Sunday, September 8, 2013

Up Close (And Personal) Photography

Photo #1

In many situations, you'll need to work up close and fast. This is particularly true when grabbing a quick shot at an event where you know you won't have much time.

The reception was for the 50th Anniversary of the Sister City relationship between San Mateo, California and Toyonaka, Japan. San Mateo Mayor David Lim was hosting a dinner and reception for Toyonaka's  Mayor Keiichiro Asari and his entourage. I suspected that the Mayor's office would go to great lengths to entertain our Japanese visitor, and was sure the dinner would include entertainment by local community dance groups. I felt that had I stayed past the initial reception, it might have been seen as rude and pushy, so I was determined to insert myself into position, get my shot, and quietly leave. 

I normally keep my equipment cased until I arrive on location. As soon as the cameras are out, I made a quick sketch shot to determine my base settings. My goal was to underexpose the ambient light by one to two stops. I usually start start at ISO 800, 1/100 of a second, and F 4.0, set manually. From this base exposure, I could quickly adjust my exposure up or down to get a baseline I would be happy with. This was done without flash initially. When the flash is added to the hot shoe, it set to TTL mode, plus 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop, depending on the conditions.

For Shot #1, I changed my settings to 1/50 at 4.5, keeping the ISO at 800. The background was suitably underexposed, and the shoe-mounted SB-800, aimed at the wall behind me, gave a proper exposure. I was a little surprised by the lack of depth of field, as I was using a 11-16 Tokina set to F 4.5 at 16mm. I could have doubled my ISO setting and stopped the lens down an additional stop, but I prefer to keep the ISO settings as low as possible. Since it was a test shot, the mystery arm on the right wasn't an issue. All I really wanted was an engaged expression on the young woman in the black and white kimono.

Photo #2
Photo #2 was a quick "turn around" shot made minutes before Shot #1.The shot was made with a Black Foamie Thing on a forward-facing speedlight, and I did it mainly to see what my effective range was in the event I needed to make a distance shot. This was done with a 24-70 lens set to 52mm. The aperture was set to 4.5, just like the first shot.

Photo #3
Sometimes I'll resort to photographing something totally unrelated to the assignment, just to look "busy". Photo #3 is just such an example. The White Balance setting was had been set to "flash" despite the beige-colored walls. Color correction in post production was still an option, but it the shot was published on newsprint, the possible tint would be barely noticeable.

Looking For Help. I had been wandering around for almost 30 minutes, waiting for what I assumed would be the Mayor's grand entrance. I was worried that I had missed him. Just then, I spotted a rather ordinary looking man walking about, carrying something I should have looked for earlier: a clipboard. Here was somebody who obviously held a position of responsibility, so I introduced myself and sheepishly asked if he knew when the Mayor might be arriving. He paused a moment, looked around, and said, "He's standing right over there". I then realized I had walked passed in several times, but never took the time to read the name cards.

Photo #4
I went over and introduced myself, fully aware that he probably couldn't understand a word I was saying. I did point to my camera, and motioned that I would like to make a photograph of him. I motioned to his friends that they would be included if they would all move closer together, which they did. I made two quick shots, making sure that there were not blinkers. The result was Photo #4. If all else failed, I had a shot, albeit a marginal one.
Composite #1
Getting Names Fast! Before anyone had a chance to leave, I pointed to their name badges, then pointed to my camera, so they would understand that I was photographing their badges so I could get their names. Composite #1 is a collection of the five badges, photographed so quickly that the speedlight didn't have a chance to fully re-charge. But the names are legible even with an exposure adjustment in post processing. The sixth badge was worn by the interpreter.

Photo #5
A few minutes later, I found Mayor Asari talking to San Mateo Mayor David Lim (left) and Vice Mayor Robert Ross (right). I explained to Mayor Lim that I wanted to make a photo  and I encouraged the three of them to continue chatting. It had just occurred to me that there was an interpreter nearby, helping Mayor Asari navigate through the evening. I don't know what she said to Mayor Asari but I'm sure he understood, and Photo #5, while not Pulitzer material, shows all three men looking far more relaxed than those in my earlier photo.

The shot was made in very tight quarters. The lens was set to a focal length of 11mm, as wide as it would go. Mayor Lim is getting some "stretch", but not too noticeable. The super-wide Tokina is my go-to lens whenever I work indoors, and it has saved me more times than I care to remember. In this case it was just too crowded to back up, so when I say "close and personal", I really mean it here.

San Mateo Daily Journal, Monday August 19, 2013. Page 1.
Jason Mai. There was a baseball game between Little League teams from the two cities, and photographer Jason Mai from the Journal earned a "triple" with three wonderful photos from the event. These three were published in the August 19 edition of the Journal, Front Page. He really captured the spirit of the event. To view the edition in its entirety, click here. Good job, Jason!