8 Dec 2013

Shooting an event with two cameras - first observations and learnings

I have a new photographic experience behind me. Yesterday I was shooting almost the whole day with the two cameras. Before the event, I was considering shooting with just one and change the lenses if required. More on these considerations here.
During the event it turned out that switching the lenses is not an option. There were too many interesting things happening simultaneously. Just to give an example: at the certain moment there were children playing in a gym on two fields, two different sports. A very nice opportunity to capture some team movements and take a number of nice close-ups. But since the games were of short duration and I wanted to take photos of as many children as possible, I couldn't afford swapping the lenses.

I equipped my Nikon D80 with 24-70 f/2.8 lens and my D800E with 70-200 f/2.8. Next to it I put SB-900 on each of the cameras. There was not coincidence in such choice. Since my intention was to capture lots of faces I wanted to reach maximum quality for the close-up or tightly composed photos. For the scenes with a broader angle of view I could sacrifice some quality since my intention was to take pictures of groups of scenes implying more distance to the subjects and less details in the scene.

During the day I have made some observations with respect of using two cameras:

  • It is easier to carry them than I thought. I was a bit worried about how to take care of two cameras. After all it was not such big issue. One camera (D800 with 70-200 lens) was hanging on my right arm (I use a very decent strap of OptechUSA which was sticking to my arm very well). The other camera was hanging on my neck.
  • Keeping the settings simple helps a lot. I was trying to keep the settings of both cameras as simple as possible so I didn't have to think too much about them when switching between the cameras. So I set them both to manual mode, and when I was using flashes, I set them to the TTL mode. In the lighting conditions that I had it worked very well.
  • Knowing the camera limits is very important. Different cameras have different limitations. It is very important to know the limits and not get tempted to apply settings from the camera with higher possibilities to the 'weaker' one. A good example is setting the ISO. D800E can very easy handle ISO sensitivity of 2000. When one tries to apply such ISO to D80 will get very disappointing results. I stayed with ISO of max 640 on the D80, knowing it is more or less the highest value still delivering pictures with acceptable noise level. 
  • Don't forget to synchronize the clocks of both cameras. I unfortunately forgot to do so. As a result I got quite mixed set of photos when I have stored them in Lightroom. Sure, the time offset can be corrected in the software, but it cost time. So next time I will do better.
  • Divide the load between two cameras is good for batteries. Especially the flash batteries. I didn't have to change the batteries of any flash. While shooting with one camera during a comparable event, I have to change them at least once. It is logical but the consequence is that I don't loose the time on battery change.
All with all it was an interesting experience that I will be practicing more during interactive, time-intensive events.

6 Dec 2013

Gearing up for a shooting day - a checklist

Tomorrow I will be shooting photos at the "Sinterklaas" day, organized each year at the school of my wife. As usual there is a lot of things planned for this day, happening at several locations during the day. And as usual I try to capture most of the day with my camera and make nice pictures.
This year there are four events planned: sport games for the youngest children, a meeting with book writer, information fairs for the Polish parents living in the Netherlands, a buffet serving specialties of the Polish cuisine. All in the timeframe of 3 hours.
Next to that I got an assignment to make portraits of parents that actively support organization of such events. Usually there are 6-8 people to capture. And not to forget the "Sinterklaas" walking from one class to another.
From experience I know that coming with a camera and just shooting does not deliver the best possible results. So I prepared a checklist of things that help me to organize myself for such day.

Choose the gear

Since the day will be filled with quite dynamic events, some of them organized in the places with not so great light, I choose in this case for fast, light lenses. It will be more gear to carry, but the alternative would be an universal 18-200mm, f/3.5-5.6 lens which might not work well in all situations. Next to that I will most probably shooting with 2 cameras (I will take 2 and make the final decision on location) 

Prepare lighting equipment

Normally I would just take one speedlight with me, just in case. However, to make nice portraits I will also take a softbox on a stand which should give me together with off-camera flash a nice light source. I will take the backup speedlight as well just to have a backup

Arrange enough backup for the photos

This is something I always consider before the assignment. Will it be enough to take just spare memory cards? Should I take a laptop to dump the pictures during the day? For tomorrow I will go for an option with the laptop. The reason is simple: since the sport event will be photographed, it implies a lot of shots. 

Know the agenda of the day

To move efficiently and be on time during most important moments I have noted the agenda of the day. I put everything in my smartphone so I am sure I will get notified on time about next important event.

Scout the location in advance

This is again about efficiency. For the location of tomorrow's shoot I don't need actually to do it since I know the place very well. But in all other cases I would be on location before the actual event starts to orient myself.

Take some sandwiches and water

It is not directly related to photography, but during such intensive day some nutrition is needed to keep the body energized.