Sunday, January 21, 2018

Martin Luther King Day - 2018

Podium Shot: Okay, this is the sort of shot I usually do at the awards ceremony of the winners of the essay and poetry contest. Broken down by grade level, it is interesting to see young six and seven year olds rise to the challenge of their first public speaking adventure. But getting that moment when the speaker actually looks up can be a challenge, and this calm and collected tenth grader a little easier. She did look at the audience from time to time, and her phrasing allowed for predictable pauses for emphasis.

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.

The Big Group:  I thought for sure that this shot would run on the Community Page, since I had included the names and award level for each of the eighteen winners. I used my go-to technique of a dual speedlight on a lightstand for a key light in a open-shade courtyard. No real need for flash automation. I had plenty of time to get the exposure via trial and error, a quick and efficient way to work if you can make a selfie of yourself standing where my subjects would eventually be arranged.

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.

Americorp Volunteers: I made a similar shot last year, which was not more of a grab shot made in bright sunlight which created some uneven shadowing that could be evenly filled.But today's overcast lighting made it easy to create a shot using a hand-held speedlight held high overhead for a key light, and the ambient lighting as a convenient fill.

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.

To Send, Or Not To Send: I tend to overthink my assignments, trying to achieve a balance between technical quality, composition, and event relevance. When you think about the event, one has to acknowledge several approaches at play:

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.

Editor's Choices: The Editor In Chief chose to run this pair of photos, one of mine and one submitted by the article's author