One of the big problems when photographing fast moving action is how do you convey the sense of speed.
Modern Digital Cameras are fantastic at getting a perfectly exposed image that is in focus, but on a sunny day that will mean that you have managed to freeze the action perfectly, which in this case makes the riders look like they are standing still.
The trick is to drop your shutter speed and pan with your camera at the exact same speed of the rider you are trying to photograph. This will mean that the rider is sharp, but the background is blurred, giving you a much greater sense of the speed the riders are travelling at.
That’s the theory. The practice is much, much more difficult. At the start of the day I was getting one “ok” shot in twenty, but with a lot of practice, by the end of the day I was getting one in five.
I was recently asked to photograph the Ruby Rouge Gorey, Downton Abbey themed, Charity Fashion Show at Marlfield House Hotel.
The idea was to get a series of shots that conveyed the Downton Abbey theme, highlighted the venue, show the main organisers, photograph the outfits and capture the atmosphere. As you can see there are a lot of balls to juggle and seemingly conflicting requirements.
The first thing I realised was that I can’t be in multiple locations at the one time, so I enlisted the help of two fellow photographers, William and Heather to help out.
The second thing we realised was that if this was to go smoothly we would have to do our preparations properly. So to that end, even though the Fashion show was not starting till 7:00pm, we arranged to be on site at 3:30pm to scope out the venue and meet with the organisers.
We were able to;
– Get a full walk through the venue and see the exact route of the models would take.
– Get the itinerary for the event, even though we were told that this could change.
– Meet the staff from the Organisers, Hotel, Sound, Hair, Make Up and some of the models, so that we could address them by name should we need their help at any stage.
– Get a Required Shot List.
– Get agreement that several of the models and actors would be made available to us at a specific time and location for key shots.
– Test fixed lighting and mobile lighting in several locations so that we had a fair idea where we were going to get the different types of shots and that we had backup locations if required.
– Test cameras and lighting so that we would not have to work out settings on the fly later.
While all this may seem like an awful lot of effort, believe me, it makes the difference between being relatively calm and able to adapt to the changing situation (because the goal posts will be moved on you several times) and running around like a headless chicken trying to figure out what will happen next and who you need to talk to to get something done.
As a famous comedian once said “The best Ad-lib is the rehearsed Ad-lib.” and this particularly applies to Event photography.
Oh, one other thing, make sure you eat properly and drink lots of fluids (Non-Alcoholic). I made the mistake of not having eaten anything since 8:00am and as a result, by 11:30pm found I was fading fast and struggling to maintain concentration.
When photographing events, particularly public events, you generally have no control over your environment. You have to deal with bad and changing light, schedules and itineraries are a moving target and the event organisers have no idea how minor changes can have huge implications for photographers.
The image below was take at a recent public street music festival. The light was very low level LED Lighting which was constantly changing in intensity and colour. The violinist was right at the side of the stage and only lit infrequently.
After moving five or six times, I finally found a spot where I thought I might be able to get a shot. I then spent several minutes figuring out what camera settings would work and then after taking shots for another ten minutes I finally got a few images that I was happy with.
If you want to get that difficult shot you have to;
– Be patient and spend time figuring out which is the best angle to shoot from taking the available light into account.
– Know your camera settings inside out, so you can get the most out of your equipment. (RTFM, Read The Fecking Manual)
– Don’t expect to get the shot straight away. It will often take several minutes, but sometimes a lot longer, before the right opportunity presents itself.
When the subject of editing photographs is brought up there is always a huge debate, with the purists on one hand saying that the images should be left exactly as they come out of the camera and the other side saying that photography is art and all manipulation is fair game.
I believe you should stay true to the original, but having said that, I don’t have a problem with adjusting the levels, saturation and cropping an image. I don’t agree with using tools to make somebody’s nose smaller or materially altering the image.
Below are two images. The first is my final edited image and the second is the original image straight out of the camera. Basically I desaturated the image, darkened the background slightly and cropped it to take out his arm which I felt was a distracting foreground element.
I can see why Sports Photography is such a specialised area. Here is a shot taken from a recent Leinster Rugby training session at Gorey Rugby Football Club. It’s very challenging trying to get the composition, shutter Speed, Depth of Field all balanced while the action is moving so quickly.
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