Wednesday, December 30, 2009

50mm, a monopod, and Camp Hollywood 2007

I think it was after the Midwest Bal Fest when I got a monopod, a.k.a. "the stick." I was having trouble with stabilizing the photos, but at a dance camp, I usually don't have space for a tripod. The monopod isn't quite as stable, but it helps, and now I consider it part of my standard kit.

Here is Shout n Feel It performing in the Team division at Camp Hollywood 2007.

So what did I learn?
  • My photos still came out pretty yellow. I was shooting with a standard tungsten/indoor settiing, which I think is 3200 degrees - at least that seemed a pretty good match. Playing around in post-processing, I found that the photos looked a little better if I instead used a custom white balance of 2800 degrees (which was as low as it would go).
  • There were more heads in my way this time. Since I was only using my 50mm lens, I had to stand back a little bit so I could see feet. I couldn't stand right against the floor. I was usually okay in the afternoon prelims when there were fewer people, but the night time dances were a problem - and people just didn't care that they stood in front of someone. Solution: get a wider lens so I can stand closer to the floor.
  • Sometimes the best action was across the floor, and they wound up being pretty small in frame. Solution: get a longer lens.
  • Well, to summarize the last 2, I think I'm realizing the 50mm lens is not the ideal lens I thought it would be. (And honestly, I spent months trying to evaluate whether I thought it would be good enough.) I set my sights on the Canon zoom lens 24-70mm, f/2.8.
  • The monopod was very effective. My backgrounds were nice and crisp, telling me the camera didn't move.
  • Many many times, the background was actually a little too crisp, and the dancers were a little blurred. I still haven't mastered the auto-focus. I think it may have had difficulty with a moving subject. I mean it registered that it got them, but the photo said otherwise. After the whole camp was done, someone actually passed on some advice to me that I'll try next camp: focus on the floor at the same depth as the subjects. There's actually a mode of the camera where I can select the focus point, so I can focus on the floor while still composing the shot to keep the dancers near the middle. I'll have to try that out at Lindy on the Rocks... (I'm stuggling with this one even now in 2009)
What happened? This lens was great at Cowtown... Camp Hollywood is just a much bigger venue than the Omaha Eagles Lodge so there was a wider variety of lenses I needed. At the Eagles Lodge, everything I wanted to shoot was generally 25-40 feet away and had about the same framing. At Camp Hollywood, sometimes someone would be 10 ft away. Sometimes, they'd be 100 ft.

I was still shooting JPG. I cannot emphasize how big a mistake I believe that is. I think I would later switch to RAW once Lightroom came out.

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