Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How do you take a group photo… of 600+ people… at noon?

A group photo like this should be hard enough, but for this situation there was also as added tesion because, 1) most of the people in the group do not speak English, 2) there was a big desire to produce a good photo because it was to be distriburted to everyone, and 3) what was it…. Oh and I have never done anything like this so I was discovering as I went.

What is this for anyway:
I was the event photographer for an international conference put on by IFES ( called World Assembly 2007 held at Reedemer University College outside Toronto Canada, a once every four year conference where delegates from over 150 countries come to share ideas, stories, and fellowship with other missionaries around the world.
Anyway, the group photo…

I knew that I wanted to get above everyone so I found that I could get access to some sort of lift,

I also knew that there was this hillside that would sort of face away from the sun; this is to create a situation so that I could be the same distance from the people in the front as from the people in the back, that way light fall off from the flash is not a problem (light diminishes with distance) and also the people in the front are not 8 times larger than those in the back. I also knew that I wanted to be as close to the group as possible, so I figured out where that was based on how wide of a shot I could take with the lens I had. The biggest gamble was still what kind of shadows I would be dealing with on peoples faces due to weather and time of day.

Lighting the group:

This past year or so I have really gotten into off camera lighting (mostly learning form a very handy resource!!), this recent experience with lighting would help but it is 10 times harder to light this big of an area and being far away (normally I light within 10 feet) would really diminish the power of the little strobes I usually use. I remembered that the production company that I work for has some older (but still very good and powerful) studio strobes, so we packed them in with all the other stuff we were taking to Canada. After all the planning I could think of, it was just up to applying the principles I already have learned from, experimenting with power ratios on the studio strobe, and reacting to whatever the situation throws at us.

Camera and flash settings:

flash power is dictated by your aperture, so I lowered my "filmspeed" to its lowest (100) and my shutter to its highest sync speed (1/250), I then set the aperture for the ambient light (about f8 or so) which would render shadows black but highlights correct, just what I want. (Take a look at the shadows on the trees near the top of the frame of the final shot , no flash reached them so they are all black) I placed the strobes on their max output (because I am very far away from the people, in flash terms) of 600Wats each, strap them to the lift and hoped that it is enough.

During tests (see pic above) we were constantly going between cloudy and direct sunlight and at the time I was hoping for a big cloud to come our way for the shot. As it turned out, the sky was completely clear when the group made it out to our location, but the flash output was right where it needed to be! The flash filled in the shadows nicely and all was good. In the end I liked this result of full daylight better than an overcast soft light effect, I would never have guessed that in the beginning though.

Backup plan:

I knew that it would be good for me to plan what to do if the light level from the flash was not right, because sometimes I can’t think as clear when I need the answer on the spot and 600 people are looking up at me. Therefore, I figured if the light was to hot I could drop it down to 400 Watts, or even 200 Watts easily enough but I could have also covered the bulbs with a diffusion material as well for an in between value. If it was not enough I don’t think I would have had any options besides moving closer, and that would have been hard (but maybe doable) because the lift was difficult to move.
In all it worked out great, was a very fast shoot because my team and I were prepared. It is kind of neat to because never before has one of my pictures been reproduced over 1,000 times!

Technical jumbo:

Wede angle zoom, 1/200 f8 iso100, elevated 30 feet up using a total of 1200Watts from a Speedotron 1201A studio strobe dual head system. +lots of help with my ground team during testing and to organize that many people!

I had a lotof fun, special thanks to Dan, Steve, Scott (who took the photos of me as well), the Reedemer University College Tech Team, and all the others who helped "direct traffic."

1 comment:

SoulJah said...

Nice job! Came here from your comment on Strobist. Thank goodness you had help from nice big honking lights.