Wednesday, 17 August 2011

PK 2011 Event Photography

Just got back from shooting in Christchurch at Promise Keepers, a weekend-long christian men's event where I was one of the official photographers. I wrote in my last post about ISO settings for the indoor event - and how I was most likely going to shoot on ISO 1600 all weekend (and this turned out to be the case).

In this post I want to show some of the image from the weekend, and go into the nuts and bolts of shooting the event - a sort of personal de-brief now that the dust has settled (and my feet have recovered).

Sung worship. Canon 5D & 20-35mm
To begin with, lets talk technical. How did I set my cameras up to shoot, what gear did I use, and what did I learn from the exercise?

Well, to start with, I used both of my Canon DSLR's - the 5D and the 20D - and set them up exactly the same. Both were set on centre weighted metering, tungsten white balance, AI Servo auto focus and ISO 1600. I also shot in AV (Aperture mode), wide open for the whole weekend. Both were also set to highest quality jpeg so I could download and hand-off the images instantly, without having to go through RAW conversion software. I decided not to bother with RAW + JPG since I thought I might be shooting a LOT over the course of the weekend and didn't want to have to be dealing with too many Gigs of images.

PK Band. Canon 20D & 70-200mm
The only difference between the two bodies was the inclusion of the vertical grip on the 20D, and the exclusion of a grip on the 5D. Why on one and not the other? The decision had to do with the lenses I decided to use on both cameras (see, there is a method to my madness).

I borrowed a Canon 100mm f2.8 to take because I thought I would need as fast a lens as possible - but at the last minute I also bought along my 70-200mm f4 L. And boy, am I glad I did! When I got to the venue, I set up the 70-200mm on the 20D, effectively giving me a 112 to 320mm f4, and attached this outfit to a monopod for better stabilisation. I found that I was getting anywhere from a 60th to a 125th second shutter speed, depending on the lights, and decided that this was fast enough. It's a big venue - even though I had the run of the place and was told that no where was out-of-bounds for me (except actually on the stage itself of course) - so I opted for reach over speed. Considering I used this set-up about 70 to 80% of the time, I'm happy that I bought the 70-200mm f4 L along.

Lost in Prayer. 5D & 20-35mm
On the 5D I went with the widest lens in my bag, the Canon EF 20-35mm f3.5/4.5, and again, it was another really good choice. With the 20D, long lens and monopod in one hand, I slung the 5D with wide-angle over my shoulder and was good to go. I wanted it to be light and maneuverable with the second camera, hence not attaching the vertical grip, and with my new camera strap (see two posts ago) the 5D and wide-angle stuck at my side all weekend. Don't want to harp on about the whole strap thing, but I really did feel that the 5D was very securely planted on my right shoulder all weekend. I was moving around a lot, and never once felt the camera start to slip off of my shoulder. I know I couldn't say the same thing about the standard canon strap.

I also bought a 50mm f1.8 with me (again, because I thought I might need super-fast glass), but didn't use it. Ditto my 580EX flash.

The wide angle allowed my to get in really close to the crowd and get some very emotive images - as well as step back and get in a sweeping crowd shot to fit in as much as I could of the venue.  Both scenarios worked really well.

Ian Grant. 20D & 70-200mm
Most of the images of the speakers were taken using the 70-200mm on the Canon 20D - and most of those at the longest 200mm end. I waited to shoot until a: the speaker looked interesting, and b: the light was good - to give me the best chance of getting a sharp, interesting image. And I shot a lot! Even so, my hit rate was maybe 50/50. I took as many blurry images (normally because of subject movement) as sharp ones - and tried to up this rate by shooting in short bursts (so that at least one would be sharp). This worked very well, and I am very pleased with the amount of keepers I got for each speaker.

The event organisers wanted at least 10 good images of each speaker to choose from - but using the technique above I managed to give them twice as much!

Corridor. Canon 5D & 20-35mm
Of course the whole weekend was dedicated to taking photos for the Promise Keepers organisation - trying to cover all the images that they required. This meant taking wide crowd shots, photos of the speakers, capturing the various group break-outs, as well as getting intimate worship images of fathers and sons, individuals etc. With every shot I took, I had these criteria in the back of my mind.  Over the whole weekend, there was only one shot I took for myself - a 'grab' shot that doesn't really fit any of the required categories - and it just happens to be my favorite shot of the weekend.

It's the image above, 'Corridor' and literally was a grab shot I took while going from one room to another. As I was about to go onto the top floor to get some wide crowd shots looking down from above, I spied this group just standing at the end of a long corridor. I swung the 5D to my eye, snapped one shot, and went on to get the photos I was after. This is 'my' shot for the weekend. I love the light, the silhouette, and enigma of this image, and despite it not fitting in with the brief, I'm glad I took it.

Bill Subritzky. Canon 20D & 70-200mm f4L
Finally, an image the definitely does fit the brief, and one of my other favorites from the weekend, is this image of New Zealand's most famous faith healer, Bill Subritzky. Promise Keepers is organised by his two sons, Paul and John, so it was important for me to get some very strong images of their father giving his message. I positioned myself purposefully to include the cross in the image, and waited for Bill to strike an obviously 'religious' pose (which didn't take long).

Overall, the weekend shooting at the Christchurch Promise Keepers event was incredibly positive - and fun. I was nervous going in to it since it was such an unknown quantity (photographically speaking), but it turns out I needn't have worried. I got some fantastic images that the PK event team are thrilled with, and at the end of the day that was all I wanted to achieve. I was very sore by the end of it (I have a problem with my ankles if I stand for too long), but looking back over the photos, the pain was worth it.

Even though I enjoyed the experience, it might be a while before I do it again. Next year I'm going to take my son Joshua to Promise Keepers to actually sit and be part of the crowd. He'll be 11, and old enough to take part in one of the break-out groups for young boys. He's very excited about going, and so am I. Only one year to wait!  :-)

1 comment:

  1. Hey,
    Keep your promise to Joshua.
    He'll like it that for sure!
    eh ;)
    Nice write up of the event. Thanks.


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