I had not obstructions and could follow the models along the ramp to the “sweet spots”.  I was trying to catch the models between the spot lights – didn’t always work.  To make it worse, I didn’t have long enough glass.  I had my kit lens, which was an 18-55 for the D3200 and I was about 20 ft back.  No problem for the SB400 to get there, but if I used my GX1 with the larger zoom, the flash on the GX1 would reach.  I tried some test shots earlier with available light, and it broke down having to use flash. 

I was really trying to reduce the amount of post processing and in the end, there was cropping and some correction stuff I had to do.  In reality, though, not really that much than I did last year.  More cropping though. 

The Upside

Sooooo… despite the issues, was there an upside to this?  Most definitely!!  First, I love doing this event despite everything.  Yes, it’s literally frantic but at the same time, it’s exciting to plan and execute.  It’s also a great learning ground.  I’m finding out a lot about using digital compared to what I was doing in 35mm.  In one sense, the composition side of things hasn’t changed all that much.  What has REALLY changed though was the flash side of things.  I mentioned before about trying to figure out how the flash controlled the camera and what I had to do to kind of keep things manageable.  Holy Smokes!!   The pro was also a big Nikon user and he gave some very valuable tips, but despite that, I still had the flash no fire in certain instances.  I was using Manual, Shutter Priority and experimented with Programmed Auto the odd time.  The flash works on an ambient light algorithm and for some reason, despite the fact I was in manual, the flash didn’t fire – I’m thinking that the spot lights got in the way or something.  Need to investigate more here. 

Oh yes – upside.  Didn’t need a battery swap for the D3200 OR the SB400!!  I took roughly 350 shots in 2 hours, give or take, with the majority on the ramp.  The D3200 was down to the last bar and the SB400 was still cycling along like the batteries were still fresh. For me, amazing!   Reviews were saying this was one great flash, and this event proved it out.  I did get a spare battery for the D3200 and also had lots of spares but in the end we were good Smile

For the photos – I was shooting at 24 megapixel with the the flash defaulting me to ISO 400 and so cropping out past 50% was not an issue.  These would only be used in newsletters and possibly be hosted on a web page, No problem from what I can see.  I shot in JPEG Fine – not RAW.  Quite simply – I’m not there yet.  Post  processing – if there is one type of shoot, perhaps weddings too during the candid shots, this is one area where one learns about software Smile  I’m the type of person that is not big on post processing per se as I tend to be very busy but when you are doing stuff fast paced, there usually isn’t too much time to set up, compose shoot.  This is one of those instances where you simply need to “get the shot”.  You need to get your meter reads ahead of time and simply shoot.  The majority of my shots were in manual mode and shutter priority. 

Flash unit aside, I saved myself a ton of money Smile  It was more a stroke of luck than anything.  As the time got closer, I had visions of a D7100 with the 18-140, the battery grip and the SB700 flash.  Had this event been a few more weeks out, I probably would have gone ahead but it ended up being less than a week out in the end and I didn’t want to go in with a new camera, so I pretty well had to make do with what I had.  It took a bit to find the SB400, spare battery was easy enough.  I really really had a tough time about pulling the trigger on the SB700 – as nice as it would have been to have it, my thoughts were around the fact that I simply don’t use a flash enough.  Now, on the flip side of this though, it has gotten me curious enough about flash that I just might get it.  I need to research that a bit more.  If it does what I want or think I want, it just might put me in a new space too.  We’ll see… 

The 18-140 would have been a nice addition for this shoot.  BUT, at the same time, I’ll wait until I acquire the D7100.  IF I need longer, I can use my GX1.  I’m finding there’s still a lot to learn here from the mechanics side.  Especially as it pertains to flash.  The pro and I had a good discussion about flash vs available light on shoots like this where the lighting is uneven, etc. 

In the end, I’m pretty pleased with results on this event.  Learned a lot about my D3200 and the SB400 flash.  Sooo…  about that SB700….  Thoughts about this coming up….

About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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