Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Conference

Town Hall Delegate

One of the cool things about being a freelance whatever-it-is-I-do, is that occasionally I get to work with Mrs C in the family business. She's a Professional Conference Organiser - in every sense of the word. This weekend we've been working the ECANZ (Electrical Contractors Assosiation of New Zealand) 2009 Conference. While Mrs C's been ensuring that every little detail goes according to plan, I've been helping with the registrations, filling any gaps and covering the whole thing in pictures.

The key to shooting something like this is to be as unobtrusive as possible, especially during presentations. I guess you have to approach it a little like you're shooting wildlife. The first event of the weekend was the opening dinner at the Dunedin Town Hall, so I mixed natural light shooting with flash.

The natural light part was easy. I dialed up the ISO (for these shots, I can live with a little noise) and screwed on my 50mm f/1.8 lens. Like in the shot above, the ambient lighting lent some cool effects depending on where people were in the room. I had to be reasonably close to my subjects, but without a flash going off, it was easy enough to go relatively unnoticed. Often though, the ambient light wasn't enough and I had to resort to flash.

Even if I stayed back and used my zoom lens, the flash was going to disturb folks, especially at the power level needed at a distance. My trick here was to use a snoot and sometimes a grid on the flash, so that the light hit just my subjects and went largely unnoticed by everyone else in the room. In situations like this you're shooting on the go, so I kept the flash on camera and set to ETTL. I was able to get lots of happy candids without people noticing me and getting camera shy. Before turning in I burned a disc of shots for display at the delegates hotel the next morning and most of them were surprised to discover there had been a photographer snapping away all night. Better yet, most of them were pleased with the happy, un-self-conscious images they saw of themselves.

Town Hall Delegate-2

The other bonus of using the grid is that it restricts the beam so that if you want, you can light just one part of the frame and let ambient do for the rest. That's how I managed to get the shot of guest speaker champion cyclist Ali Shanks (an old friend of Mrs. C's) without my flash washing out the projected image behind her. My shot isn't quite perfect, and you can see a little spill from my flash on the bottom of the projection screen. Close enough though.

Ali Shanks

The snoot and grid trick are straight from David Hobby's Strobist blog . The cool thing is, they're DIY stuff and easily made. I also got to try out another bit of DIY gear over the weekend. More on that later.

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