Sunday, August 25, 2013

Menlo Charity Horse Show Part 1 (Nikon P7700)

"Oh, I love the cartoon!!"  Susan C., Editor, San Mateo Daily Journal

Photo #1
I was trying to carry on a long distance discussion between the a publicist for the Menlo Charity Horse Show at the Menlo Circus Club. I've photographed this event twice before, and the photos, while technically acceptable, had a certain sameness to them. Granted, they didn't follow my refined definition of the term "editorial photography", since there are no real clues as to where these people were, or even why. The photo was certainly typical of the kind of community photos one was used to seeing. Photo #1 was taken at the 2010 Menlo Charity Horse Show, and is pretty typical of what one might expect to come "over the transom", as many event photographs inevitably do.

The cartoon was not meant to show off my Microsoft Paint skills, but meant to get some important points across to my subjects before I started arranging them. I wanted to be sure that the "blond" on the right could not be stepped on by the horse should it decide to turn. I also wanted the horse's attention on the rider, seen at the left, who is probably in a better position to control the horse down should it get skittish. In either case, the protective measures shouldn't be too obvious when it comes time to make the photo.

What Really Happened:  As it turned out, there were some children competing the "6 and Under" event. The publicist had suggested that I contact them, since they were the grandchildren of a well-known equestrian trainer. I did, and found them impossibly cute. I decided that this was shot worth taking, and an opportunity to try the P7700 on an actual assignment. Quick equipment summary for shot: Nikon P7700, ISO 100, 1/500 of as second, F 4.0. Lighting was provided by 2 Nikon SB-800s, set to 1/2 power, fired through a Zumbrella on a light stand placed as close to the left-hand stalls as I could. I put it by a "tack room", assuming there wouldn't be any in-and-out traffic. I chose this camera, even though the exposure value could have been duplicated with my D7000 by setting the camera to ISO 100, 1/250th of a second, and F 5.6. I had plenty of flash power with the twin SB-800s. I chose to stay with the P7700 because it had the higher useable flash synchronization speeds, and because I wouldn't really know how bright the sunlight would be when I found a good location..

Photo #2
"No Way!"  In Photo #2, the left-hand horse was hard to see in this shot and the right hand horse's head is a little too far from the center. The two kids were super-enthusiastic smilers, so I toned them down by using a trick I learned from Sam Puc, a renowned photographer in Littleton, Colorado . On the count of three, I had them say, "No Way!", and was able to get some more natural looking smiles. Score one hit.

Photo #3
When I made Photo #3,  I was watching the horses, hoping for a tighter composition. Little Ellie decided that smiling was too much effort, I guess. I thought the horse had a "What's Cooking, Good Looking" expression. Again, the darker horse on camera left was still somewhat dark. Score one miss.

Photo #4

By bringing the darker horse forward for Photo #4, I was able to get a bit more light on her. Unfortunately, her head casts a shadow on Ellie, darkening a portion of her face. And this time the other horse moved slightly out of frame. Score two misses.

In the end, I submitted the first shot. At the time, there was no way to know that a better shot wasn't just waiting to be taken, so I just kept shooting, trying to make the next shot a tad better than one I just made.

But shooting as quickly as I do, I don't have time to make my final choice in real time. I barely have time to take a quick peek at each shot with a Hoodman Hood Loupe. In actual practice, I really only have time to check for "blinkers" and for "blinkies", the latter the name that is given to the over-exposed portions of the image which "blink" on the LCD display when the image is reviewed.

I was pleased (enough) with the shot, so if my editor wanted a "cute" shot with horses, it was in the can.

To be continued...