Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bethlehem AD 2013 Part 2

My last post covered Bethlehem AD 2013, a living diorama of how life might have been in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. That assignment was something I had wanted to do, and as I mentioned, was shot entirely with a single Nikon D80 and a 20mm 2.8 prime lens. Working with a prime (fixed focal length, non-zoom) lens was something of a challenge, since I was constantly shuffling forward and backward to get the composition I wanted. I have concluded that 20mm (30mm equivalent in the APS-sized D80) wasn't wide enough for some of the close shots I tried to make. I probably would have complained if I had an 11mm 2.8 prime (something that doesn't actually exist), complaining that it wasn't long enough to minimize wide angle distortion. Gripe, gripe, gripe...

Name Chasing: Before submitting a community photo, I need to get the names of anybody who is easily recognized. Publishing the subject's name serves as "de facto" permission to use the photo. When an assignment is the result of a press release, there is usually somebody who can help you with the names, and in most cases, permission to publish can be assumed. There was no press release here, so I was on my own.

When I arrived, I found this family of "reenactors" getting to know the Camels. I knew that this would be a shot worth pursuing, as it would have smiling kids and unusual animals. I immediately started shooting, trying to get a shot I could submit. As soon as I noticed that Mom and Dad were around, I quickly introduced myself and promised to shoot a group shot of them immediately after I got my money shot, providing I could publish it. They were happy to corporate, so I continued to shoot, confident that I would get an image.
Just so that you know: Camels and children move quickly, so there are many "near misses" in this unedited sequence of shots, presented in the order they were taken. You could say that I selected the shot with the fewest flaws, rather than the one shot that would win me a Pulitzer.

The Money Shot: The submitted shot wasn't perfect by any means, but had some important visuals going for it. First, the camel's head was in profile and easily separated from the background. Second, there camel looks like he is smiling, even though I am sure he isn't. And thirdly, all three faces are easily recognized. Dad (on the left) was cut off a bit and the camel's position makes the image a little heavy on the left, the the detail in the son's smiles help to salvage an otherwise awful composition.

Time was running out, and the family had to take their places in the town. I quickly ushered them over to a bench where I had Mom and  Dad sit which the children gathered around them.
Once arranged, I made a single shot, adjusted my exposure, and made a second. Before I let them go, I got their names, from left to right, so any and all could be properly identified when the selection process was concluded. Because I had the time, I used the built-in in the Commander Mode, providing a weak fill light. The main light was a remote SB-800 initially set to +2/3 stops. The original was a little underexposed, but correctable in post production. ISO setting was 200, shutter at 1/125 second, aperture at 5.6.

Camels Are Funny: I have it on best authority that camels like baby carrots, and next year I'll surely have some in my camera bag. These animals were both curious and gentle, walking about on pillowed feet. Quick too. This one managed to pull my press pass right off its lanyard, and I'd have lost it if a handler hadn't come over to pull it from the camel's mouth. 

When I look back that the images and the whole experience, I concluded that mysterious smile was actually a warning of mischief yet to come.

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