A few weeks ago I attended the penultimate day of this year’s Carolina Renaissance Festival at the Village of Fairhaven near Huntersville, NC. It was billed as “a Medieval Amusement Park” and “one of the most interactive entertainment shows ever created.” There were hundreds of people dressed in all kinds of costumes, from the Queen and her attendants to buxom wenches, from knights in shining armor to drunken bums, entertainers in every direction, and no shortage of pirates, including me! It was a great event for a photographer, because nobody seemed to object to their picture being taken. It was really interesting communicating with the people around me. Other visitors typically were there to have fun and talked and behaved in their usual way. But I found it a bit bewildering when communicating with some of the characters, who stuck to their roles, with plenty salutations like “M’Lord” and “M’Lady”. And if only pirate vocabulary included more than that one word – “Aaarrrgggh…”.
My favorite character was a fairy. Not only was she beautiful, but she was also wearing a beautiful outfit. I watched her on and off for about half an hour, and she didn’t waver from her role. She moved in slow motion with graceful ballet like movements, offering little gifts to enthralled little people and playing her double flute. Occassionaly she would bob her head and giggle coyly while batting her eyelashes and raising her hand to her mouth. She let me take a few pictures but when I tried to talk to her she just continued being a fairy. When I offered my business card, she accepted it with a curtsy, but so far no word from her. I’m beginning to think maybe she really was a fairy.
If you haven’t seen them yet, view the Renaissance Festival Pictures .
Have you ever wondered how many spectators in the stands actually get satisfactory pictures at large night-time sporting events? You know, that familiar scene when thousands of flash bulbs are popping in the stands? Problem is the flash on a typical point-and-shoot camera can only light a scene up to about 12 feet. Even powerful professional grade flash units can’t send a sufficient blast of light from the stands to the middle of the field. It’s because of that ubiquitous “inverse square law” you may have heard about in high school. For example, an object 2 yards from the camera will only receive ¼ of the light compared to an object 1 yard away. And 4 yards away will receive 1/16th of the light, and so on. You can do the math if you want, but the fall-off is pretty rapid and an athlete 100 yards away isn’t getting much benefit from the tiny pin point of light on the camera. The opposite is also true. If you push your camera right into someone’s face and take a shot, not only will they be annoyed, but chances are the picture will make them look like a ghost.
If you have your camera’s manual you should be able to find the minimum and maximum flash distances. What’s that you say, no manual? Not a problem. A little experimentation is all it takes. In a darkish room place a willing subject a few feet away from a wall. Oh, and ask them to close their eyes for this exercise. Take several pictures from 1 ft away, then 2ft, 4ft, 8ft and 16ft. Unless you have a really big room, you might have to do the last pictures outdoors. Discard the images that are too bright and too dark. You now have a guide to the distances where your camera and flash work best.
Back to the night-time sports event. If your camera has a night-time or dusk setting, try it. Keep your camera steady (more on this in a future discussion) and squeeze the shutter release. The flash probably won’t fire, but the camera will do its best to get the picture. The light out on the field may just be bright enough to record that historic event.
Welcome to the first blog on sabelaimages.com. This coincides with the launch of a new home page. A new gallery has also been added to showcase the two most recent events that I have photographed. First up will be the Carolina Renaissance Fair where I spent the day on November 15th, and an Equestrian event at Thoroughbred Training Center on November 8th. There are numerous other small changes throughout the site, mainly to improve navigation. I welcome any comments and suggestions on the website, and please report any problems.
The plan for future posts is to write weekly about related topics. Initially I will include several basic photographic “how to” discussions. Future subject matter will be guided by your feedback, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Talking of photography, which I have been doing for many years, I was reminded by a recent experience that I am still learning. My approach when photographing events is to try to be as unobtrusive as possible. The best or worst example was a wedding I photographed years ago. The bridal couple seemed a bit agitated when I met them a few days after the wedding, to hand over the proofs. Their mood changed dramatically when they saw the proofs. Turns out they had been concerned that during the wedding I wasn’t taking any pictures. I had been a bit too unobtrusive! My learning experience happened a few weeks ago at an equestrian event. I was doing my usual thing trying not to get in anybody’s way. To add a bit of variety, I thought of altering the angle, so I lay down on the grass, tripod set very low, with the camera about 6” off the turf. I was just outside the arena, shooting upwards through the fence. Suddenly the judge, from the center of the arena, called out to me to get up off the ground and back off! I complied of course, but didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I had been lying very still and thought I couldn’t be a distraction to any horse or rider. Later I found out that horses tend to look straight ahead. If they notice something lower, they will look down, maybe drop their head a little, or worse, the horse could get spooked. The judge had become concerned when he saw a slight hesitation from a horse approaching me. So no more lying on the ground close to the fence at horse shows for me!
Thank you and I’ll talk to you again in a week.