In the past, I was reluctant to "machine gun" a Nikon DSLR because the clacking from within the mirror box would be very distracting. But when using a Fuji T-1 with a 56mm 1.2 lens, my bursts were not exactly silent, but darned quiet. This shot, culled from a burst of about six shots, had lots of smile, bright catchlights, and most of her far eye. There is a price to pay, because emptying the buffer takes a while, and this time off target might result in a missed shot. It worked here, however, and I am glad it did.
Subject Identification: I streamlined the caption writing by asking the Master of Ceremonies to tell my subjects that a group photo would be made at the end of the ceremony, and needed to bring their certificates with them. As it turned out, they were all able to hold them up for the photo, and considering the high pixel count of the Fuji T2, I could almost read the names of of the final image. Instead, I told everybody they would be dismissed (ever school child knows THAT word) after I made an individual photo of them. As soon as I made the "keeper" photo, I photographed the first row from left to right, getting close enough for the certificate and a little bit of their clothing to show. By going from left to right, I knew the names would already be in order, and writing the caption was a snap.
Managing The Shot: I was pretty heavy-handed in my directions to my subjects. First, I had the subjects facing the light. By doing this, the ambient fill would be coming from the front anyway, and would add to the light provide by the key light. Next, I had them position themselves so they could see the camera. I had to remind them that they didn't need to look at the camera, but just be sure that the camera could see them. Next, I told them to look up, just so the shot would look more spontaneous, even though it was pretty obvious that it wasn't. Still, it worked out well, and everybody was pleased with the result.
The Train: Showing a train, with people getting on board, might fail as a photo unless there is something that identifies the train as part of the event. Otherwise, it's just a photo of people getting on a train. However, a very nice image was submitted by the writer sent by the Journal, which you'll see below.
The Awards: In the photo I submitted, I showed a local activist who was named the Honorary Chairman of he event. Here I was counting on name recognition of a prominent member of the community, so I submitted it. I actually had a photo of all three of them sitting in the front row. Unfortunately, I couldn't use it because one of the recipients was an organization, and I didn't get the name of the representative receiving the award on their behalf.
We Shall Overcome: Singing has always been associated with the movement, and a photo of some people singing might work. I seldom manage to make photographs where are attractive when they sing, with the obvious exception of paid performers If you time it properly, people singing a long "A" sound usually show a hint of a smile, and a photographer would do well to try to capture that moment, if possible. I had more grimaces than smiles, so I scrubbed the singing photos.
Anna Schuessler. I like her photo, primarily because it has several visually appearing elements than you might not notice at first glance. I like the fact that one passenger is looking back toward the rest of the crowd, giving the shot some visual interest and a counter-point to everyone else rushing to board the train. Just as important, you can see the "San Mateo" station sign at the far left edge of the photo.
The Editor chose to not run the yellow banner photo, which I believed carried the context message most strongly, and was anything but subtle. The photo is very similar to a photo I submitted last year, although the more recent version corrected all of the shortcomings of last year's version. Looking back, that image was more of a save, snatching a victory from the jaws of some very ordinary photos I sent along with it. I am satisfied with this years's version, and content to say some variation of the technique will be used in the future, but just not here.
The Big Group: Our young essayists and poets also got their due. The photo made it to Page 5 of the Tuesday edition, three days after the event. I'm glad they got the recognition they deserve, and am thankful that the shot ran as smoothly as it did. Giving the proud parents a chance to make their own cell-phone images surely won their cooperation at the end, and all my subjects appear focused on being part of the best group photo of their day.
After several years, I still look forward to photographing the the Martin Luther King events, despite the fact they require both a Saturday and a Monday to cover both events. I find that I refine my technique a little bit each year, and enjoy working with excited children and proud parents. Helping each of them commemorate the event in some small way is a very worthwhile endeavor.